Lee Odden

4 Steps to Social Media SEO Success

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

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.

Social SEO

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.

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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. I read this article, and couldn’t agree with it more, if I were in a different industry. Maybe its just me not being positive enough, but my business is selling energy efficient lighting to commercial businesses. I can see maybe how facebook social sites may catch a glimmer about something to a customer, but I am faced with 99% of my customers are business owners, and 99% of my likes come form non business owners. I have been blogging like crazy with really good solid articles, but it doesn’t appear anyone is really reading them. I guess mostly I am faced with how do I get people to care enough about there business to even go on the web to see what’s out there. Any suggestions?

    • Matt, there is a bit of a disconnect between great content and content plus promotion in order to reach marketing goals.

      If you haven't already, do the homework to find out what blogs in your industry are already popular. If none, then what similar blogs are popular. What do they write about? How do they format their content? Do they have a call to action? Do they participate and promote their blog content on other social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Forums?

      There's more work to make blogging a successful marketing effort than writing posts. It can be a time suck until you get a handle on the best topics, where to promote and how to engage readers so they comment and you can include them in the content creation process.

      Be sure to check out our blogging category as we have many tips that could help you.

      • I appreciate it. Its been hard to understand… I do all these posts on lighting and no comments, nothing… The one time I make a post about a sea turtle, someone gives me a linkback… LOL… I’ll check it out.

  2. Very comprehensive article. The 4 pillars you identified make a great deal of sense. All 4 are heavily linked to each other, and you need them all to have a successful blog. You gave very good advice when mentioning that you should write your blog posts with an eye for how search engines will interpret them; this is often overlooked

    http://twitter.com/StartupSidekick (follow me on Twitter for fresh entrepreneurial advice)

    • Search and social are influential mechanisms for discovery and sharing. Content creators that expect online audiences to consume and share content have no choice but to create content with search in mind. Otherwise it's their competition that will be found in the search results.

  3. Avatar MattGregg says

    I read this

  4. Hi Lee, I especially like two things that you mention here: 1) The need to listen. We need to understand our prospects. We need to know their dreams, fears, goals, and passions. We need to know what they really want and need. Without this, we can't provide the right content for them – or even the right product or service. You're so right that social media allows us to do this and we can now do it in ways we never imagined 5 years ago.
    2) The need to build networks AKA relationships. This is a part that many business owners overlook when trying to use social media and/or content marketing. People will be much more influenced and impacted by your content, and want to do business with you more, when they know and like you! 🙂

    • Hey Scott, participation is indeed something many business owners that are beginning their social media adventure tend to forget. It's indicative of not knowing the nature of the social web. Push marketing efforts alone are not going to engage or motivate people to share your content. Building networks on a regular basis is essential to being competitive. The motivator for change is often a matter of showing the size of the competition's network compared to your own. Get on board or be left behind, that sort of thing.

  5. Avatar Sophie Benshitta says

    I really think that what you say is fundamental and yet when I speak with people, none of them seems to know that these are the pathways to any marketing success, not just in the social media area. Very good post

  6. I think one thing that is very important is to engage the user. Find out what interests people and talk to them on an informal (not too much) basis…

    for a marketing blog that also discusses social media, please check out:

  7. I don't think enough people pay attention to creating useful content. Almost everyone wants to create a website and have it become popular overnight – but they do not ask themselves WHY people should even visit their site.

    Yeah a person can market through social channels and have those people end up on their website, but its the content that matters the most in the end. Content is what keeps the reader interested enough to keep coming back and sharing with others what they read.

  8. It is all about listening to your users and then creating content around what they want to know about

    • Thats true….but one should be enough capable to get what the user want from them and provide exactly the same to see measure the difference

  9. This is a fantastic article. I like the idea of really monitoring from day one and deciding which channels are best to dig into. I have a question f for more international brands. What happens if you're monitoring conversation about the brand, but finding most of it is being done in other countries? It seems many of these tools are unable to filter to just US-only posts. Since each country has their own teams/strategies, it seems like a bit of a challenge in terms of targeting conversation and really taking advantage of opportunities.

