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Let social media help your SEO

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Social Media

This guest post was written by Norm Elrod, a contributor to Search Engine Watch, producers of the Search Engine Strategies New York Conference & Expo. Norm is also a digital media consultant who blogs about his employment experiences at Jobless and Less.

Search is dead. Long live social media. This seems to be the rallying cry of late. And social media does show lots of promise for marketers. But discussions like this seem to miss the point. Both search and social media are weapons in a smart marketer’s armory. And used together, they can help to better target consumers.

In Marketing Sherpa’s recent Social Media Marketing Benchmark Survey, only 32% of respondents found integrating Social Media with SEO very effective. Fifty-four percent found it somewhat effective, and 14% not effective at all. Presumably, these are people who have tried to integrate — a small fraction of those engaged in social media. These statistics are surprising. Search is about figuring out what people are looking for when they enter keywords into their favorite search engine. Social media is what people are actually saying to each other; they’re telling us what they’re looking for. We, as marketers, should be able to fit it all together pretty nicely.

Are you leaving Search keywords on the table? You probably are. A recent Search Engine Watch post laid out many of the privacy issues related to social media. But consumers willingly offer a wealth of information about themselves in various Social Media outlets all the time. And much of it can help you further optimize your site and improve your search rankings. Consumers are helping you to help them.

What are people saying about your company or product? And how are they saying it? It’s time to find out. Look at all the tweets related to your Twitter hashtag and follow the conversations. Search Twitter using your current keywords and see what other words people are using in the discussion. Click through to Web sites and blogs. Visit Facebook Fan pages and individual pages if you can. But you don’t need me to run through all the social media options, especially since one in particular provides most of the chatter.

My point is simple: Use social media outlets as a keyword suggestion tool.

Social media research should yield long-tail keywords appropriate for deeper pages on your site. The incremental traffic these pages attract is likely the most targeted and potentially the most valuable. And you never know. Maybe a sea change among consumers is bubbling under. Such research conducted in real time (at least more real time than last month’s analytics) will help you plan for it and keep you out ahead of it.

The whole exercise is worth performing for your competitors and the industry as a whole. In a perfect world, there would be someone on staff dedicated to following the appropriate social media conversations everyday. And in a perfect world, we’d all be rich and drink martinis on the beach everyday. Most companies can’t afford to dedicate an employee as office Internet monitor. Still, the exercise is worth repeating whenever you re-examine keywords.

Tomorrow’s keywords are out there to be found, courtesy of social media. And when they become today’s, you’ll be well-positioned to receive all the traffic. Social media wants to help in your search efforts. Let it.

Image credit, jpa1999, via iStock