As Google puts the squeeze on traditional ranking signals and subsequently, Search Engine Optimization tactics, the growing emphasis on social signals has many SEO practitioners getting more serious about social engagement.
While search marketing has been a key part of our consulting practice since 2001, our Online Marketing agency’s work with Public Relations and blogging since 2003 has helped us develop an appreciation of the influence and engagement outcomes possible with social media pretty quickly, vs. solely as a promotion channel for links. That sentiment is growing rapidly as of late with many traditional SEOs.
You too, may have noticed an increase in SEO practitioners (both agency and client side) singing the song of Content Marketing and Social Media. As this shift has occurred over the past few years, I’ve observed a series of phases of approach. According to your situation and market, your mileage may vary with these characterizations, but maybe you’ll see something familiar and get a clearer picture of where your SEO and Social Media integration is headed.
Phase 1: SEO With Social Profiles, Sharing Widgets & Blogs
Many Search Engine Optimization pros started their social media adventures with bookmarking and news services like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Reddit. Promoting content to these channels, especially through “power users” could inspire content to go hot, hit the home page and attract spikes of traffic. The increased exposure attracts more links and subscribers.
Social bookmarking services and profiles within social networking sites allow for users to include links back to their own websites creating a potential source of link traffic and light signal for search engines. Many of those links were subsequently made “nofollow”. Such links are simply a matter of filling out forms and ultimately no more impactful than directory submissions.
Blogs are used to publish content in a more search engine friendly way than most CMS are capable of and commenting on other blogs provided great links until they too, were made “nofollow” by most bloggers and blog CMS.
Success is measured in SEO terms: links, rankings and traffic.
Phase 2: Social Media Optimization
Coined by Rohit Bhargava, SMO has had different meanings for different people. Marketers develop the social profiles they’ve created into more robust sources of information with some building out of social networks. Developing social channels helps to create an audience to promote content to in the hopes of attracting links.
Blogs are often the hub to the social media spokes for optimized content promotion for traffic and link acquisition. Attention to building blog subscribers and email lists is stressed. There’s an honest appreciation for creating useful content for specific audience segments and a developed skill in the art/science of content formats, types and writing headlines that inspire sharing.
Success is measured primarily as SEO outcomes like links, traffic and conversions. Social KPIs like fans, friends & followers are monitored as well as basic engagement metrics like comments and interactions. But those metrics are more about “social proof” than social ROI.
Phase 3: Integrated Content, SEO & Social Media Plan
By now, SEOs are more likely to identify as Online Marketers and understand the key to a killer social SEO strategy is content. Audience categorization becomes persona development which guides content marketing strategy. The keyword research expertise from SEO is factored into Editorial Planning of web and social content.
While content is planned for certain outcomes with segments of the community, it’s an adaptable online marketing strategy that allows for opportunistic content marketing and social promotion based on social media monitoring and trends. Social media savvy isn’t just for Marketing and Public Relations, but as much of the organization as possible.
Anyone in a position to create content, engage with customers and prospects online has basic skills with search and social keyword glossaries, social search and social networking on behalf of the brand.
To maximize the relevance of the Content Marketing Plan, search keywords and social topics representative of customer interests are factored into scheduled editorial for web, social and mobile content. Content creation and promotion is coordinated across functional areas like Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing as possible.
The findability of content is improved through keyword and social topic optimization. Social content that is easy to find through search can help grow the social network. As the network grows, so does word of mouth for inherent promotion of useful content that attracts links, shares and comments. Those social signals can be gauged by Google in combination with other SEO ranking factors to improve search visibility of brand web properties.
It would be realistic to add other phases, but I’m trying to be more practical with this post. I think this approach of an adaptable, customer-centric and content focused strategy that leverages topic optimization for both search findability and social engagement is where many online marketers will find themselves sooner than later.
What do you think about these phases? Phase 3 is a tall order to fill and I think many marketers will see a blend as their reality. If you have an appreciation for the impact coordinated Social SEO & Content can have, how would you characterize your organization’s approach?
