There has been much talk about the alignment of SEO and social media marketing (SMM) practices within organizations. The need to integrate the two tracks was foreshadowed long before Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s statement in 2013 that “within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification…The true cost of remaining anonymous might be irrelevance.” And Google’s recent removal of the Authorship tag from results does little to impact this. The strategy and team alignment is what matters, not changes to the algorithm.
Most major brands have come to the realization that we can’t silo search marketing and social media marketing. For enterprises that house both tracks, cross-functional teams are being deployed to achieve an aligned objective. At the small to medium businesses (SMB) level, companies that outsource these functions may find it challenging to achieve complete alignment if they are dealing with separate vendors. I wanted to share some ideas and suggestions that hopefully can help your organization align these two functions.
How Do You Get These Folks on the Same Page?
Let’s start with what you need to do strategically in order to align teams within your marketing unit. There is a strategic alignment process that is effective when followed:
- Start with a leadership approach that supports a shared Center of Excellence focus – each team may individually have one that overlaps with the other.
- Deploy shared/aligned agile management. Schedule sprints so both tracks support one another. Update cycles should feed off one another.
- Hire specialists who understand the shared impacts from SEO and SMM.
- Establish common key performance indicators (KPIs). Your teams have to share some KPIs in order to be focused toward common enterprise-wide objectives. These are not always apparent, so take some time on this.
- Train for cross-functionality.
- Share dashboards and analytics.
- Synergize integrated strengths. Which team members work well together? Which ones have an aligned perspective about your enterprise?
- Direct your SEO and SMM alignment toward unified enterprise goals.
Once your strategic objectives are determined, the next step is to hire or seek out internally the most suitable candidates to deploy your strategic vision.
Hire Hybrid Specialists
It’s to your advantage to hire specialists who, at the very least, understand the synergy between SEO and SMM. In cases where both teams exist in-house, this may be fewer hurdles to overcome than for those who outsource SEO and SMM functions to separate vendors. In either situation, consider the following:
- Hire keyword specialists who know how social conversations run. Bring in social media gurus who know how to parse conversations for useful keywords.
- Don’t overlook the importance of social media commenters who can instinctively inject keywords effectively into social conversations without appearing salesy.
- Be mindful of the effect of semantic Web search on keyword practices. Social commenters should embed keywords to account for how Google, Bing, and others are retrieving results using semantically formed algorithms.
- SEO specialists, on the other hand, should be able to tag site pages according to social analytics.
- SEO practitioners should also know best to engage and train social teams in content creation, keyword research, blog content optimization, and editorial calendars – especially focused around launch activities.
- Look for someone who is of the new breed of digital marketer in that they’re very tech-savvy, data-oriented, and highly collaborative across the organization.
Now that you’ve targeted suitable hires to execute your alignment strategy, let’s look at where the two disciplines intersect.
SEO vs. SMM: Where the Overlap Lies
As my former colleague Warren Lee mentions, SEO is informed by content, linking, and site architecture, while the new signals, as quoted by Amit Singhal of Google, are informed by relationships, content, and identity.
- content invokes quality copy, video, apps, etc. and on-page optimization;
- linking invokes quality external links, internal links, and PageRank status; and
- architecture invokes accessibility, crawl-ability of pages
For social marketing:
- content, as for SEO practices, invokes quality content, relevancy, and on-page optimization;
- relationships invoke connection values (popularity rank) and profile metrics
- identity invokes page relevancy and engagement graph metrics
The overlap lies primarily in the content your marketers are distributing. As you can see, quality content supports both tracks. On the social side, without distribution of quality shares, comments, video, and more, your organization will likely not achieve its digital marketing goals. On the SEO side, without keyword-relevant content on your Web properties, your domain or page authority suffers, thereby lowering page rank.
On-page optimization could also be a shared objective among SEO and social media teams. Optimization enables users to find relevant content. While traditional optimization for social channels meant to generate greater visibility within LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., we now know the impact of social optimization has broader impact on search engine visibility. The most practical overlap of this is if your company has an active blogging program where you can reinforce shared best practices.
One last thought: Link-building is still a common practice for some SEO and SMM specialists. Despite often questionable execution, quality links enable greater social visibility and, in turn, higher search rank positioning. Aligning social and search together enables link-building practices which leverage each channel’s unique capability to drive traffic to your Web properties.
Now, you’ve got your strategy in place and you’ve hired the right specialists to execute your strategy. The next step is to develop a robust keyword management program.
Both teams must participate in a cohesive keyword management program. Teams must integrate campaigns using segmenting practices that feed off each other. Segment keywords into campaigns based on shared SEO and SMM objectives. Not only does the segmentation allow for more granular understanding of SEO performance, but it also makes it easier to provide relevant keywords to social marketing teams, and vice versa. Training on keyword research and deployment is a critical component to SEO and SMM alignment.
Ultimately, at a practical level, your goal is a collaborative relationship between both teams to drive what we refer to as the “Virtuous Cycle of Search and Social.” By aligning teams closely, it becomes apparent when social conversations inform keyword strategy or how when search keywords lead to better social content. This process is a virtuous cycle because social engagement boosts search performance, which increases social signals and drives more social conversations. To be truly effective at leveraging SEO and social media, your organization must align its teams to support each other’s objectives. I’ve given you some things to think about, now let me know if you have suggestions for aligning social and SEO teams.