Everybody appreciates that the social media is now taking most of the plaudits in this digital age. Many would have you believe that social media is the king, not ranking or content. They’ll tell you to forget search engine optimisation. As far as they’re concerned SEO is dead. All you need to worry about is keeping your tweets up to date or conversing with your online Facebook community. For them life is definitely sweet and simple. If only this were true, then every marketer’s life would be just as sweet. Sadly, they’re wrong: so wrong in fact, that it’s ridiculous. Obviously these people don’t understand how Google’s algorithm works, or if they do, they’ve got an odd way of showing it. SEO is as much a part of the marketing mix in today’s digital, socially-savvy world as it ever was. If you really understand how seo actually works, then you’ll see it is absolutely crucial, even for social media applications.
So how does seo work in a social world?
To properly understand that particular conundrum, you need to appreciate two points:
People don’t search in the same way they converse
Ever since the inception of Google, we’ve all learned to search in defined and limited ways. Searching for a specific object like ‘plants’ when Google first appeared would only bring limited results. It’s different now: now when we search we get pages and pages of results. And why’s this? It’s because we’ve become more experienced and have learned to refine our searching techniques. Google has taught us to be more specific when searching. We grasped the nettle and did as instructed. Now when we search we use a combination of words and places. So much so that Google now claims that 54.5 percent of queries done on its search engine are three or more words in length.
In social media communities, we can afford to chill a little. Facebook and Twitter inherently know what we are talking about – well most of the time anyway. This is especially the case when the social media community is centered on a very specific topic. We can get away with using slang, jargon, and abbreviations, and be much more casual in our conversations because we know these social media channels will still cotton on to what we’re talking about. This is why you can’t just rely on your PPC or SEO keyword list to help you find conversations in social media communities; you have to expand a bit and understand how the community “talks” about you as opposed to searching for you.
Social media communities aren’t, and don’t behave like search engines.
How many times have you seen the tag line –find us on Facebook? Have you ever tried it? Ok, sometimes you might strike lucky and get there straight away. Most of the time you’ll spend ages searching and it’s all to no avail. That’s because Facebook isn’t a search engine, and it doesn’t behave like one. If it said ‘find us on Google’ there wouldn’t be a problem: after all it’s a search engine. Facebook isn’t. It’s a social network community that relies on different ‘points or ‘triggers’ to make a match. These don’t function in the same way as a search engine algorithm does. If your company is unknown to me, and you say “Find us on Facebook” without giving the URL, and I’ve never been to your fan page, nor have any friends who have, then I’m not likely to find you, unless I know that I need to click on ‘more results’.
Search engines tend to look at an entire picture: they take everything into account including meaning, content on a page, title tags, links into the content, how much has it been shared, and so on. Social media communities only look at the data within their own site to “rank” something in a search. That’s because their main focus is connecting people within their own community’s walls, not reaching beyond it like a search engine does.
So why is SEO still necessary?
If you understand and appreciate these key differences between search engines and social networks, you’ll be well on your way to creating an SEO and social media strategy that will work best for your business. Which is more important: gaining search engine ranking for your content, or gaining the respect and acceptance of a massive audience within the community you’ve chosen to engage with? Well, probably both actually, but they are very different goals, and as such require very different strategies. Optimising for one won’t necessarily work for the other. If you optimise your content for sharing in social communities, your content needs to be optimized to speak to the community you’re engaging with. When you’re optimise your content for the search engines, it needs to be relevant for specific keywords or keyword phrases.
The one thing they have in common is the method. This is applicable to both SEO and social sharing:
- Optimise your titles, subtitles, and headers
- Optimise your content
- Optimise your links’ anchor text
- Optimise what you share: if you get the right wording, people will share it in the way you want them to
- Optimise your digital assets
SEO is still alive and kicking and can work equally well with social media. All you need to know is how to use if principles effectively to get the best out of it.