Social Media – Should Make Companies Rethink SEO

I feel this article might be combustible, but I have been itching to write it up for some time now.

I’ll get right to the point … Social media should make companies rethink budget allocations for SEO. I suggest they re-shift their SEO budget to social media. Yeah, many of you will think this is self-serving, but hear me out …

First, I want to clearly state that SEO is important and should not be ignored. I am simply suggesting that no budget should be allocated to SEO. I’ll get to my SEO suggestions in a bit, but let me start by addressing why I suggest social media capture the budget:

1) SEO is push; social media is pull. That is, your company is “pushed” to an audience via search. If you use social media correctly and provide valuable information and content to your audience, you will be “pulled” to them.

2) As social media becomes more prevalent, people will rely on their friends and network for recommendations as opposed to using search. Case in point … I needed new tires for my car. I asked my friend who always seems to get the best deals where to go. He recommended tirerack.com (never heard of them before, but I do now recommend them to you). I go to the tirerack website and find that the tires on my car are priced at $105 a pop and get a poor customer rating. I find another tire that I never heard of (Kumho) at $75 each and very good rating. I ended up buying 4 Kumhos and they are working out great. No search used, just socialization to find where to go and then I look for customer reviews to help me make my buying decision.

3) A good social media implementation delivers increased search rankings. This is probably the most important point. If you administer a winning social media program, the natural residual result delivers your SEO. In Michael Stelzner survey/report, “Social Media Marketing Industry Report – How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses,” 52% of the surveyed respondents sighted “help us rise in the search rankings” as one of the benefits of social media.

SM and SEO pic

If you look at the first two benefits (“generated exposure for my business” and “increased my traffic/subscribers/opt-in list”), these are the exact benefits SEO looks to increase. You can have it all with social media.

To further highlight how social media naturally increases your search ranking, listen to this … I was talking to someone I recently met and he was telling me about how his social media efforts were targeting influencers in his space. The specific social media campaign was aimed at attracting some of the most respected newspapers and magazines (yes print, not online). They were successful … the Wall Street Journal and Business Week both did a blurb on his site and mentioned their URL. This drove traffic to their site and as a result of all the traffic, increased their search ranking – a winning double whammy.

So you get your search ranking anyway! Social media should be your priority.

As I first mentioned, this is not to say that you should ignore SEO, BUT are you really going to pay an “expert” to do this for you? Google’s ranking algorithm is tightly guarded. It might be the only trade secret more guarded than the Coca-Cola formula. If no one really knows the algorithm, what is an “expert”? The best source (and it is FREE) for SEO suggestions is http://www.top10seotips.com/. There are other good ones as well. Here, Steve Wiideman has 10 simple tips that a web developer and marketing manager can implement collaboratively. He also provides other suggestions.

You want to win using the web – I suggest you have a social media plan that is integrated with your marketing and operations plans as well as a simple SEO implementation. The expert required is someone who can provide the bridge between your marketing and operations plan to a social media implementation, not an SEO expert (and for that matter, not one labeling oneself a “social media expert”).

I realize that SEO is a strong “spend” industry and thus I have really stirred some controversy, but if we as marketers are going to be accountable and take a leadership role in driving measurable success, we must spend wisely and deliver maximum results – even if initially unpopular.

16 Comments

Filed under marketing, marketing plan, SEO, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

16 responses to “Social Media – Should Make Companies Rethink SEO

  1. Steve,

    I think your article and your approach are brilliant! I eat, sleep and breath integration, of course, but your point about SIMPLE SEO implementation and allocating more resources to social is dead on. Great read.

    –Mariah

  2. Hi Steve, I agree with you (for the most part). There’s a bit more involved on the strategic SEO side if you consider the metrics of user path conversion and A/B testing as part of that initiative beyond just organic rank position. That said, I am absolutely leveraging social media networking and marketing for my clients to increase their organic ranking. For my company, the new scope of ‘integrated marketing communications’ has been a delight, allowing strategic marketing initiatives to have depth and character for lasting brand impression.

  3. Interesting thoughts. As someone who’s been immersed in SEO for 10+ years, I have a slightly different take, but I think the outcome is the same:

    Companies who want SEO must perceive social media as a necessary means to drive search rankings.

    I don’t know if this is accurate (in my experience it rings true in categories with more than a few companies that are serious about organic/free SEO):

    70% of search rankings are determined by your inbound links.

    In my experience, social media and online PR, especially blogger relations, is one of the best ways to earn quality inbound links for a website. In SEOMoz’s latest link survey, social media is the central element in the top 4 link building strategies:

    http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors#link-building

    SEO’s might argue that social media is a merely one more tool in their toolbelt, but you’re suggesting that the budget be shifted to social media agencies. I guess one question this raises is, all things being equal, do you think SEO’s (I’m talking credible SEO’s like Bruce Clay, Eric Ward, Debra Mastaler, Angela Moore, Wiep Knol, and Garret French), add additional value beyond the execution of the social media campaign?

