As Social Media continues to expand and lure in vast volumes of Internet traffic, where does its fustier, slower (methodical if you will) and more derided website marketing compadre, SEO, now fit in?
Search Engine Optimisation has been saddled with a reputation for being something of a shadowy practice; online alchemy, created to appease the search engine gods. The thing is though, it works. Better still, it continues to work to this day.
Social Media has emerged from the Friends Reunited Petri dish and exploded into a full-grown living organism, consuming everything in its path; or, at least, nearly everything. Facebook has experienced the most meteoric of rises, propelled by the slipstream of fading stars like MySpace, it has slipped seamlessly into the top 3 sites in the world (2nd by some metrics, 3rd in others) and gained itself over 350 million users.
Thanks to Facebook, along with Twitter, YouTube and a whole multitude of bookmarking cohorts, Social Media has got the world communicating in real-time. This free network of conversations has engulfed the Internet and opened the door of opportunity to marketers. Inevitably, when something huge comes to dominate an entity as the Internet, something has to make way; but is that thing SEO?
The answer is, absolutely not. Facebook might be the second most visited website, but it still lags far behind Google and Yahoo (all entities combined). For example, in 2009 Yahoo had 594 million unique visitors, whilst Facebook attracted 469 million. Now we already know how far behind Yahoo are in terms of search volume Yahoo are, so this shows some limitation currently.
Search Engines Still On Top
In terms of marketing, Social Media’s effectiveness has always been difficult to measure. If you have the resources to throw at creating an innovative campaign and to continuously communicate with the community, invariably there is huge potential. But what about start-ups, SMEs and one man businesses, where do they market their websites?
Statistics still favour search engines in terms of cultivating targeted traffic. We are still programmed to use search engines to find everything, even more so than in the past. Social Media is a great place for promoting your content, gauging opinion instantly and doing research – as well as the communication side of things of course. Search engines are a place to be seen, the place where people converge to find the products, services and information they need.
The Evolution of a Social SEO
SEO though has had to change, both to accommodate the potential of Social Media and to take into account significant changes in the search engine’s algorithms. As a result, SEO has become more dynamic, more effective and more beneficial for the Internet as a whole.
We’re looking at Social SEO, SEO 2.0, whatever you want to call it, SEO is a wholly different beast to what it was even a couple of years ago. Getting a website to the top of Google involves a certain amount of nous and the highest standards. Flood a page with keywords and you’ll get yourself nowhere fast, create great content with a strong – natural if possible – linking profile and the world is your oyster.
Blogs have become an extension of both SEO and Social Media. We write posts to get traffic, encourage interest and gain a few links, but to further this it is essential to bookmark everything and contribute to online conversation. SEO is social, at the higher echelons it always has been, but to be effective in optimising your website for search engines you need to know the latest techniques, understand the newest algorithm updates and get to grips with the whole process; this is where the power of blogs, search engines, Twitter and bookmarking sites truly converge.
SEO – the Essence of Online Marketing, Social Media – the Distributor
You have to be intelligent about gaining links. You also have to have a decent standard of content on a site, in order to link to. Visitors and search engines aren’t fools, if you don’t have something that’s worth their while, they won’t give you the time of day. Links are the currency of SEO but, as with real-life, you rarely get something for nothing.
Social Media has become an enabler for SEO. It has helped its proliferation and has encouraged search engines to improve their SERPs and algorithms in such a way that poor practices are eradicated. For smaller businesses with fewer resources, SEO is absolutely essential; for larger businesses with successful websites, SEO is no less important, but Social Media provides a fantastic additional opportunity to spread your influence and back up that optimisation.
This is not to denigrate Social Media, far from it, but to really benefit your website – both in terms of search engine rankings and its overall quality – the new and improved SEO is more relevant than ever. It might have the same name, but SEO today is a world away from its less illustrious past. It’s intuitive, it’s quality-based and it’s social.
So whilst Social Media might be an irresistible force, search engines represent the immovable object that remains embedded in its way. As long as this hierarchy is maintained, Search Engine Optimisation will always be the most effective way to market your site online.