Today it’s quite normal, and in fact standard, for companies to expend amazing amounts of time and resources on social media marketing. But it’s clear to me that one simple fact is constantly lacking in their strategies and tactics – SEO. That fact is that success in social, especially for B2B companies, is very often realized through search. People aren’t just finding out about your products, services, and industry thought leadership through your tweets, posts, and other social chatter – they’re finding your content that has been woven throughout the web and posted to other sites in organic search results.
Google and other engines are reading and scanning what’s happening in social media. They’re scanning and indexing public Facebook pages, trending topics in Twitter, every blog post on the web, as well as photos, videos, and all the other things that make up the social constellation. Don’t believe me? Check out the images below:
Fidelity Twitter tweets and Facebook posts being indexed in Google:
Trending topics in Twitter displayed in Google index:
While writing and publishing brilliant and entertaining social content can certainly make a splash, encourage engagement, and move the needle in terms of your thought leadership and brand, your typical social post is oftentimes at best a literal flash in the pan. The way your social channel opens up over time is when the sum total of your thought leadership content, corporate social responsibility content, and overall brilliance and humility of your organization builds up and gets weaved into the fabric of the web.
The idea is that social media is a means to promote and distribute your content so that it gets posted to blogs, forums, discussion groups, photo sites, and even mainstream media sites. The net result of this over time is that your site not only gets more prominent placement in the search engines because you have more links pointing back to you, but more of your content actually appears in organic search listings for a wide variety of topics. This greatly increases your presence in the search engines as your content contributes to your off-page optimization. Look at it this way: sure, you want your site to show up in as many search results as possible, but the next best thing to your site showing up in a search listing is your content showing up on someone else’s site. Over time the cumulative effect of more links and content weaved into the web and showing up in organic search will ultimately drive traffic and brand recognition back to you via organic search.
So while we all recognize the value of SEO when it comes to our website, many of the principles we apply to our SEO programs should be migrated to your social media programs. Social media marketing and SEO are attached at the hip and should always be run in tandem and concurrently.
So as promised, here are 14 tactical ways to incorporate SEO into your social programs. Tips one to four are a bit more verbose and cover how to select target terms, pages, and hashtags. Then the rest of the tips cover how you use all those target terms, links, and hashtags in your social media marketing as well as tips on socially enabling your site’s content.
- Choose your target terms much as you would do with SEO. You can hardly expect your social media managers to optimize your content with high-value keywords if they don’t even know what those keywords are. The list needs to be relatively short – unless you’re an e-commerce site with literally thousands of products, focus on the top 50 to 100 most popular and relevant terms. If your list is too long you will be watering down the effectiveness of your SEO program by spreading yourself too thin. Also, enter races you can win by avoiding terms that are too broad – think relevancy. For example, if your company makes accounting software the term “software” is way too broad. You want terms like “accounting software,” “easy accounting software,” “small business accounting software,” and “inexpensive accounting software.” Google’s keyword selection tool is a great resource for this and it’s free.
- Choose target pages on your site that have good content and may be already ranking on the first couple pages of Google and match those pages to the keywords you want them to appear under. Keep in mind that not all pages will map neatly to one of your target terms. In many cases you may be matching target terms with your home page, services pages, or other general pages. When you use the term try to link to that page and use the term as the anchor or link text.
- Identify all the hashtags being used around relevant conversations on Twitter. Sure, it’s good to make up your own hashtags. However, it can often be better to utilize existing hashtags to access the conversations your prospects and customers are already having.
- Create a worksheet with a list of target terms, Twitter hashtags, and the URLs you should be trying to link to when you use those target terms in social content. Why is this worksheet so important? You can hardly expect your social media managers and PR managers to know off the top of their heads what keywords and links they should be using in their social media publishing and press releases. Now here’s the key thing: they should be using this list and worksheet in an opportunistic way. In other words, they don’t have to be playing a Boggle word game trying to figure out how to use these terms and links. They should be using them when it makes sense from a contextual and grammatical standpoint. But the net effect of opportunistically using these terms over a long period of time will mean more social content is infused with the target keywords that you want to show up for in search. In addition, the pages that you want to benefit from social chatter, social traffic, and of course inbound links will thrive as well from their incorporation into your social program.
- Use your target terms, hashtags, and links opportunistically in your tweets. Also remember that people don’t just see the tweets from the people and companies they’re following – they use TweetDeck in other applications to follow specific conversations and hashtags in the Twitter environment. They also search in Twitter using specific keywords. And as I as I showed above, tweets do get indexed in Google!
- Use target terms and links in your Facebook posts, if you have a public fan page. As I showed above, Google is indexing your posts and they are showing up in search results.
- Use your target terms and links in your LinkedIn and posts. To be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure of the impact LinkedIn is having on the Google index, but it certainly can’t hurt.
- Use your target terms and links in your blog titles and copy. It’s especially important to utilize your links in the first few sentences of your blog post since other bloggers who subscribe to your RSS feeds and republish your posts often abridge and truncate them and then link back to your blog post.
- Use your target terms and links in the press releases you drop on the wire services. As with your blog posts, utilize your links in the first two sentences since sites and bloggers that republish press releases often abridge and truncate them and link back to the wire services version of the press release.
- Use your target terms and links in all of your content posting descriptions. This includes your Facebook about profile, video titles and descriptions in YouTube, presentation titles and descriptions in SlideShare, image titles and descriptions in Flickr and Pinterest, PDF postings, and Docstoc.
- Make sure that all the valuable content on your site including images, charts, graphs, white papers, and videos are socially enabled. What do I mean by that? I mean that you have big noisy share buttons that encourage people to post your content to their social sites. Don’t use those social sharing aggregators like ShareThis as your primary means of sharing. You can have ShareThis, but make sure the big sharing opportunities like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and email are front-and-center and positioned as significant cost action.
- Make sure to configure your share copy so it utilizes high-value keywords. Don’t let the share buttons automatically grab images and copy from your page. Tell your web developers that you want to control what the share copy says when someone hits the share button on your site.
- Tell bloggers it’s OK to grab your images, charts, graphs, and other content as long as they link back to your site. In fact, encourage them to do so.
- Utilize your target terms in your YouTube video narration. How does your YouTube video and audio show up in the Google index? Well, it doesn’t. But what you want to do is then create a page on your site with your keyword-infused video title, your embedded YouTube video, and a transcript of your video infused with your target terms. Those target terms can then be linked to target pages. If your video is really long, you have a couple options. Go on a crowdsourcing site like Fiverr and pay someone to do the transcription and then split the transcript up into several pages. This will create unique deeper content on your site. Just make sure to embed the video on each page. Your second option is to simply abridge the transcript and pull out the most compelling and keyword-rich sections of the video. Then, when you tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn post, and promote the video, don’t send people to the YouTube player page – send them to the video page in the video transcripts section of your site.
So there are 14 of the tactics we use to attach search engine optimization and social media marketing at the hip. Of course there are many more and if I miss some please do comment to let people know. Happy marketing.
Link image on home page via Shutterstock.
This column was originally published on Dec. 4, 2012.