Stephen Logan

Is Social SEO the Future of Internet Marketing?

23rd Oct 2009 Social Media 5 minutes to read

The idea of social SEO, or indeed an SEO social, has little or nothing today with gaggles of optimisers discussing the latest techniques. It instead reflects the convergence of two Internet superpowers, search engines and social media, in an online marketing mêlée.

Whilst search engines benefit from a longstanding tradition and user familiarity, social media represents a surging market and unique real-time capabilities. To some, the two are chalk and cheese, to others the differences are becoming increasingly blurred.

Search engine optimisation has always been the loaded term assigned to anybody looking to improve their rankings. Whilst the term SEO may need updating, its effectiveness has certainly not diminished. Despite the rise of alternative resources, social media being a prime candidate, the search engines have always maintained unrivalled traffic potential. This has made it essential for any self-respecting website to obtain a decent ranking within them; thus continuing to validate SEO as a practice and an industry.

During the past decade, a small groundswell of interest in social media, perpetrated by the likes of Friends Reunited, has grown into a global phenomenon. Once the sole preserve of Ivy League students and old schoolmates, it has grown into a worldwide conversation. A constant stream of consciousness from all corners of the earth offering everything from the bizarre to the banal.

Search Engines V Social Media

There was always a reasonable distance between the two. You used social media to talk to your friends and share photos, whilst you visited Google to do your homework or find a new CD; simple, chalk and cheese. However, just as SEOs found a way to improve their clients’ visibility using search engines, so online marketers soon discovered how to tap into the social media discussion to get their message across.

Whilst defending the practise of SEO in a recent blog post [Is SEO Essential or an Outmoded Scam Touted by Charlatans? Part III] I suggested that the difference between SEO and social media might be more negligible than previously suggested. This was in direct response to a claim that SEO was spammy and that social media offered a more succinct solution; a flagrant fallacy.

Whether you’re using Facebook and Twitter or Yahoo and Google, the fundamental rule for any marketer is to get noticed by the right people. That is arguably where the similarities currently end. Because whilst social media is all about creating a community of like-minded individuals who will be interested in what you have to say or offer, SEO is just about getting to the top.

Optimisation can be done right throughout a website. It involves building links, writing content and implementing Meta, whilst continuing to maintain a site that is user-friendly. Not always an easy balancing act, which is why SEO professionals are still very much in demand – sorry, just returning to my SEO defence again.

Long-term V Real-time

Whilst a high ranking on Google takes time to obtain but can have significant results over the long-term, social media drives traffic in real-time. This means you can tweet about something you’ve seen, read or done and people will know instantly. They can also follow any links you provide there and then, providing an excellent flow of short-term traffic. Unfortunately, the one key issue of social media though is in its sustainability.

Internet marketers want results. They want targeted traffic and tangible improvements to see just how much a website is developing. SEO will get you rankings and the traffic that goes with it, whilst social media can involve you in the industry, get you noticed and, dare I say, popular. Social is very much about offering something to the wider conversation, allowing customers, clients and bystanders to interact with you directly. SEO is very much about the selfish bottom line.

So what’s better, faceless long-term SEO gains or short-term traffic boosts through social media interaction? Well, search engines are engrained within the consumers’ psyche. They have become the way in which many of us navigate the Internet and its many facets. This means that, for as long as search engines maintain this position, SEO will always be a hugely beneficial process; there can’t be too many arguments about that.

But there are also positives about the social side of things too. Obviously there is traffic to be plundered, that’s a given, but you can also create an identity and use it almost as a customer service portal. If someone says something bad about your business, you’re in the ideal position to formulate a reply. It can be used as an online community notice board, with you ready to step in and answer questions that relate to your field.

Harmonising SEO & Social Media

So in many ways social media is the perfect foil for SEO. Whilst your search engine ranking remains the most important aspect, a little social media marketing on the side won’t damage you. This is likely to become more in evidence over the coming months as both Bing and Google incorporate Twitter updates [Google and Microsoft Complete Twitter Deal to Herald Real-time Search Era]. Which brings us neatly to the question of SEO becoming social.

Well, SEO is what it is, a process for getting websites to appear higher on SERPs. However, the whole Internet marketing model is shifting. Just as search engines are looking into real-time, so SEOs are integrating more social aspects into their work. Where there is visibility, there is traffic; where there are links, there is popularity. Abandoning SEO would be a huge mistake, but so would ignoring social media.

Real-time search will be played out on search engines; so whilst it will be good to see your tweets appearing on a few search terms, nothing can beat the enduring appeal of a Google endorsement. That Google endorsement can only come by way of a dominant ranking. The industry is changing and will continue to change; this doesn’t necessitate an overhaul, merely the wherewithal to adjust. This is how SEO will become social.

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