Optimizing Social Media Campaigns For Search

April 29, 2011
By Lisa Barone in SEO

You probably wouldn’t guess this by looking at me, but when I was younger, I was a Girl Scout. A card-carrying, sash-wearing, camping trip-attending Girl Scout. I hated it, of course, preferring to be playing street hockey with my brother and his friends, but it was important to my parents that I at least fake having an interest. So I did. For a little while.

One of your shining moments as a Girl Scout is the day you transition between levels – Daisy to Brownie, Brownie to Junior, etc. It’s when you walk over a ceremonial wooden bridge on stage singing about the importance of making new friends and keeping the old.

You’re probably familiar with the tune. It goes something like this:

Two decades or so later, the melody I couldn’t get out of my head as a child once finds itself relevant. Sing it with me now:

Make new friends (with social media), but keep the old (in SEO), one is silver but together they’re pure gold!

I know. I’m obviously very talented. But what does all that mean? It means that social media and search engine optimization have value on their own but together they become even more powerful.

eMarketer recently published some data from comScore that found search and social pack a powerful consumer punch, citing that clickthrough rates increased 94 percent when a consumer was exposed to both brand-specific search results and social media.

As the chart shows, yeah, social media is driving people to a point of sale…but not like it does when combined with search. As a business owner, you need to go after both.

How should you be working search engine optimization into the social media campaign process? Well, let’s start from the beginning.

Coming Up With the Idea

Your SEO starts here. It starts before you ever put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Your social brainstorming process should including identifying how this piece of content, this video, this infographic is going to help you achieve your larger SEO and business goals. Yeah, viral is fun, but it’s a waste of effort without a clean end goal. What are you trying to use this piece of content to do?

Do some initial keyword research to look for opportunities and terms you may want to target. What keywords are you receiving traffic from, but aren’t ranking as well as you’d like for? Where do you suspect competitors are getting traffic from that you’re not? What holes in the search engine result pages do you want to close? Knowing which terms you’d like to target will help you either come up with the idea or at least skew it in the direction that will give you the most bang for your buck. After all, creating content for social media campaign is no less important than doing it for an SEO campaign. The content is going to end up in the same spot – the search results – so it’s important you create it with a clear purpose. Otherwise, you’re just playing.

Remembering to support the whole ship

What about the placement of your content? If we’re talking about a blog post or an article, chances are that piece of content will be hosted on your site. But what if it’s not a blog post? What if we’re talking about a video or an infographic you wanted to disseminate to the industry? Do not forget to host that content on a real page on your site, one that will include links that people and search engines can follow through to the rest of your site. One thing that really makes us cringe is to see a business spend a lot of time creating a fantastic piece of content only to banish it from the rest of the site by not putting it on a real page, removing any link juice or value that they’ll get from it. Don’t be dumb. Conserve and focus your juice.

Set up tracking

Just because we’re talking social, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking the ROI of what you’re putting out and that means getting some tracking in place BEFORE you release that puppy to the wild. Getting your tracking set up in Google Analytics is important for a couple of reasons. Obviously, you want to be able to track the individual success of what you’re putting out, but this is also helpful in studying micro-conversions, seeing where people discovered the content, determining how much of your traffic comes from social sites, what else visitors touched on your site, and knowing what to tweak for future campaigns.

Speaking of tracking, using a reverse image search engine like TinEye can help you find places where someone grabbed your infographic but didn’t give you credit for it with a link. And then you can beat them send a quick email requesting they maybe add it so their users can “join in the discussion” about it on your site.

Optimizing…everything

Do not forget to optimize your social campaigns for search! This applies to the content itself, any images included, video, banners, infographic titles (make sure to include the title inside the actual infographic so people don’t call it something else and link to you with non-optimal anchor text), contest promotions, and any media you’ll be giving users to embed. Apply SEO to your content like you would salt to your French fries – very, very liberally.

Watching load time

While you shouldn’t panic over page speed, it is something you want to think about when launching a social media promotion. Sure, your site may not face any issues during a normal day, but what about when you suddenly get an onslaught of social traffic? Or when your industry’s IT blogger, sends his or legion of fans to go check out what you created? Or when you accidentally take down the ship trying to get that whale-sized infographic to load? Google has confirmed that site speed is a search ranking factor, so it’s something you’ll want to consider. No good creating a monster social media hit only to have your site buckle under the pressure.

Remember: Anything that can be searched for can be optimized for search. Just because it’s social doesn’t change that.

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