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Thu Dec 17 2015

How Social Media Affects SEO

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I am often asked whether social media affects SEO or your search engine ranking. There have been a lot of articles written about social media and SEO. Some claim that search engines use social media statistics such as activity, engagements and the number of followers as part of their determinants for ranking search results. Other articles claim this to be absolute nonsense. Having read many articles on the matter, I can’t say whether I believe search engines like Google do or don’t use social statistics to rank results.

However, I do believe that social media does affect your SEO. But my thinking isn’t around the algorithms that search engines use. My reasoning instead centres around a statistic that we know search engines take into consideration when ranking search results.

Bounce Rate.

So what is Bounce Rate anyway?

Bounce rate, sometimes termed ‘exit rate’ is the percentage of website users that only land on one page of your website and leave without physically interacting with the page (through clicking, navigating further etc). Its visitors that land on the site and leave after seeing the first page (not necessarily the home page ? just the first page they land on).

Put simply high bounce rates are BAD! What’s a high bounce rate? Well ? that depends. Usually, different industries will have a different acceptable level of bounce rate. The best thing to do is keep track of your bounce rate month-on-month and put strategies in place to help reduce it (we’ll get to this a little later?).

Why the High Bounce Rate?

A couple of key things that can increase the bounce rate are:

  • Poor site design
  • Poor usability
  • Single page site

Search engines don’t like high bounce rates. And there are reasons for this. High bounce rates can be caused by a number of things (more than just these examples), but ultimately having a high bounce rate means visitors are not engaged with the content on the page (and therefore, the website is seen as less relevant ? hence why search engines factor in your bounce rate when ranking search results). In simple terms, search engines would read this as:

High Bounce Rate = Content Not Relevant = Lower Search Ranking

In short: a high bounce rate is bad for your website SEO!

The Connection between Bounce Rate and Social Media

You’re thinking this is all well and good, but I thought I was reading an article on social media. Correct? you are! So let’s go into this social media-bounce rate connection.

Most industry experts acknowledge social media as being a good content and branding tool. But most also agree that the aim of social media needs to be to drive traffic to your website. You will rarely make a conversion through social media, you want to be driving people to your website to increase the possibility of a conversion.

With this in mind, what is the role of social media? In my opinion (and among many other things!), it’s a platform to connect with customers and potential customers, to build loyalty and brand awareness and to stay in ongoing conversations with your customers; all with the aim of encouraging social followers to the website. Understanding this, we can now start to build the idea that social can in fact help reduce bounce rate.

This is a little equation I like to use:

More Loyal Visitors = Likeliness to interact with site increases = Bounce Rate reduces

Thinking back on how we use social media, one of the key objectives is to increase engagement and loyalty among followers. With followers more engaged and interested in your brand/products/services on Facebook, when they do get to your website there is (I believe) more chance of them using the website without dropping off on page one. With this theory, we can add another layer to the equation:

Increased Engagement on Social Media = More Loyal Visitors = Likeliness to interact with the site increases = Bounce Rate reduces

Can I Measure this?

Good question. and yes, you can.

Using Google Analytics, the Audience > Overview section will give you an overall view of your website bounce rate. You can then compare your social bounce rate against this benchmark rate by going to Acquisition > Overview > Social.

As an example, this website has an overall bounce rate of just over 70%. The details specifically for their Facebook traffic illustrate a bounce rate of 65.13% for this social channel. Also pleasing here is that Facebook has driven 3 goal completions (sales) valued at $60.00.

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