With the boom in brands publishing content and the explosion of user generated content from social networks, the competition to stand out is only going to get more challenging for companies that rely on the web to attract new business. Online Marketers that adapt, evolve and scale through a more holistic approach to marketing online gain both short and long term benefits, distinct from competitors reliant on the latest tactic du jour.
The process of change starts with acknowledgment that change is needed and then extends to identifying goals, understanding target audiences & communities, developing an approach and tactical mix for reaching business objectives. Assessing a starting point is usually accomplished through an audit, research and benchmarking for future performance tracking.
When taking a look at our TopRank Slideshare account for past presentations I found one on Social Media & SEO from back in 2007 offering the following advice:
- Inventory your media & content
- Keyword optimize your media
- Research social media communities
- Make it easy for readers to save/share content
- Create profiles and grow a network of friends
- Participate in the community
- Measure results
That’s as solid advice today as it was then. As a advocate of the power of optimization (not just search engine optimization but optimizing online marketing for better performance) it’s interesting how much hasn’t changed in the past 4 years. No matter what BS certain mainstream publications or social media pontificators say, SEO brings a competitive advantage to an online marketing mix. It may not be the silver bullet it once was, but SEO is an amplifier and catalyst to Social Media and Content Marketing. What smart marketers know, is how and when to apply SEO best practices to extend the reach of their social media and content marketing efforts.
Last week I gave my first presentation at Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St. Paul #SMBMSP on the intersection of SEO, Social Media and the importance of Content in Online Marketing. In order to scale the impact of Social SEO & Content, internal advocates need to become Social SEO Heroes that can lead, educate and support the organizational change necessary to empower business social media and SEO literacy. This presentation starts with context and perspective, then provides a framework and even specific tactics for the Content Marketing Trilogy of Discovery, Consumption and Sharing. I hope you find it useful and share your feedback in the comments.
I’m looking forward to giving a more Content Marketing centric version of this presentation at Content Marketing World: “A Content Marketer’s Guide to SEO and Social Media Strategy” on Thursday, Sept. 8th in Cleveland.
After that I’ll be giving the opening keynote at the 2nd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference with a presentation on how I’ve used blogging to grow our business from a tiny lifestyle company to one of the best known agencies for online marketing in the U.S.. I hope to see you there.
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content | http://www.toprankblog.com
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.
During an internal discussion at TopRank Marketing, the topic of defining social media came up and one area of interest was the difference in outcomes when it comes to incorporating both social media and search engine optimization. The social media tactics and expected outcomes when used for a SEO program are very different than social media intended to improve customer engagement outcomes. I think this is an important distinction because while social media and SEO work great together, the outcomes and business value can be very different.
Social Media for SEO
SEO helps connect customers with brand content through search engines. Content associated with both qualitative and quantitative signals tends to be rewarded with higher search ranking, driving traffic and hopefully, sales. In the scheme of things within the customer lifecycle, SEO is a tactic focused on aiding information discovery at numerous touchpoints, with an emphasis on the top of the funnel. Customers have some idea of what they’re looking for and search until they find it.
SEO practitioners have traditionally used social networks, news and bookmarking services to create and promote content in an effort to attract links. Those links can send traffic but are also signals for search engines to discover and rank content. Social participation is focused on mining topics and content formats that are most likely to resonate with the social community in order to increase the likelihood of becoming popular and subsequently exposing tremendous amounts of traffic and links from those readers empowered to publish – bloggers, commenters, journalists, site owners.
Since Google and Bing have started incorporating feeds from social media services like Twitter, Facebook and others, it has been revealed that links, text and author authority can also be used as signals for determining content ranking on real-time, news and traditional search.
SEO practitioners that hang a shingle out with “social media marketing” on it are essentially focused on content promotion through social networks, news and bookmarking sites to attract links. Social networks and news sites can be very effective channels for indirect link acquisition.
A simple example might involve a marketer doing keyword research on search and social phrases to decide on a topic for an infographic. The content and name of the infographic are keyword optimized for the target audience that searches for those terms. The infographic would be posted to a blog with embed code for other blogs and promoted via social channels, public and private.
As the blog post with the infographic spreads in distribution and sharing amongst the social channels of interest, it gets noticed and linked to. Often times the link to the infographic will use the supplied name, which of course, includes the target keyword phrase. Links with anchor text that reflects a desired keyword phrase from many other, relevant websites and blogs along with links in social channels like Facebook and Twitter provide search engines with robust signals to use in ranking that content.
So, the basic nature of social media for SEO outcomes is to create signals like links and to inspire others to create links that can drive awareness, traffic and as a signal for search engines resulting in better search ranking.
Social Media for Customer Engagement
Studies have shown that many corporate social media initiatives are managed by Public Relations departments and outcomes often focus on awareness, influence, engagement and relationship building. Better relationships with customers and industry influentials builds the brand, inspires trust and positive association with what the brand stands for. A strong brand drives sales because customers are aware of and trust the brand as a solution.
Social media programs centered around customer engagement might focus more on creating an experience for customers through content, tools, peer networking or special programs that allow them to contribute and be recognized.
