SEO & Social Media: How can They Help Increase Sales?
| December 14th 2023
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media have for some time enjoyed a symbiotic relationship in the digital marketing environment. This is especially the case in the context of social commerce, where the two complement each other in a host of ways.
In this post, we’re taking a look at the growing importance of integrating SEO with social media, the increasing value of social commerce, and why there’s no two ways about it: weaving social media into an SEO strategy is vital for any business with an eye on social commerce as a conduit to increasing sales.
What is social commerce and how does it trump traditional ecommerce?
Social commerce, or ‘social shopping’, is the process of selling products directly through social media channels. It’s basically a case of ecommerce meets social media, where shoppers can literally click to buy within their social media platform of choice, without having to duck outside of their feed.
Social commerce platforms include Instagram Shopping, Facebook Marketplace, Pinterest Shopping, Twitter Shops, Snapchat Shops, TikTok Shop and LinkedIn Marketplace.
Social commerce differs from and can be considered superior to ecommerce in a number of ways.
Firstly, where ecommerce relies on static images and text-based product descriptions, social commerce is way more interactive. You have visual how-to content, live streamed stories, expert insights, user-generated content, interactive video and augmented reality to help showcase products and get people excited about your products.
Social commerce also tends to do a better job when it comes to getting products in front of buyers and engaging them. It can certainly be considered a more immersive and personalised shopping experience, and buyers tend to be naturally influenced by their favourite channels.
Depending on the channel, shoppers can use hashtags, shop tabs and other tools to find products or favourite brands. They can interact with brands, content creators and other customers via chat, product demonstrations and expert content, as well as private and public communities.
Social shopping is so much more than a transaction. There is a personal connection there. And that’s why it does such a good job of cementing trust and authenticity, particularly through the medium of user-generated content which tends to command a higher level of confidence amongst buyers.
What is social SEO?
Social SEO is the process of optimising social channels and content to widen reach in the search results. It’s all about boosting visibility amongst people who prefer to use social media as part of their buying habits, and getting the right type of social media content in front of the right buyers on the right channels.
Social SEO can, for example, help a business rank higher in YouTube, TikTok, Facebook or Instagram. Because each social channel tends to have its own demographic, social SEO can be hugely effective in helping a business get through to the right target audience.
Why is the relationship between SEO and social media so important?
Whilst social media performance is by no means a direct Google ranking signal, it can benefit SEO indirectly in a variety of ways:
- Enhancing branded search
- Boosting organic clicks
- Establishing authority and trust
- Generating valuable backlinks
- Gathering useful insights into user behaviour and buying habits
Discoverability and visibility
SEO and social media both have the goal of increasing brand, content and product visibility online. Social SEO is all about the optimisation of social channels and social content to extend reach in the search results. This can help a business rank higher in the search engines, as well as across social platforms themselves. Social media profiles rank in the SERPs as well as websites, giving discoverability a boost.
Engagement and social signals
Social media engagement, such as shares, comments and likes, can signal to search engines that content is relevant and valuable. As we said, social signals may not be a direct ranking factor for search engines, but they can certainly drive traffic to websites.
When you share quality content on social media channels, it can drive traffic to a website or blog. Search engines definitely take note of this, and can potentially reward a website with improved SEO rankings. Social media is a great place to share content, to connect with target audiences, and to build brand awareness.
We all know that Google Reviews help with SEO. On social media, reviews can help support online reputation, as well as influence search rankings. Positive reviews built trust, and when they are featured in rich snippets, they give SEO even more of a boost through improved click-through rates.
Social media SEO is essential for product discovery when using social commerce. It helps connect brands with buyers who may not otherwise find them via traditional search.
Social media and SEO can work together to amplify each other’s results. Both form crucial assets of an effective marketing strategy and these days, it’s pretty much a case of one without the other just won’t do.
Why is social commerce going to be more important than ever in 2024?
It’s safe to say that social commerce is the future of online shopping. It does an excellent job of attracting the attention of the right buyers and of delivering meaningful content that converts. It also has the power to transform first time shoppers into loyal customers. Customers who are by no means shy about sharing their experience.
Social commerce is engaging, interactive and dynamic. And there is something for everyone.
It’s common knowledge that Generation Z and millennial shoppers usually prefer platforms with a strong focus on visual, interactive content such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. Whereas Baby Boomers tend to err towards Facebook.
