First things first: Please take this quick poll about integrating SEO and social media marketing.
Do your online marketing efforts include SEO and social media working together?
- Yes (77%, 226 Votes)
- No (11%, 32 Votes)
- We don't do SEO (5%, 14 Votes)
- We don't do Social Media (5%, 14 Votes)
- We don't do SEO or Social Media (2%, 7 Votes)
Total Voters: 293
At the recent Pubcon South conference in Austin WebProNews did a video interview with social media superstar Chris Brogan and I about social media for business. Chris talked about “charlatans” coming in to the social media space. He also referenced SEO as a “marginalized” tactic – at least the mechanical aspects of SEO. Another social media superstar, Jason Falls, (interview) made a recent post on his blog, “Why You Shouldn’t Trust Social Media to a SEO Consultant” where he presented the differences between how many SEOs use social media for link building and the way many PR practitioners engage social media for building relationships. What does this have to do with integrating SEO and social media? Stay with me and read on.
I do think it’s important to make distinctions for the benefit of the buyer of marketing services that seeks to achieve certain business goals through social media participation. It’s important to characterize the right social media tactical mix for the objectives a company is trying to reach.
Content promotion via social media channels is highly productive for link building. Effort and return on effort can be measured very specifically. Many SEOs don’t focus on building relationships though. Does that make it wrong or different? It depends on the client goals. It’s true that many search marketing practitioners and PR / social media practitioners approach social media participation with different goals in mind and therefore, with different tactics.
SEO is art and science. It’s marketing and PR. SEO helps search engines from an information retreival standpoint as well as web site usability for people through content & code optimization and link building. Certainly, one part of SEO deals with code and server side issues, (ie the science and mechanical issues) but the biggest part of SEO is content keyword alignment with target audiences and the creative promotion/marketing/distribution of that content (ie the art) to drive traffic and links. Links affect search rankings, which can drive even more traffic from an audience that is looking for information and solutions.
Some SEOs find loopholes and opportunities that create advantage. Client demands drive those efforts just like client needs drive public relations practitioners to “spin” stories. That doesn’t mean all SEOs approach their work through shortcuts. On the whole, SEO practitioners are marketing professionals tasked with representing client interests in the search engines. Accurate representation is best because it fundamentally leads to more sales and better retention.
So called “social media experts” with 5 months of Twittering and Facebook under their belt that now claim to be industry thought leaders is more than a bit sketchy and probably do deserve the moniker, “charlatan” if they’re taking money and not delivering value. The exact same thing is true for any professional service, whether it’s public relations, advertising or search marketing. The ease of publishing online makes it easy for anyone to claim themselves an “expert”.
Companies should hire SEO consultants for SEO and PR firms for PR. Should those engagements involve social media, clients should be well informed and expectations should be managed properly. In fact, I can’t imagine any SEO or PR engagement NOT involving social media participation to some degree. You’ve got to fish where the fish are and people are discovering, publishing and sharing content via social channels. What’s important is that goals, strategy and tactics are accurately represented.
The real “one two punch” in my heavily biased opinion, is finding a marketing consultant that is equally adept at search marketing and PR as they are at social media and SEO. Implementing a social media program to grow awareness, build community and customer relationships will, as a by product, create content. That content can be discovered via search, shared and linked to. Why not factor SEO into a social media content creation program and earn the benefit of building relationships as well as improving search based discovery?
On the flip side of the coin, why wouldn’t a SEO effort that leverages social media content distribution channels invest in creating real relationships with social networks and communities? It can take some doing, but productivity gains can be realized by training clients on social network participation and engagement. An informed marketing consulting client can perform many of the social media and networking tasks and rely on the marketing consultant for strategy, oversight and analytical insight. That’s not to say marketers shouldn’t help with implementation, but with social media, it’s best that the client themselves develop customer relatioships.
Don’t lose sight of what’s important. While the wild west SEO gurus and self-important social media experts take sides and throw silly names at each other, there are other companies developing expertise at both and integrating their social media efforts with SEO and vice versa. The result is more value for companies that engage such marketing consultants. In the end, isn’t that what this is all about – delivering value to grow business?