Are You Getting the Most from Your Social Media and SEO?

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If you consider social media and SEO as separate entities, you may want to rethink that. New research suggests they’re closely linked and that failing to integrate the two can cost you. A recent SEO strategy report from marketing research specialists with Ascend2 and Research Underwriters found that successful SEO strategies are predicated on making social media a key part of their overall optimization plan.

SEO Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Search engine optimization is no longer a fire-and-forget skill. Search engine algorithms, competitors’ SEO efforts, reviews from customers and, increasingly, social media all influence your position on search engine results pages. Because SEO is relative and volatile rather than absolute, it’s vital to examine and control the factors that influence it. One such element is social media.

The Ascend2 study polled business leaders and found a strong correlation between those who integrated social media with their SEO strategies and overall SEO success. That dovetails well with information from Google’s Matt Cutts, who recently described the increasing importance of social signals to search engine rankings in the search engine’s most recent Penguin 2.0 update. The late May update affected sites without a strong social media presence more deeply than it did those with a stabilizing social media signal.

To maximize the return on your SEO investment, bring your social media channels into the mix. Blog posts that link back to your site, tweets that point followers to feature articles and a Facebook wall that blends seamlessly with your static site can make a tremendous difference in your SEO success.

Not All Social Media Is Created Equal

When you search for a local restaurant or hotel, you’ll find certain high-value, high-traffic sites toward the top of the page. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Amazon’s review pages and other crowd-sourced social media venues are more influential than purely social sites or those with a low signal-to-noise ratio such as Twitter. By ranking well with social media channels that use rating systems, you gain significant authority in search engines’ eyes.

If your company is well established and has positive reviews, that’s good news. For newly established businesses that haven’t yet generated much buzz on high-profile rating sites or for those that have unwarranted negative reviews, overcoming that social media deficit can be a challenge. Positive social media marketing and a multi-faceted SEO approach can reverse a downward trend or put you on the map.

Original Content Counts on All Channels

The SEO strategy outlook report sheds light on where business owners and marketing directors feel their SEO money is best spent. Nearly half of all respondents cited original content as the single most effective optimization tactic. Again, this result fits with Matt Cutts’ discussion of Penguin 2.0. Google has always valued fresh, original content over duplicate or spun content, but the penalties for serving your readers poorly written, keyword-stuffed writing are greater now. If you want to rank well, you have to give visitors something worth reading, not low-value links and article spinning.

Original content also matters when it’s on social media. That doesn’t mean every tweet you write must be graceful haiku, but if your blog posts, tweets and Facebook comments consist of little more than links, consider adding more value to your social media communications. Celebrities hire social media managers to write their tweets and posts for them, and Google’s updates suggest that’s a wise decision.

The Changing Shape of SEO

Google deals in generalities, at least with the public. Although Matt Cutts has described the importance of social signals to a site’s rank, he offers no specific details about how heavily rankings weigh the input from social media channels. It’s a safe bet, though, that the overall trend will be to lend more credence to social media rather than less. If you haven’t already embraced how social media is changing SEO, it’s time to follow the lead of the 40 percent of companies that reap the benefits of aligning their social media and SEO strategies.

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