One of the questions often discussed by marketing professionals is how to quantify social media. How do you justify your efforts? To find the answers, I asked 12 professionals from different areas of marketing to weigh in on the relationship between SEO, SM, and SEM. Here's what they had to say.
Eric Sachs, Director and CEO, Sachs Marketing Group
Search marketing has changed considerably in the last few years, and smart marketing agencies respond to every change. Google, dragging the other search engines in its wake, has moved inexorably toward improving user experience. It's all about delivering what your users want, and the best measure of user satisfaction is social media.
While we can't be certain that social media engagement directly affects search algorithms, we know that engagement fuels shares, which encourages organic linking and attracts traffic...critical components of SEO.
While the industry continues to question if social media is a Google search ranking factor, it’s hard to argue there isn’t a relationship. For Bing it’s not a question of if, but rather a question of impact. Either way, companies earnestly active on social media tend to create more interactions and coverage, leading to earned off-site backlinks and citations which unquestionably impact SEO. Go ahead and count the citations, sometimes very authoritative as is the case with trusted domains like Facebook, on your social profiles as a bonus.
And while your social media profiles and posts may or may not directly cause improved ranking of your website or its content, their appearance in SERPs, including on social networks themselves, contributes to your overall online visibility and reputation management. That’s reason enough to make social and SEO part of your marketing mix.
PPC and SEO have always had a close relationship and in recent years, it's gotten closer. When Google began encrypting keyword referral data from organic search clicks, SEOs lost valuable keyword performance data. PPC keyword performance data has become a huge asset for those looking to improve organic results. Businesses and agencies doing search marketing right have taken down the silos.
As it relates to social and search, we're starting to see the impacts of the Google/Twitter partnership. Additionally, when a great piece of content gets popular, social media can serve as a conduit for inbound links. However, in my opinion, I believe that PR and search marketing are much more intrinsically tied together than social and search. Albeit, in time, we may see a stronger connection between social signals and organic search performance.
Your audience is becoming increasingly fragmented across many channels and it's becoming increasingly difficult to engage with them. Social media gives you the opportunity to portray a more human side to your brand and this helps you build the relationship with your current and potential customer. As relationships build it's more likely they will be moved to take action when you offer a course of action to them. For example, get them to visit a blog post and from there you may convert them to being an email subscriber.
From an SEO perspective the brands that appear on top of search results are the ones that people think are the best. If you are appearing regularly when they do the searches their opinion of your brand is going to improve as long as it's for the right terms. This helps their impression of you which means it will be easier to establish a relationship with them.
When it comes to the relationship between SEO - social media - search engine marketing, people tend to confuse correlation with causation. Higher social media visibility as well as well-placed ads make a brand's content more discoverable and thus drive other signals that do directly affect rankings (backlinks are most powerful of those signals). Don't try to look deeper and answer the evergreen questions like "Do my tweets increase my rankings? Do my ads affect the rankings?" Instead, aim at building visibility whatever it takes. Visibility always comes with higher rankings because it always drives citations.
Everything that you do online for your company is going to affect your online presence. So when you are posting on social media, you are usually promoting the various landing pages of your site to attract attention to a specific area of your website. By drawing in this audience and with more people sharing it, you are thus improving the authority of the page which, as a result, will increase your organic ranking over time. These things go hand in hand when improving your visibility online.
Since the launch of FixApp we have struggled with the chicken and egg situation of getting providers on board first or customers because the model isn't sustainable without both The former was more forgiving and we turned to G+ for that.
Contrary to popular belief, G+ is a fantastic tool for several reasons. It is one of the only SM platforms available which ties in with SEO – SMs like Facebook don't influence search results and are not indexed. Google bots cannot gather the info created by 'likes' on a page, but it can understand the value of a '+1' and relevance of post against it. The business insight page is more intuitive and helps you target the right people too.
We found G+ to be more open and accessible, with the ability to create communities, we were able to hone into specific demographics. Now, we have over 20k followers across our profile and collections and it is helping us gain users daily through its ripples. One of the most important lessons learned on this journey is that you have to be smart about your target audience.