    • That's a great question Kate and some of the monitoring tools do filter by language or source to get to the filtered stream you're looking for. Otherwise, the use of negative words for frequently occurring words that are indicative of a source to be filtered can be used to some degree.

  10. Avatar LEADSExplorer says

    Listen, Content, Socialize – OK and logical.
    Measure: Just make sure you measure the right audience:
    – If you are in B2B you need to measure the companies not just all your website visitors.
    – If you sell to mothers, then you have to make sure you can measure the mothers on your website or participating in the conversation

  11. I think measuring the direct results from social media efforts is extremely important. If you’re just doing social media hoping for the best, you might as well be wasting time on MySpace. Cool article!

  12. Great Article, one of the best I've read that focuses on marrying Social Media and SEO tactics. I especially like what you said about SERP's, great insight there.

  13. Avatar Leo Verkoelen says

    Good and helpfull article. By the way in The netherlands is Linkedin growing very fast. Asa a direct marketer I thoughr implementing online marketing would be easy. I wasn’t.

    Leo Verkoelen

  14. Great well rounded article! Combining all those points together are key to make the best of an online video, especially to further benefit your social SEO efforts

  15. I'm just amazed that business people don't seek out influencers. Influencers have an extreme ability to build your business.

    I like your blog post. Please don't post to often. My competition may read this and use the information.

  16. Content, content, content
    What a great article. Content is everything when it comes to making it big online.

  17. Avatar GeorgeG @ Web Design Proposal says

    I would say that 'content' and 'measuring' are the two most important steps. By a whisker though, as all 4 are vital and work in unison. As you mentioned – web analytics play a big role in that they can quantify if you're on the right path or not. They save you time and money, ultimately.

    Just want to touch on 'listening” –> that mantra of build it and they will come is flat-out wrong. Reason being, the audience wants what they want, and yuo need to build around that.

    Pretty cool read…

  18. Socialise is the bit too many people don't seem to get. It's not one way broadcasting. It's an actual conversation, with give and take, and disagreements, and in-jokes.

  19. Avatar rgcreativeweb says

    Hi Lee, Nice post again. I know that rss feed is that orange color icon which gives latest updates about particular site. What is Structured Data Feeds?

    • Structured data is markup standards that would make it easier for search engines to understand web content. It also allows search engines to do more with the data like what Yahoo is doing with SearchMonkey. Example would be to show reviews for restaurant listings.

      • Avatar rgcreativeweb says

        Thanks Lee for your reply and explaining that term by giving suitable example.

  20. Great post on social SEO success! i will be elaborating on this information in my presentation next week — http://www.meetup.com/pittsburgh-seo-group/cale

  21. Avatar Kevinbeamer says

    SEO techniques are very effective to make a certain link more visible in such search sites. With that, companies today got comments from their potential clients and it is easier for them to find their contractor leads, because the possible clients are the one who find them.

  22. Avatar azblogtips says

    The step one “Listening” seems a challenge with me as a part time blogger but I need to digg in that sooner. Thanks

  23. Avatar junemarkm says

    Thanks for sharing some SEO techniques. Very interesting

  24. Great post on social SEO

  25. Thanks for sharing

  26. In these days social media marketing is going on, people are taking too much interest in social marketing , we can ignore social marketing , I really like these idea, I will also apply these idea in social media marketing

  27. As long as you love what you’re doing and determined of achieving success, a positive result is attainable. In addition, you also need to lay down a plan with effective strategies that will fit your personality.

  28. It’shard to do SEO for Social Media but is easier with a system.
    Thank you for your ideas.

  29. Good Post on Content Marketing Optimization Strategy.

  30. Avatar Marrysen says

    Excellent! But still i am not satisfy myself, how to improve ROI though SMM, i am looking some other article here, can anyone guide me?

  31. Great clear article that gives me a direction where to start when advising my clients