Social growth experts don't think about SEO like we might for a SaaS company.

You face a unique set of challenges, such as: B. crawling and indexing billions of pages by Google or rendering large JavaScript frameworks. This requires a different mindset.

While only a small group of websites address these challenges, there is a lot to learn from watching how social networks do in SEO.

In this post, you will learn how Facebook and LinkedIn drive billions of search visits and how Instagram has a significant competitive advantage over TikTok.

I'll be leaving out Twitter for its partnership with Google, but covering the sheer potential of Snapchat to gain more adoption through SEO.

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Facebook

Ironically, social networks don't receive social traffic.

You get traffic from direct (majority), organic (second), and referral (third) channels and rank primarily for brand names like CNN, Walmart and Google.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOFacebook's traffic sources

The SEO pros at Facebook are doing a great job driving organic traffic (33 million top 10 keywords in October).

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Facebook recorded 16 billion visits worldwide in October, of which 10.8 billion were direct and 2.3 billion (data from SEMrush).

Note that this only captures a fraction of the users as most of them use the Facebook app.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOThe 10 most important Facebook keywords

The biggest challenge facing Facebook is making sure all pages are indexed and crawled.

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The problem is that Google doesn't create a Facebook account and doesn't crawl all of its posts, profiles, and pages.

As intelligent SEO professionals know, the solution is HTML sitemaps, or “indexes” of the most important content.

Facebook links to these indexes in the footer of the homepage.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOFacebook footer links on the homepage

Facebook has indexes for more than 4 million popular pages.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOFacebook page directories in the Google index

Each of them has a large number of internal links.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOAn example of a Facebook page index.

Really smart SEO professionals also create cross-category elements in their taxonomy (the logic by which information is structured).

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Facebook not only groups pages alphabetically, but also by business category.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOFacebook's business categories

The same directories exist for over 1.9 million people, 3.2 million places, 340,000 groups, 765,000 jobs, 63,000 games, 83,000 local lists, 1.5 million businesses, and 1,300 fundraisers.

LinkedIn

Social networks are two-way marketplaces for users and ads.

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LinkedIn also offers a SaaS offering. This isn't the only way the job network stands out: LinkedIn not only links indexes, but also directories in the footer.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOLinkedIn's footer points to directories

You have 27,000 of them and link to subdirectories like / Salary /, / School / or / Jobs /.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOLinkedIn's school directory

LinkedIn doesn't have as much traffic as Facebook – the market is smaller – but it has grown steadily in recent years and has achieved an organic traffic share that is twice that of Facebook (29% versus 14%).

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Instagram against Tiktok

While TikTok has almost as many users as Instagram, organic traffic doesn't come close.

The same result also applies when comparing TikTok with Youtube.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOInstagram's 10 most important keywords

Instagram follows the same strategy as Facebook and LinkedIn to index its huge page inventory.

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They go even further and present Googlebot with a unique taxonomy: cities and hashtags.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOInstagram homepage

TikTok does not adapt its framework to Google's rendering requirements.

The result is easy to see if you visit the app with JavaScript disabled: Google cannot crawl, index, and rate the content of TikTok.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOTik Toks Discovery Page (JavaScript disabled)

Snapchat

Where is Snapchat in all of this?

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I have a lot of respect for Snapchat for its strength and innovation.

However, it is an anti-example of SEO on social networks.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOThe 10 most important keywords on Snapchat

Although snapchat.com has grown in recent years, a lot comes from the / add subdirectory, which only shows profile QR codes.

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Snapchat could add a lot more information about its users to profile pages and give search engines more information to understand their relevance.

This is one of the reasons why Snapchat ranks in extensive name searches on Instagram and Facebook.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOSnapchats Ranking for "Ana Lorde"

Another missed opportunity is the story feed, which has no taxonomy structure and no internal linking modules.

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It's just a simple feed that doesn't offer Google much for indexing, rendering, and ranking.

How social networks drive billions of search visits with SEOSnapchat's stories are fed

Snapchat can even create a directory from its maps feature (maps.snapchat.com) and list local stories by city.

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I think it's a gold mine and could lead to massive app adoption.

Organic Growth: Another Set of Principles

Thinking and doing organic traffic growth for websites like social networks is what I call "organic growth" (organic traffic + growth).

Instead of cheap “growth hacks”, organic growth is a set of specific principles that apply to businesses with user-generated content or a public “inventory” (product or information).

Indexing millions of pages is only half the battle.

The other half deals with rendering frameworks that scale apps across billions of pages.

It involves working closely with engineers, product managers, designers, and performing experiments that affect the user and machine experience of logged out users.

And it requires a tight set of KPIs.

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Observing, understanding and learning such principles enables us to find and scale growth levers for our own locations.

More resources:

Photo credit

All screenshots by the author, December 2020

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