There’s a panel at SES that usually ends up drawing a packed house. “SEO is Dead! Long Live SEO” never fails to impress the audience, especially with all the cries that “Social media is now ‘king.'” As I am primarily a social media marketer, but have deep roots in search engine optimization, I raise my eyebrow with skepticism at those marketers who proclaim that with social media, you no longer need to worry about SEO. Apparently they missed the memo that people also search in social media communities.
It could be that these marketers don’t have the background to understand how Google’s algorithm works, or that they had some kind of success with just launching videos on YouTube and now think that’s how all companies should launch their social media marketing plans, that they are proclaiming you don’t need SEO, or measurement for that matter. If you hear a marketing company tell you this, I’d advise you to drop the marketing slick and run in the opposite direction, fast.
The keys to understanding search optimization in social media communities are twofold:
- People search differently than they converse. Over the years since Google’s inceptions, the global community has been taught to search in very finite ways. When Google first appeared, searching for “shoes” didn’t bring you back the millions of pages it does now. With time, Google trained us to get very specific with our searches, as evidenced by Google reporting that 54.5 percent of queries done on its search engine are three or more words in length.
In social media communities, we don’t have a need to be so specific; our networks inherently know, most of the time, what we are talking about. That’s even more so when the social media community is centered on a very specific topic. We also use slang, jargon, and abbreviations much more in the casual conversations that take place in social communities than we do when we search. This is why you can’t just rely on your PPC or SEO keyword list to help you find conversations in social media communities; you have to expand a bit and understand how the community “talks” about you as opposed to searching for you.
- Social media communities aren’t search engines. Contrary to popular belief, saying “Find us on Facebook,” doesn’t work the same way as saying “Find us on Google.” Facebook isn’t a search engine, Google is. Facebook is a social network community that relies on different “points” or “triggers” in an algorithm than a search engine does. If your company is new to me, and you say “Find us on Facebook” without giving the vanity URL and I’ve never been to your fan page, nor have any of my friends, I’m not likely to find you, unless I know to click on “more results.” Not a lot of Facebook users know to do that.
Search engines tend to look at an entire picture, meaning, content on a page, title tags, links into the content, how much has it been shared, and so forth. Social media communities only look at the data within their own site to “rank” something in a search. That’s because their main focus is connecting people within their own community’s walls, not reaching beyond it like a search engine does.
Taking these two points into your strategy creation will help you immensely down the road, because you still need to be found in social media communities as much as you need to be found in the search engine listings. Understanding how they differ will help your optimization team balance the right kind of optimization efforts. Also, understanding what your key goals are at the end of the day is imperative too.
Is it more important to gain search engine ranking for your content or to gain massive sharing within the community you’ve chosen to engage? These are two very different goals, where it seems that optimizing for one would automatically help the other…but a lot of times it doesn’t. When you are optimizing your content for maximum sharing in social communities, your content needs to be optimized to speak to the community. When you’re optimizing your content for the search engines, your content needs to be relevant for specific keywords or keyword phrases.
Still, the search optimization principals are the same:
- Optimize your titles, subtitles, and headers
- Optimize your content
- Optimize your links’ anchor text (if you can control them)
- Optimize your sharing (get the right verbiage and people will share it the way you want them to)
- Optimize your digital assets
SEO isn’t dead. Honestly, it’s not. You just have to realize how to work its key principles into your efforts in social media marketing for success in both areas of online marketing.