Can Twitter boost your organic search ranking?
Before we address that question, here’s a quick glossary of important SEO (Search Engine Optimization) terms you should know about, in case you’re not familiar with SEO.
Glossary of SEO terms
Social signals are an estimation of how trusted and influential you are on social media. They serve as recommendations (or votes) cast by social media users. For example, let’s say you have just published a blog post and shared the link with your followers in a tweet. If a user retweets your tweet, then your blog post will have received a ‘social signal’ from that user. Social signals are seen as a form of citation, similar to backlinks.
Backlinks (also known as links)
A backlink to your site occurs when a website adds a link on their web page to your site. Depending on the authority of the website linking to you, backlinks can have a profound impact on your organic search ranking. They are key to determining the popularity (or importance) of your website.
A Keyword is a word or phrase consisting of one or more words that a searcher enters into search engines when are searching for information, products or services.
Stands for search engines results page. This is the page that contains the search results that search engines provide when you enter a keyword or search query.
Organic Search Ranking
This is a website’s natural position in the SERP when a keyword that is considered relevant to that website is searched for in the search engines.
Link juice is the amount of ranking power that is passed through a link when one site links to another. For example, a “dofollow” link from Forbes.com or BBC.co.uk to your site will pass a considerable amount of link juice that could skyrocket your organic search ranking.
On the other hand, a “nofollow” link from these sites will pass no link juice whatsoever. However, that’s not to say that a nofollow link from an authority is worthless. Far from it, but that’s another story.
The “nofollow” Attribute
To understand the nofollow attribute, you must first understand what a “dofollow” attribute is, which is the opposite of nofollow.
When you link to a website within your blog, the link will be tagged as “dofollow” by default. This means that Google will regard the link as a vote for the website you are linking to and the link will pass link juice to that website. Doing this can help increase the site’s organic search ranking.
On the other hand, if you add the nofollow attribute to the link, you are telling the search engines not to pass any link juice to the website you’re linking to. In that case, the website being linked to won’t receive any search ranking benefits from being linked to by your site.
Note that you can’t see the nofollow attribute from the outside. It’s in the source code of the web page.
Does social media affect SEO?
The question whether social media affects SEO has long been debated. In 2010, both Google and Bing admitted to using social signals to determine a website’s organic search ranking. However, that stance changed in 2014 after Twitter temporarily prevented Google bots from accessing their social network. Google’s Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of spam, subsequently released a video in which he stated publicly that Google could not rely on signals that might not be there tomorrow.
But in 2015, Search Engine Land announced that Google and Twitter had reached an agreement that provided Google full access to Twitter’s stream. Since this deal was reached, Google has been featuring relevant tweets in its search results.
Now, as with most social networks, Twitter tags any links in your tweets, bio and profile with the nofollow attribute. Twitter does this as a way of discouraging spammers from abusing the platform. Despite this, there is strong evidence that suggests that social signals from Twitter can influence a website’s organic search ranking especially if your tweets get a lot of engagement in the form of retweets, favourites and mentions.
On average, the more of a social presence a particular website has, the higher the website’s organic search ranking, as you can see in Cognitive SEO’s graphic:
Below are 10 tips for optimizing your Twitter account for SEO:
Optimize your Twitter handle.
Your Twitter handle (or username) is a very important part of creating a search engine-friendly profile. Your profile name – the name that appears next to your username in the profile as well as the username appear as the title tag for your profile in the organic search results. For this reason, they should ideally target important keywords related to your brand.
Note that because spammers tend to create Twitter handles that include a set of numbers, when Google scans links on Twitter, it often disregards such usernames as possible spam. It doesn’t matter if you are a legitimate business, because the search engine spider has been engineered to associate such usernames with spam. If you offer a local service, then it would be a good idea to add your location to make it easy for people who are searching for businesses like yours in your location to find you.
Use a subset of relevant keywords in your bio.
Your bio is the equivalent of the meta description tag in search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines often display your Twitter bio in the links’ description on the search results pages. Instead of filling your bio with industry jargon, include a subset of your most important, relevant keywords in your bio so that the search engines will associate your account with those keywords.
Focus on relevant keywords that have led to discussions on Twitter and reflect your business accurately. Twitter search engines will also consider keywords you have used in your bio when people are looking to follow similar users. Include a link in your bio and an emoji, if it makes sense for your brand. If you include a hashtag, make sure it a branded one (discussed below).
Use a subset of relevant keywords in your tweets.
When you tweet, try to use the subset of keywords that you’ve included in your bio in some of your tweets. With time, your page will be found organically by users who are searching for those terms. This ensures that your tweets will get more exposure, boosting your SEO.
Using relevant keywords and hashtags throughout the day in your tweets can help boost the ranking of your tweets in organic search. However, be careful not to keyword stuff your tweets as this could earn you a penalty from Twitter and Google.
