SEO Step Six of Ten: Social Media

By: Li Evans - March 13, 2008

Welcome to part six in this ten part SEO series. The ten parts of the SEO process we will be covering are:

  1. Keyword Research & Selection
  2. Competitor Analysis
  3. Site Structure
  4. Content Optimization
  5. Link Building
  6. Social Media
  7. PPC
  8. Statistics Analysis
  9. Conversion Optimization
  10. Keeping It Up

Social Media

On the second day of SMX Social, I had the privilege of being on a panel that spoke about micro-communities. The panel included Rand Fishkin and myself while Danny Sullivan moderated. Several of my colleagues were a little confused with the title of the panel, just as probably a few of you are right now. So just what are micro communities?

First, before I explain that, let me start off by saying – the concept of Social Media is not new. That’s right, the concept of what exactly social media is not new. The fancy term that has been coined "Social Media" and the new "Web 2.0" looks are what’s new to this rather old advertising medium (old in terms of the internet that is). Social Media has been around since the inception of the Internet. Think I’m a little nuts in stating that? Stop and reflect a moment, some of the most powerful social media outlets for your clients, services and products have been around a very long time – Forums and Message Boards.

Forums and Message Boards are chalk full of relevant very honed content around particular subjects. Whether its subject is about collecting comics, fan fiction writing, or making crafts most forums have a lot of "power" when it comes to value and optimization of your website (think age of domains, relevant content, etc.). They also offer traffic from very qualified resources, and these are resources that really would be more interested in what you have to say.

So now, maybe you are getting an idea of what micro-communities are? Micro-Communities are specific communities built around niches. When it comes to social media it can encompass a wide variety of social media types from specific social news sites (BallyHype, Sk*rt), bloggers blogging about very finite subjects, specific communities (WebMD, Corkd), to fourms/message boards (Cre8asite, Rotten Tomatoes). All of these social media types provide user generated content created by people interested in one particular niche.

Rand had a great list of all different types of communities in his presentation. This listed consisted of websites that were designed to be "communities" around a certain niche. However, when marketing to micro-communities you need to look beyond just a particular website that caters to creating a community to one niche. You have to open up the possibilities of reaching more people with your message, by only looking at "communities" per se, you limit your reach. Micro-community marketing strategies should include social news sites, blogs and blogging groups, forums and message boards, video and photo sharing sites (think about photo groups and video subscriptions) and also communities. Any where people "share" they are being "social".

My presentation gave a case study, how we effectively leveraged utilizing a certain aspect of social media to spread the word about a client’s product. The client is in an extremely tough niche to market. This particular niche was over crowded, PPC spend was high and SEO is practically impossible other than for their brand name which no one knew about. After spending over 40k in PPC with lackluster results, the client needed a new approach, so we decided to take a much closer look at social media.

Several approaches were looked at, but we decided to first work with bloggers who were specifically blogging about their ups and downs with dieting. We did a tremendous amount of research and read their blogs. We started with a large list and looked at several factors such as receptiveness, how often they blogged, what was their reach, and how many subscribers the blog had. We decided to start with "smaller" bloggers (reach/subscriptions) first to minimize any negative backlash and also to learn from our approach. Most importantly we followed the WOMMA guidelines. Due to the industry our client’s product was in, and the propensity for spam and being seen as a "slimy, unethical marketer", this was very important.

After a 4-6 week period, the project had greater success than the PPC campaign did in 3 months. The goal was to give away free trials via an online form. That was accomplished when after a blogger wrote about their experience with the product, they were then offered to offer their audience a free trial as well. The most important thing we did with this project, beyond being upfront and honest, was that we NEVER asked a blogger to blog about the product. We did not expect it, we did not ask for it we left that up to the blogger to act on their own. If the blogger did blog about their experience with the product it was recorded, and we also interacted with the blogger’s conversation. Whether it was a positive or a negative response, we always engaged in the conversation thanking them for their honest opinions and feedback.

In the end, when we finally handed the project over to the new marketing group our client started, the project was deemed successful by our client. They actually had sales from this effort, where in the PPC campaign, there was none. The client also learned a lot about the perception of the product and considered that a great take away too.

Taking the time, researching and being up front and honest about who you are is imperative to marketing to micro-communities. If the community smells a "rat", they’ll out you faster than OJ Simpson was outed for "stealing his own sports memorabilia" back. Trust me when I say this, you mess up by not being upfront and honest, your campaign efforts are done. People in these micro communities talk with each other. Bloggers participate in forums, forum participants engage in social news, social news junkies scour the message boards for new information to post – get the picture here?

Micro-communities are a great place to market to qualified targeted audiences, but unless you invest the time and sincere efforts of engaging with a community, your strategy is doomed from the start. The last thing I’d like relate about micro-communities is: remember, these communities tend to be a much smaller scale than Digg, Propeller or StumbleUpon, you shouldn’t be after traffic if you are looking to interact with these communities. Digg, Facebook,etc. all have broad and general audiences and can drive tons of unqualified traffic, micro-communities can turn out to be a much bigger "win" if your goal is conversions.

