Here’s a topic that is going to bring a whole mess of ‘correlation vs causation’ arguments but you know something, I don’t care.
This week, we’re going to look at how to use your paid social media efforts to increase your organic impressions and rankings.
What Does Google Say?
Let’s get this out of the way first. Google says there is no direct connection between social and organic.
According to Gary Illyes, Google does not care about what happens on social media for the most part. The 2014 Matt Cutts video he references in his answer states that if you see a connection between social and organic, it’s probably because the content is so great that people are somehow all finding it useful at the same time and that’s why all of the sudden that page is being ranked and served so much higher than before. Yes, friends, it’s all due to the same ‘amazing content’ that was on the same page for the past 6 months that no one seemed to care about before and nothing to do with the fact that you promoted it on social media and all the sudden people started liking, sharing and clicking through to that particular URL en masse.
Look, I know this might be a weird reversal for someone who just last week told you that you should listen to Google when it comes to organic traffic but this is one of those few exceptions. Also, if you don’t listen to them in this case, you can’t completely tank your traffic, which was the whole point of me telling you to listen to them in the first place.
So, basically I’m saying, in this instance, don’t listen to Google.
What Do You Say?
I say I’ve seen it work with my own two eyes in every single instance I’ve tried. Ten times out of ten. Perfect score.
I’ve literally never seen it not work when done properly.
Granted, there are varying degrees of success with this (e.g.: some wins will be huge and maintain over time while others will just rank that particular page a little higher and then fall off after the social media promotion is over, etc.) but I’ve seen it work to some degree on every single occasion.
It’s also industry agnostic. I’ve seen the connection for everything from small eCommerce shops that sell baseball caps to healthcare survey company blog articles. There is just no case that I’ve seen in which a social media promotion did not help to increase organic impressions and traffic.
Another thing is that you know how I always say ‘there are no quick wins with organic traffic’? This is one of those very few white-hat exceptions – though, I guess this technically isn’t an organic method to increase traffic.
I’ve seen the boost from social help organic traffic faster than an AdWords bump, a referral traffic bump or any other multichannel strategy, with very few exceptions that are far more complicated and dangerous than this.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. This is a relatively cheap and easy thing to try out on your side and you can’t lose. Your worst-case scenario is that you gain followers on social media platforms or nothing happens at all and you lose like fifty bucks.
How Do I Do It?
Glad you asked. Here are the Smokehouse steps for Organic success using social media:
Step One: Sign Up for Stuff
I shouldn’t have to tell grown people this but you’d be surprised. You can’t win at social media if you’re not on social media. You need to go to the various platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter and sign up for a business profile. Of course, you’ll also want to do audience research to know if other platforms are worth your while depending on the type of business you have. The example of this I like to give is if, for example, your business has a lot of customers in China then you’ll also want a WeChat account.
Another tip that I can give from personal experience is that never think your business has no place advertising on Instagram. Sure, that may never be your bread and butter but you know what, its one of the big four and when you get into the dynamic ads portion of your social media campaigns, you’ll want to be there.
Step Two: Fill Out Your Profiles Completely and Put Sharing Icons on Your Site
Again, this should be self-explanatory but I can’t count the number of people who seem to think that all they need to do is just sign up and boom: magic.
No. It doesn’t work that way.
You want to make sure your name, address, telephone number and company information on the site along with relevant pictures and branding. Profiles on social do usually show up in search results! While Google’s indexing of Social sites isn’t exactly the same as it is for sites on the web, some tweets and posts do get indexed, so that’s something to be aware of. Also, don’t forget, Facebook is trying its best to become a search engine these days so give them something to let people search on. Fill out your profiles completely and don’t forget to add images!
Another thing to do is to let people know that you have these social profiles now and the easiest way to do it is to put a social sharing bar in the footer of your page. You know what that is, you’ve seen them everywhere. Those little icons for the different platforms that link to the company’s profiles around the web. Granted, they’re not the most public way to announce your new social media presence, they’re necessary. If you’re feeling extra spiffy, you can also send out a notice in your next eblast about your ‘brand new social media presence’ to let people know they can now like and follow you. It should work if people actually like you.
Step Three: Make Some Content on your Site to Promote
Whether it’s a new product for your eCommerce site, a blog article or something else, you’re going to need something to promote. You can either write up a new article that people would actually be interested in reading or you can update evergreen content on your site and it should work. As long as you have something to promote that is worth reading or engaging with, you should get positive results. If you only have a bunch of garbage though, don’t expect much.
