Over the past five years, the Internet has been evolving. Rapidly. And most likely (unless you have been on the moon), you are probably well aware that the technology leading this digital revolution is none other than “social media.” Yes, to the masses, social media is the reigning king and the era of social and collaborative information is wonderful
However, after taking a step back from all the hype behind social media, it does not take long to again realize what really drives the best social media sites. What would Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, YouTube, Flickr, or Foursquare be without the ample amount of user-driven content? The social media sites are just the interfaces to a community of content sharers. Regardless of the medium where the message is delivered, it is essential for the content to be fresh and relevant to that community.
Therefore, for now, I will maintain to the more traditional Web and SEO motto to proudly say, “Content is king.” More specifically, fresh and relevant content is king.
Social Media Praise
Before I go any further, please don’t get me wrong. I am a believer in social media and anyone from the Hanapin Marketing team will quickly tell you that I am the loudest of social media advocates. Social media is a powerful, multi-faceted personal and business utility. It can be used for sharing, collaborating, and creating; as a broadcast, a conversation, and a news aggregator; or as a public relations soapbox, marketing strategy, or customer service platform – and these suggestions only begin to scratch the surface of social media’s potential.
Undoubtedly, social media is a necessary part of your overall marketing strategy, but it should only be one component of the overall plan. SEO is still crucial and social media will not serve as your saving grace for your SEO campaigns. If it helps, consider SEO like a hammer and social media like a screwdriver (or think of the two as a digital mullet).
The Internet Marketing Tool Belt
Both a hammer and a screwdriver are necessary on a tool belt. They both help in the process of building some kind of project like a tree house or a boat (please insert whatever people actually do build these days… I was never much for swinging a hammer or hitting a nail in straight). Last, you need nails and screws to hold everything together. Without the nails and screws, not too many people are going to be interested in seeing or using your creation. The new web world is really no different. Without quality content (nails and screws), no one is going to want to visit or link to your brand and website.
Below are some helpful guidelines further help to explain the social media landscape and how they can provide value to your SEO needs.
Nofollow, dofollow, and maybefollow
In HTML, the nofollow attribute is a value that tells search engine crawlers to do just that and not follow a link from their webpage. As a result, the nofollow value will significantly impact linkbuilding and overall search engine indexing efforts.
Now, I’m not here to elaborate too much on the follow or nofollow debate. Not today at least. A number of discussions and tests have been conducted by SEOs to determine how search engines handle the nofollow HTML attribute for social media. To me, it seems like nofollow attributes do still carry some weight with search engines, as they will still follow the link and occasionally record backlinks at the very least. Sometimes it is just easier to refrain from trying to explain search algorithms and rather opt for what is essentially working for you and what ultimately feels right.
Why does all this matter? Most social media sites attach their outbound links with the nofollow tag. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and even Digg to name a few. Therefore, linking to your site from a social media service carries little weight for your traditional SEO efforts; however, linking to your site has a number of SEO benefits hidden just below the surface.
What is the best component of social media for SEO? My vote goes towards friends. Friends, fans, followers, subscribers or whatever else you want to call them make for a marketer’s dream. Your social media “friends” are a built-in audience that is tapped into your product, service, or message at all times.
In SEO terms, this is incredibly useful as this audience stands as a direct link to share top quality. You can distribute press releases, new product callouts, promotions, and other miscellaneous content to thousands instantly. More importantly, social media friends make a habit of sharing, retweeting, or flagging favorites from the best content that comes their way, which unveils your link to a wide variety of secondary audiences and markets.
If all goes according to plan, you will certainly see a rise in traffic to your site through your link, both returning and unique visitors. Hopefully, you will start to begin positive conversation around your brand, service, or product throughout the social space. Particularly powerful, this will be a conversation you are aware of and able to both monitor and engage in it. And if you are really lucky, you find yourself in the middle of the linkbuilding process before you know it!
Who are your most valuable friends?
What are we looking for in a valuable friend? Basically, content creators – i.e. bloggers, webmasters, active and proactive fans, retweeters, reviewers, and respected authority in the area.
The best case scenario is someone takes your link and not only shares it with their social media audience, but places it on their (credible and high-quality) blog, resource page, or website. Thus, you will be riding the social media wave and find yourself in the middle of a linkbuilding campaign.
Plant Seeds and Grow Leads
So, what is your end goal with social media today? For now and until social/community votes, reviews, and conversations gain more significance in search indexing, consider social media a barren field. If left unkempt, it can provide no value to you or your business, and mostly likely, your lack of taming and participation in the open environment will cause negative backlash to go unanswered
Planting the seeds of quality content and building relationships with your customers and potential customers is the key to social media success. If approached the right way, your social media process will quickly start to complement your SEO. Please note, I purposely wrote social media process and not social media project. Social media is not an area to enter lackluster and without a proper, well thought out strategy.
Anyway, whether you are building or planting (or doing any other analogies I made today), I wish you the best of luck in your SEO and social media efforts. If you have a time, please comment and let us know how you are using social media jointly with SEO.