I’ll be elaborating on these phases and more later this morning at OMS Minneapolis in a session called “Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy“. I hope to see you there.
At BlogWorld Expo in New York this week I presented a session about Dominating Your Niche with Social Content and SEO. It was crammed with information and I know there are many online marketers looking for practical advice on business blogging and blog marketing that didn’t attend. Based on the blog marketing we do here at Online Marketing Blog and in the consulting that I do, here are 7 practical steps online marketers can take for social media and SEO success with a blog.
All marketing efforts should start with a goal and means for measuring success, so I do not get into specifics on those tasks in this list, but focus more on the content and promotion.
1. Social SEO Personas
While blogging evolved out of personal expression, business blogging is less about corporate egocenticism and more about empathy with customers. Customer centric content for blogging is more relevant and does a much better job of engaging. In the way that direct marketers segment customers by key characteristics, online marketers that blog can create buyer personas to create more relevant experiences for their readers.
Personas are customer profiles (preferences for information discovery, consumption & sharing) that represent groups of customers that a brand wants to engage and do business with. Information from Personas drives keyword research & optimization, content plan and promotion. More about persona creation here. So one of the first things a blogger should do after defining objectives and general audience, is to understand who they’re trying to reach by developing personas.
Collect data through reader / customer surveys, analytics, social monitoring and other tools to form a profile. That profile represents topics, behaviors and preferences that can translate into search keywords, social topics, social channels, editorial calendar and promotion plans.
2. What is your unique selling proposition?
When people (or search engines) visit your website, is the primary topic crystal clear? With the increased competition in search and for attention in social conversations, it’s essential for blogs to stand out. Being able to articulate your Unique Selling Proposition helps distinguish your content the value of your blog content for people and search engines. The screenshot above shows a blog that is crystal clear in it’s focus. The result is reflected both in popularity and search visibility (#1) for highly competitive phrases like “digital photography“.
Developing a Unique Selling Proposition for your blog (h/t SEOBook) is pretty straightforward: Identify the key benefits of your blog’s content and how you will address customer/reader pain points. As you communicate your USP, be specific, concise & show proof. It’s also important to live your USP so that it’s a key component of your messaging.
3. Search & Social Media Keywords
Personas and your USP represent the intersection of customer interests and the goals for your blog. In order to activate your blog content for effective discovery via search and social media channels, it’s essential to create a search phrase keyword glossary for Search Engine Optimization purposes and a social media topic glossary for Social Media Optimization.
SEO Keywords: Resources like Google’s keyword research tool are a great start for finding which words and phrases are in demand, relevant to the content you’re publishing on your blog. It’s tempting to be egocentric and use whatever language you want, but if there is an expectation to attract significant search traffic and an interest in using language that resonates with a community in search of what you have to offer, keyword optimization of content is very appropriate.
Social Topics: Social topic tools that work like a SEO keyword tool are very rare and a to really get into useful source information, there’s a lot of manual research necessary. However, to get started, tools like socialmention.com offer a list of social keywords (bottom left of search results page) that can be downloaded as a CSV file for use in your Social Topic Glossary. Social keywords represent topics of interest to the people your blog is intended to reach and engage. By researching these topics and the specific language the community uses to express their interest, your blogging can be more effective at being relevant and shared on the social web.
The SEO Keyword and Social Topic glossary provide guidance towards editorial plans and specific phrases/topics can be mapped to content for search and social media optimization. It’s a great management tool that keeps SEO and SMO efforts accountable.
4. Create a Content/Editorial Plan
Keywords inform content and documenting an Editorial Plan for your blog can ensure that content is true to the goals of the business and interests of the community that reads it. An content plan also offers ideas and guidance, months in advance, which is priceless when bloggers hit creative roadblocks. This is inevitable, and after 7+ years of blogging myself, I can’t vouch enough for the guidance of an Editorial Plan.