If the content you’re sharing on Twitter is remarkable enough and you are actively engaging thought leaders and influencers in your industry, chances are that these influential individuals will take notice and may start retweeting your posts. Influencers generally have very large, engaged audiences, and if they mention your brand, products or industry, this can lead to a lot of exposure for your brand.
In addition, the search engines give a lot of weighting to tweets from authority figures. Recognition from top influencers in your industry or field will have considerable influence on your SEO efforts.
Being socially active on Twitter can result in huge dividends for your brand. If you are simply broadcasting at your followers without engaging with them, you’re not going to get very far with them. By actively interacting with your followers, you’ll get more retweets, mentions, and favorites. And that leads to better rankings for your website in the search engines.
Encourage your followers to engage with you by tweeting content that is relevant and useful to them, retweeting and favoriting good content, adding relevant users to lists, mentioning other users and responding to mentions. The better the quality of the content you post, the more often your followers will interact with your messages, and the better the results you’ll achieve as a whole.
Avoid over-tweeting promotional content.
You might think that the more often you tweet about your business, the better your organic search rankings will be.
Well, you’d be wrong.
In fact, broadcasting too much one-dimensional, promotional content that doesn’t get any engagement from your followers could have the opposite effect and end up damaging your brand not only on Twitter, but on Google.
Keep in mind that Google has access to Twitter’s full stream. If you tweet a lot and your tweets aren’t getting any engagement, then you’re effectively spamming your followers. This sends the wrong signals to Google, and could have an adverse impact on your organic search ranking.
Social media marketing is about interacting with your network as authentically as you can. It is not about constantly pushing your products or bombarding them with too much information about your business.
Use relevant hashtags.
If you already use Instagram or Twitter, then you’re probably familiar with hashtags. Hashtags are keywords or topics prefixed with the symbol # in a tweet. On Twitter, they are used as a way of making it easier for people to find, follow, and add to a discussion. By using hashtags in your tweets, you can increase the chances of being found. You can include hashtags anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see all other tweets marked with that hashtag.
According to research from Buddy Media, tweets with hashtags receive twice as much engagement as those that don’t. In other words, you can double your engagement and boost your click through rates by including hashtags in your tweets. Furthermore, in a study on retweeting behavior that included more than 1.2 million tweets, social media scientist Dan Zarella fount that tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 percent more likely to be retweeted.
One of the most powerful ways to maximize hashtags for your business is by creating a unique, keyword-rich hashtag that is associated with your brand.
Starbucks uses a branded hashtag very effectively with the tag #tobeapartner, which they’ve included in the Twitter bio of their careers page. They use it to engage and respond to people who are interested in a career at Starbucks.
KitKat is another example of a company that uses their tagline “have a break” (#haveabreak) as a branded hashtag on Twitter. Everyone is familiar with their tagline, and they use it to engage with the social KitKat community.
All of the major search engines – Google, Bing, and Yahoo, index hashtags. Consequently, adding relevant hashtags to your tweets can increase the visibility of your content on the major search engines, especially when people are conducting branded searches.
Creating a branded hashtag can significantly increase the ranking of your site for that keyword in organic search, especially if it becomes a popular hashtag that is used by many users.
Maximize trending hashtags
Trending hashtags are hashtags that have become very popular. On Twitter, you can see trending hashtags for the world, and for geographic regions. When you discover a trend that relates to your industry or niche, using trending tags in your tweets can potentially expose your tweets to a massive audience.
Before you use a trending tag, make sure the tweet is relevant to the topic. If you’re not sure, research the tag before you use it. Using irrelevant trending hashtags for increased popularity or exposure is a spammy, manipulative act that could really hurt your brand.
Boost engagement with images and video.
If you want more eyeballs, use images and video. Images grab attention more than any other type of content on social media in general because most of us are visually inspired. According to research by Wordstream, tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than tweets without them.
If you want to get more engagement from your followers, engaging and eye catching images need to be part of your content strategy. And the thing is, it doesn’t really matter if the images is related to your brand or not. What is really important is that they help to reinforce the kinds of emotions you want people to associate with your company. Most of us can identify with an image much more quickly than text. They are more likely to evoke emotional reactions in viewers than text, which is why they are more attention grabbing than text. That is why you need to give them a lot of attention in your content strategy.
Video can have the same effect. According to Insivia, 82% of Twitter users watch video content on the platform. Did you know that you can upload 2 minutes and 20 seconds worth of native video on Twitter?
The Twitter video app makes it ridiculously easy to shoot and post video in seconds. The process works a lot like Snapchat: simply press (and hold) the camera icon as you record and release it to stop.
Twitter is an incredibly powerful social network, and a solid Twitter marketing strategy can have a substantial impact on your organic search rankings.
The search engines give a lot of weighting to social signals. This means that the more engagement your tweets receive; the higher your organic search rankings will be.
Twitter can skyrocket your organic search ranking. But you have to use it strategically for it to have any impact on your SEO.