Against other profiles with 1000s more followers, we have managed to surpass their reach to well over 8 million viewers in a space of 6 months. by targeting specific type of followers and giving them what they want to reshare, not what we want them to see. Within posts, we casually drop what we want reshared, which increases our reach to a wider audience. As more reshares and hashtags are thrown around, it is indexed by Google bots which in turn help our SEO results.
I've heard SEO and social media "experts" debate this over and over again and it brings me back to something that I can't help but remind people. No one tool or strategy on it's own is going to make your online marketing a success. The inherent relationship between search engine optimization and social media is one of those things.
Let's simply look at the way a company like Google (and previously, Bing) took the time to view the value of tweets showing up in search engines. It's proof that social provides value to search – and thus – SEO.
The focus on social, however, should be a relationship-focused one. If the end goal is to make sales or provide customer service – it matters not. Relationships are where sales start. Relationships are where customer service starts.
Visibility is going to come as you provide valuable content, promote it effectively (often with ads) and listen to your audience.
Social selling is the one of the best ways to finding and connecting with potential prospects through social media to increase your sales. The first step in social selling is to find your prospective audience and then determine where their conversations are taking place.
From there, create a plan on how you will reach and engage them. Find out what separates you from your competition; your unique value proposition. And always add value through your posts and conversation. Stop doing the hard sale. When they trust you, they will buy.
A typical marketing funnel starts with the attention and interest from the ideal prospect. I like content marketing and SM for this top part of the funnel, but SEO can play a role here as well. Content that gets shared in social media can also gain natural links from bloggers and journalists and that can improve search rank for the entire site. Another goal for each channel in this stage may be to grow the email list as well.
As prospects get closer and interest becomes desire, I like to go after them with everything I've got, but usually the quality prospects come from email, SEO and SEM at this stage in the funnel.
SEO and SEM are also critical when prospects are searching for the name of the business - rather than typing the domain in the address bar of their web browser they simply search Google for it. Prospects who have found the business from another channel, like social media, will likely search for it. This is also a great way to be found by prospects who were cool or warm but have now become hot as well as repeat customers.
SEO, SM and SEM are related and should complement and/or supplement each other based on how the ideal prospect moves through the buyer funnel.
The distinctions might be lost on many who are in online business, the difference between SEO, SMM and SEM are important to those who deliver online marketing services.
Search engine marketing attempts to create engagement by responding to direct consumer needs or enquiries and depends on a traditional form of advertising - displayed advertising. In other words, the person consumer has set out to find a product, and the search engine marketing is being invited to provide it through a paid service.
Search engine optimization relies more heavily on a third parties interpretation of a consumers needs and weighs in with a judgment about the best solution. In other words, a user types in a search query and the search engine provides the consumer with an answer that (they hope) meets the consumers expectations. At the same time, the search engine is rewarding the business with exposure.
Social media marketing may be considered a blend of SEO and SEM, depending on the platform and the means by which they present their services or products to consumers. What is distinct is the attempt to break in on an existing social circle and attempt to influence those within it.
Traffic from social media is considered to be of a higher quality than other mediums as it's mostly referral traffic. Conversions literally spike when someone you know recommends a product to you. Also, search occurs on social media too, not just on the search engines. YouTube is the second largest search engine, and Facebook is a search engine in the making. Building a rapport and dedicated follower base on social networks will only help you- a long term relationship is always better than a one time visit to your site.
Social media does the link building for you by giving you access to their immense user base. Google may or may not consider your content getting shared across social networks, but they will surely care if someone finds the content worth linking to and decides to drop a link on their site.
Finally, brand reputation! Building brand reputation is the major part of social media marketing. Brand image builds up with the increase in social engagement, and this further results in an increase in conversion rates. You are more likely to buy something if your friends have bought it too. Yet another thing I consider to be of importance is the real time feedback opportunities that Social Media provides to businesses. Social media makes the company answerable to the consumer.
The GoDaddy SOPA fiasco still cracks me up, and it's a perfect example on how a damaged brand can directly impact sales. On the other hand, Dove's Real Beauty campaign and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by Pat Quinn are great examples of viral social media campaigns that boosted brand reputation through the roof. It is imperative to have a plan in place to counter negative feedback, and provide great customer experience in the process.
The jury might still be out on the direct effect of social media on SEO, but the experts clearly agree that it's important. Does your SEO strategy include social media?