With the emergence of the notorious Google Penguin update, many 'Search Engine Optimization" (or SEO) practitioners are left scratching their heads. In prior years, SEO has consisted of simple keyword targeting mixed with some strategic linking alliances. These elements were sufficient to land a top spot on a Google search results page, drawing more traffic from casual web surfers. Now, it appears that those who have neglected social media marketing as part of their SEO strategies may be at a distinct disadvantage. Word on the Internet Highway has it that traditional "SEO" principles may be falling by the wayside in favor of Search Marketing Integration, aka "SMI."
Whatever acronym you favor, the primary element involved is trust. Do popular information sources trust your blog articles enough to link to your site? Do your Facebook and Twitter followers trust your content enough to re-Tweet and re-post? If so, then you are miles ahead of the businesses that rely on mass-produced content with poorly constructed articles geared towards fitting in awkward strings of keywords.
Social media has a direct impact on SEO/SMI in several different ways:
- Helps Google find your content faster - seconds rather than hours;
- Temporarily increases search page ranking whenever someone shares your content (boosting its "freshness" for Google);
- Demonstrates engagement, boosting overall domain's ability to rank well on search pages;
- Increases credibility with Google by demonstrating authority and popularity.
One place to start in gauging how effective a social media campaign is going to be for boosting SEO is to look at what the search engines look for when they send their bots forth to gather information. It's relatively easy to find the metrics that are likely to matter, and you probably already have a pretty good idea yourself. Here are a few places to start:
- Number of followers and friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn;
- How many times your followers re-post, re-tweet, and otherwise share content that you post;
- How many times social media users mention your brand or product in status updates, tweets, and other content they share;
- How many times social media users link back to your website.
So. Getting a thousand Facebook friends and followers. Attracting like-minded individuals on Twitter. Expanding your reach. How is it done? After all, you aren't a 13 year old girl with a high school full of potential social media buddies (at least we don't think you are if you are reading our blog), and unfortunately, you aren't George Takei (if you are, please contact us... we are big fans). There are still a number of techniques you can use to build a following and start generating buzz that will attract Google's attention and start placing you higher on the search engine results.
- Have Accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. All of them are important; while it can seem daunting to keep so many balls in the air at once, programs like GaggleAMP can help manage the flow of information and cut down the time spent updating and interacting.
- Create Content that is Valuable. These days, it seems like social media users can spot a phony from the first click. Skeptical? Consider this: Most users leave web pages within 10 to 20 seconds after arriving. If your content isn't engaging and doesn't tell them exactly what they're looking for, they'll leave, and so will your opportunity to connect with another potential customer.
- Make it Easy to Share. This one is a no-brainer: a good website has a button on every article and every page that users can click in order to post to the social media network of their choice. Some folks are willing to take the time to copy and paste a URL into a Facebook status message, but why leave it to chance? Sharing buttons are easy to find and customize so they fit in smoothly with your web design.
By taking the time to understand social media marketing and how it fits within the overall structure of SEO, it's easier than ever to create an integrated marketing platform that creates value and encourages consumers in your network to share, share, share.
Disclosure: Delicious (middle) was shut down in 2010. Digg (left) stopped being a social bookmarking in service in 2011. We still like the infographic and thought it was worth sharing.