7 Simple Steps to Leverage Social Media

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In Google’s quest for the perfect, most useful search result, increasing weight has been put on social media signals including citations, likes, comments and shares. Brands who’ve hesitated to enter the social media fracas have paid a price in terms of organic search rankings. Conversely, brands who embraced social early have benefitted from the additional boost in visibility. Integrating social media with search engine optimization (SEO) efforts maximize impact on visibility, credibility and sales. The following 7 steps will ensure an optimal organic search engine presence.

Step 1: Claim & Optimize Social Profiles
The first and most important step in improving your organic search visibility via social media is to ensure you’ve created profiles on the top platforms. It only takes a few minutes to claim a profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Be sure to secure your brand name as your handle, as it typically becomes the URL and is your best performing keyword in search results. If you only have time to claim one profile, make sure it is Google+, as there is no such thing as SEO on Google without a Google+ company profile.

Step 2: Listen, Learn & Apply
In case you haven’t yet figured it out, social media is the world’s largest focus group. Every day, millions of people publish their thoughts, opinions and insights about your company, competitors and industry. Analyzing keywords and phrases posted on social media provides insights into future content opportunities for SEO. Based on insights regarding trends, create unique, timely and compelling content for your website, blog and social profiles. The goal: seek the Share, which is the most powerful vote of confidence regarding the quality of your content and credibility of your website.

Step 3: Integrate with Website
In order to maximize the value of your investment in social media, it is important to close the loop between your social profiles and website. The first step is to imbed links to you primary social media profiles into your website (ideally at the header or footer of your template, so they appear on every page for optimal visibility). This will tell Google and site visitors that you have a social media presence worth visiting. The second step is to imbed social sharing buttons (again, ideally on every page) so that visitors can easily share your content via their social media profiles. The third step is to integrate feeds from your social profiles into your website (ideally the home page). This is a great way to keep your website content fresh and interesting to users and search engines. Last but not least, consider syndicating customer reviews from third party websites on your website. Review sites are often highly visible and respected and offer critical third party validation.

Step 4: Develop Winning Content
Content has always been King. There is no such thing as a social media or SEO strategy without content. Leverage the research performed in Step 2 to create shareable content. Google loves multimedia, so think about a multi-dimensional media content strategy. The most efficient approach to content creation is to start with HD video, as one 60 second recording can be repurposed to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook, and edited down for Instagram (15 seconds) and Vine (6 seconds). That same HD video also provides more than 1 million still images (for Pinterest and Instagram), 60 seconds of audio (for iTunes) and can be transcribed into text for a blog post or an article. Post and syndicate the content on your website and across your social media profiles for maximum reach and engagement.

Step 5: Go Local, Mobile & Social with Search
According to Search Engine Watch, 50 percent of mobile searches have local intent and 61 percent of those mobile searches result in a purchase. As such, mobile search and social cannot be ignored, especially by retail brands. The first step in creating a meaningful local presence is to claim and optimize your local listings on search engines, directories and review sites. Google and Yelp are two of the most important in this regard. Once claimed and populated with content, it is essential to monitor and update the listings regularly, as freshness is important. Be sure to optimize your website for local search as well, utilizing schema markup and Google Maps for driving directions.

Step 6: Monitor Social Mentions & Citations
One of the primary signals influencing search rankings is mentions of your brand in social media. Even if all mentions of your brand are positive (which is unlikely), it is essential to monitor social conversations. Quickly address negative reviews and be sure to celebrate and syndicate positive reviews. Engage constituents in conversation to build rapport and trust. Ask and answer questions about your brand or industry and encourage offline-to-online engagement where possible, including encouraging happy customers to post reviews based on their recent experience. This content will all be factored into your rankings. For bonus points, incorporate positive reviews into your paid advertising and offline marketing.

Step 7: Measure & Optimize
What gets measured gets managed, as my old boss used to say. In order to get the most out of your search and social marketing efforts, it is essential to continuously measure and optimize. While there are a limitless number of ways to measure the impact of social media on your search visibility, there are a few primary metrics on which to focus. The first set of metrics relates to the impact of your presence in social media, and includes shares, comments and brand or website mentions (aka citations). The higher the numbers, the more credible your social presence and the greater the likelihood to positively impact search rankings. The second set of metrics, which are farther down the funnel, relate to the impact of social media on your website. These metrics include level of visibility in targeted search rankings, the associated traffic to your website and any resulting leads or sales (which require conversion tracking in your analytics to properly measure). Last but not least, it is worthwhile to measure overall sentiment and related qualitative metrics, which are likely to impact site traffic, rankings and sales.

Due to recent changes in consumer behavior, social media will continue to impact search engine rankings and SEO strategy. By integrating social media with your search marketing efforts, you will see a measurable and positive impact on your rankings, traffic and ultimately, sales. Follow the 7 steps outlined above and see a return on your marketing investment in the coming year, before your competitors figure it out.

Kent Lewis is President & Founder of Anvil, an integrated marketing consultancy specializing in analytics, search engine and social media marketing. He is a co-founder of SEMpdx and SearchFest and has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University since 1999, where he currently teaches a Search Engine Marketing Workshop.