    • SocialSteve

      Jeremy –

      Great input – thanks. Regarding your question about credible SEO’s adding additional value beyond the execution of the social media campaign, it really comes down to the “bang for the buck”. What would the cost and what is the incremental ROI? The main point is that people are going to get recommendations from trusted advisors (friends, network, credible authorities). As this shift occurs, how much incremental value will there be in SEO … a good topic for debate and monitoring.

      Social Steve

  4. Hi Steve! I’ve seen others suggest this same thing. Maybe because I’m so immersed in searching the Internet, I can’t see search functions going away anytime soon. For example, in your point under number 2 regarding your referral to tirerack.com, I would not only look at that site; but use a search function on Google to ensure I am getting the best price on the tires I found for $85.

    One thing is for sure though, I totally agree that companies should be leveraging social media with traditional communication efforts. It is the best way to pull visitors to you.

    Thanks for taking the leap to share these thoughts with us. I’ll be following your thoughts!

  5. Steve,
    I think you raise some great points. Having been involved with several sucessful SEO efforts in the past, all roads led to producing good quality (and optimized) content, and doing it frequently (depending on your goals).

    At this time I believe that most organic SEO practices can be leveraged in-house by web or editorial staff. Of course, we’ll never have enough time to do all the keyword analysis that we need to do, but there are tools that are making that easier all the time.

    What I REALLY need is strong content providers who can interact online, and those folks need to have their documented SEO guidelines nearby.

    Almost every SEO conversation I get into seems to gravitate to SEM, but I’ll leave that one alone for now. Thanks again!

  6. TJ Dinsmoor

    Great article. I agree with this more and more on how people are starting to use the internet. WOM is always more reputable than a search engine. With peoples networks growing they are being exposed to more links and suggestions from their friends, network, etc…which will make social networking a huge part of internet marketing.

  7. I’ll have to disagree on the push vs pull marketing part. I think SEO is both, but predominately pull. Many of the TACTICS used by SEO are push, but those tactics are not pushing to buyers as much as they’re pushing to potential linkers.

    If we’re talking about attracting buyers, SEO is pull marketing. You’re capturing a buyer who is demanding a product. Secondly, rankings are primarily determined by links, so the market gets to decide what appears. Lastly, SEO only generates traffic for something with demand already. If people aren’t searching for it, it won’t generate traffic via SEO.

    The philosophy of search engines is to follow people. Although search engines were unsophisticated in their early years, they are more effective at following humans today. The value of social on SEO is increasing.

    Search is incorporating reviews, personalized search, and search wiki. This allows users to interact with results and use the feedback of peers.

    Social media is an amazing way of increasing search rankings, but it’s a question of HOW these new social tools are used. Many people run useless social campaigns that have minor impact on organic search.

    Although social is growing, search is still the dominant method of finding information on the web. It is likely to stay that way for a few more years at least. Keeping an eye on social is important, but buyers are still heavily engaging in search.

    There are negatives to the social market as well. It is still the wild west. A lot of money is being thrown into social without much concern about tracking the return. Lastly, the industry is still a bit unpredictable. New sites and services rise and fall frequently and they’re having a difficult time finding a strong monetization method.

    I love social and see it has a major player in the future of online marketing, but SEO will continue to be a dominate player. If you don’t spend money on SEO, you’re missing out on a huge amount of opportunity that exists.

  8. Some good ideas, but this is obviously one sided. It, of course, depends on the customers current website and previous spending / results from website development and SEO.

    For example, a small company that has a newer site (less than 1 year) built by someone without a good understand of SEO would certainly benefit more from “fixing SEO problems” first… generally speaking, in my experience, SEO is front loaded for many in order to get to a good starting point.

    I do believe your concept is correct for a “steady state” website that has been around for a while and consistently building links and content. That doesn’t mean I think it would ever be wise to STOP building fresh new content for a site (something I categorize as SEO) in favor of 100% effort on Social Media. As with any marketing effort, there should be a “blended strategy” that is developed to meet the needs of the target audience.

  9. Many good observations and good points.

    One thing that really boggles my mind is that Internet marketing or [Insert acronym here] is not an integral part of all marketing plans etc. and is still something which is perceived as “the cheap stuff done by the geeks in the basement”.

    I often joke with my colleagues that if only we could have one week’s spend on TV ads for online things…..wow…..!

    How long will ‘we’ have to wait for a major shift here? Apparently it takes more than a financial crisis!

    • SocialSteve

      Risgaard,

      Could not agree with you more. Keep delivering measurable results and all of us who see the significant value of social media will win. It is not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when”. Keep plugging away and keep the faith.

      Best,
      Social Steve

  10. I’ve always loved this discussion! I’m a huge advocate for using social media. I work for a label and most of the albums we talk about via Facebook, Twitter, etc. are charting, which is a great indicator to me that it’s working (especially since we’ve nearly doubled the charting titles since I started working on social media strategy in August).

    Needless to say, I think at the heart of this argument is the Facebook vs. Google discussion. Wired Magazine actually had a great article on their battle for web-search dominance a few months ago! I think that both will continue to be relevant in perpituity. It’s pretty rare that I can go to any of my friends and ask for their advice on something I could find in an encyclopedia and vice versa, if you catch my drift.

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