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SEO Best Practices: Does Your Content Marketing Include Hashtags?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
an illustration of people typing on phones, tablets, and computers. they are wearing brightly colored clothing and sitting or standing around a large yellow hashtag.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is driven by this truth: including relevant keywords in your content marketing and digital advertising helps your target audience find you. Hashtags bring that idea to life in effective social media marketing. Here's why they're helpful and what we recommend for successful hashtag use.

Understand Hashtags and SEO

Hashtags are clickable keywords that begin with a pound sign (i.e., #digitalmarketing, #Nashvillemarketingagency, or #SEO). Many social media platforms use them, but they're most common on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Clicking a hashtag takes you to a search results page with the latest posts about that topic. Hashtags are essential to your online presence because they can be a shortcut for getting content in front of your ideal user. They help you:

  • Optimize reach

  • Be seen as an active participant in the topics on which you're an expert

  • Identify successful keywords for other digital marketing and SEO campaigns

Decide Which Hashtags to Use and Track Them

You've probably seen posts with very common hashtags (#marketing, #Nashville, #websites) and posts with more "niche" hashtags (#blogging, #metacontent, #paidsearch).

We suggest using a mix of both types. If generalized hashtags are relevant, and/or if you're trying to build a following by getting your content in front of more people, broader hashtags are a good fit. More specific hashtags make your social media content marketing as relevant as possible, which can improve post performance and is more likely to generate engagement and sales leads.

To make hashtags strategic:

  • Do Keyword Research: Using keyword research tools to understand your top-performing keywords, as well as competitors' keywords, will give you an edge when it comes to hashtag strategy. This is particularly important when doing paid social media advertising. You want to be sure you're investing in the keywords and hashtags that are going to get you the most traction and the best results.
    • Note: You may consider a hashtag-specific tool, depending on how important these platforms are to your industry and your sales strategy. RiteTag, Hashtagify, and All-Hashtag each have unique capabilities, and can generate custom hashtag data that aligns with your broader SEO keyword research and planning.

  • Create and Schedule Posts with Hashtags: Build social media posts into your editorial schedule. Schedule posts ahead of time as often as possible, so they go live consistently and publish on time.

  • Track Keyword Data: Once your posts go live, you'll have the benefit of seeing social media marketing analytics on each platform.
    • Storing this data in a spreadsheet or other tracking/reporting document allows you to monitor hashtag performance over time so you can observe trends that will help inform your other campaigns.

  • Include Branded Keywords: Branded keywords are a simple, effective way to use hashtags to benefit both your brand marketing strategy. Be sure to use the same capitalization you normally would when writing your brand/company name (i.e., #GoEpps, #DodgeballSEO, or #DodgeballMarketingPodcast).

Don't be discouraged if using more specific hashtags leads to a drop in your reach/engagement numbers. As your hashtags become more specific, engagement will likely shift to people who are most interested in the products and services you're offering. In other words, more general hashtags might get you in front of more people, but more targeted hashtags will be seen by the right people.

Read Up on How Popular Platforms Use Hashtags

While the strategy of how you select, plan, and evaluate hashtags should be consistent no matter which platform you're on, each social media platform uses hashtags a little differently. Since each has unique algorithms, they also have their own hashtagging best practices, which can change frequently based on user behavior and preferences. Most recently:

  • Instagram can detect posts that use too many hashtags. Those posts are flagged and penalized as spam, which likely hurts the visibility of future posts from flagged accounts.

  • Facebook search results combine hashtag searches and keyword searches. Hashtags are still useful and visible in search results, but they don't stand out as much from other content. Facebook offers many ways to filter search results, so it's not as dependent on hashtag use as other platforms are.

  • Twitter: Twitter is the platform that social media marketing agencies agree is the most reliant on hashtags as part of the user experience. Because it gives you the volume for various trending topics, you can watch leading hashtag performance evolve in real time.

  • Pinterest: The category-driven layout of Pinterest means including hashtags on each post along with your high-quality images will help those posts achieve greater visibility.

Bonus Points: Take a "Mini Blog" Approach

Don't get overwhelmed if you're new to the hashtagging game. Start simply. Choose a few per post. Using one branded keyword, one general keyword, and one more specific keyword can help you achieve a broad reach while not neglecting your target audience.

As a performance marketing agency, we recommend thinking of each post as a "mini-blog" for your company. If you're writing a high-quality post, you won't rely on hashtags for your entire keyword strategy. Build relevant content into the body of every post, including any images/media you use. With this approach, hashtags will be there for an SEO boost without overcrowding your posts or hurting your rank in social media search results.

From GoEpps in Nashville, Tennessee

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