Lee Odden

Poll: Integrating SEO & Social Media Marketing

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

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

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Lee Odden Chris BroganAt 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?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. A very sensible synthesis of the “debate” about SEO vs. SMM… They both are quite interconnected, and they’re both too big and detailed for one person to be an “expert” at all aspects of either one – let alone both.

  2. You bring up some great points. A lot of this goes to the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing. A smart company that can afford it will get an industry-trusted expert/firm from each field, with the understanding that they need to work together to achieve the central mission.

    It gets even more complex when you throw reputation management into the mix… some companies want you to help their positive results get more visibility in search, and may not care about social media’s main benefits at the moment. Think of a chiropractor who is breaking an association with a bad firm they left, or a plumber who had bad press about an admitted wrong-doing that has now been addressed and solved, although the complaint listings still exist.

    Companies who can’t afford to build teams of players from different areas have the responsibility of listening to thought leadership that bridges the gap between each of these worlds as they seek in-house solutions. Great article.

    • Thanks Tinu.

      For various reasons, many companies want to handle tactics in-house. At the same time, many are engaging consultants for direction, strategy and oversight. It makes sense from a cost standpoint as well as allocation of resources.

      The ORM example you give is a very good point. Long time reputation management efforts deliver excellent search visibility benefits, whether the client company acknowledges that or not, is up to the agency’s communication skills.

  3. Bravo, my friend. I think the key deliverable in this is that for those shopping for marketing services, investigating the credibility, proof of value delivered and experience is the key. A quick dive into “Lee Odden” online will show that you have the requisite experience, breadth and depth of offerings in search marketing, social media, SEO and public relations to drive success for their dollar spent. A quick dive into the charlatans doesn’t return similar results and they’ll ultimately phase themselves out of the business. Word of mouth can change your business for the good, but also for the bad if you aren’t delivering.

    I love the fact we are having the discussion. Too many of those social media and SEO “monkeys” (my term for the three months of Twitter and you’re an “expert” syndrome) are popping up and the customer needs to know more about what makes a good, integrated approach.

    Well said, my friend.

    • Good one Jason, I think I like “monkey” more than “charlatan”.

      One of the things we’re working on with our company site and communicating value is to increase the “client” news signal substantially. Rather than tout speaking events and media coverage quite so much, the emphasis is shifting more towards client wins, renewals and definitely case studies. Nothing shows value more than measurable results.

      Awesome seeing you at SXSW by the way 🙂

  4. Lee, when you say “SEO consultants for SEO and PR firms for PR” how do avoid the situation where you have link building SEO firm promoting your content via blogger outreach, and stepping on the toes of your PR firm’s existing relationships.

    By the same token, if your PR firm is going to engage in social media on your behalf, how do you get them to think about the link building impact/potential of their outreach? How much emphasis should PR agencies put on helping a client get links?

    I agree, the best case scenario is finding a marketing consultant adept at PR, SEO, and social media, but I have rarely seen this.

    • From a client perspective, proper agency management should take care of most “stepping on toes” situations. My agency, TopRankMarketing.com, has specialized on SEO and PR since 2001 and blogging/social media tactics since 2004. We’ve worked with clients as a PR agency and interfaced with their SEO firm. We’ve worked with clients as a SEO agency and worked with the 3rd party PR firm to help them extend the value of their efforts via SEO (to the benefit of our mutual client).

      There are agencies out there with high degrees of SEO, Social and PR expertise, but I agree, not many.

  5. I do both. I’ve been doing SEO now since Infoseek offered real-time indexing back in 1998. It’s always been a great tool for me; adding SMM to the mixture makes it even more effective.

    Data points, Barbara

  6. Lee, I think you do a good job of outlining the issue. It would seem that “SEO” as a marketing concept is starting to evolve past the technical and to the pragmatic. As you point out it is about content and relationships. Social Media, which is in want of content and relationships forms a great symbiotic relationship with the tactics of SEO. I think your last point is right on…instead of focusing on the tactic, focus on someone who knows marketing, content and relationship building online. The tools will always change but the process stays the same.

  7. @Sean Jackson, I def. agree with what you said, ‘social media forms a great symbiotic relationship’ with what we utilize for SEO.
    @Brett Borders (first comment)Your point reminds me of a post we did a while back http://www.verticalmeasures.com/link-building/an-seo-is-not-a-link-builder/ Look at the comments…a lil debate going there.

  8. Social media is very useful in link building… most seo companys do.

  9. This article is great in that it both explains and gives examples of how SEO and social media have become such a huge player in the marketing business. I highly agree with the part where you said “What’s important is that goals, strategy and tactics are accurately represented.” Thanks for this article Lee, I look forward to reading more.

    Sean C.

  10. I hear people say all the time they don’t use either and I just think that it’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. When a trend change hits you in the face, you HAVE to oblige and jump right in or you’ll drown. These days, you have most definitely need to utilize every method you can. And it’s just going to continue online.

  11. yeah i found many good point with this article. I made some blog that one blog is included some product that i review. in first achieve goal, i made this blog for making an advertise product but in the end what i made up is just like i have been introduce this product not to give any more detail or making some advertising, you know what i mean..
    so i decide to put a video review to proof what i have reviewed product. To make this more like giving a service i put my link email just for in case.

  12. Great article. Love the examples of how SEO and social media have become necessary in the marketing business.

  13. Lots of good thoughts here, Lee, but I especially like this one: “but with social media, it’s best that the client themselves develop customer relationships.”

    As a consultant, I can help clients with strategy and tactics, but m a firm believer that when it comes to actually building relationships, that can’t be outsourced. To be successful with social media, a client company will have to invest in the manpower necessary to do the ongoing work of relationship building.

  14. Lee,

    Great post man. I was just talking with someone about the so-called “Social Media Experts” out there. It just cracked me up when you said “after 5 months of twittering and facebooking…”

    You’re absolutely right about delivering value though. It’s hard for people to understand and determine that value. Bottom line is it all about the balance. Don’t focus too much in one area and too less in the other. Also, remember to use Social Media to build relationships not to just drive loads of traffic and backlinks.

    I always enjoy your posts. Keep it up.

    • Thanks J.R. I appreciate the feedback. Relationships are a far more valuable currency than links and I think more marketers involved with organic search optimization are realizing that.

  15. It’s what comes around goes around, it’s always been about relationship building, the only unique aspect of it today is that your relationships are measured in the zillions, and communicating with your peers is done in a multiple, instant manner.

  16. Avatar Bill McIntosh says

    I’m facing one of these johnny come lately SEO, social media & marketing “experts” in my local area. He attended one of my free seminars and… BAM! He’s now an expert. The funniest part about it is that he’s become a competitor.