Despite information to the contrary from Google and a host of other sources, it appears that social media signals such as “likes” and “shares” are not used in a direct way to determine search rankings. So, do social media and hashtags have any place at all in your SEO strategy? Well, yes — in a way.

Social media has only an indirect influence over search rankings, but don’t underestimate the power of social activity. Being an active participant on various social channels can help your company gain:

  • Better brand recognition and loyalty
  • More exposure to a wider audience — plus more trust, because social media users can recommend your brand to their friends
  • Faster and increased discovery of the content you post, especially when influencers quote or link to your content from their blogs or social media pages

More exposure and better brand recognition naturally bring you more backlinks, and more links mean better search engine rankings as well as more traffic (and hopefully more conversions).

So how can you increase your social media usage for better SEO results?

Use hashtags to bolster your brand and for link building

You can increase brand visibility and recognition with hashtags in several ways:

  • You can create a new hashtag for use with a specific campaign.
  • Use hashtags belonging to other organizations, companies or events, allowing you to take part in an existing conversation and gain a little extra exposure that way (as long as you have something relevant to say, of course). A good example of this is to use the hashtag for a charity 5K race for which your company is one of the sponsors.
  • You can and should use hashtags in other social media besides Twitter — because even though it might produce the most results, you never know where you might find potential customers.
  • Make sure your hashtag is on your print materials related to sales, events and other campaigns so people can look up your company or campaign when they go online.

Also, you can use Twitter to find compatible webmasters for backlink prospecting. Followerwonk is one tool that allows you to enter a keyword and find the Twitter users whose bios contain that keyword.

And if that user is not an influential webmaster but is still active in your industry, look which links the user is sharing — there may be some on-topic websites there that you’ve missed.