Battling it out: Search Engine Optimisation vs Social Media

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a battle between social media and SEO? After all search engine optimisation (SEO), according to some, is dead and social media is still seen by many as pretty sexy even if it is becoming a bit more Cindy Crawford than Cheryl Cole?

Well actually no, there is no battle.

(Social Media: Weathering Nicely?)

(Image Credit)







And that is the premise behind the New Media Breakfast “SEO vs Social Media: The Face-off” (held in Glasgow last week with the Edinburgh leg coming up on Thursday 12th July).

The event is not about SEO vs Social. It’s actually a friendly competition between Gordon White and myself; both of us online marketers but one with a background more in SEO than social and the other more social media than SEO.

But this post is not about the breakfast, it is just inspired by my preparation for the event.  The aim of this post is to highlight some of the different areas where SEO and social media overlap, where they need each other, and even, how at times, they are one and the same thing.

social media’s impact on google ranking

It’s no secret that Google et al are experimenting all the time with different ways to use tweets etc to help determine rankings. Indeed, as we have discussed many times on this blog, social is being increasingly integrated into search ranks.

However social has been impacting search ranking for much longer than the relatively recent Twitter/Facebook ranking chat. Arguably blogs, which many will see as a social media tool, have been one of the key focuses of SEO link building over the past 8 years or more.

Even now though, I suspect we are still at the very beginning of the true ranking impact of things like tweets, shares and likes.

The bottom line is if you expect to rank in search engines you need a social strategy. Simples.

SEO strength for social

But what about the other way round? Do you need a search strategy for social?

Of course. Code up your site wrongly, put your content in the wrong place, don’t think about your keywords, don’t seek out good quality long term links from other sites etc and you’re bound to see less social success. Indeed your much nurtured fans and followers will find other people’s content if they search and you are not there.

algorithms in Social Media

Some see SEO as trying to beat the algorithm that determines your search engine ranking. But algorithms also play a part in social media too. Savvy social guys will be very familiar with EdgeRank. It is Facebook’s algorithm for determining if you appear in someone’s news feed or not. And EdgeRank is something you need to “optimise” for.

social media tools for SEO

We regularly make use of social media tools such as Twitter for what might be defined as the traditional SEO activity of link building.  At the heart of both social and link building is a simple shared concept: relationships.

optimising sharing and social

SEOs often get very engrossed in the fine details of the technology behind sites to get the greatest search engine benefit from a site. This is why all SEOs will tell you that the time to start SEO is when your website is just a twinkle in your eye. Unsurprisingly it turns out the same is true for social media. I even find that there a lot of parallels within the nitty gritty of what the two specialists do. For example we now consider how to concentrate sharing activity in much the same way as we have always consider how to concentrate links to a page.

content marketing – the true area of overlap

In the above examples, the SEO and the SM practitioner will tackle the same problem but probably from slightly different angles. In my mind the area where there is greatest harmony is likely to be in the concept of content marketing.

“Produce great content” is the rallying cry of both sets of professionals and the sort of content that both parties are likely to produce are likely to be very similar. Be this a blog post, infographic, guide, software, videos, data, podcast or even a great business model, both parties intrinsically understand the importance and will put content at the heart of their strategies.

Both parties would likely agree that the rise of content marketing and the concepts behind it has been the fundamental marketing change of the last 20 years. Content powers both search rankings and social media dominance.

Work with one or both practitioners and you can (or should!) expect much time to be dedicated to developing high quality content for your brand. If the majority of your SEO time is just being spent on activities such as putting keywords on pages or your Social Media time is being spent chatting about the weather or telling people you’ve just won an award, it’s time to think again.

over to you

Where do you see harmony or conflict? Have your SEO campaigns bought you social success or the other way round? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

And perhaps more importantly I hope to see you at the breakfast. Not least because I need your votes (having had to reluctantly concede victory to Gordon in the Glasgow leg, the Edinburgh rematch is vital ;)) .

If you need any help in doing "digital" better don't hesitate to contact us.

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