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Social Media – the new kid on the search engine optimization block

July 16, 2010

Yesterday I attended yet another Business Development Institute‘s half-day conferences in New York City. The focus of yesterday’s conference was on search and social media and how the two converge.

Why should we discuss the topic of social media along with search strategies? Because at the end of the day for a marketer like you and I it’s about being found on the web where, according to Google, there are over 1 trillion cached pages and 150 trillion links. Social media is quite the “new kid on the block when it comes to findability online and you should understand how to incorporate it in your search engine findability strategy.

One of the speakers at the event was Veronica Fielding (@vfielding) from Digital Brand Expressions who spoke about the three elements of findability: SEO (organic search), SEM (paid search) and now Social Media.

For us, marketers, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all of these individual findability channels to be able to determine our precise marketing mix.

First Search Engine Optimization ( SEO) the slow, but steady methodology for improving the relevancy and authority of your page in search engine’s eyes. The major drawback of SEO is hat it takes time for improving your rankings, 2-3 months on average. In addition, mastering SEO is getting increasingly harder as search engine algorithms get smarter and you need to continue to prevent your page from going down on search result pages.

If you need to be found quickly that’s where Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or paid search comes in handy, but it may be quite expensive in the long run particularly if you are bidding on competitive keywords. This is a good tactics to bridge your search engine presence while you work on your SEO strategies.

Finally social media, the newest addition to the findability toolbox. According to Fielding, social media is the channel where you build your findability by providing steady stream of new content. The more content you provide the more chances you have for search engines to index you as an authoritative page on a particular subject.

Jordan Glogau from 1-800-FLOWERS (@1800flowers) did not hold back when explaining the ways he uses social media to improve search engine findability. He started by reviewing recent Google algorithm changes known as Google Cafeine and “mayday”

Google’s Caffeine

Google’s Caffeine is actually Google’s next generation search engine. No, this does not mean that you have to switch to using yet another new search engine. The changes are all under the hood and are barely noticeable to average searchers, but important to SEO pros. What Google Caffeine search algorithm emphasizes in real time indexing. What does it mean for you? Content that is frequently updated is ranked much higher by the new Google. That’s why frequent content generation (e.g. in a form of blog posts) are key to your successful findability strategy.

“Mayday”

“Mayday” describes a change in Google’s algorithm that is focused on improving search results for long tail searches. How? By favoring high page authority rather than page relevancy. This is Google’s attempt to favor sites that have been around for a while and have built their credibility. How do you build page authority? One important strategy is to ensure lots of inbound links pointing to your website and that includes bloggers and other social media content producers linking to your content.

Glogau was very open and straightforward when distinguishing between social media for relationship building (that’s the way I tend to think of SM) and social media strictly for the sake of SEO building (that’s how SEO pros view social media).

Understanding that Google pays more attention to site authority and the way to improve that is to have others link to your website Glogau recommended working with services such as Payperpost.com and Reviewme.com and to pay bloggers to post your content which includes a link to your website.

When asked about FTC guidelines governing endorsements (PDF) Glogau mentioned the fact that enforcement of FTC guidelines as they are created today is tough to do and many are currently taking advantage of the gray area in these guidelines and advise their clients to “mention” products rather than to “endorse” them to stay clear from the requirement of disclosing the monetary relationship between the blogger and the marketer whose product/service is mentioned in the blog. For a purist like myself this falls really close to a “black hat” tactic for search engine optimization, but I must mention that Glogau talk had sparked the largest number of questions and comment.

I will give you my insights from Tom Hoehn (@TomHoehn) from Kodak and Julie Sun from MTV networks who also spoke at the event in my next post.

What are your experiences with social and search convergence? What’s your opinion on Glogau’s tactic of “mention but not endorse”? Have you tried paid blogging services such as payperpost.com? Leave a comment below.

A couple quick tips re. social media and search marketing from the two speakers:

  • To improve your chances of your tweets coming up in branded search result pages make sure to use brand terms in your twitter handle.
  • When explaining social media to sales folks – don’t let them treat so as a sales channel, it’s a relationship building and influencing channel.
  • Who should understand and interact in social media – those who already interact w/ customers
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