Search and Social 101: How Search & Social Work Together
This is the first in a three part series of search and social. In this article, I'll cover the definitions of the major areas of search, where to begin your campaign, and a recent game-changing admission from two major search engines forever consummating the marriage of search and social. This is to lay the ground work of the what and the why, in other articles I will get more into the How To.
After five years of executing search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns for nearly 100 clients across dozens of verticals, I now more than ever see the synergistic benefits of social media and SEO/SEM. Although, I've been blogging and building community on social media sites since 2001 (for businesses since 2006), there has never before been a melding of the two activities in-which cannot be ignored by either sides' purists.
Ten years ago, business owners thought their only option to improve their SEO (or rankings on search engines) was stuffing their meta tags and submitting their site to 1,000 search engines. From 2006 to 2008, businesses thought it was enough to just have a social presence.
Similar to SEO and SEM in the mid 2000s, business owners are wising up when it comes to social media. It’s not enough to just plug the social media hole and pump out commercial-centric content because they read in some business magazine they need a blog, Facebook and Twitter page. There must be a strategy with goals behind what content is being created and how their community is being maintained.
What's the Bigger Picture?
Search & Social marketing often needs to be approached from a bigger picture, more holistic point of view. The bottom line is reaching more customers, building more relationships, creating awareness, and loyalty for your brand. SEOs and Social Media Marketers must each now understand how they can work together for a 1+1=3 effect.
Before we get too deep, let's get some definitions out of the way. Since we're talking about search and social, I'll start with search. Search can be divided into multiple categories, but for purposes of this 101 article, let's just say the biggest categories are SEO and SEM.
According to Wikipedia search engine optimization (SEO) is
The process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the 'natural' or un-paid ('organic' or 'algorithmic') search results...As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.
SEO is actually a sub-set of SEM, and both are sub-sets of Internet Marketing. Social media is also a sub-set of Internet or Online Marketing when used for commercial purposes.
According to Wikipedia search engine marketing (SEM), is
A form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of search engine optimization, paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.
Now when an industry pro refers to SEM, it's often synonymous with paid search: pay-per-click using AdWords or Bing.
So what's more important search or social? Often, people want to polarize out of an opportunity to feel superior or just so concepts can be more easily understood. The answer is, it depends. Since this is a 101 article, I want to cover one of the most important foundational cornerstones of any search and/or social campaign.
As one well-known management consultant once said, "You can't manage what you can't measure." With that said, measuring should be the very first objective you have as a social or search professional. How do you measure the traffic and sales coming from search and social channels?
The Place to Start with Search & Social
Website Analytics - This is the first area any social media marketer, SEO or PR representative should observe. You have to realize that social media is only one channel among others that create traffic, sales, and awareness for the company. Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube may be sending traffic to your website. The question is, what is the value of that traffic?
Each channel has a different visitor value which can be assigned after enough history and data has been collected. Every visitor from Facebook may be worth $1.00 on average, but every visitor from a Google keyword referral may be worth $2.00. You need to see the whole picture.
If you use Google Analytics, Coremetrics, or some other enterprise metrics system there will often be a dashboard with a simple pie chart showing the share of traffic from each source: search engines, referring sites,social media (most likely split into several sites), email, and direct referrals (URL typed into the browser or bookmark retrieval). Assess where the current site your working with is receiving its traffic, and find out which channels of traffic are leading to sales. You can do this by setting up Goals in Google Analytics.
Social Signals -Linkbuilding is a major part of the SEO professional's leveraged activities. Until very recently, links from social sites were considered useless from a ranking stand-point because most were "nofollow," meaning they do not pass PageRank for improved search results. Although, many marketers noticed a halo effect from links coming from social sites over the last year, it was never confirmed.
In a recent interview, Google and Bing admitted that they factor in retweets and Facebook Likes as a part of their algorithm also weighing 200 other factors.It's linkbuilding for 2010. Creating these social signals are now considered just as important for SEOs as they are for social media pros, further sanctifying the fusion of channels.
In my next article I'll cover why blogs work well for both search & social promotion and some simple strategies for getting more traffic from SEO and social media using this platform.