By now we all know the importance of both content and link building to an SEO strategy. But the phenomenon of social media has delivered new tools to provide SEO’s with new techniques to dominate the SERPs.
Social SEO – What is it all about?
Whilst past SEO strategies have largely involved artificially creating relevance and popularity of a site, social media has provided new tools to leverage collaboration and interaction to build real popularity and authority on the web. It is this which some experts believe will form a major part of Google’s ranking algorithm in the future as they continue in their quest to deliver users truly relevant content.
Social Search Tool Box
The diagram below lists 4 of the key social tools that I believe search marketers can leverage to dominate the SERPs.
A closer look at the tool box
Search engines reward fresh content – which is one of the key reasons blogging can form an integral part of a search strategy. In addition, as a blog provides topical, humorous or even controversial content, it is more likely to be of interest to the user and shared with peers, as opposed to traditional site content which in some cases is prepared solely for the purpose of ranking within search engines. In addition user interaction in the form of users reviews and comments can also play an integral role in SERPs, as comments provides additional fresh content that can be indexed by the search engine.
However despite the content benefits, blogs provide a much bigger opportunity to search marketers. Popular blog content is often syndicated through RSS or cited by other blogs and sites which can generate additional back links to your site – which would normally take weeks to build manually.
Digital Asset Sharing Sites
With nearly 1 in 3 of all search results including universal/blended content, rich content is an important part of SEO. Over and above the basic optimisation techniques however it is the social aspects of sites such as YouTube, Flickr and many others which can help your organisation to dominate the search results. Social popularity measured by views, ratings, comments are sometimes used by Google to rank results. For example YouTube video’s ratings, views and comments are used to rank video content within SERPs. In addition the more popular the content is on these sites, the better they will then rank when new users search for related content on these platforms. This will in turn enables users to find your rich content and either embed it into their blogs / sites or share it with their community, all of which assists to generate additional inbound links for your site.
Social Bookmarking / News Sites
Social bookmarking and news sites have empowered users to store, organise and in some cases rate their favourite content on the web. As sites such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit and many increased in popularity, it has enabled brands to bypass the traditional PR channels, and enables web users to determine what is newsworthy or simply useful to their needs.
So you might be thinking that these sites have linking value. Unfortunately these sites use nofollow tags, thus there is no direct link value derived from such a strategy. As however these sites rank prominently within SERPs, it can assist organisations to dominate top 10 results with additional offsite listings. And similar to digital asset sharing sites, prominent content is more likely to be easier to locate and published on sites/blogs creating back links to your site.
A blog is obviously a great platform of content to leverage social news/bookmarking, however to do so it is important to empower users with widgets to circulate this content. This unfortunately means that brands have less control over their brand than previously – but this is the nature of social media.
Whilst links featured on the major platforms, ie Facebook, Twitter, MySpace do not provide the valuable link juice, social networking is still an important part of the strategy. And by now you would understand why? Social networking provides a strong platform for content from blogs or sites to be distributed and shared across communities and the web. In addition however content on these networks such as profiles, questions and answers and other branded content are often indexed providing organisations with additional opportunities to dominate SERPs through offsite methods.
However probably the most significant development in this space is the evolution of “social search” which is expected to be the next big trend – and Twitter is leading the way in this area. The key benefit of social search over traditional search is; content is indexed in real time, providing users with the immediacy to answer timely questions. As a result it is important to consider how your organisation can integrate with platforms such as Twitter, as an increasing number of users will begin to search via such networks and I have no doubt more of the traditional engines will look to leverage this content more and more in the future.
Final words to the wise
Whilst the above techniques will leave many SEOs salivating there are a few important considerations.
A social media marketing strategy is not just an extension of the existing SEO strategy. Social media marketing is a shift from traditional marketing techniques and can require the involvement of many organisation stakeholders. Thus it is advisable that a senior stakeholder determines the key objectives social media must achieve for the organisation, and SEOs can then determine how best to form part of this greater strategy.
Whilst many of the above techniques cover the viral nature of the web – the heart of any social search strategy is the content. Whilst SEOs have in the past had more control over crafting copy for search engines – the balance of optimisation and quality content has never been more important. In addition as the web becomes increasingly saturated with content, organisations need to innovate in this area and push the boundaries to provide users with something truly unique and worth sharing.