The UK Social Commerce 2023 report by Insider Intelligence and eMarketer revealed that the UK is currently leading the rest of Europe in social buying, and that even though it has the lowest proportion of retailers selling via social, there is plenty of potential to increase social spending amongst existing buyers, especially Gen Z and young millennials.
According to the report, younger generations are turning to social media for inspiration and discovery, and Gen Z and young millennials are the most prolific social shoppers. Which comes as little surprise when you learn that 44.3% of 18 to 34-year-olds in the UK spend over three hours per day on social media, compared with 24.6% of 34 to 54-year-olds and just 10.2% of those over 55 (Toluna).
“37.3% of 18-34 year olds surveyed stated that they had made a social commerce purchase on Instagram, and 36.1% on TikTok”
However, Facebook remains the overall leader of the pack on social purchasing. Almost a third of UK consumers have made a social commerce purchase on Facebook in the past month (Toluna). The platform’s wide reach likely has something to do with this, bearing in mind it had 44.84 million UK users in 2023, compared to Instagram’s 35 million and TikTok’s 15.9 million.
Social networks are in the process of investing in shopping technology which appeals to Gen Z and young millennials. Things like augmented reality, video commerce and visual search, as well as integrating in-app checkout systems into the buying process which could well improve conversion courtesy of a more seamless shopping experience.
And with younger users turning to social media for entertainment and advice from their peers, we are seeing brands investing more and more in influencer and content creator-led marketing.
“54% of UK businesses investing in influencer marketing increased their budgets in 2023”
In fact, 54% of UK businesses investing in influencer marketing increased their budgets in 2023, enjoying numerous benefits as a result. 69% saw improved brand awareness, 62% experienced increased traffic and clicks, and 46% saw better reach and engagement across their social channels, according to an April 2023 YouGov and LTK survey.
However, word of mouth is still the biggest driver when it comes to making purchasing decisions. The UK Social Commerce report relayed that UK consumers are starting to tire of big-name and celebrity influencers, turning instead to family, friends and networks for recommendations and guidance. In turn, this is prompting brands to boost investment in micro influencers and content creators with smaller but more engaged communities who buyers consider more on their level.
So, is there a strong case for social commerce?
It was predicted that there would be 16.7 million social buyers in the UK in 2023 – that’s over 29% of the population. However, whilst this figure continues to rise, growth is slowing considerably, which is most likely down to the fact that there’s a ceiling to social buying adoption, and the UK has been one of the first to reach it, and in a highly accelerated fashion.
Wider adoption of social commerce by UK retailers would surely boost buyer numbers though.
If we take a look at what’s going on in the Netherlands, for example, where 68% of online retails have embraced social selling, 22% of consumers make weekly purchases via social platforms, spending an average of €174 per month. Compare this to the UK, where only 18% of UK consumers are making weekly social media purchases, spending €131 per month.
Insider Intelligence and eMarketer had this advice to share in their report in terms of what action brands and retailers should take in light of their research:
Adopt an omnichannel approach – make use of social platforms for product discovery and brand building and buyer engagement, whilst ensuring seamless integration with other touchpoints along the buying journey for brand and messaging consistency.
Invest cross-platform – consider that whilst certain social channels command extensive audiences, others will be the preferred platform for particular demographics. It is therefore good practice to diversify budgets in order to benefit from the advantages of each platform, all the while considering which are best for your specific target audience.
Remain innovative – younger generations are fast to adopt new features, and appreciate cutting edge technologies such as augmented reality, shoppable video and livestreaming.
Engage with micro influencers and niche content creators – influencer marketing can be lucrative, but today’s buyers want to engage with peers rather than out of reach celebrities. So prioritise collaborations focused on authentic storytelling and entertainment to help maintain your brand voice, and keep trust front of mind.
What we think at Figment
SEO is evolving in a big way. Huge changes have swept through the digital marketing ecosystem since we entered the industry in 2006. And now we have artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, 5G, blockchain, quantum computing, robotics… people are growing up around these technologies. They’re becoming part and parcel of education, life and work to such an extent that to Gen Z and millennials, they are pretty much invisible, nothing particularly special. Expectations, therefore, are high.
The UK Social Commerce 2023 report suggests that there is lots of potential for UK brands to increase social spending amongst existing buyers, especially Gen Z and young millennials. We agree. And we also see the symbiosis of social media and SEO becoming stronger and stronger as the need for peer reassurance and a truly immersive shopping experience booms.