This is the seventh post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking, discussed how to get the most out of Google My Business, covered best practices for on-site optimization. I’ve also given you some ideas for building inbound links and how to build citations and explained the importance of reviews. Here, I’ll focus on what impact social signals have on local results (if any).
Those of you who have been following along with this series since we started probably feel like you’ve drunk from a firehose. There are a lot of angles from which to attack Local SEO!
Generally speaking, though, social media is not one of them, so this will be the shortest post of the series. Marcus Miller of Bowler Hat, a long-time participant in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, sums up the place of social media brilliantly: “Do the basics, don’t overthink it, and move swiftly along.”
Primarily, “the basics” have to do with optimizing your social media profiles, as opposed to your social media activity.
- Social-Local Basics
- Social-Local Longer-Tail
- The Outlier: Google+
- The Real Place of Local-Social Media: Conversations
- Read on
Customers may look for you on those sites, and you don’t want them to come up empty, or worse: discover another business with a similar name and think it’s you. And you never know when you might decide to engage with customers on those social platforms – in which case it’ll be nice to have an existing profile as a jumping-off point.
Social profiles offer some of the easiest inbound links and citations you can acquire, and it makes sense to utilize all relevant fields that major social media platforms offer you.
At a minimum, use a high-quality logo (or if more appropriate, personal photo). Pick a high-resolution photo or graphic representation of your business that you can use as a “cover” image. Hubspot produced this handy guide of the sizes you’ll need for each social platform. For more advanced readers, Facebook now offers the ability to use video for your cover.
Fundera has compiled a great list of compelling local business Facebook pages here, for more inspiration.
Because each of these social profiles can (and should) act as a citation, you’ll want to maintain a consistent business name across all platforms. This helps Google (and customers) associate these profiles with you.
Where possible, add your location information to your profile, even if it’s just a city and state. This helps Google make that connection even more strongly.
If you don’t plan to use one or more of these profiles actively, pin a post to the top of that profile. That way, you can let customers know where they can find you. It doesn’t matter if that’s your website, your email newsletter, or a different social channel that you do manage actively.
With the exception of Twitter, with whom it has a direct contractual relationship, Google has a hard time getting visibility into what’s happening on social platforms. So “being active” on social media isn’t really going to help with your local search visibility. And even if you’re wildly popular on social media, it’s unlikely that popularity will translate directly into higher local search rankings.
One way, in which it might translate, is if your social profile is frequently linked-to by other websites as a result of your popularity. The link you’ve added from your profile to your own website then passes additional authority to your website. But that’s a fraction of a fractional increase in authority. Not one that’s worth getting hung up on.
There’s some evidence to suggest that viral social media posts (and even social media ads) that drive traffic to your website may increase your rankings, but it’s rare that a local business achieves virality. And if you do, what’ll really increase your rankings are the citations and links from news articles mentioning that your business has gone viral.
You should primarily focus your social media efforts on engaging your customers with interesting content, promotions (if relevant), and polls and conversations that will increase their affinity for your brand. You can promote your website to a degree, but generally speaking, improvements in your local rankings will come from other factors.
The Outlier: Google+
I mentioned five of the most popular channels above, and intentionally excluded Google+. Millions of pixels and gallons of ink have been expended on chronicling the failure of Google+ as a social network. Those chronicles are largely accurate.
But in a recent Steady Demand case study, featuring jeweler Barbara Oliver, Mike Blumenthal found that creating shareable content on Google+ appeared to have a direct positive impact on Barbara’s local rankings. There’s a lot of work involved in building the kind of Google+ community that Barbara has built. Let alone in coming up with content that this community will find interesting. But if you’re primarily interested in using social media to increase your local search rankings, Google+ is (surprisingly) the social platform on which you should focus.
The Real Place of Local-Social Media: Conversations
As this terrific guide from the Perch App suggests, it’s far more productive to treat social media as an engagement channel rather than a means to ranking better.
Making yourself available to your customers and responsive to their questions on the platforms above — as well as the locally-focused NextDoor — helps create the positive association for your brand that social media is best-designed for.
To the extent that words become the new links, Google may begin to weigh social media activity more heavily in its algorithm in the future. But for now, utilize your social media channels for brand awareness, customer engagement and loyalty, not rankings.
- Overall, social signals have limited impact on local search rankings.
- Nonetheless, every business should create a well-branded Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn Business page.
- Include links and citations for your business on these profiles.
- Google+ is the social platform on which activity seems to increase rankings the most.
- Your primary goal in using social media should be for customer engagement and loyalty, not rankings.
Other parts in the Ranking your local business series:
- An introduction to ranking your local business
- The importance of Google My Business
- How to optimize your website for local search
- Why inbound links are so important and how to get them
- Citations for local search
- The impact of reviews for local ranking
- Social media and local SEO
- The impact of behavioral signals