An example would be a coordinated effort to connect industry professionals within a specific vertical market with a brand that offers a solution. The brand might create a community or forum with a blog component to publish useful information and industry news. That hub can then be surrounded by a Facebook fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn participation and a YouTube channel – all providing useful content that demonstrates effective use of the kind of solution offered by the brand and linking back to the hub. Community discussions are inspired by brand moderators and as the community grows, strong voices emerge and are recognized and empowered.
Content is created within the community as questions are asked and answered fueling the ongoing social content strategy for public information hosted on the blog and the outposts. The goals of such a program would be to create a destination of information that educates, informs and engages the target customer in a way that leads them to the logical conclusion to buy or refer the brand.
Social Media for customer engagement is to build awareness, trust and often results in higher value per sale, shorter sales cycles, more referrals and better customer retention on top of industry news and blog coverage.
Social Media and SEO: There’s a Better Way
Nothing brings tactical Social Media & Search Engine Optimization together for both discovery and engagement outcomes than content. An effective content marketing strategy coordinates target customer and influencer personas with social content plan and SEO tactics that help brands achieve both goals: improved search engine visibility of website and social content as well as social experiences that foster customer engagement.
I challenge marketers to stop thinking in silos and do some due diligence with their Search, Social Media and PR agency partners to come up with more elegant solutions to this opportunity. So much effort is wasted by not coordinating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing together that simply nailing the basics can provide a competitive advantage.
Or maybe you’ve done this already? How is your business working to coordinate search, social and content marketing? What challenges do you face with inter-departmental coordination? With strategy and implementation? With reporting?
I’ll be speaking on this very topic at BlogWorld East in New York May 24th and at SES Toronto June 13th with examples of coordinated Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing in action. Hope to see you there.
The intersection of SEO and social media marketing continues to gain traction amongst online marketers everywhere you look in the industry. As an example, the enthusiastic interest in our recent compendium of blog posts, Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media. I think most experienced marketers “get” that SEO and Social Media functions are less effective as distinct channels within a marketing program and work better as a coordinated effort.
Integration of Social and SEO makes sense for a variety of reasons when considering evolving consumer information discovery behaviors. Even so, I think a lot of companies are looking for direction and what’s next. This week Brandon Prebynski and I chatted on his Webtrends.TV show about the mix of search and social media and one area we discussed that I think is worth sharing here is about future direction.
There are two areas of focus (out of many) I think are worth considering with future of search and social media for marketers. First, is the technology that powers the search and social media experience for consumers. The second is the logistics of implementing integrated search and social media campaigns within a company.
On the technology side, you have search becoming increasingly influenced by social signals. For example, Google and Bing are getting feed data from Twitter and Facebook. If you’re logged in to Google, your search results can be annotated by things your friends have shared on Quora or Flickr. Erik Sherma recently covered the award to Facebook of a patent for curated search that combines any type of search engine results with the popularity of each result among members of a user’s social network which shows another direction social sites are taking to make search more social.
True social search is something the engines have been trying at for a long time, but now the momentum Facebook has with 600 million users gives them a lot of data and an audience with which to experiment. From a technology standpoint I think we’ll see an increasing level of influence and integration of social based signals on traditional search activity. The race for true social search is between search engines like Google adding social signals and features vs. social giants like Facebook adding more significant search functionality to their platforms. Who will win is up to consumers.
Logistically within companies we’ll see less silos between search marketing and social media functions. While it’s been up for debate a while, many companies’ social media is managed by Public Relations and SEO is managed by Marketing.
There’s an growing convergence of responsibilities between PR and Marketing. The value of relationships and influence are increasingly appreciated by online marketers. Alternatively, PR and communications professionals are beginning to value search based discovery as they look for ways to communicate more value for their efforts.
PR departments are already creating content, why not make it easy for their target audience (journalists, analysts, bloggers and direct consumers) to find via search? Google sites alone handle 88 billion queries per month – that’s an overwhelming quantity of behavior and too significant to ignore.
As part of the effort to improve the connection between searchers and content, people in the social media content creation business would do well to consider things like a keyword glossary when creating their content marketing strategy and editorial plans.
Search marketers have traditionally used social media as distribution channels for promoting content to drive a flood of traffic. Many of those SEOs are beginning to appreciate the equity in relationships (community) that they can build through social channels so they don’t have to work so hard creating new connections every time they have a new link bait campaign.
Mastering the convergence of SEO and Social Media with Content Marketing starts with an appreciation of how consumers prefer to discover, consume and share information online.
Google’s Panda update is yet another reminder to focus on content that engages. Marketers that make great content easy to find via social channels and links will be rewarded with even more relevant traffic through search engines like Google and Bing.
What can companies do to become more effective search and social media marketers? The simple answer is to develop an approach to online marketing that focuses on customer centric content that’s keyword and social media optimized. Follow how content is consumed and shared – make it easy to do those things while monitoring and engaging to develop networks and relationships. Continue to keep business outcomes in mind and be thoughtful about how success will be measured short and long term.
As many companies deal with figuring out how search and social media will work together, I am curious what your experiences have been?
- How important is the integration of search and social in your company’s current marketing mix?
- Are you incorporating SEO and social media efforts more or less since last year?
- What positive outcomes have you seen as a result of incorporating SEO & Social Media Marketing?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media | 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.