Lee Odden

Intersection of Search and Social Media

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

search pr socialEarlier this week I gave a presentation on the intersection of SEO, online PR and social media to a great mix of people (mostly agencies) at a SEMPO Arizona event. The SEO/PR/Social topic is an interesting mix due to the convergence that’s been happening over the past 2-3 years and of course, because it’s the essence of what we’ve been doing at TopRank.

Forward thinking companies are investing in social media for a variety of reasons, including gaining a competitive advantage through building relationships, creating content and capturing mindshare.  I think it’s safe to say that companies making investments in better connecting with their customers now, will have a distinct advantage over those that are resolved to “wait and see” with this social web thing.

TopRank’s survey of the Top Digital Marketing tactics for 2009 revealed 6 of the top 10 tactics as social media. Marketingsherpa’s 2008 Study of Social Media Marketing & PR reports social media as the top marketing budget line item for increase in 2009.

Why the optimism? Social media offers a variety of benefits:

  • Build thought leadership
  • Improve customer relationships
  • Improve recruiting
  • Reduce customer service costs
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Increase media coverage
  • Influence sales

Despite the optimism, the social web and the practice of better connecting with customers through social technologies is new territory for most companies. Traditionally, communications between companies and customers has focused on marketing, sales and customer service.


Audience at SEMPO AZ Event

According to analysis of Peter Kim’s social media examples wiki, early adopters of social media are focusing on blogging, social networking, microblogging and video in the Retail, Consumer Goods/Services, High Tech, Media/Entertainment, Automotive and Financial Services industries. There are over 900 examples on the wiki.beingpeterkim.com site.

Even with the optimism and efforts at early adoption, social media implementation has been all over the board. Fake blogs, spammy and salesey behavior within social communities and overzealous SEO efforts have represented some of the stumbling blocks and social media fails.

SEO for most companies is tough enough. Add social media to the mix and many are lost. According to Marketingsherpa’s Social Media Marketing & PR survey, adoption of social media is low mostly because of uneducated/in experienced staff along with difficulty in measuring direct ROI. It’s hard to win management buy-in and budget without those resources.

Even when companies do implement social media or SEO tactics, they tend to do so independently or siloed from each other. Core objectives for social media efforts tend to focus on building community. In contrast, company SEO efforts focus mostly on generating leads and sales. The realization that implementing SEO best practices with social media content creation/promotion can actually extend social reach via search as well as compliment an existing SEO program is where the SEO and Social opportunity lies.

A good example of social popularity turning into good search visibility is Blendtec. The video where they “blend” an iPhone has over 6 million views, 6,000 inbound links and ranks top 10 on Google for the search phrase, “blender“.

What parts of social media content should you optimize with keywords? For situations where you are the one creating the content, optimize:

  • Titles
  • File names
  • Descriptions
  • Anchor text
  • Annotations, show notes, transcriptions

In cases of consumer generated content, you can influence keyword optimization through the content management system and tools used by consumers to publish. Examples include: keyword rich categories built in (and required), suggested keyword rich tags, sorting top content using keyword lists, and many others.

Of course, SEO isn’t much without links and the ability to promote, share and attract links is one of the most significant SEO benefits from social media. The key thing to remember about leveraging social media for link building is to create content worthy of getting a link in the first place.  Then measure content stuctures, formats, media types and sites that work best and refine.

The kicker with creating great content is that no one will know you’ve created that exceptional content unless you tell them. So, promotion is very important as is the development of channels to distribute your content. RSS works well as does building out networks on relevant social media sites ranging from Facebook to StumbleUpon to YouTube.

Working search and social media tactics together can amplify many of the core objectives. The bottom line is that companies who make the effort and investment to figure out how to test, build expertise and mangage though a strategy, will achieve a distinct competitive advantage over companies that wait.

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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. Particularly relevant as links shared in social media properties are influencing rankings within search properties, including Google. Only going to get more integrated… I think http://worio.com is a solid example of what engines would operate like in 2 years… though it’s a bit early to tell exactly.

    Great article. Thanks for dropping the knowledge!

  2. “SEO for most companies is tough enough. Add social media to the mix and many are lost.”

    Sad as it is, I’m glad to see that this isn’t just an issue in South Dakota. 🙂

    Excellent post! Thanks Lee.

  3. The overlap of search and social, as you have well documented in this and other posts and presentations, continues to grow.

    “uneducated/in experienced staff along with difficulty in measuring direct ROI.”

    Teaching companies how to use the tools that are at their disposal, as well as teaching and demonstrating how to measure ROI are extremely important. However, teaching how to listen/monitor is the key to unlocking the door for most companies.

