Earlier 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.
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:
- File names
- 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.