Are you relying on social media algorithms to get your content seen (a.k.a. posting and hoping for the best)?
If so, you might be missing new followers and potential customers. Social SEO helps your content be seen by people who are actively searching for companies like yours or the products and services you offer.
Read on to find out what social SEO means, why it matters, and — most importantly — how it can help you grow your business accounts on social media.
Bonus: Download a free social SEO checklist and follow pro tips for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get your posts seen by more people.
Social SEO is the practice of adding text-based features like captions, alt-text, and closed captions to your posts to help people browsing social platforms easily find your content.
To understand social SEO, you need to understand the basics of traditional SEO. In digital marketing, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engines like Google or Bing allow you to search for information and then serve up a list of web results that point you to the content you’re looking for. (Or, at least, the content algorithms think you would want to see based on the search phrase you used, your location, previous searches, etc.)
Social networks are not technically search engines — but they all have search bars. And big social platforms are incorporating ever more features of traditional search engines to help match users with the content they want to find.
People originally used social networks to view their personalized feeds of content from specific people and brands they followed. Now, people actively use social networks to search for specific information. Think product reviews, brand recommendations, and local businesses to visit.
Social SEO is all about getting seen when people are actively searching for content, rather than scrolling their feeds.
Here’s what you need to know to get your content found on every social network.
- Optimize your Instagram profile SEO. Use keywords in your name, handle, and bio, and include a location if relevant.
- Include relevant keywords and hashtags in the caption. Hiding hashtags in the comments is no longer effective. Keywords in the caption help your content appear on keyword search pages.
- Add alt-text. The main purpose of alt-text is to make visual content more accessible. However, it serves the added benefit of helping Instagram understand exactly what your content is so it can serve it in response to relevant searches.
- Use subtitles. Instagram has auto-generated captions, which is great for accessibility, but using subtitles also means your target keyword will appear onscreen.
- Tag your location. So your content will appear on the new Instagram Maps, which can function as a local business search.
For more in-depth Instagram SEO strategies, check out our full blog post on Instagram SEO.
- Optimize your TikTok profile SEO. Add relevant keywords to your TikTok user profile to improve the SEO of your whole account.
- Double-dip your main keyword with the TikTok itself. Say the main keyword for your TikTok out loud in your video clip and include in-text overlay on the screen. Saying your keyword out loud means it’s also included in the automatically generated closed captions, which kind of makes this a triple-dip.
- Include relevant keywords and hashtags in the caption. By caption here, we mean the video description, rather than speech captions (although you should include your keywords there too, as noted above). Focus on keywords, rather than hashtags, for improved TikTok SEO.
If you want a foolproof strategy to help you land on the FYP, we’ve got even more on TikTok SEO in our complete guide.
- Use your primary keyword phrase as the video file name. For example, DIY-bookcase.mov
- Incorporate your primary keyword phrase in the title. But use a longer version that people might type into YouTube’s search bar, such as “how to build a DIY bookcase”
- Use keywords in the video description. Especially within the first two lines, which are visible without clicking more. Include your primary keyword for sure, and add a secondary one or two later in the description if you can do so without making it sound like keyword stuffing.
- Say your keywords in the video and turn on captions. Make sure to speak your keywords out loud at some point in the video. Then, turn on subtitles in YouTube Studio.
- Create how-to videos. How-to videos get most of their views from search, whereas other types of videos get most of their views from the home page, suggested videos, or playlists.
- Don’t worry about tags. YouTube says tags aren’t a big factor in search. They’re mostly used to address common misspellings, such as DIY vs DYI.
- Optimize your Facebook Page SEO. Use your main keyword in your Page title and vanity URL, About section, and description.
- Add your business address to your profile. If it’s relevant, this will allow your page to be included in local search.
- Add location pages for different locations. If you have multiple bricks-and-mortar locations, add a location page for each shop or office to increase all of their chances of appearing in local search.
- Include relevant keywords in your posts. Using natural-sounding language, make sure to include the most relevant keyword in each post and photo caption.
- Include alt text. Using specific, descriptive Facebook alt text in your images is a great way to make sure the platform understands what your post is about.
For more, check out our complete guide to Facebook SEO.
- Optimize your Twitter profile SEO. Use your main keyword in your Twitter name, handle, and bio.
- Include relevant keywords and hashtags in your posts. You don’t have a lot of characters to work with, so use keywords wisely. Incorporate them into the post naturally so your post is still valuable to readers.
- Add alt text. If you include images in a Tweet, add alt text that includes your keywords (if relevant to the image – remember the main point of alt text is to make content accessible to the visually impaired). Do so by clicking Add description under the image when creating a Tweet.
Learn more in our top tips for managing Twitter SEO.
- Optimize your Pinterest profile SEO. Use your main keyword in your username and About section.
- Create boards based on your primary keywords. When setting up the structure of your account, use your primary keywords to guide the boards you create and name them accordingly
- Use long-tail keywords in your Pin titles. Build Pins around long-tail keywords such as “How to build a DIY bookcase” rather than “DIY Bookcase” or even “Build a DIY Bookcase.”
