Socializing your SEO
I have written here before about the interactions between SEO and Social Media, and it’s a topic I expect to write quite a bit more on over the next several years. At root, both SEO and Social Marketing are designed to do the same thing – get people to your website, promote your products and services, and make your brand more visible. The difference is how they accomplish these goals.
In the most simplistic terms, SEO is aimed at robots and Social is aimed at humans. SEO is fundamentally about organizing your site in a way that search engine spiders can easily parse the content and determine how relevant that content is to user’s search queries to help users find the content they need – hopefully your content. Social on the other hand is all about leveraging the human desire to share things we like to get users to recommend content and products directly to their friends.
Of course, in practice the division isn’t nearly that cut and dry. As I’ve written previously, search engines are doing their best to include social relevance in their results. And when I say Social, I’m not just talking about Facebook and Google+. Stumbleupon has a plugin that assigns star ratings to search results in Google based on what people with interests similar to yours have said about the sites. And for Business to Consumer (B2C) companies Yelp and Google business reviews play a direct role in what shows up in Google businesses searches and how credible merchants are perceived to be.
Even aside from the direct and visible impacts of Social on search engine rankings, search engines have started placing increasing and increasingly heavy emphasis on off-site factors like inbound links in order to combat black-hat SEO farms. The quantity, diversity, content, and (most importantly) quality of those inbound links are some of the biggest factors in establishing your Search Engine Rank Page (SERP) score. Quality is key because it’s it’s weighted very heavily and because it’s determined by the relationships between the origin of the incoming link and the rest of the web. 10,000 incoming links from a link farm in Eastern Elbonia are not worth nearly as much as 1,000 likes from real humans sharing the content with other real humans. In fact, once Google realizes that you have 10k incoming links from link farms you’re going to be very heavily penalized. This is one area where social media absolutely excels – every person who shares content off your .com site on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, or any of a dozen other sites and services is creating a link back to your site. Best of all, those links will self-propagate as your content spreads through their social graphs from one friend to another. The trick is to create content that invites people to participate, add their own thoughts, and share with friends.
And that’s the most important take-away: make great content and make that content easy to find and easy to share. In many ways Social is really reinforcing the best practices of White Hat SEO. In Social SEO keyword density, clear document structure, and appropriate use of long-tail search phrases are still important. So is writing clear, concise, and focused product descriptions and page content, both because that focus makes it easier for search engines to parse your pages and because it makes it easier for people to share those pages. All the things that would encourage legitimate bloggers to backlink to your articles and reference them or encourage people to cite you as a source are the same things that will encourage people to share your content.
Be fun, be witty, be engaging, and – as Bill and Ted said so long ago – be excellent to each other (seriously some of the most important life advice I’ve ever seen in a film). It’s really that simple.