Don't Forget Social SEO! How to Get Better at Showing Up In Social Searches

  •    Tim is a freelance business writer. He writes about the business of innovation, comics and genre entertainment on The Full Bleed.

What do you think of when you think of search engines? If Google and Bing are your answer, then you're not thinking big enough.

Social sites that link back to your online presence need optimizing too — especially when you consider that Google frequently includes Twitter profiles, Facebook groups and Google+ pages in results. Here's an example from Riding on Insulin, a Weebly-powered site that exposes kids with Type 1 Diabetes to outdoor sports.

Riding on Insulin search results

And don't forget YouTube, Instagram and Wikipedia, which can include social links in company profiles. To maximize exposure, you'll want to optimize for every network you participate in as a brand. Here are four ways to do it:

Give purpose to your social accounts. Big companies may have multiple social accounts across social networks. In the case of ROI there's one account each for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram yet they serve different purposes. Twitter is the most active, for example, and is most often quoted as recruiting to "join the team" and represent the ROI brand in a marathon or other race and help raise funds. Mixing in humor breaks up the feed a bit and yet there's no mystery over what ROI is aiming to achieve in posting to daily to its 1,255 followers.

Make each of your accounts distinct. Just as your blog should have plenty of fresh content to stay relevant, your social accounts should be fresh and distinct. Riding on Insulin does this by giving its Facebook page greater focus on highlighting successes from earlier camps or posting inspirational photos and personal stories. Visitors are also able to start their own fundraiser so the need to pitch to "join the team" isn't nearly as ever-present.

Engage with followers. As you can see from the graphic above, engaging with followers and friends and using hashtags to get tweets wrapped into online conversations can be a powerful way to gain attention for your brand. And the more attention your brand gets, the more likely it will be to show up in searches on Google and on the networks themselves. (Twitter processes over 19 billion search queries per month, for example.)

Use images and video. Good images with smart captions and accompanying hashtags can garner significant attention. Riding on Insulin does this well on Instagram, where you'll find shots of kids at camps, videos and this adorable testimonial, which had garnered 463 views as of this writing. ROI also engages its 1,962 followers on Instagram as readily as it does on Twitter, answering questions and bringing in new fans.

And get this: although ROI isn't nearly as active on YouTube as its other networks, the channel and its 70 subscribers still rank on the first page of Google results when searching for "Riding on Insulin." Why? Some of it may have to do with YouTube being a part of Google. But YouTube itself process more than 3 billion searches per month, making it an important source of potential traffic.

So yes, it's important to focus on search engines — good website SEO practices are crucial for generating traffic and sales — just don't forget your social channels in the process.