- Include keywords in your description. Write the description to sound informative, rather than being a simple list of keywords. (Remember, you want people to actually click the Pin, which they won’t do if they’re turned off by the description.) But include relevant keywords in a natural way that aligns with the Pin title.
- Use high-quality images to benefit from visual search. Pinterest Lens allows users to search with their camera rather than their keyboard. High-quality, relevant images ensure you don’t miss out on these searches.
Pinterest itself is a powerful visual search engine, so if it’s your primary social channel, check out our top 10 tips to Pinterest SEO.
- Optimize your LinkedIn Page SEO. Incorporate your most relevant keyword in your Page’s tagline and About section.
- Create long-form content based on relevant keywords. LinkedIn Articles give you the breathing room to create valuable content based around important keyword clusters.
- Don’t overdo it. LinkedIn sorts content right off the bat as spam, low-quality, or high-quality. If you stuff your post with too many keywords or hashtags, guess where it’s going? Not to the top of the search results. Include keywords in a natural way (rather than stuffing) and only include truly relevant hashtags.
Optimizing your business Page? Check out our LinkedIn SEO guide for even more info.
In the past, getting your social content seen has been all about working the algorithms to get your content into people’s feeds. Now, people are taking a more active approach to finding content they want, rather than just scrolling through the content presented to them.
So, the focus on discoverability isn’t new. Social SEO just requires a shift in thinking about how people discover your content. When people search for information on social platforms, you want them to find your content.
Social SEO is all about connecting with people who don’t (yet) follow you on social platforms. That means it can be a more effective way to grow your social channels than focusing strictly on algorithms. New eyeballs are the key to growth.
This summer, Instagram launched a new searchable map feature to allow people to find popular locations using the app. Instagram is now directly competing with Google Maps to be the best search provider for local business results.
New map, who this? 🌐🗺️
Now you can now find popular locations around you or filter by categories like cafes or beauty salons. pic.twitter.com/asQR4MfljC
— Instagram (@instagram) July 19, 2022
Teen writer Julia Moon said in a piece for Slate:
“I use Google products regularly. But I use them for only the most straightforward tasks: checking the spelling of something, looking for a quick fact, finding directions. If I’m looking for a place for lunch, or a cool new pop-up, or an activity my friends would enjoy, I’m not going to bother with Google.”
Her local search map of choice is Snap Maps.
And high-school student Ja’Kobi Moore told The New York Times that she used a TikTok search to learn how to request a teacher’s letter of recommendation when applying to public school.
No matter what product or service your business sells, there’s a potential customer base that will never find you through traditional search engines. Social SEO is your key to connecting with that audience.
Social SEO is the practice of including relevant information and keywords in your posts (in captions, alt-text, subtitles, and closed captions) to increase the chances of having your content surfaced to users browsing social media.
SEO in social media works a lot like SEO in traditional search engines. It all starts with keyword research. We’ve talked a lot about using keywords so far. But how do you go about finding the right keywords to use?
Rather than brainstorming your own keywords based on how you think people will search for your content, you need to understand how people actually search for content like yours.
Some good tools to get you started are:
- Google Analytics: This tool can show you which keywords are already driving traffic to your website. While you can’t assume the exact same keywords will work for your social content, they’re a good place to start.
- Hootsuite Insights powered by Brandwatch: In this tool, you can use the word cloud feature to find which words are commonly used in relation to your brand or industry. Again, these are a good starting point for you to test.
- SEM Rush Keyword Magic Tool: Enter a keyword related to your content and this tool will generate a list of additional keyword and key phrase suggestions.
- Google Trends: Enter a search term and you’ll get a graph of interest over time and by region, as well as suggestions for related topics and related queries. For YouTube data specifically, change the dropdown menu from Web Search to YouTube Search.
- Hootsuite: Set up social listening streams within Hootsuite and keep an eye out for common language used in discussions of your product, brand, industry, or specific niche.
- Each social network’s search bar: Within each social network, start typing a keyword phrase and see what the suggested autocompletions are.
All of the social platforms offer slightly different opportunities to incorporate SEO techniques. So which is the best?
It’s a tough question to answer because the network where it’s most important to focus your SEO efforts is the one where your audience is most likely to spend their time or conduct their research. To answer that, you need to do some basic audience research.
But in terms of straight-up SEO functionality, YouTube is definitely the social platform that functions most like a search engine. This is no surprise, since YouTube is a Google product.
Looking at social SEO another way, if you’re hoping for your social content to show up in Google search results, YouTube wins again.
Beyond that, it depends. Twitter and Google have a partnership that allows Tweets to feature prominently in search results. Pinterest ranks well for highly visual content. LinkedIn Pages often appear in business searches, and Facebook Pages rank especially well for local businesses. Google is currently working on improving its ability to index and serve TikTok and Instagram video results, too.
Social algorithms are all about serving content to people who are passively browsing or scrolling through a social feed, like the TikTok For You page. SEO, on the other hand, is focused on making sure your content is seen when people actively search.
Save time managing your social media and get your content seen using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish content, engage your audience, and measure the performance of all your accounts, across networks. Try it free today.