In the digital age, marketers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs often ask one question about social media: “how do I stand out from other accounts?”
It’s no secret that social media is a powerful marketing tool. Big brands like Wendys have used it to turn themselves into pop-culture icons, and small businesses can carve out a space in their industries without shilling for expensive marketing campaigns.
With so many active users, social media is saturated with content — making standing out tricky.
That’s where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. SEO can help you create posts that appear in search results, rank better, and grab people’s attention effectively.
How do you use SEO for social media? Read on.
12 SEO writing tips for social media
When you think of SEO, you may think of content marketing on blogs and landing pages. But it can do far more than that.
Forty-five percent of consumers use discovery tools like TikTok’s For You page or Instagram’s Explore page to find new accounts to follow. Social media algorithms curate content for these pages based on the caption, hashtags, and how users have engaged with the post.
Algorithms are designed to keep users engaged and interested so they consume more content and watch more ads. Naturally, you’ll rank better when you create content that appeals to the algorithm (aka SEO content).
With that thought in mind, let’s dive into the art of writing great social media captions with twelve tips.
1. Leverage keywords in your captions
No social media SEO strategy is complete without keywords. Algorithms look at the specific keywords in your post to understand the post’s contents. Then, it presents your post to people searching for the same or similar keywords.
For example, if you use “google search,” the algorithm will know that people searching for “google” or “learn about search engine results pages” may find your social media posts interesting.
These two keywords are actually different types of keywords. In this example, “google search” is your primary keyword (the one you want to rank for), and “learn about search engine results pages” is a long-tail keyword (a more specific keyword used in niche searches).
Other types of keywords include:
- Short-tail keywords like “google”
- Latent Semantic (LSI) keywords like “search engine rankings”
- Competitor keywords like “google alternative”
- Geo-targeted keywords like “how to get more organic traffic from New York”
Though you should embrace many types of keywords, you must avoid keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is when you use a high volume of keywords unnaturally and inorganically. Stuffing can harm your SEO, as your post will look spammy, and subsequently, people won’t engage with it.
Don’t worry if you aren’t a natural at keywords.
Most marketers write their captions organically and optimize them for keywords with tools like MarketMuse, Frase, Clearscope, and SurferSEO. These tools scan your text and suggest suitable keywords you can easily add.
2. Tag popular pages and people
Search engines don’t just pay attention to keywords. Instead, algorithms look for signs that a post will get a lot of engagement (as engagement = ad revenue). Popular pages have larger audiences, meaning tagging a popular page or person will boost your post’s performance.
Of course, you don’t want to tag random accounts in your captions because they will look spammy. Instead, look for mutually-beneficial ways to collaborate with trending accounts.
For example, you could collaborate with an influencer as Botani Skincare did. Botani Skincare partnered with influencer Gigi Pires to produce a testimonial post for Instagram. As you can see below, Botani Skincare tagged Gigi’s account and featured her in the image.
This was a smart move, as the post garnered significantly more attention than one of Botani’s average posts. It also appeared in many users’ Explore pages.
When selecting a page to partner with, consider three factors:
- Relevance = is your content aligned with your potential partner’s content?
- Audience = do you share a target audience?
- Reach = can your potential collaborator increase your reach?
The more you align with your collaborator, the better the collaboration will work.
3. Post UGC
Influencers aren’t the only accounts you can partner with on social media. Smart brands leverage User-Generated Content (UGC), which is content about your brand made by followers and customers.
UGC marketing is a clever SEO strategy because posting it increases your engagement. Audience engagement is crucial for social media algorithms because they assume that posts with higher engagement are more attractive. Thus, they rank them higher, so more people see them in a snowball effect.
To leverage UGC, follow Dorito’s lead.
Doritos encourages people to post Instagram content with the hashtag #anotherlevel and the tag @doritos. Then, Doritos’ social media team engages with the poster, increasing the engagement on the post and propelling it to Instagram’s Explore page.
Additionally, Doritos curates the best UGC in an album titled “Fan Friday.” You need to be pretty creative to make it into “Fan Friday,” so the album celebrates posters and challenges more people to join them.
4. Ad shoppable links to captions
Traditionally, digital marketers have used social media to entice leads into their sales funnel (or “sales pipeline”). This approach is clever, though you risk losing people as they need to leave the app to make a purchase.
That’s no longer an issue with shoppable links.
Shoppable links let people shop by clicking a catalog. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest all have shoppable links, and other platforms will get on board soon.
Posts with shoppable links rank well because social media platforms know users are interested in them. Forty-eight percent of internet users 18 — 34 have purchased something on social media or do so regularly. This demographic makes up the majority of users on Instagram and Facebook.
If you are looking for some inspiration on a great post with a shoppable link, check out this post from Ritual Cosmetics. It’s aesthetically pleasing and creates a desire for the products.
5. Optimize your profile
Believe it or not, posts aren’t the only thing you can optimize for social media. A well-designed profile can boost your rankings, as you can use relevant keywords, hashtags, and links to your advantage.
To fill out your profile, add:
- Your brand name
- A short description with keywords
- 1 — 3 relevant hashtags
- A website link or a LinkTree link (if you want to include multiple links)
- Contact details or a business address (if you are a Brick-and-Mortar business)
- Links to other social media channels
Keep in mind that every social media platform is different. For example, Instagram gives you 150 characters, Facebook gives you 1,300 characters, and Twitter gives you 280 characters.
