There are two discussions that are recurring in the SEO community: SEO implementation (building links and optimal title tags) and the evolving role of SEO in the digital marketing landscape as social media has begun dominating the matrix and moved successfully into advertising. The latter frequently begs the question, “Is SEO dead?” Fear not optimizers! A study by Search Engine Watch reports that the #1 position on Google gets 33% of search traffic. 33%! And because that same 33% is actively searching for that product or service, they are highly likely to convert. So, the value of SEO is still quite obvious. Search Queries deliver “ready to buy” consumers actively seeking out products or services.
I have had many clients ask me,“Should I put my efforts into Social Media instead of SEO?” The answer is not that simple and it varies depending upon the nature of each business, the determined goals and of course, the target audience. Also, I think it’s important to clarify emphatically that Social Media is not actually an alternative option to SEO. However, SEO benefits greatly from social media when the two work in concert to deliver aggressive search results. Although Google does not directly use Facebook metrics to calculate search rankings, a high volume of social media engagement can have a positive influence on your search indexation and discovery efforts. Solid content efforts with conscious keyword strategy encourages links and shares, which contributes to higher traffic and reliability.
The function of SEO is to improve the visibility of a website in search engines using algorithmic methods to improve search results. SEO is valuable in driving new traffic to websites. Particularly “ready to buy traffic”. As search engines have become the new “yellow pages” of the business community and online retail and remote services are rapidly beginning to dominate commerce, search results can help create the success of any business.
Consider audience behavior, when a person is searching for a service or product they are vaguely familiar with, what is the first thing they do? “Google it”! A consumer may then begin calling the first few business that appear in their search return, usually finding the service they need within the first page of search results. The joke goes, “Where do you hide a dead body? On page 2 of Google.”
The benefit to being those top listed businesses is measurably outstanding. Conversely however, if a person has had some introduction to a brand, product or service they might try to engage through social media channels first, but generally they must know the name to find it directly, so it is less likely consumers will chance upon a new item and be “ready to buy”.
But consider this; a high volume of traffic to your website where you have “sticky” content, meaning information that engages an audience such that they linger and spend 2 minutes or more on that page, is the top driver of positive SERP (Search Engine Reliability and performance) results. If you have great teaser content on your social media targeted at an interested audience and directing them back to a blog page on your website, then you have harnessed the power of psycho-social behaviors widely available on social media. If your business relies less on the purchase of an item via e-commerce and more of a thought leadership influence, than social media is a great vehicle for you to do just that.
I have seen that in the medical industry in particular, doctors and specialists have established credibility and found more connected audiences and subsequently patients by sharing their medical philosophy, principal and practice in the social and blog space. Patients looking for a particular procedure or alternative can go beyond standard healthcare referral pages and get a glimpse directly into a physician’s body of knowledge and skill set simply by seeking out their social pages and blogs. Remember, there was a time when a person might see multiple doctors before finally finding one that delivers a type of service or has a specific specialty training not common or widely available at every facility.
When a well-crafted Social Media campaign creates an engaged following with return users who share, like and follow, those social media pages also show up in a search. We’ve all googled a keyword and had the first page flood with the website and 3 or 4 social media pages of one specific company. When that happens, a searcher naturally feels that the specific company dominating the top of search engines also dominates the market. And, generally they do, as one can make a clear case for companies who create a high visibility generate a more massive audience.
Many small businesses believe that Social Media is the new way to get massive free exposure, and that they can rely on social media alone to build and grow a following that will directly impacts sales. Certainly social media exposure impacts brand awareness and growth, and as advertising on social media becomes more targeted and economical, it is a much more viable sales generator but relying on social media engagement as a vehicle for direct revenue has been the hubris of many entrepreneurs.
We live in a world where the average consumer has a short attention span and has become accustomed to immediate gratification. Consumer culture has become increasingly skeptical, savvy and demanding. Brand equity, integrity and loyalty have never been more important and that is not always best managed in the social media landscape alone. In light of recent scrutiny, Facebook in particular has lost quite a bit of audience trust as people feel more and more vulnerable to the use of their personal information for the purposes of persuasive and coercive political propaganda and product advertising. “Look-alike” audiences, for example have become a dynamic strategy in every marketers toolbox, greatly dialing in our targeting efforts and allowing us to deliver messaging to highly interested audiences.
While some may welcome advertising that matches their interests and needs, others feel the use of their social activity to determine their potential for conversion to be invasive and a bit scary.
In this time of social media insecurity, many content marketers wishing to keep a consistently developing footprint return to what some consider a much slower generator, blogging. But nothing has kept the Blog alive as well as social media.
Social media is the number one way to deliver and push blog content to audiences. In the midst of Facebook's political scrutiny, social media managers find one great spark of hope at keeping their day jobs: the new transparency of permissions and controls that the social media audience has always had access to, at least with Facebook anyway, but have now had a more thorough exposure to throughout Zuckerberg’s testimonials. Although media buyers are left holding their breath, I think ultimately audiences armed with new advice for filtering the advertising they are fed actually delivers advertisers an even higher potential of conversions on ad-spend.
I believe any business would be served well by a consistent SEO campaign supported by social media. I also believe it is entirely possible that some businesses can benefit greatly by focusing their budget and efforts on only one channel. Initially, when a business is structuring a marketing budget with only initial investment funds and they haven’t generated consistent revenues yet, they often have no choice. In this case, it is best to choose the channel that has the fastest and most direct exposure to the target audience.
As I’ve illustrated here, products that answer to a highly searched query tend to do well with an aggressive SEO campaign that gets them to page one, however, that takes several months to accomplish and can be expensive to perform. Also, it is important to note that the most successful Search profiles often have accompanying Press campaigns or social media. So instead I offer this question: if your business will rely on searchability would social media or public relations be your greatest SEO companion and roadmap to success? As the competition for audience attention naturally increases, strategies need to be more dynamic and cast a wider net to adapt. It’s time once again to roll up our sleeves and innovate and expand our approaches. What’s your strategy?
Amee Gray is the Founder and CEO of Ms.Gray Marketing, a full scope marketing agency in Los Angeles specializing in Digital Reputation Management and Online Brand Visibility utilizing Content and Search Optimization techniques as well as digital advertising and social media.