If you’re not sure how to write content, just go to almost any other post on this site. I talk about content constantly. Once you have your content created, make sure you have Google come out and index the page via search console. Personally, I don’t trust them to do it in a timely fashion so I always manually request it.
Step Four: Take Note of Your Current Impressions & Sessions
You won’t know how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you are so make sure you record your current amount of sessions from organic and social (you can find this in Google Analytics) and your impressions, clicks and other data which you can find in Google Search Console. This will be your starting point for your test.
Step Five: Promote Your Content & Wait
Now that you have your content and your profiles all set up, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Share your content out on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms on which you see fit. If your budget is limited, I’d strongly suggest going Facebook and Twitter via boosted posts.
I recently heard a bunch of people saying, ‘oh, boosted posts are just a waste of money!’ and ‘don’t boost posts because it doesn’t do anything!’
Look, boosting posts on Facebook is not the route to go when you are looking to drive traffic to your site or to strictly looking for conversions, but right now, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to grow your audience and to get activity around your social posts in order to boost your organic traffic. For this purpose, I’ve never seen this fail yet.
We’ll talk more about this in a future article (probably next week) on the Smokehouse but for now, just trust me. Boosted posts on Facebook and promoted tweets on Twitter using the proper hashtags are a good way to start. We’ll cover dynamic product ads and the other types another day because even though they do help, that’s not usually the ideal way to start off your social media campaigns.
After this, just wait. Depending on how active your audience is at that particular time of the year (e.g.: if there is a big industry conference you are using the trending hashtags for in your posts, etc.) you might have to wait a week or so but usually the increase in impressions and sessions are pretty quick.
Step Six: Measure Your Returns
Once your promotion schedules are done, it’s time to see how you did. Check Google Search Console to see if your overall impressions (I like to check both the queries and the pages tabs) increased and if so by how much. Then take a look and see which pages they were serving the most. Of course, if your content is brand new, then any amount of impressions to that page are an increase since it didn’t exist before so then you’ll want to use the overall number of impressions and clicks to the site.
Usually, it won’t be hard to tell if it worked as every test I’ve personally ran on this, the results were quite noticeable, we’re talking clicks will be up by hundreds, impressions will be up by thousands and things like that. If the only thing you’ve done in that time is the social media test and normally month over month you don’t see spikes like that, it’s not hard to attribute the growth.
Things to Note
So there you have it. It isn’t that hard to do, doesn’t take that long and it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Start out with a budget of $35 – $50 for a two-week span if you’re not ready to commit and then just see for yourself. Just a few things to keep in mind for when you do this:
- Even though I haven’t seen this fail, not every campaign is going to be a winner. That’s just a fact of life. If you make content no one cares about, you won’t win no matter where you promote it.
- This works best when you are active on social. I recently had an opportunity to test this out for a company during a time when there was a huge industry conference going on that had a trending hashtag on twitter. The results were huge to the good within days, not weeks. Impressions and clicks skyrocketed. In fact, because we were just super active on twitter, Google started actually showing our twitter feed on the SERP…but as soon as we slowed down, the Twitter feed was gone.
- Be aware that if you stop, results may stop. That’s the nature of the beast. If you do a one and done, then your results may burn out. You really should be doing a good multichannel campaign as a general rule, anyway.
- Watch your ROI and your KPIs. Know what your goals are and how much you’re willing to invest on it. Organic traffic is great and all but if you’re just blowing your budget and not showing anything but sessions, it’s time to readjust your thinking.
- If you are doing paid LinkedIn…I wish you luck. I tried paid LinkedIn for a B2B customer once and not only did it not really move the needle, it also seems like a wild west show when it comes to budget. I set a lifetime budget of $40 with a week-long schedule, that thing burned half of it within 15 minutes before we shut it off out of blind fear. I haven’t gone back to that since. Good luck.
The Bottom Line
Look, does this work? Yes.
Why does it this work when Google says they don’t look at social? I don’t know but really, I don’t care.
All I need to know is that it does and it hasn’t failed me yet. Correlation, causation, who really cares as long as it works!
And that’s all I’ve got! Go out there and give this a shot for yourself and see how this works for you!