  4. Very interesting read, and all of the points you’ve made about the overlap between Social Media marketing and SEO makes perfect sense. You have my thanks as a professional blogger 🙂

  5. Avatar Kelli Piperata says

    I agree. it is pretty intresting.

  6. Hi there,

    A very interesting article Lee, thank you very much for sharing. I just might get this one printed out and read it later 😉

    Eddie Gear

  7. Avatar Babette Burdick says

    Lee, Another great post! More than anything, it’s important to have a plan when employing various forms of social media for business development and personal branding. I feel that lack of a well-conceived and executed robust brand strategy, regardless of Internet venue employed, can be a tremendous source of frustration to small to mid-sized companies in particular. These folks often do not have the resources, staff or know-how to be consistent and knowledgeable about social media. It’s up to thought leaders like you to continue with these types of posts so that these companies can “get it.”

  8. This is a very interesting post and I agree with the points you have made. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks for the post/insights. I think that most people are underestimating the impact of social media, especially blogger outreach on SEO and on-going traffic.

    A big part of the challenge here is the misunderstanding that you expressed in:
    “adoption of social media is low mostly because of uneducated/in experienced staff along with difficulty in measuring direct ROI.”

    I’m surprised that this comes up so often (like when I was moderating a recent panel). ROI can be measured much the same way that you measure it today. And the same kinds of things you are trying to do with SEO is what you are doing with social media. Ultimately, it’s about driving the right kind of behavior that converts.

  10. Avatar John Robinson says

    “adoption of social media is low mostly because of uneducated/in experienced staff along with difficulty in measuring direct ROI. It’s hard to win management buy-in and budget without those resources.”

    Do you think a service that combines effective SEO, content management and social media distribution channels at an affordable cost will solve this problem?

    We’re working on making the integration of these three elements an easy process at Yourmagz so I’m interested to hear your take on where you see services fitting into this mix in the future.

  11. The complexity of this marketing mix is compounded by the fact that most marketing folks are not social media hawks. They might have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, etc., but they aren’t on them for the better part of their day. The real winners in the social space are going to be those who CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT these platforms and are on them all day engaging with customers and building their following. One-offing a few posts each day just won’t cut it. Social media has to be part of your soul.

  12. “most marketing folks are not social media hawks.” It’s funny but it’s true. When you work with online travel marketers you notice they’re stuck in old practices like “put your site in that directory”. A marketing expert should be always attracted by new promotional tools, but this seems not the case…

  13. social media is not to help my from my experience, i don,t know, that is me that wrong or just i using wrong way to promote in social media, but any thanks for sharing

  14. Avatar Suzanne Vara/Lvadgal says

    Social media is a change that so many do not want to embrace. Traditional media is easier as for the company it is not as time consuming. Run an ad and wait for the phone to ring. That is a comfort zone for many.

    The change to social media can be overwhelming as it is every day and is not an overnight success. So many do not think they have the time or are not willing to cultivate relationships and seek out new customers.

    It will continue to be a struggle to get some companies to include social media in their marketing mix and they will eventually lag behind and not be where their customers are. SEO is great but without links it is only half the battle. Links come from social media and getting the word out there.

    Great post and maybe this will spark those who are on the fence to embrace social media – if they are out there to read this.

  15. Avatar Sean Percy says

    Good piece and thoughtful comments. This is a difficult subject for many clients to get their heads around.

    Take retailers – those retailing interesting niche products like H20Audio for example, they have an excellent opportunity to use social media to share knowledge and drive traffic – using twitter, niche cmmunity sites or relevant social shopping sites like http://www.kaboodle.com and http://www.tribesmart.com

  16. That was a good read, thanks! I think these two should work hand in hand. The sad part is that they really lack knowledge about how both can work together.

  17. Interesting read.. thanks for sharing.

    I have enjoyed success (in my clients eyes – arguably the most important thing?) with using SM for B2B, but whenever we’ve polled businesses about their thoughts on using SM marketing it’s either been negative, deemed irrelevant or a nice-to-have-but-lets-focus-on-what-we-know-for-now… so it’s always an uphill struggle convincing management!

    So, I’d be interested to read a follow-up post discussing the use of SM for B2B, success stories you’ve been involved with etc…

  18. Avatar Kathleen K. O'Connor says

    I find social media marketing difficult to grasp still. I know it would help me in my business (or so they say) but for now I can’t even find time for marketing that doesn’t bear the fruits of labor quickly.
    Social media consists of creating great content and attracting links, which is part of SEO. I am not sure if the two strategies can really be combined. They may just have to stay separate since the ROI of SEO can be measured while the ROI of social media cannot.

  19. Avatar Dan Waggoner says

    Great Post! Thanks for the helpful information. To me it seems obvious that you must use social marketing for the link building alone. Twiiter, Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon and others have really helped me to boost my blog and website performance.