How does a company make money on the Internet? The key lies in making sure that a website consistently places at the top of the search results on major search engines. The techniques used to increase the popularity of a website among search engines are known as search engine optimization, or SEO. Due to its overwhelming popularity in the last ten years, the impact of social media has become a substantial component of a website’s SEO strategy. So what specific optimization techniques should a company use to bolster their website’s performance and search engine ranking? In this article we will explore how companies can receive the maximum benefit from integrating different social media marketing techniques into their overall strategy.
Social Media + SEO = Social SEO
Social SEO is the practice of optimizing the content and contextual link opportunities that exist within social networks. As an example, say you have a facebook page set up for your Dallas catering company. You get more than 25 people to like it and you have the option to choose a vanity URL. What do you name your URL? If you were smart, you would do some keyword research and find out what the most competitive search term is for your industry. More than likely, it’s going to be “Dallas Catering”. At any rate, once you know what that keyword is, stick to variations of that naming convention within your content on the page description, the URL and the same goes for any other Social Media profile you set up. Always try to integrate your target keywords into your profiles. Don’t make your text too spammy, but when it’s relevant, don’t hesitate to use your target keywords!
One of the hidden values of popular social networking are that they provide companies with the opportunity to create thousands of authentic links or recommendations from people who are likely to actually purchase the service or product. Not only that, but when people see their friends have already bought and recommended a particular product or service, they are much more likely to buy. Positive word of mouth invariably spreads on Social Networks and the amount of people who share your pages are also factored into where you place in Search Engine Results Page.
The Importance of Virtual Real Estate
The prevalence of social media has helped make companies seize more “virtual real estate.” It is no longer enough to simply claim the top spot on the search results. The goal is to have as many distinct links about a company or organization display on the “real estate” of the first page of the search results screen. Imagine a web design shop like ours located in Austin, TX that has a successful online marketing strategy. When someone enters a keyword like “Austin Web Design” the search engine displays the link to the official website as the first result. Underneath this are links to the Austin web design company’s Facebook page, its Twitter account, and several news articles that have been written about the web design company by independent editorial outlets that have been recommended by people on Facebook in the Austin area.
The popularity of these news articles on Facebook has registered with the search engine as a sign of the store’s authenticity as one of the best web design companies in Austin. The Internet user sees the number of different links in the search results and is inadvertently impressed by the popularity of the site. Needless to say, this domination of the virtual real estate also helps eliminate any competition from other businesses and therefore boosts the overall revenue of the web design company. In a way, dominating the virtual real estate is about limiting a user’s choice to a particular company by squeezing out all other options.
Specific Optimization Techniques
So how does a company effectively promote itself on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or YouTube? Simply showing up and creating an account won’t do the trick. Companies must provide some form of content that not only entices users but also echoes the message of their primary marketing campaign.
The marketing campaign should identify the keywords it wishes to use in all of its marketing efforts before formally launching the campaign. These keywords should be brief but descriptive. Luckily, several software suites exist that help companies choose keywords based on their current prevalence online. These software suites scan all the major search engines and provide statistics on the usage of a particular word in relation to specific sites. This helps marketers avoid choosing keywords that are either already associated with a competitor or that are too rarely used to generate any interest.
Keywords should be neither too broad nor too narrow. They should describe the product or service in a way that is accurate yet also accessible. While using the company name as a keyword is not necessarily a bad idea, this keyword will only attract those who know the company name ahead of time. When a company is first launching, it must choose keywords that will attract people who are searching for a more generic product or service. Luckily, keyword performance can be measured and improved upon using tools such as Google Analytics, among others.
After these keywords are chosen, successful social media marketing generally incorporates videos or imagery into its content. These videos can be small promotional clips or amusing advertisements, but they should be tagged with the specific chosen keywords and embedded into the page the user is viewing. To return to our gardening store example above, a video posted on that company’s Facebook page should include a link back to the original company website along with relevant keyword tags such as “Austin Web Design” or “Austin Internet Marketing”. There are several more technical fields including the metadata tags and file name that should also be named in accordance with the keyword strategy. The content itself should be galvanizing. This will encourage people to “share” or “like” the content with their network of friends. The more likes and shares a particular piece of content attains, the more attention it will attract.
A site like Twitter emphasizes sharing links and small pithy updates in 140 characters or less. Companies should focus on promoting specials or links to articles through Twitter. The more gripping the individual Tweet, the more likely it will be passed along to other Twitter users. If a company manages to link to a complimentary article on a major news site, this link will function as a piece of free promotion. Companies may choose to contract press releases or “blogs” that feature certain keywords in order to directly bolster their ranking in search engines. However, it is important to realize that search engines constantly refine their search algorithms in order to filter out content that has no intrinsic value. In other words, keyword stuffed press releases and blogs no longer generate the kind of positive rankings they once did. While a well-written press release can help bring visitors to your site, the best promotion is still created by people who are genuinely passionate about your product or service.
Creating Excitement Through Virtual Product Launches
So how does a company stoke the passions of potential consumers? The good news is that because the Internet changes so quickly, it offers companies the opportunity to experiment with different methods of attracting interest, even if some of these methods are updates of older forms of marketing.
In the pre-Internet era, companies would put a significant amount of effort into “product launches” in order to generate a substantial payday for their business. This methodology still applies in the Facebook era. In 2011, TAG Heuer created substantial excitement with its so-called “Apollo Project.” In only one week, the company was able to attract 10,000 fans on Facebook and index over 35,000 articles in Google by launching an aggressive push to generate word of mouth among Internet users for its new luxury watch.
The company did this by launching the product on Facebook via live streaming. This live streaming enabled the company not only to unveil its new product, but also to do so on a platform that had several hundred million potential viewers. This maximized the product launch’s exposure and helped TAG Heuer build up a substantial contact list to which it can send new product updates. In essence, the company now has a global direct mailing list composed of people who are likely to read the updates and follow the actions of the company. However, TAG Heuer doesn’t have to spend any money on postage. It can simply update its Facebook page and reach thousands, if not millions, of interested potential customers. Better yet, the company did not “pay” or aggressively court people to sign up to its list. It simply invited them and they responded. In this way, social media marketing allows companies to build a genuine relationship with its customers that traditional search optimization methods alone rarely achieve.
The Future & Customer Engagement
The only certain thing in online marketing is change. While social sites attempt to help marketers and businesses spread their message, they also have interest in protecting the experience of their users. For this reason, no marketing campaign can expect to remain static and still attract substantial interest. It must constantly innovate in order to integrate successfully with new forms of media.
Internet marketers should familiarize themselves with the major methods of search and attempt to capitalize on them. Keywords, tagged imagery and videos and Tweets are currently the preferred method of inadvertent promotion. Understanding how to engage with consumers by providing them with content that genuinely interests them is an art form. Luckily, the mechanics of proper linking, tagging, labeling and association can be learned. Social media is currently one of the most effective ways of engaging with consumers; SEO is the vehicle in which the message is conveyed.