Don’t get discouraged by the character limit. You can do a lot with a little — just check out Sephora’s bio for proof.
6. Include website backlinks
This tip is relatively self-explanatory, so we’ll keep it short. Including backlinks in your captions will drive more traffic back to your website, boosting your website’s ranking in search engines.
When placing backlinks, follow these best practices:
- Give people a reason to click the link
- Select relevant links only
- Use a URL shortener if the link is long
- Track your link to measure traffic
It’s easy to integrate these tips into your post, though it may not seem like it at first. Here’s how Papier did it:
7. Create high-quality content
“Create high-quality content” may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands publish low-quality, spammy content and expect it to rank highly. Avoid this trap by setting quality control standards for your posts.
- Are there any grammar errors or spelling mistakes?
- Are there continuity errors?
- Do people learn something from this post?
- If I were a follower, would I like this post?
- Does this post have an image, animation, video, or infographic to grab attention?
- Does the post inspire people to comment?
Additionally, seek out competitors’ content and work hard to be better.
8. Use a friendly and conversational tone
Things got awkward when brands first joined social media. The posts marketers made were overly formal, restrictive, and formulaic. They just didn’t “fit in” with what everyone else posted.
Today, many brands that succeed with social media know that the secret to success lies in the tone of your post. People enjoy posts that are creative, casual, and fun. Subsequently, they get more engagement and rank better.
You don’t need to be chummy or silly to get people’s attention. Instead, think “friendly” and “conversational,” and you’ll be on the right track.
Consider the two posts from Wendys below for inspiration on tone. One post is from 2010 and comes off quite weird. The other is from 2022 and walks the line between “brand” and “friend” well.
Source: Wayback Machine
9. Deepen your written content with video
Many marketers write well-researched, educational, and long captions when crafting social media content. Though these captions are works of art, this approach can backfire as text doesn’t engage people the same way content with audio and visual elements does.
Naturally, sometimes the best way to write better content is to turn it into an educational video.
To see what’s possible with video, take a look at this post from the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO has taken a complicated topic (antimicrobial resistance) and broken down the key points people need to know. Then, WHO added animations, sound effects, and footage from Dr. Lianne Gonsalves to create a video that’s educational and engaging at the same time.
Video content is a powerful content strategy for 2022, as online videos will account for 82% of internet traffic this year. You’d be wise to leverage it.
10. Start captions with a hook
As the name suggests, a hook intrigues someone enough to grab their attention and click on your post. Hooks are a superb SEO tool because they drive audience engagement.
There are hundreds of different hooks you can use in your social, including:
- Trivia questions
- An appeal to emotion
- A call to the audience (like “hello, social media marketers”)
When selecting the right type of hook, ask yourself: “if I were one of (brand)’s followers, what would grab my attention?” You’ll need to consider your audience’s tastes carefully. For example, an off-colored joke may make some followers laugh, but it will likely offend others.
If you’re looking for a great example of a hook designed for a brand’s audience, see how Nike used a quote to open the post below.
11. Use long-tail keywords as FAQs
We first touched on long-tail keywords in the “1. Leverage keywords in your captions” section. As a refresher, long-tailed keywords are longer, more niche keywords people search when they are getting ready to buy something.
As they elicit a strong response, you can use them to boost traffic and close a sale with a customer.
One of the most innovative ways to use long-tailed keywords is in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) within the text or heading of captions. For example, the toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap posted the video “how to make eco-friendly baby wipes” on Facebook.
The post uses several long-tailed keywords, including “eco alternative to baby wipes” and “how to make eco-friendly baby wipes?”
These keywords helped the post circulate inside Facebook and rank highly on Google. As you can see below, it’s listed as a video suggestion for the search “make eco-friendly baby wipes.”
This ranking directs traffic to Who Gives a Crap’s page and subsequently boosts its reach. As of early 2022, the post has 17K views and 300+ reactions.
12. Optimize your CTAs
Have you ever seen a link and decided not to click on it because the link looked spammy? Maybe, the link was incorrectly labeled, contained ALL CAPS, or used the word “free” three times in a row.
Whatever the reason, something said, “don’t click that.” You need to avoid provoking that feeling in readers when writing social media captions.
Optimize your anchor text by:
- Keeping it between 1 — 5 words
- Using descriptive phrases
- Avoiding spammy words
- Using consistent formatting
- Working it into your caption naturally
- Be transparent about what you are linking to
Of course, the anchor text behind the CTA isn’t the only thing to optimize, as you will need to “wow” people after they reach your site if you want them to stay. Create a dedicated landing page to keep them engaged and seal the sale.
Improve your social media performance with SEO
Three of the largest social media platforms in 2022 are Facebook (2.8 billion users), YouTube (2.291) billion users, and Instagram (1.39 billion users). That’s a lot of people and posts.
To stand out amidst the crowd, remember these writing tips:
- Use keywords
- Optimize your profile
- Include hooks, FAQS, and videos in your posts
- Sell through shoppable links and optimized CTAs
And, of course, create fun, high-quality content people will want to engage with. In a world where more engagement equals better reach, entertaining your target audience is key to social media success.