Keep in mind, such a plan is a guide – not a set of hard and fast rules. It’s effective to schedule recurring themes with posts, like “Thought Leadership Monday”, “Practical Tips on Tuesdays”, “News Roundup on Fridays”. But it’s also important to allow for wildcards, because opportunities will come up spontaneously based on events within your company or the industry that require blogging. And you don’t want to delay publishing important news or a reaction to news, just because it wasn’t planned for that day.
The Editorial Plan defines the application of keywords in topics to be covered, categories, titles, tags and how/where/when the posts will be promoted. It also allocates for the future repurposing of appropriate blog posts.
5. Search & Social Media Optimization
Optimizing content for search on websites like Google and optimizing social content for ease of discovery and sharing within social channels is essential for reach and engagement of blog content. Optimizing for search & social media is the one two punch of blog marketing. If SEO efforts are initiated with an existing blog, then a SEO audit would be completed, including a review of the blog templates and configuration, existing content, internal links and links from other websites. If you’re starting a new blog, then SEO would be baked in to the editorial plan via the keyword glossary.
Optimizing for search is about helping search engines do a better job of connecting readers with your content. It’s not about tricks or manipulations. It’s about providing search engines and people what they need to find, consume and be inspired to share your blog content.
Optimizing for social media is about search as well, as in the search that’s possible within Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. But SMO is also about optimizing content editorially to resonate with social audiences. It’s about ease of discovery and sharing through things like feed distribution and widgets that make it easy to ReTweet or post to the reader’s favorite social sites.
SEO and SMO are about making life easy for both search engines and people to connect with, interact and share your blog content.
6. Links: Internal and External Acquisition
Links between pages and links acquired from relevant websites in the industry provide a good user experience and strong signals for search engines when they crawl, index and rank web pages. Following best practices for internal linking is one of the most impactful things a blog can do to help website realize SEO benefit. For example, a tips blog that cross links the keywords relevant to specific products being sold gives readers and search engines a quick and relevant way to move from editorial about how to use and get benefit from a type of product to a page that actually sells the product.
Attracting links from other relevant websites as pictured in the diagram above is essential for attracting new visitors to your blog, directly and indirectly because of the effect relevant links have on search engine visibility. What’s important to remember is that links to your blog home page are important, but relevant links into specific category or individual blog posts is essential External link sources that are relevant to broad topics that link to your home page or category pages provide the user (and search engine) with a very relevant connection. Links from niche sites to your specific blog posts do the same.
There are myriad ways to attract links for blogs ranging from commenting and guest posting to creating content that attracts links from other bloggers and the media.
7. Content Promotion
Content isn’t great until it gets shared. A lot. That doesn’t mean a blogger should aggressively promote every post. It does mean that when a particular post is especially promotable (you would know this because you planned for it in your Content Plan) then it warrants special attention. Blog content can be promoted in a variety of ways and effective promotion is tied to the quantity and quality of the networks you’ve built. That includes readers and subscribers of your own blog, an email list, Facebook Fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant sites where people with common interests interact and share.
Some content promotion is automatic, like RSS feeds, syndication of blog posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or content syndication partnerships. Other content promotion might be tied to the content itself, like using industry thought leaders to crowdsource insights into a topic (your keywords) of importance to your readers. Those participants will often help you promote the post. You can also reach out to your network and suggest or share relevant posts they might be interested in. Commenting and being social on/offline are also effective promotion methods.
The bottom line with content promotion is that great content that isn’t promoted vs. mediocre content that is promoted in a relevant way, will often lose in terms of traffic and therefore meaningful engagement with a greater number of readers. The amount of content being published on a daily basis creates levels of competition never before experienced, so promotion is essential to stand out and get noticed. But it has to be content that’s WORTH promoting.
Summing it all up.
