How can marketers leverage social media to influence search engine optimization (SEO) and boost their content? Social media does and does not influence organic search performance for content.
Today’s guest is Dmitry Dragilev is a public relations (PR) and SEO expert from Criminally Prolific. Dmitry talks about what he knows based on what Google does, what works in the industry, and what works for himself and his clients. He describes how to leverage social media to drive short- and long-term SEO gains and amplify your content through channels.
“Social signals are not used by Google for ranking purposes. I think that's really important to remember. If you are trying to think about that or trying to rank that Google will not use those social signals to rank you.”
“Your brand reputation, your brand recognition, and getting that out there via social media do indirectly impact your rankings.”
“Those assets, which are going to be linked to from many different pages, many different sites, and used in all these different posts, that's where I think the gold mine really lies with sharing information on social that people can use in all sorts of different avenues.”
“The name of the game should be spending time and money to create quality, engaging content. I think that is worth every penny. Whether it works well on social media or organically, it should probably be both.”
How to Actually Leverage Social Media and SEO to Boost Your Content With @dragilev From Criminally Prolific
Ben: Hey Dmitry, how's it going?
Dmitry: Doing well. How are you?
Ben: I'm not bad. I really can't complain too much. Life is slowly starting to look like it's going back to normal, hopefully, fingers crossed. I'm feeling good.
Dmitry: Same here, man. The sun is shining. It's warm. I'm in New Hampshire. I had a good workout this morning. Good mood. Things are going well.
Ben: That’s what we like to hear. What we're going to be talking about is social media, SEO, and how those two worlds do and do not intersect. As we were chatting a little bit just a little while ago about these two concepts, people have a lot of questions about how these two things work together. It's not necessarily super clear to a lot of folks. At a real high level, to open things up, how are social media and SEO interrelated? If at all. What are the connections there that do exist?
Dmitry: I will come out and say that social signals are not used by Google for ranking purposes. I think that's really important to remember. If you are trying to think about that or trying to rank, Google will not use those social signals to rank you. Matt Cutts has a great video. If you ever google anything around it, you'll see there's a question from somebody and he directly addresses this one thing. He breaks down the reason why Google cannot just trust social to do this.
There’s the volume. There's just too much information to cope with the kind of infrastructure they have. Just the timing, social media content doesn't last all the time. There are fake followers. There are paid engagements. There are mapping relationships between social media profiles. Just one person used to be this, now they’re that. Google+ was their answer. That was the answer where Google is trying to say all right, how do social media get that to inform our ranking behavior. Google+ is no longer around. We cannot right now say that it uses that, but what we can say is it does it indirectly.
Your brand reputation, your brand recognition, and getting that out there via social media do indirectly impact your rankings. There's a lot of correlation in these studies. There are many experiments I can share a few that I've done on my own where you get the social media going to get the brand reputation out there. You look at the number of searches for your brand go up, and then eventually the links are coming in. People start to recognize your content and promote it.
That's how you should be thinking about it. You should be thinking about hey, I want to promote things on social media so that people recognize my brand so that they read my articles, consume it, eventually link to them, and promote them in their own channels. In turn, I get a boost in ranking. It’s a long answer, but hopefully it clarifies a few things.
Ben: I think it's really necessary to give that question a very nuanced response because there's a lot of confusion in that area I think. There could potentially be some fairly significant consequences for a marketing team if they were doing all the stuff thinking that all this is just pure activity on social was what they needed for SEO somehow. It's a lot more complicated than that, obviously. One other question I have related there, how does Google treat social networks when it comes to indexing and surfacing content from social networks?
For example, for certain queries, you might see tweets show up, like a pack of tweets on a given topic. Usually, it’s something news-related or something trending that you can scroll through. Is there anything in that area that maybe people should be aware of? If you were creating social content and your goal is to get the content on that social network into Google somehow, is it worth really thinking about that too hard?
Dmitry: Think of it from the asset’s point of view such as diagrams, maybe tables, maybe visuals of a study, or something like that; and think about Instagram, Pinterest, those assets which are going to be linked from many different pages, many different sites, and used in all these different posts. That's where I think the goal and really lies with sharing information on social that people can use in all sorts of different avenues like presentations and blog posts.
There is the Matthew Woodward post where the post was shared 31,000 times, generated 60,000 likes, 34,000 comments, and as a result, went up to rank number one. I think it was the unhealthiest food. In that post, it really does a great job of breaking down 10 of what the unhealthiest foods were in a nice little diagram kind of thing. It earned a ton of backlinks to it. But the sharing was happening all on social media. This is exactly what we were just talking about.
The sharing happens on social media but then people find that asset. They're like, this is great. I’ll link to it. Brian Dean, who you’ve had on the show who’s a good friend of mine, he writes about SEO.
