The start of a New Year marks a time when significant voices within an industry begin making their predictions for the next twelve months within the said industry. This is very much the case in search engine optimisation, and numerous ideas and theories have already been put forward about what 2012 holds in store for SEO. One suggestion that really jumped out at me came from Rand Fishkin at Moz, who said, long back “SEO without social media will become a relic of the past”. I’m a big fan of social media marketing, and while I don’t necessarily believe SEO without social media marketing will become extinct, I strongly believe that in the right context, social media can increase the efficiency of an SEO campaign tenfold. I hope to use this blog to explain why I think this is the case.
How can Social Media benefit Search Engine Optimisation?
Twitter logo social media marketing allows businesses to embellish their other online marketing efforts by engaging directly with potential customers and influencing significant commentators who themselves have a lot of outreach to potential customers. Traditionally, the success of an internet marketing campaign is judged by achieving a higher ranking in the search engines, and whether this is the correct way to judge success is up for debate. While social media marketing is becoming an increasingly powerful metric for determining ranking within the SERPs, its true value lies in being able to target and bring in relevant traffic direct from the social networks, and building brand reputation. The most obvious way to target this traffic is by looking for something called ‘social mentions’ or ‘direct mentions’.
The best examples of these are through Twitter. By using the search bar located at the top of every Twitter profile, businesses can search for their brand name to find examples of which people are talking about them, what they are saying and looking for ways to engage with those people, if appropriate. It might be the case that someone has mentioned the brand name on Twitter to express unhappiness at a quality of service or product. This provides just as good an opportunity for a business to engage with a person as if they had said something positive. You can try and remedy the situation by finding out what went wrong, and if necessary offering some form of compensation.
Twitter Search Bar
Other, less direct, social mentions come about when Twitter users Tweet something that includes an industry related keyword. Let’s say you are in charge of a catering company, you might search Twitter for ‘catering company’ or ‘caterers’. This will provide you with a list of Tweets that include those words, and in this is the opportunity to market your services. You might find someone who has recently tweeted something like ‘Panicking about sorting a catering company for my wedding!’ or ‘My son’s birthday is in two weeks…I better sort a caterer…’. Both these examples provide the opportunity for our imaginary catering opportunity to engage in some inbound marketing, but how they go about conducting that marketing is more important than finding it in the first place.
There might be a temptation, if our catering company was a bit lazy, to auto-reply to all mentions of certain keywords with a bland stock Tweet such as ‘It sounds like you need catering! Come check out our website @ www.example.com’. This is likely to be flagged as spam, because it really isn’t offering anything of value besides letting people know that your business exists in the first place. A much more effective strategy (although this takes more resources) is to respond to each Tweet individually with a personalised and insightful message. I would also say that it’s not necessary to directly market your services when you begin engaging with someone, just communicate with them and find out more about their problem before you dive in with the big sales pitch. That’s the great thing about using social media channels to conduct marketing, it gives you a context that is absent in cold calling and some other forms of offline marketing. Perhaps the person who needs a catering company for their wedding lives in London, and you might offer discounted prices for weddings being conducted in the London area. All these things come about through talking to these potential clients before you try to sell them your service.
Outside of Twitter, other opportunities to look for social mentions can be found at Google+. G+ is becoming a more recognised platform for bloggers, and using the search feature you can find out which bloggers are discussing catering, or wedding planning, or party planning. These are likely to be influential, and you can begin engaging with them in an attempt to get mentioned in their blogs, or on their website. For some companies, this might be a better way to increase online visibility than through an increased rank on the search engines.
The above examples I’ve mentioned are just a couple of examples about how social media is influencing search engine optimisation. While I don’t think that traditional SEO, absent of social media marketing, will become entirely defunct, adopters of this new inbound marketing technique are much more likely to have an advantage when it comes to increasing the online visibility of their business.