The implementation and refinement of these steps is a work in progress. The web continues to change in terms of technology and how people use it. It’s essential that companies follow an adaptable online marketing strategy when focusing on the social web and search engines. Opportunities will reveal themselves in web analytics and social media monitoring and the promotion efforts outline above apply to those real-time marketing situations just as well as tasks included in a Content Plan. Hopefully these guidelines are useful to you and if you need more specific information, you’ll likely find it in blog posts we’ve published in the past. At TopRank Marketing we do this kind of consulting on a daily basis so there’s a lot of rich information published in our archives.
What other types of insight about blogging and blog marketing would you like to see? What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had (and maybe overcome) when it comes to implementing blog marketing tactics like those mentioned in this post?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Blog Marketing Strategy: 7 Steps to Social SEO Success | http://www.toprankblog.com
There’s a recent surge in the business press about incorporating social media and search or basically a more holistic approach to natural search optimization. While many popular biz pubs are catching on, bloggers and consultants like the team at TopRank Marketing have been covering the topic for a while. To help marketers better understand the notion of holistic SEO outside of PageRank, meta tags and link building, here are several of our most popular posts and articles on making online marketing programs both search and social media friendly:
How Does Social Media Affect Search Marketing? – This post answers key questions about social media and search engine marketing: Are they two peas in a pod, complementary or two very distinct channels? The answer lies in understanding searcher behaviors and how expectations have changed as part of the search and social networking experience.
16 Rules For Social Media Optimization Revisited - As social media has become a ubiquitous part of the online experience, it represents a new set of behaviors for consumers and marketers. The initial “rules” set forth in 2006 were revisited by Adam Singer to test their continued validity and you may be surprised at what he found.
4 Steps to Social Media SEO Success – “Simple and effective” sums up this post on incorporating SEO and Social Media: Listening, Content, Socialize and Measure. Too many companies make social media and certainly SEO more complex than it needs to be, bottlenecking progress. This 4 step approach makes social media SEO manageable, realistic and achievable.
B2B Online Marketing Trifecta: Content, Social Media & SEO – Long sales cycles and the influence of social recommendations reinforced by search visibility make a perfect integrated mix for B2B internet marketing. This post outlines how Optimized Content and Social Media participation work together to amplify online marketing results for B2B companies.
Is Your Website SEO and Social Media Friendly? – This guest post on Mashable brought to light the notion of social media features that can be added to websites to increase their attractiveness for engagement and sharing. Examples include: Fresh Content, Social Content, Interaction, Easy to Share and Syndication. Shareable websites make it easy to attract attention to great content, which results in traffic and links. More relevant links mean better visibility in search engines which means even more traffic.
5 Social Media SEO & Analytics Tools Worth Checking Out – What good is undertaking a social media and SEO effort if you can’t measure results? Here’s a selection of tools that help visualize or package social media SEO data for insight. They include: reinvigorate which offers real-time web analytics with heat maps; TwentyFeet dashboard which aggregates social stats from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and bit.ly; SocialFlow which posts messages during your audience’s most receptive time periods, measures CTR, retweets and followers; Ontolo which is an advanced link building tool; InfluenceFinder which is another link building tool that coordinates with Majestic SEO.
11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization - Social media sharing and interaction creates content that can be crawled by search engines. That means it can be optimized for better visibility within search, attracting new members to your social networks and blog. Here are 11 free tools that come in pretty handy for testing the waters and measuring optimized social media content.
I’m here at the PRSA International conference in Washington D.C. and the conversations about social media are to be found everywhere. The halls, the exhibit floor, sessions and even at the fantastic dinner hosted by Shonali Burke last night.
Yesterday I gave a 4 hour workshop or, “SEO Bootcamp for Communicators” as it was titled. I polled the attendees who came from a variety of companies and organizations ranging from a for profit private school to the Veteran’s Administration, on what their questions were about SEO. Most revolved around getting to understand how PR can get up to speed on the value of SEO and incorporate it into what they’re doing as Marketing has done.
To that end, one of the things I touched on in the workshop and that I will also address in a solo presentation today on Social Media Optimization, is a model for incorporating Social Media & SEO into news promotion.