A few months ago or at the beginning of this year, he wrote an article about the most top users on Clubhouse. Why did he put together a diagram of that? Because if you take that diagram and just purely share it on social media, there's going to be a lot of people, reporters, journalists, bloggers who are going to say this is a pretty good diagram. I’m going to use it in my next post. I'm going to use that asset in my next post. That diagram belongs to Backlinko. It’s sitting on Backlinko’s blog. I need to attribute that Backlinko diagram.
We did a Clubhouse thing with him and we were just hanging out too. He was telling me he's gotten links from The Guardian, The New York Times, these places that would never link to an SEO blog. You can see how it indirectly impacts SEO. Now, Google does index I feel these types of assets, type of tweets around something that is related to the query or something that's news related to the search term.
There's just so much information out there for them to crawl through and the volume is too great for the current infrastructure for them to index everything. But that's how I would think as a content marketer who's trying to get eyeballs on their brand. Creating assets like that and sharing them on social media and in a blog post really helps. It’s taking a whole article, condensing it into one little asset that's very detailed, then just pushing it on social, and that's your blog post basically.
Ben: For sure. Super smart. Again, I appreciate you giving a very thorough, very nuanced answer to that question because once again, any time you start bringing up social media and SEO together, there's just so much ambiguity out there in people's minds. I really feel it's necessary to go deep on some of these responses.
You had mentioned several examples from different prominent folks in the industry where you were able to see a direct correlation between a popular piece of content going viral and that viral exposure then leading to journalists and bloggers and other content creators to then link to that content in their own.
Can you describe any specific instances where you were able to do this yourself, where you were able to drive that—I hate to use the word, synergy because I feel like it's such an overused business term but I feel like this is an appropriate use of that word. Could you describe a time where you’ve done this yourself?
Dmitry: I do this for a living. SEO is what I've been doing most of my life. Quite recently, I can give you a real-life example, so far it’s been only a month that we've been doing this. There is a company called [...] and we'll link it up. It's an awesome way to run ads for ecommerce stores. They are friends of mine and so they were writing an article, it's called Alternatives to WordStream. WordStream is another solution in this space. What we quickly did is we created the article, there are no links at all. It’s a brand new article, Alternative to WordStream.
Above us, we had bigger competitors that had been around there for a while. Because it's a new article, it’s only maybe five days out there. We did a combination of a number of things. We did a newsletter, we did sharing on social, and we did some ads that are like Facebook boost type of ads where you just boost the article a little bit.
The idea was very simple. Without any links pointing to it, can we get it to the top 10 results on the first page of the first search just to see if it's going to pop to it? Because it's a brand new post and there are no links or anything promoting it. The idea is, again, what we were talking about earlier, can we get people to share it enough that other people will find it, link to it, and so forth?
Right now, it’s sitting at number four, which is interesting to see. We just got our first link to it, but it’s interesting that without any links to it, a brand new article gets to position four with just brand recognition and people sharing it, visiting it, viewing it, and just a handful of links within five days. I’m anticipating this thing dropping a little bit because Google is probably trying to measure the impact of that content compared to its competitors. But it's a very slow tiny type of test just to see how well this works.
Sometimes it muddies the water in the sense that you start to think that maybe running ads on it and doing promotion on social should be the only way to do this. Again, I always say, come back to the very top of it, we know that the signals do not make it rank. We just know that it boosts brand reputation in the sense where people will eventually find you and link to an asset within that article. We do have a little table there that describes how [...] is compared to the rest.
Another example that I've seen where it has helped was Nextiva. We have a couple of pages that they've done well where they have a large small business audience. I think it's over 100,000 people that are on their email newsletter and a lot of people follow them on social. From building brand standpoint and getting an article to rank, they've been so well with—they have a specific one called Most Reliable VoIP. They’ve done super well with that one—business phone system and some others that they just rank really well.
Again, it’s promotion on social and newsletters that drives the reputation on it. The most famous one in the whole space was that one on inspired.com, which was the healthiest food one that I mentioned earlier. Matthew Woodward wrote about it, but that one is an article that just went viral and it got 68,000 likes or whatever. Then eventually earned a ton of links to their assets in the article.
Google will always keep quality content at the top of search results. It really comes down to quality content I feel with these things. There's no shortcut. You shouldn't be trying to just game it in some way or try to repeat what somebody's done. The name of the game should be spending time and money to create quality, engaging content. I think that is worth every penny. Whether it works well on social media or organically, it should probably be both.
Ben: It really cannot be stressed enough how much all of this comes down to relationships, building trust with people, creating high-quality content that is differentiated, and that people just naturally want to talk about and share and link to. That's really what's at the core of this conversation when it comes down to it.
