Something subtle yet profound happened in the world of Internet marketing when YouTube became the second most popular search engine.
This shift signaled the fact that user-generated content – social media content – had unequivocally and officially become a search engine marketing tool.
Wikipedia defines search engine marketing as, “a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of search engine optimization, paid placement, contextual advertising and paid inclusion.” For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing in on search engine optimization.
You may not appreciate the culture of social media, but numbers don’t lie. It simply cannot be denied that being actively engaged on social networks and in social media communities boosts a brands’ search engine ranking – and, in some cases, does so dramatically. That fact alone earns social media engagement a spot at the top of your to-do list.
How social media increases your search engine rankings is quite logical. Search engines “eat” (index) content – primarily text and newly created text. So, let’s see, how can a company create new content effortlessly and easily? Sounds like a blog, a Twitterfeed, or social bookmarking to me. Yes?
Now, contrary to popular opinion, despite the no-follow tag that is applied to most social media platform links, there are ways to customize your brand’s social media coding to facilitate higher search engine rankings.
Here are a few ways you can leverage social media to kick your search engine marketing into overdrive:
- Tweak Twitter. You may have heard your web professional talk about description and title tags. The description tag is the few lines of text that appear after and entry on a search results page – many times this content helps you determine whether or not you’re going to click the link. The title tag is the text that’s displayed in the topmost left-hand corner of whatever web page you’re visiting. Well, on Twitter, your name and your user name become the title of your page and the bio becomes the description. The bottomline is you can tweak both your username and your bio on Twitter to optimize your search engine experience. Also, good to note is that when you reach a certain threshold in followers on Twitter, Google begins to include some of your Tweets on the search results pages. The benefit being, if someone searches for your brand, they can see that your brand is on Twitter and engage with you on that platform. As if there weren’t enough of a search engine marketing benefit to being active on Twitter.
- Optimize updates. Most of us know by now that, on Twitter, you only have 140 characters to get your point across. You can write optimized Tweets, wherein your Tweets are keyword rich. Now, this is where I think brands get a bit off course if they’re not careful. If you can do this without changing the conversational tone of your brand’s updates and without sounding like you’re trying to keyword cram, then go for it. If not, leave it alone and let nature take its course. The search engine rankings will come – there’s no need to force it. Not the least of which, forcing it can really backfire on your brand’s reputation. No one likes an SEO opportunist.
- Link leverage. Blog content used to get indexed quite quickly and for some well-trafficked, popular blogs it still does, but it’s not a given anymore and new blogs need that much more of an extra push to get content indexed quickly. The best thing to remedy this situation is to craft well-written blog posts and once they are published, share the links via social media platforms. This will increase the number of links directed to your content and thereby raise your search engine rankings. Doing so also means that more people will visit your brand’s blog and website. The up tick in traffic improves your search engine marketing results, too.
- Rank by association. In addition to eating text, search engines also eat clout. Simply put, the more friends, followers, Tweeters and Fans you have, the more cache the search engines see you as having. And, the brains of the search engines think, “Well, if there’s a lot of action going on around this company on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, they must be doing something right, so we’re going to rank them higher.” (It’s not really as simple as that, but you get the point.) Additionally, if the people to whom your brand is connected have high social traction, your brand benefits from that association as well. It’s similar to getting into the hottest nightclub because you have a cool friend. Resist the temptation to use tools that artificially inflate your brand’s Twitter followers or Facebook friends (how sad is it that these tools even exist?). Take the time to grow your following organically. You’ll maintain your rankings longer because the people to whom your brand is connected will be interested in similar pursuits and that translates to more clout. For example, I am a social media marketing professional and as a result, many of the people who follow me on Twitter are marketers, too.