- Objectives: What are your goals? You can’t finish your mission without an end goal, so it’s important to identify some kind of general website traffic, citations, links, social engagement and organic referring traffic goals.
- Audience: Who are you trying to reach? This question can be answered at a broad level in relation to online PR and news content as well as at the individual content level. Keywords and promotion tactics can vary whether it’s direct to consumer, journalists, analysts or bloggers that you’re after.
- Social Conversations & SERPs: Listening to social conversations about the topics important to your company, brand and constituents is essential for knowing where to engage and promote. Think of it as reconnaissance. The SERPs, (Search Engine Results Pages) are your SEO battlefield and it’s important to understand what types of content is being displayed for your most important keyword phrases. While personalization is a factor that can make the SERP experience vary according to your location and web history, it still makes sense to identify what media types are included: web pages, images, video, blog posts, news, etc.
- Resources: Content, people, processes. What content and media do you have to promote? If you put out a press release, adding images and/or video can increase distribution quite a bit. Who do you have available to you to help? Copywriters, IT, marketing. Adding SEO and Social Media components to content authoring and publishing processes will ensure more of your content goes out in an optimized state.
- Tactics: What channels to optimize? This is where information captured in Listening and SERPs helps you decide what kind of content and which social channels to optimize for. If news, images and video are represented in the search results and there are relevant conversations happening around social media sites including some or all of those media, then your “marching orders” are to leverage those types of media in your news optimization.
- Measure: SEO, Social, PR. Knowing when you’re a success is important for productivity as well as reporting upstream in your organization. Setting goals, making benchmark measurements and then tracking progress as skills and effectiveness are refined will help you stay on track.
When companies and individuals enter the Social Media and SEO waters, it’s often very tactical and tentative. Testing is fine of course, but making the effort to establish some kind of framework and process can reap big efficiency / effectiveness rewards.
One way to increase adoption and results is to develop a process that is followed by anyone in communications, media relations or PR that is in a position to publish content online. The form of this process will vary, but here’s an example:
By adding a process, it adds accountability as well as the likelihood that a much greater quantity of content will be keyword optimized and promoted to extend the reach of news direct to end consumers as well as to journalists and reporters doing online research.
Marketers like formulas and what better metaphor for successful online marketing with blogs than a recipe?
At the upcoming BlogWorldExpo conference in Las Vegas, I’ll be giving my recipe for success using Social Media and SEO in two ways:
First, I’ll be doing a solo presentation on Social Media SEO, giving bloggers a tested methodology for making the most of their content and social networks.
This presentation will focus on the value of combining SEO best practices with social media marketing to amplify the reach and traffic for blogs. I’ll outline and share examples of how to build a Cycle of Social Media Interaction. Specifics will include:
- How bloggers can leverage keyword research to develop a blog editorial calendar
- Best practices on creating and promote optimized content
- How to increase exposure through social channels of distribution
- Tips on organic growth of fans/friends/subscribers and inbound links
- How to increase search and social media traffic
- How to mine community conversation data to further refine content strategy that continues the cycle
To see the detailed presentation, you’ll need to get out to Las Vegas October 14-16 for BlogWorld New Media Expo 2010. In the meantime, here is a short version of the presentation I’ll be giving using the aforementioned recipe metaphor.
Second, I’m literally going to talk about SEO for recipes to food bloggers, “The Art & Science of Recipe Writing” on a panel with Jennifer Perillo, John Shiple and Sean Percival as part of the TECHmunch track. I believe it will be livestreamed so be sure to check in with @toprank for the link.
BlogWorld New Media Expo is a unique event bringing together online marketing professionals from a variety of disciplines ranging from public relations to SEO to affiliate marketing to food and military bloggers. Be sure to subscribe for liveblogging coverage and video interviews during the event.
Now back to our metaphor: What’s your recipe to blogging success?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
Recipe for Blogging Success at BlogWorld New Media Expo | http://www.toprankblog.com