Sweet Peaches Bedding, the brand example used at the end of this post, is a client of Hanapin Marketing. Check out the Sweet Peaches “Spread the Warmth” social SEO campaign (link to be posted Nov 3).
In October 2009, Google announced “Google Social Search,” an innovative idea that collects a Google users public digital data to form personal social circles that influence search results. In the Google model, Google users opt-in by connecting their online social profiles (Twitter, Picasa, Blogger) to their Google account. Then, Google uses this information (along with Gmail contacts and Google Reader subscriptions) to return search results that are personalized, relevant, and most useful to the searcher.
In October 2010, one year after Google’s experimental search feature, Microsoft Bing made the full leap into social search. Not to be outdone by their longtime adversary, Microsoft played a $240 million trump card by the name of Facebook. Facebook, home to over 500 million users and a plethora of personalized user information, partnered with Microsoft Bing to provide search engine results based on the “likes” of Facebook friends.
Cue social search. Begin thinking about it, begin saying it, and be prepared for your clients and co-workers to begin asking about it. The fight hasn’t quite started, but both of the proverbial heavyweights are in the ring and the bell is about to ring.
SEO & Social Search
With each advancement in search engine technology, SEO detractors start to predict the imminent decline, or even worse, death of SEO. In 2010 alone, both Google Caffeine and Google Instant caused heated discourse about the future of the search engine optimization industry. Social search is no different and while some see it as a sign of SEO’s demise, most see it as the next logical step in search modernization.
However, while I believe we are by no means seeing the end of SEO, we are quickly approaching a time where SEO experts need to vastly expand their digital expertise and online reach. To elaborate, for SEO professionals to keep up with this model of real-time, personalized search results, the role of the search engine consultant must evolve, adapt, and ultimately, delve into more intricate realms of digital content creation and distribution.
At Hanapin Marketing, we are challenging traditional expectations of SEO agencies and leading the way in integrated social media and SEO campaign strategies. The following steps will help prepare you for the future of social search, especially in light of the most recent Microsoft and Facebook partnership.
1. Build a Community Around Your Brand
Traditional search optimization practices are not going anywhere anytime soon, but the presence of social search trends will increasingly emerge as social media outlets control more and more of the Internet market share. Therefore, it is essential that brands play an active role within social communities.
Most brands (not all) should be persistently extending their social graph, encouraging digital participation and collaboration from potential consumers. Whether you represent a B2B or B2C company, incorporating social components into marketing campaigns will provide a distinct advantage over competitors as social search becomes more expansive.
Additionally, with a thorough and well-developed social strategy, integrating social media communications into small business marketing and branding plans can be completed with few financial resources. On the other hand, time does need to be set out to develop a solid social media action plan and to keep accounts up-to-date from day to day.
2. Accumulate a fan base (likes, followers, subscribers)
In any social media action plan, there should be three primary goals:
- Like – The first call to action for a potential fan is to simply “like” or “follow” your brand on the social network. Having a fan socially connect to your brand is a key step to being exposed to the consumer’s social graph.
- Participate – After the initial “like” call to action, it is important to entice more participation from users. Daily questions, giveaways, and customer care and support are fantastic ways to keep the community fresh and interesting.
- Share – The final action for a social media fan to take is to share (retweet, link, etc) the content distributed from your page. Thus, the text, images, and video need to be rich, entertaining, and informative for the respective audience. In other words, the content should deviate from traditional marketing efforts. In regards to SEO, think of social content as link bait 2.0.
3. Social Link Building
The most important component of an effective social SEO campaign is to obtain links outside of the social media realm (ideally, non-no follow links). One area that provides ample opportunity for legitimate link building as well as larger social development is blogger outreach. Links from authoritative blogs and news sources can have a significant impact on organic search listings. At the same time, bloggers are often very willing to promote coupons and discounts that will resonate well with their readers. Make sure to do your research and be informed, gracious, and professional when approaching bloggers. If you are reaching out to the right types of bloggers, they probably see a lot of promotional pitches during the course of the month.
Occasionally, consider hosting a promotional campaign from a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. Directing blog readers to a branded social profile, rather than a corporate website, has the potential to provide a longer and more beneficial relationship.
Case Study In-Brief: Sweet Peaches Bedding, Making it Attractive
Sweet Peaches Bedding, an online baby and children’s bedding distributor, recently launched the “Share the Warmth” initiative, a promotion designed to give baby blankets to children in need while also increasing Sweet Peaches social reach. The passionate campaign is a great example of how small business can best prepare for social search trends. The “Share the Warmth” campaign blends SEO best practices with an actionable social media strategy. Below is a brief strategy summary:
a) Social SEO Link Building – Niche Mom and Dad bloggers were contacted to spread the word for the campaign. The blogger outreach program encouraged links back to the Sweet Peaches website as well as to the Sweet Peaches Facebook page.
b) Holiday Giving (Social Good) – Utilizing the giving spirits of the holiday season, the Sweet Peaches Social SEO campaign delivers one blanket to a charitable organization for every 12 likes on their Facebook page. The initiative encourages the cooperation and collective action from the online Sweet Peaches community to help give blankets to children in need this holiday season.
c) Simple Call to Action – As an introductory social media campaign, the call to action for Sweet peaches is nothing more than liking the page.
d) Additional Incentive – To sweeten the deal, each person who likes the Sweet Peaches fan page is also given a 10% off coupon to use on any item in the Sweet Peaches online store.
Ultimately, to succeed in the future of search engine optimization, digital brand managers (a future title for today’s search engine consultants) must be well versed in search engine optimization fundamentals, social media engagement and monitoring, and dynamic content distribution. Social search is a great area for innovative exploration, so let me know what your plans are for social search this next year!