It's not hacks, it's not trickery, and it’s not some magic that's going to get people to share your content, to build those links, and to get the results that you want. It's all about providing value and providing more value than anyone else that really gets rewarded. Now, back to Dmitry.
If I'm a marketer listening to this conversation and I'm interested in using social to amplify my content with some of these long-term SEO goals, how would you recommend I get started? Let’s say I've got one topic I want to create some content on or maybe I have one article I've written, how would you recommend I start using the social side of things to build that amplification and build that recognition for that content with that long-term goal of wanting this thing to rank and then leaning on organic search to really drive the long-term benefits?
Dmitry: I think as a marketer, you need relationships with people. You need to help people bring value to people at first. Reciprocity will happen. They will help you but you need to always offer value upfront for people out there. Whether you're trying to promote stuff on social media, you're trying to rank, or partnerships, whatever you want to do, you offer value upfront.
I always say reach out to big brands and ask them, how can you best promote them? Meaning, right now I'm writing an article on Best CRM Software. Guess what? I emailed Erina at HubSpot and I said, hey, I'm going to rank number one for best CRM and I want to promote the heck out of you. Which page should I link to?
I know that it's going to take me a while to do that, but I'm going to offer that value. I'm going to say, hey, I'm going to just do it and I'm going to just tell her I'm going to do it. Just by saying that you're going to do something and helping them in some way adds value to them.
I could also go on just reach out or something and find a reporter who needs something—a question like, hey, need the best marketing tip for 2021. I'm going to email someone else like Andrew Warner or I might email another big name like BigCommerce, Nigel over there. I might say, hey, I got an opportunity for you to answer this question. You might potentially get a feature in a roundup that they're doing over at small business trends. Are you at all interested in doing that?
Just connecting people that way, helping them upfront for a little bit helps you build those relationships. You should be doing that in social media and outside social media to boost your rankings because what's going to happen next, they're going to say, thank you. How can I help you out eventually? That's where you might have them promote your articles on social or link to your articles and so forth.
I have a course, the PR That Converts course, where I delve into relationship building, but it's exactly what I'm just talking about now. It's finding that person and then offering them value upfront saying, hey, I have a blog. I see that you guys are ranking number five for whatever that term is that they're ranking number five for. I'd like to make you rank number one for it. Can I link to this page or should I link to another page on your site, or should I promote this page on my social profile? I have 15,000 followers on my social media profile. My company has 50,000 followers and maybe I can ask them to promote it. Is this the right page to do that or is this not?
Quite often, hitting people up on LinkedIn or Twitter is actually an easier way than email these days. Say, hey, I'm going to promote you. I want you to get value out of this. I'm not asking for anything upfront. What should I do? What are the types of topics you want promoted? What are the pages you want promoted? It’s a perfect way to be using social media in a relationship-building to get contacts lined up, to get partners lined up. You want people that you trust and work with.
Ben: Yeah. I think it's so important. Really, the importance of building relationships cannot be stressed enough. I think sometimes you forget who is on social media, it's people. I think that's great advice. Once a marketer has established the basics of relationship building and just approaching things from a standpoint of trying to offer value first. It's always providing value through your outreach and through your content. Are there any more advanced tips or tactics that you would recommend implementing in this area?
Dmitry: Certainly, yeah. Relationship building is just phase one. It's where you start. Eventually, I think for you to rank, there are two things that you need to have. You need to have epic content and you need to have links and traffic that's coming to your page, to your blog post. Links and traffic is where most people start to wonder what to do. Epic content, a lot of times, people think they have epic content and it really is not. The first thing you would usually do is you look at, what is wrong with content on Google right now? Why do I deserve to rank number one?
Then you address the weakness, the problem, and you build your piece of content as a product. After you launch it, you put it out there, the first thing that you probably need to do is you need to get some traffic flowing to it to let Google see time on site, user interaction, user experience, how fast it loads? All that info and collect it. You yourself need to look through those markers as well. You want a very fast-loading site, use Google Page Insights, those types of tools.
Once you have some traffic flowing to it, whether it's through email, a newsletter which we talked a lot about already. Whether it's through social media, whether it's through ads, whatever it is, it's just some traffic that you're pushing towards. It's a brand new piece of content. You sent it out to your subscribers, you got some clicks on it. You got social media and you did some ads on it or whatever. You got some traffic coming to it.
Now, it's time to get those links. People who have engaged with your content, people that retweeted your content, for example, people who have shared it on Facebook or amplified it, those are the people that you might grab onto and say, hey, I saw that you retweeted it. What particularly did you like about it? I see that you guys need help with this page, can I help you with that? You're going to want to get three, four links pointing to your page because that page will need to get a gain on those links. How do you do that? There are thousands of ways to probably do that.
