How Different Social Media Networks Drive Search Traffic

How Different Social Media Networks Drive Search Traffic

The relationship between SEO and social media can be best described as an alley-oop to those who understand basketball. 

We have social media lobbying the ball and SEO dunking it.

Social media signals such as likes, retweets, and followers don’t directly impact your ranking. 

But they directly impact the factors that affect your search engine ranking

Social media can drive traffic to your website. You can share links to your social media pages, and when people click them, that translates to more traffic for you.

In other words, SEO feeds off your social media effort. The two complement each other.

How Social Networks View SEO

Social networks don’t view SEO the same way we do.

If you thought SEO is hard, then know it’s even harder for social media networks. 

Where you’ll be worrying about getting Google to index a few pages on your website, they have billions of pages to worry about. They also have to worry about rendering heavy JavaScript frameworks. 

It’s a whole different playing field for them. 

So, how about you take a few steps back and observe how these social networks handle SEO. There’s a lot to learn from them, and that’s what we hope to uncover in this article.

Our focus will be on two major social networks, Facebook and LinkedIn. We’d have loved to include Twitter, but their recent partnership with Google doesn’t make them a suitable reference point for this.

Facebook: How Facebook Drives Search Traffic

Facebook drives billions of search traffic. However, we cannot say the same about their social traffic. It’s like they don’t even get any of it. 

The majority of the traffic they get is direct, with organic traffic coming in second and traffic from referral channels coming in third. 

They also rank predominantly for some of the leading brands, especially Google, Walmart, and CNN. 

Facebook doesn’t just rely on its direct traffic. They have also employed SEO professionals – and from the look of things, they’re doing a laudable job, having managed to get Facebook in more than 33 million top 10 organic search results in October.  

In total, Facebook had about 16 billion global visits.

While 10.8 billion of this traffic was direct, 2.3 billion of the traffic came from search engines (according to SEMrush). 

We didn’t consider the number of users who use the Facebook app, only those who access it via facebook.com. 

Facebook’s Biggest SEO Challenge

Facebook biggest SEO challenge is getting all of its pages crawled and indexed. We’re not talking about a few hundreds of pages but billions of them.

Plus, Google has no time to create a Facebook account and crawl all posts, profiles, and Facebook pages.

So, what has Facebook done about this?

It’s simple: ask any SEO expert worth their salt to recommend a solution for this, and they’ll all be pointing in the direction of HTML sitemaps or indices.

What Facebook does is that they identify important pages and index them. So, far they have managed to index upwards of 4 million pages. 

They have even linked to these indices at the bottom (the footer section) of their homepage.

It doesn’t just end there.

Each of these pages boasts a massive number of internal links.

The smart SEO professional at Facebook even went ahead to add cross-categories. 

And they didn’t just organise their pages alphabetically, but in categories as well.

They have directories for more than 1.9 million people, 340 000 groups, 3.2 million places, 765 000 jobs, 83 000 local lists, 63 000 games, 1, 3000 fundraisers, and 1.5 million businesses. 

LinkedIn: How LinkedIn Drives Search Traffic

Social media networks are essentially two-sided. There’s the ad side on one end and the user side on the other.

But LinkedIn is more than that; they’re a social media network that also operates a SaaS program. But that isn’t the only unique thing about this social network. Unlike Facebook, instead of just linking to indices, they also link to the directories in their homepage’s footer section.

They have more than 27,000 directories, with each one of them linking to a set of subcategories. 

LinkedIn isn’t quite as popular as Facebook. They only hold a tiny market share. But they have been steadily growing over the years, and their organic traffic share is twice as much as that of Facebook (29% vs. Facebook’s 14%). 

TikTok vs. Instagram

TikTok might be as popular as Instagram, but its organic traffic is way too low.

Its organic traffic can’t even compare to YouTube’s. 

Instagram uses the same strategy as Facebook and LinkedIn to index its billions of pages.

They even go the extra mile by putting Google bots on their unique taxonomy (cities and hashtags). 

TikTok, on the other hand, does very little to drive organic traffic. 

Try visiting the site with JavaScript turned off on your browser, and watch as pages go blank. That’s to say Google can’t crawl, index, or even rank their content. 

Snapchat: How Snapchat Drives Organic Traffic

There isn’t much to learn from Snapchat when it comes to SEO. 

They haven’t done much on their end to drive organic traffic. They’re innovative and have admirable grit, but won’t make a perfect example for social network SEO.

Snapchat has grown a lot since it started. But much of what they offer search engines comes from the add/subcategory, which apparently only shows the QR Codes for profiles.  

How Different Social Media Networks Drive Search Traffic

Here’s what they would have done to boost their search traffic:

First, they would have asked their users to include more information on their profiles. That way, search engines would have had more content to crawl. 

That explains why Snapchat doesn’t drive as much search traffic as Instagram and Facebook.

Secondly, they would have added internal linking modules and taxonomy structure. Instead, they have a plain feed, without much to be crawled and indexed. 

Lastly, they would have considered creating directories out of their site maps and then listing local stories by cities. That would have given search engines more fodder to rank their websites

So, in conclusion, Snapchat is sitting on a goldmine. They have so much potential to drive organic search traffic by making only a few adjustments to their site. 

Organic Growth: Organic Traffic plus Growth

We’ve established that social networks don’t approach SEO the same way we do. They employ a different mindset and execution plan (or organic growth like we call it on this side of the street). 

Organic growth is where organic traffic meets growth.

It differs from Growth Hack because it involves a set of principles that only apply to websites with user-generated content.

Such websites tend to deal with millions (or even billions) of pages that you have to index. 

Getting all these pages indexed is the biggest SEO challenge of all. Plus, it’s only half the battle.

The other half goes to the JavaScript frameworks to be rendered. Remember: these frameworks are generated for the billions of pages on your website, making them superheavy. 

SEO professionals have to work closely with engineers, designers, and product managers. They also have to run a series of experiments that impact users’ experience with the site. 

It calls for a tight set of KPIs. 

It’s only by observing, learning, and understanding these principles that you’d know how to scale organic growth for your site. 

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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