You can't look up without reading about another link between social media and search engine optimization. Bing is now integrating Facebook "Like" data into its rankings and Google has just started integrating activity from Twitter, Quora, and FlickR. So the question is starting to be asked, "How do you leverage social media for SEO?"

Last week, I challenged folks to stop ignoring social media for SEO, so the inevitable questions ensue: "If I am going to pay attention to social media, just what do I do?"

Just as with everything else in digital marketing, you'll be regaled by hucksters that know the secret tricks to really boost your rankings. You'll also hear from true social media experts, but how can you tell the difference?

You'll hear about how social media activity affects rankings, so you should start lots of social media activity to raise your profile. You'll hear about how you should create automated personas in social media to retweet and link to your social media content. You'll hear about how you should encourage employees to reach out to their networks to share the company's social media. You'll hear a lot of tactics. Some of them are good, while others might be more dubious.

You should use the same screening mechanism for these tactics that I have proposed for any search marketing idea: If what you are doing benefits not only you, but the search engines and the searchers, then go ahead. It is probably a very good thing to do. But if it feels like something that would help you, the search marketer, but doesn't really do anything for anyone else, beware.

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You might wake up one day to find it is against the search engines' terms of service. Or that it no longer gives you the ranking boost that it did at first. And you've wasted all that time any money on a very temporary gain.

So that is a way to assess the value of tactics, but is tactics all that you care about? No. Your strategy in social media needs to complement your strategy in the rest of your marketing, but with a twist. Instead of just sell, sell, sell, it needs to be help, help, help. If you can pull that off with the right tactics, you'll find you succeed in social media, and SEO too.

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February 28, 2011

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Hi. I'd love this post to go a little bit further.Could you help us all by listing some of the top tactics for optimising SEO opportunities from social media?

Hi Alex,

I don't think there is a set of generic top tactics that fit every situation, any more than there is vanilla advice in any marketing situation. When I work with clients, the way they work with social media depends on the kind of company they represent. For example, companies with a great deal of information surrounding their products are often served by blogs that go deep into how the products are made, how they work, and what kinds of problems can be solved. For other companies, rather than focusing on being helpful, they might focus on entertaining videos that make their products seem fun. Knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it is much more important than the tactics.

Think about social media the same way you think about links. You could spend lots of time paying for links, trading links, or campaigning for links, or you could create content so compelling that it naturally attracts links. The search engines are far more likely to sniff out the first set of tactics as being less than an unbiased vote for quality.

Social media isn't different. Produce the content in social media for its own sake. If your customers want to follow you on Twitter, or read your blog posts, or watch your videos, make sure that you've done the work to tie that content back to your Web site by some means. That way you get people who see it to move deeper in their relationship with you. You also, incidentally, clue the search engines in to who is behind the content. Then the activity registered helps your site, in addition to the boost you get by having that social media content itself show up in the rankings.

Pulling off social media for SEO is tough. If you aren't a huge retailer and don't have something to provide consumers with i.e. discounts or giveaways, they have no reason to like your facebook page or follow you on twitter. Companies often provide social media help to small companies and gain followers and fans for them, but are these fans really interested in what these people have to say say? The purpose is to get your brand out there with fresh links every day like with blogging and if people are retweeting or sharing on facebook it looks great for you. Unfortunately for most this is impossible. I think Google will not give social media too much preference because it gives disproportionate benefits to large, multi-million dollar/ billion dollar businesses and retailers.

I would caution companies to stay away from creating faux personalities to follow or "Like" their social networking profiles. While Google is taking into account how many people are associated with your social brand, there is also value in having followers who have their own history and trust with the search engines. Having an industry expert or popular figure follow/Like your brand is worth much more than a dozen John Smiths who don't do anything but repost your tweets. Users are smart, they can recognize a “bot” when they see one.

Totally agree, Nick. I think that there are some areas that aren't so black and white, however, such as when a company has an official Twitter handle that tweets blog post done by employees or retweets certain employees because those ideas are on topic for a certain audience. But in general, I agree that bots are not a smart way to go.

Mike, your number one filter, is this information helpful to everyone or am I just doing it for a link is spot on.

People don't want to be sold. They don't want to just get a "buy now" message from you. Provide them valuable info and they will find the "buy now" on their own. Sure there can be a lot of money in landing lots of one-shot wonders, but frankly I don't find that very fulfilling.

I want long-term clients who value long-term relationships. Spend the extra time and keep that in mind. I think you'll find it much more rewarding.

cd :O)

I don't think it is that clear-cut, Angela. Those big brands have a financial advantage, but social media is a far more level playing field than advertising, for example. Money always brings an advantage, but it brings much less of an advantage in low-cost areas such as PR, SEO, and social media. The big brands are actually afraid that their money is not enough of an advantage.

You said it better than I did, Chris. If we take the benefit we get from any of these activities as a side effect, rather than the main point, we'll usually be doing the right thing.

I so agree that social media won't work if we are not going to help! Good, useful and valuable information is what makes people know like and trust you or your business. And people do business with people they know like and trust! So the same goes for social interaction with prospects, help them, they buy your stuff! Sell them stuff first and they buy from someone who helps them! It is that simple! Nice stuff! Love it!

Travis Chapman
Owner @ Chapman Media Marketing

In terms of SEO I would say that the power really comes from relevant and regularly updated content. Harnessing any SEO value from Social Media is very rare it is much more likely to be used the other way round -- Good SEO for your site / blog etc will encourage more people to 'connect' with you through the various Social Media streams, as a result you are then in a position to add value to your brand though promotion, news & general comments -- Interacting with your customers/prospects and creating a community atmosphere.

I would say for most small businesses, to create a rigid and effective strategy for SEO & Social Media it is better & ultimately cheaper to outsource this. The last company (only 10 employees) I worked at used a product called ContentPlus, over 6 months or so the relevant traffic being brought to their (relatively new) site was evident in volume.

I'm not sure if ContentPlus are still around as I haven't worked with them for a long time now but Google them and send an enquiry.

The important thing for a small business is just getting noticed --- the next step is keeping the traffic interested and involved --- and then converting into business (organically & naturally) creating a nice approach of sale for everyone involved.

Good luck !

Phillip Hughes
SEO Specialist, London

A very daring challenge Mike :)

Another great social media website to have up to date is LinkedIn.

Your company LinkedIn profile will always show up in branded Google search results if you have your profile done right.

Great post, too many people try to find loop holes in google.

you worded it perfectly.

is what you are doing of benefit to the searcher and search engine

Well its no surprise that Google and Bing both use social signals in their ranking algorythms. All in all though, a business needs a specialist social media person to take control of their social media marketing campaigns.

Sometimes this person could also be their SEO expert or at least be from the same company or agency.

Help versus sell...such a great point that everyone needs to keep in mind! If you're only trying to sell to the public, then join the 5 billion other people lazily shoving their product in the public's face. However, if you want to help the public through your product, then you build trust and value which are the two necessary items for a successful business.

Great article, thank-you!!!

Thanks for this post!

Never thought in my dreams, that social media would reach such a "status"...And it will grow much more in the future, for sure!

Social media and Social search has grown bigger than we expected . Major Search engines are try to develop more social media websites to compete existing ones .

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