How To Get Social With SEO (because you have to)
Between Facebook’s expanded deal with Bing and the recent launch of Google’s +1 button, it’s clear that search is becoming more social. So while Facebook isn’t about to take over search and become the next Google (per se), one thing is clear: if you want to rank, you’re going to have to get social with your SEO strategy.
Of course, many traditional SEO practices will still be important. You’ll still need strong onsite SEO and a robust backlink profile (even if exact keyword anchor text is dying). But if you really want to outrank the competition, you’re going to need to tap into users’ social graphs and send search engines “social signals” that your pages deserve to rank.
1. Get Tweeted
Traditionally, social media links in general, and Twitter links specifically, didn’t carry any SEO juice because they were no-follow links and devoid of any anchor text. Indeed, shortened URLs on Twitter even stripped URLs of any brand value they might have had — i.e. “MyBrand.com”.
But then, in an interview Dec 2010, both Google and Bing confirmed that Tweets now impact rankings. So part of your SEO strategy should be a Twitter-outreach campaign to get your content retreated.
Of course, it probably won’t always be easy to get your product pages tweeted (unless your products can be the butt of some trending joke meme). But producing other valuable content that gets tweeted should lend your domain that much more authority, helping it rank better overall.
2. Get Influential (or Influencers)
And it’s not just enough to get Tweeted and Retweeted like mad. You actually have to get Tweeted and Retweeted by influencers.
As both Google and Bing disclosed in that same interview (linked above), they both look at the social authority of the person sending out the Tweet. So being tweeted by someone with a lot of followers (and many more than people they follow back) is going to carry a lot more weigh than being Tweeted by a handful of slew of “nobodies”.
Of course, a big benefit of getting tweeted by influencers is that their tweets are more likely to get retweeted, resulting in a ton of tweeted links. Case in point: when Smashing Magazine tweeted about SEOmoz’s “Beginner’s Guide to SEO (and it got retweeted a ton), SEOmoz started ranking on the first page for just “Beginner’s Guide”.
3. Be Likeable
Google can’t get in behind Facebook’s wall. In fact, Google can’t even read the Facebook Like buttons that show how many people have liked your content.
But Bing can. That was part of the point of Bing’s exclusive deal with Facebook: to give their algorithm a social edge over Google. In fact, Bing will even personalize search results based on whether your Facebook contacts have like something.
That doesn’t, however, mean that Google is working to catch up. That’s what the whole +1 button is about.
Through Google’s +1, users are starting to be able to vote up search results, and soon search results will be recommended to you based on whether any of your contacts have +1ed something. Of course, we’re still not sure exactly how heavily this will factor into rankings, but the intention to crowd-source relevance and personalization is clear.
So if you’re going to prep your sites/pages for tomorrow’s ranking factors, you better start thinking of how to be Liked and +1ed today. For starters, you’re going to want to build these buttons into all of your important pages.
More importantly, you’re going to want to think of ways to encourage users to Like/+1 your site and its content. Part of this will be user-experience and A/B testing to see what layouts get the most Likes/+1s. But a bigger part will be producing socially popular content (such as infograhics and awesome blog posts) that will garner your overall domain more popularity, authority, and traffic.
4. Diversify Your Community
It’s one thing to go after the big guys (like Facebook and Twitter and possibly +1). But your social SEO strategy shouldn’t be constrained by the fishbowl. In other words, there are other social content sites out there, and getting links and traffic from them is going to be equally important.
As SEOmoz recently pointed out, diversifying your traffic sources is essential for SEO success. This means you should be working to get links and traffic from other social sites such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg.
Of course, to actually diversify your traffic through these content sharing communities, youâ€™ll need a content strategy capable of reconciling your brandâ€™s messaging with the culture of these communities. This means finding a way to produce branded content that’s interesting, has nothing to do with your products/services, but is still somehow on topic for your industry. Rackspace does this well with their infographics, but it can easily be done with Top 5/10 list blog posts.
Then you actually have to go out and seed it across these content sharing sites. This usually involves having access to “influencers” or “power accounts” on these networks, so you should either find a way to cozy up to an influencer, or hire a consultant/agency who controls such accounts — and don’t worry, they’re out there.
5. Build Your Brand
One of the next generation of ranking signals is going to be your brand. That is, if you have an established, trusted brand, it’s going to be easier for you to rank.
This is why it took Google so long to penalize Overstock.com and JC Penny. Both were trusted brands that got the benefit of the doubt because Google could be certain that these sites weren’t doing anything malicious, such as drive-by downloads or injection scripts. Of course, that wasn’t enough to save them when they got caught doing black-hat SEO, but it just goes to show how far some brand trust can go.
So whereas a site such as exact-product-name.com might’ve had an easier time ranking, search engines are now looking more towards brand name recognition. Granted, there’s a lot of ways to build a brand, such as through a multimillion dollar national ad campaign, but the logical (and cheapest) place to start is certainly social media.
First consider having a comprehensive social media presence, and making sure that your brand activity is frequent and consistent. This includes everything from Tweet and Retweets to running Facebook Ads and contests.
Then, find a way to step up your game. In addition to pushing content out across content sharing sites, try to come up with some kind of publicity stunt, either online or off. In other words, look at how you might be able to generate news mentions or stir up community conversation/controversy about your brand without getting directly involved.
About CT Moore
A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over 8 years experience leveraging search and social media to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to both SMBs and enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed. CT has worked with both start-ups and multinational brands alike, including Acquisio, Microsoft Canada, and Luxury Retreats. He is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.