The sheer volume of social media marketing and search engine optimization advice posted online can make it difficult for companies to make sense out what direction they should take. There are many models and approaches to leveraging optimized content for discovery through search and how to develop social networks to engage customers and promote content. It comes down to fundamentals and I think the following Four pieces of the Social SEO puzzle can help companies of any size get started in a more meaningful way on their journey towards becoming productive on the social web.
Listening, Content, Socialize and Measure could just as well be represented as a cycle, but I think the forward direction is important because you can’t reach outcomes without action. Any good social media marketing effort needs to begin with some kind of Listening program. That means using social media monitoring tools to collect, sort and manage social content according to topics being monitored. Content is the glue that makes search engines work and content is a critical part of the social sharing experience within social media. Speaking of sharing, socializing with other like-minded individuals as a personal experience can fold well with brand interactions as long as the needs of the buyer persona has been reconciled with business objectives. Successful efforts within the social web can be measured, and should be, in a variety of ways. Measurement justifies objectives and it’s important to identify the right tools for monitoring real time and web analytics.
Here are a few more details on each of these steps. I encourage you to think about how your company is implementing these steps in your own social media marketing efforts. Are you taking shortcuts? Are you following through? Have you found more important steps to follow?
An essential start and ongoing component for a social media marketing and optimization effort is to leverage listening tools. As companies struggle to understand where the social web fits within their online marketing strategy, a social media monitoring program (listening) should be implemented immediately. Collecting social web data, organizing and managing it is essential for tapping into the conversations, influencers and real-time marketing opportunities that abound in today’s internet environment. While there are many things you can listen for with a social media monitoring effort, here are four key elements for Social SEO success:
- Social Channels - Which social destinations are your customers frequenting? Social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn? Or Twitter? What about media sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube? Forums, Blogs or Social News and Bookmarking sites? Social media monitoring will help you decide which social channels you should start testing and digging into deeper for participation, networking and promotion. For example, why invest in videos if the majority of influencers in your category spend their time on Twitter?
- Social Keywords - Good social media monitoring tools analyze tags, comments, anchor text and other forms of text to identify keywords associated with the monitoring topic. That keyword insight can help identify topics of interest as they emerge and influence content strategy decisions as well as social media optimization. Social conversations influence search behaviors and if you can identify relevant concepts that are emerging in popularity on the social web, why not create and optimize content around those topics so you’re easily found via search engines?
- Influentials – A listening program will help identify the influentials within the topics you’re monitoring providing the ability to prioritize who to connect with. As Brian Solis mentioned yesterday, Influence is the ability to affect intended outcomes and if you can provide influencers with something of value to them and their networks, it increases the reach of your own message and content substantially.
- SERPs - Social media monitoring tools don’t track search engine results pages and that’s why you should. All major search engines purchase data feeds from different social media sources and incorporate social media content within search results. Therefore, it’s important to monitor search results for key terms relevant to your business and identify what social sources are being included. If Google is showing blog posts above the fold for a competitive keyword phrase, it might be easier for you to get exposure by commenting on those blog posts with a link back to your site or making blog posts about that topic on your own blog.
Content makes the Social SEO world go round. One of the biggest growth areas in Online Marketing is the business of creating, optimizing and promoting content. Brands are becoming publishers, which isn’t really new, but becoming more common. Big brands have funded TV shows, Radio networks and other forms of editorial ie content, for years. The ease of publishing online provides many opportunities for companies to engage customers with content. It’s no longer enough to simply publish features and benefits information on products and services. Customers want more. Marketers would do well to create a content marketing strategy or as I like to call it, a Content Marketing Optimization Strategy. Inventory content assets such as web pages, images, video, audio, rich media and file types such as HTML, PDF, MS Office docs, Structured Data Feeds and RSS to assess what can be promoted via social channels and be ranked in search results. Map search keywords to search engine optimization content. Map social keywords to social media content.
If content can be searched it can be optimized and a well planned digital asset optimization effort that works in sync with social networking and promotions can efficiently get content to those that want it and also facilitate better search visibility. That is the essence of Social SEO.
With insight into the appropriate social media channels, influentials and a rock solid content marketing optimization strategy in place, it’s important to have a plan on how to connect with the communities where customers and prospects spend their time. Three key pieces to socializing your marketing efforts include:
- Buyer Personas – Research what your customers do on the social web. What are their social information discovery, consumption and sharing preferences. What influences them to share and buy?
- Grow Networks – Time strapped marketers often fail to spend time growing networks. Some try to buy friends literally or through repeated incentives. Spend a small, but consistent amount of time growing networks organically. That might mean 10-30 minutes every day commenting, friending, following, liking and updating on a daily basis. There is no substitute for participation when it comes to growing a network that can have a real effect on your ability to promote content that gets passed on and on and on.
- Promote – Plan to develop a cycle of social interaction by reconciling the needs of buyer personas with business goals in your content marketing strategy. Grow networks that you can promote optimized content to. Blogs can often serve as an ideal hub for this kind of content with spokes to the various social channels for content promotion such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.. A cycle of social participation starts with creating & promoting optimized content & assets. That content gets noticed, shared & voted on, growing awareness. The increased exposure attracts more subscribers, fans, friends, followers & links. Increased links & social exposure grow search & referral traffic. Traffic & community help with research to develop & further grow your social networks for content & SEO.
Success comes in many forms and with social media marketing and social SEO, it’s the combination of social media monitoring and web analytics that provides the most actionable value. Social media monitoring tools are not only effective for initial Listening, but also to determine the social effect of your optimized content marketing on the social web. Off site engagement can be monitored, measured and analyzed in combination with web analytics tools that provide insight into what social traffic does once they get to your web site. Leveraging monitoring and analytics to inform future content creation, keyword optimization and social promotion is essential for staying ahead of the competition and being effective at meeting customer needs.
Obviously, the implementation of such a simplified strategy can vary widely according the the purpose, but with so many companies unwilling to commit to developing an overall Social Media Roadmap, experimentation becomes a more reasonable alternative. Following a basic structure like the four steps listed above can help make a social media test or even a modest social media marketing program a lot more productive.