I have been online a long time, and in that time, I’ve seen tons of change — in SEO and on the Web, in general. But over the past few years, the changes are pointing us in new directions that nobody could have predicted, even seven years ago.
Social media has become not just an adjunct to, but an integral part of any SEO plan. Participation in certain areas has become important, IF you want to rank with the Big Dog. Which, today, is Google. If you have a business online and you’re not using social media, you’re not going to win. It’s just that simple.
Here are some statistics about overall social media usage that may shock you:
- Jeff Bullas reported that Google+ now boasts roughly 1.2 billion visits per month, more than both Facebook (809 million monthly visits) and Twitter (416 million monthly visits) combined. It’s not the baby of the family anymore.
- TechCruch reported that Facebook’s global mobile daily active user count increased 10.3 percent from 425 million to 469 million from Q1 to Q2 2013.
- Experian Marketing Services showed 27 percent of the time spent online is spent on social media sites. In the US, 16 minutes of every hour is spent social networking.
- Stats Brain says that 58 percent of the people they polled have a profile on at least one social media website.
These are pretty impressive stats, no? I mean, we’re spending a lot of time trying to promote ourselves and/or our businesses in social media in part because social statistics are truly SEO important these days. All of the search engines, not just Google, are looking at how people react to what you have to say. How many likes are you getting? Are people sharing your information, and where? Are you an authority in your niche? It’s important! And it’s not just important to Google.
Social Media Has Become Mainstream Important
Social media has even become important to employers. The Independent Voters’ Network reported that one in 10 young people looking for jobs have been turned down because of something they posted on social media.
So think about it: What are you posting? Radical political information? Racial slurs? Anything that could be construed as offensive? Well, guess what, people? It’s not just employers watching.
Google has been on a mission to clean up their SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). They’re eliminating spam, and they’re watching what we do on the Web, from how much influence we have to our behavior. I mean, we’re not exactly talking Big Brother, though it feels a bit like that. But do you honestly think Google’s algorithm includes your Facebook page if you’re spewing out advertising and nothing else? Or being so hateful that your behavior is distasteful to their search clients? No! You’re not just scaring search engines away, you’re bound to be losing customers. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there will always be people on the other. Discussion is good, but ranting and raving? Not so much.
If you’re reading this article, I’m betting you have a business online, whether or not you have brick & mortar to go with it. How much of your time is spent messing around on a social media site? One wonders.
So, I decided to do my own little poll on Facebook. I spend most of my social media time there, which is only part of my social media plan. Yet, it’s really the site I call home. (Your mileage may vary.) However, I asked my peeps about their own social media habits, and here’s what they said: *Some content has been edited for style
- Robby Pickert said: Not obsessed at all. I usually check it at least once a day to see what's happening with folks there. But other than that, I only have a look every now and then when I need to clear my head, take a break from work, etc.
- Edward Moore said: I try to check in at least once per day (seven days a week) and usually try to share things from others on Facebook and from outside of Facebook I think others might be interested in or find interesting/amusing/funny. I also try to "Like" several things from others on Facebook and comment from time to time. While I do try to keep it to about an hour a day (that isn't always the case) sometimes (time permitting), I will check back later in the afternoon to see if there is anything I should reply to or whatever.
- Carl Harris said: When I'm on holiday from work I'll spend quite a bit of time, but most of the time I check once in the morning and once in the evening for a couple of minutes.
- Gi Grosser said: I check a few times a day. It's my way to keep in touch with family and friends. Also to work on the Sierra Facebook page.
- Carol Schmidt said: I check Facebook first thing when I wake up and again after dinner before switching to that night's TV shows. No texting. I can't say hello in 140 characters or less.
- Linda Beek I usually just check it in the evening after work. If I have the day off, I might check in a few times during the day, depending on what's going on around here. If my spousal unit is home, I don't check in at all, since I only see him for a few days every couple of weeks (he's a long-haul trucker), and he would probably like me to actually pay some attention to HIM instead of the rest of the world…
- Joy Gartside said: I check a few times a day. Depends how often if I am working on my websites it will be more as I am on the laptop anyway. If I am out I don’t bother as I feel the person I am with deserves my attention or I would not have gone with them in the first place. I know someone who even takes it to bed with them on their mobile.
- Brian T. Edmondson said: Way too obsessed, almost like an addiction. Trying to cut back on "digital crack."
- Micheal Savoie said: I check it throughout the day, both on mobile devices and my desktop/laptop. When I travel, it is a lifeline to the rest of my world. Like this week, I was at an event in Las Vegas, and I was posting photos from the event.
- Robert J. Costa Jr. said: I check in once in a while, generally when notifications get up to about 50 to 75, and that’s just four fam members and two IM pros (which of course is you, Pat and Brian T. Edmondson). I sometimes will go four to five days. I don’t like to say it, but I actually can't stand Facebook.
Do you see a pattern? Seventy percent of the people polled said they check in “multiple times a day.” These are just the first 10 responses, but there were many more in that queue. In other words, we’re social animals and social media is part of our lives, whether we think it is or not I mean, some folks say they hate Facebook and still go there.
You have to be aware of the message you’re sending! Eight of the 10 people above do have businesses online, too. But it’s not just us. It’s everyone — family, bosses, co-workers, high school chums — everyone!
So, How Do You Make it Work for You?
Though it’s easy to lose yourself in the flow of your favorite social site, I always tell my clients to spend one hour a day on social media. It’s much too easy to become addicted. Like my friend Brian Edmondson said, it can be like “digital crack.” Another friend, William Penrose said, "FB is heroin. In fact, I'm Jonesing right now." It can be like a drug or CHOCOLATE! Don't let it become that social monkey on your back.
Also, split your time up among the services. Maybe pick the three you enjoy the most or two of the top five (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest). But if it’s only ONE social site you frequent, be sure to choose Google+ because that’s most important to your search listings. (Yes, they’re holding us hostage, but they’re doing that with keywords now, too. Why are you surprised?)
Mobile is Helping Social Media to Grow
As mobile computing becomes more and more important, the growth of social media will continue to be exponential. Hubspot published a stat in their blog, which showed that 15 percent of total U.S. mobile internet time is spent on social networking sites. People want to be connected! And if you have a business, you want to build that all-important know, like and trust relationship with your potential clients and customers. What better way to do it than through social media?
Hubspot also reported that social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC. And it’s free! Not only that, but Hubspot claims that social media lead conversion rates are 13 percent higher than the average lead conversion rate. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
But one caveat. As I mentioned above, some folks are posting for businesses. Remember that people want to know about YOU. If you want them to worry about whether your sanity is stable or deteriorating, if you want to add fun stuff (and who doesn’t), be sure it’s innocent. That means no swearing, no nasty pics and certainly no drinking, gambling, porn or drug-related images! You may be your brand, but even if you’re not, you still don’t want people to know about your wacky side. Keep it tight.
Actually, Social Media Video 2013 reported, “Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web.” That’s saying something. USE it!
Pat Marcello is the President and SEO Manager of MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company in Brandenton, Fla. You can find her last article for SEMrush here: "Hummingbird: Google's Kinda-New Algorithm."