There's a whole bible, the Ahrefs, those guys are really good friends of mine. Tim, a student of the course. Actually, he left an awesome testimonial for my PR That Converts course. He published a thousand plus ways to build links. There's no one way to build links to your piece of content. But I would say those people who have amplified your content and re-shared it might be your first targets to hit up on LinkedIn or Twitter and see how you can help them, in return, asking them to help you.
Three or four links on a piece of content should lead you to the second page of Google, depending on the term. You might be ranking 15, 16, maybe 12 even. To jump to the first page of Google, you need to bring some serious links, traffic, and amplification to that post. This is where epic content again comes back. Google likes to see you update posts, it doesn't like to see the volume of posts.
You need to put new stuff in there and maybe put more examples, maybe put a video inside there, something that makes it pop and makes it 10 times better than what's already out there on the first page of Google. You're trying to outperform them not by they have a hundred tools or a 10-minute workout, and you're doing a 100-minute workout. You're doing more quality.
That's your basic roadmap I think to rank. Building over relationships, then quickly sharing stuff and grabbing on to more relationships. Getting four or five backlinks, popping to the top of page two, reviving it, getting another four or five links until you're mid on the first page in Google. There are many different ways to be building links and we can talk about that too.
Ben: Yeah, certainly. This is great stuff and I think it's probably a good place to call it and to put a cap on just the scope of this conversation. I would certainly love to discuss link building with you maybe off the air. I'm sure you've got just a ton of great insight in that area as well, no doubt.
Dmitry: I do. I've been doing that for way too long and it actually has changed so much. My one thing to people who are listening to this (whoever is still listening) is just make sure that you can open up whatever you're doing to Google and go to meet with Matt Cutts and just tell them what you're doing. If you can say that and you're doing that, then great. But if you're like, I don't know if I'd be comfortable openly telling everybody what I do for my link building, chances are you probably shouldn't be doing it. Think about it that way. Usually, that's a good marker.
Ben: I think that's really great advice. If you wouldn't do this out in the open and public, maybe you should stop.
Dmitry: Exactly. It's funny how we just hide behind an email or hide behind a social media message as if it's not us or something. We can put stuff in that email that we'd never say it out loud, which is crazy.
Ben: 100%. Yeah. I see it every day.
Dmitry: It's just so weird. [...], who I introduced you to, he actually went up to people in the mall reading out emails, cold emails to people saying, hey, buddy. Do you want to do a partnership together, a content collab where I can link to you, you link to me and help each other out? The video went viral actually but it was just so good. They're random people in the mall he was walking out to and was like, hey, let's do a sales collab. What's your calendar looking like for next week? What's the calendar link? Can you give me a calendar link? It was hilarious.
Ben: Yeah. I'm going to look that up because that really hits at something I thought about a lot. It's just how weird so much outreach actually sounds when you say it out loud. Like, hey, do you want to “collaborate” where we just have a completely transactional exchange of links on our websites and that's collaboration now? Because when you say that to a normal person, they're like, wow, that sounds stupid or weird.
Ben: Oh my goodness. When I end up bringing him on the show, I think I know what we'll be talking about.
Dmitry: Yeah. That video got over 100,000 comments on LinkedIn and it's a funny video. He uploaded directly to LinkedIn, but I think there's a version on YouTube somewhere where it's just hanging out. I might find it and share it with you but it's so funny.
Ben: If you could track it down and send it my way, I would really appreciate it because I really want to watch this video. Before we get too sidetracked at the end here, if people are interested in learning more about this topic or if they are potentially just interested in finding where you're at on the web, where should they go looking for you?
Dmitry: It's criminallyprolific.com. That's my main site. That's my blog. You can find all the links from there—my coaching program, my software, and all that stuff. Yeah, criminallyprolific.com.
Ben: Very cool. Well, Dmitry, thanks so much for your time. This is a really insightful conversation. I'm sure this is going to answer a lot of questions for a lot of people, even questions that they might not have known that they had.
Dmitry: Awesome. I'm glad. If anybody has more questions, happy to chat about this. I feel like every time I talk to somebody, it's always people asking about this. It doesn’t actually [...] rankings, but in turn, indirectly does.
Ben: Yeah, for sure. It's more nuanced than how it gets treated sometimes. All right. I think I've taken plenty of your time here. Thanks again for coming on the show. I'll be on the lookout for that video.
Dmitry: Awesome, will do.
Ben was the Inbound Marketing Director at CoSchedule. His specialties include content strategy, SEO, copywriting, and more. When he's not hard at work helping people do better marketing, he can be found cross-country skiing with his wife and their dog.