 

Li Evans

About the Author

Li EvansLiana (a.k.a Li) is the creator and main contributor to Search Marketing Gurus and has assembled a well rounded group of professional search marketing professionals to contribute to the blog.

Li has an extensive I.T. and marketing background, holding degrees in both Public Relations and Information Systems. In a prior life, Li was a database and visual basic programmer who "found the light" with search marketing back in 1999.

View all posts by Li Evans
  • http://www.seoboost.co.uk Search Engine optimisation

    You are right Social bookmarking sites are good for goal conversions but thats all quick traffic is there aim and the odd win is helpfull but thats all.

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    Looking foward to reading more about your thoughts on SEO.

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    On my way to read the rest of this series

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    Social media is here to stay and when SEO and social media consultants can learn to work together it will be a powerful combo.

  • http://www.marketing-webmaster.com Guest

    Great article, and I remind myself that the english language enables cross contries, global social media

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    Excellent and concise article about social media. Getting involved, reasearching heavily and knowig what other bloggers are doing and saying is highly important in the service and marketplace.

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    Great list, but I believe it is important to also include another sub aspect of SEO which is viral marketing and link baiting as a methodology for building links. Just including the step ‘link building’ leaves much to the imagination, and I find very few businesses truly leverage viral aspects into their link building or marketing campaign.

  • http://seo.pittwebsite.com Pittsburgh SEO

    Hi Li,

    Thanks for pointing that out to us, I’m sure this opens the door to social media for a lot of people. If more people would follow your genuine approach to social marketing I think it would actually increase the quality of content that is out there. Think about it,  most people would be posting about about actual products and reviewing them. I’m sure most of us at some point likes to see what others read more data on products we are interested in buying or hear about ones we didn’t know about. Again thanks for the inspiring post.

     

    • http://www.wsop2008.org WSOP 2008

      user reviews far outweigh product hype

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    Social Media is the future of SEO

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      I agree to you seo pro, social media is the future of SEO but as social media has started giving results to webmasters, it has become more vulnerable to abuse. In future the social media siites has to take some firm steps to stop abuse otherwise what we call ‘social’ will become playground of spammers.

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    Great seo article.  Keep em coming

  • http://www.propeller.com/member/boots72/ L.W. From Propeller

    Li, I am definitely a newly convinced fan of social media\marketing.  I have been increasingly finding myself involved in all types of internet communities.  The first step is trying to get into the  "out the box" way of thinking.

    We all as marketers, (at least some of us) are so bent on trying to sell something to everyone to the point where we are eventually shoving it down the throats of people, who have their guards up more than ever before. 

    Really, the only effective way to get across to them is through social media, so it’s almost a mandatory thing if you want to succeed online or offline for that matter.  You have to immerse yourself into these communities, and not pretend to be involved, but actually give something back of value in return for all of the attention you are getting for your own benefit. 

    After a while, you’ll noticed that you "suddenly" have a purpose in these virtual communities.  After your first point, the keyword and selection, I think social media interactivity should be number 2 on the list.  Without that, everything else on the list is somewhat pointless, because you’ll have very limited exposure on today’s world wide web.

     

  • http://www.business-sale.com Chris

    If used well social media sites are great traffic drivers, watch Google swallow them up

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    Nice post Li. Social media is a very important part of any business marketing campaign. Social netowkring is on the rise,and social rank may even eventually replace page rank as a key factor in rankings.

    • http://www.iwanted.ca Internet Marketing & SEO

      Social networking has the potential to drive large amounts of traffic to a website.  The only concern that I have is that much of this traffic does little to convert into any sales or revenue.  Suggestions on how to deal with that?

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    I’m interested in reaching social network websites who are interested in trading equity for a $10,000,000 media campaign.

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    This is a great info. I never thought about that.

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    I have found that social networking is a great way to build links and social bookmarking is great for getting pages indexed fast.

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    When planning a large scale social media campaign it is important to classify the website in order to best know the type of social media campaign you are running. Ecommerce website social media campaigns and information website campaigns are run much differently.

    Also, it is important to evaluate the purpose othe campaign – traffic, branding, links (for SEO), a combination, or all of the above.

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    I’m not so sure social media are really useful in a long run. You can get something from them in a short time, but I’m quite sceptical for a long run.

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     Great article…although not sure about relevance of large community sites these days.They are full of spam so i think people have link blindness. Agree with niche communities though.

  • http://www.healthwellnesszone.blogspot.com/ Peter

    I’ve only had success using digg. Stumbleupon got me a lot of traffic, but it was a bit of a waste of time- people don’t look at your site for long. Digg sends me a good balance of numbers and quality of traffic.

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    I guess if it is themed right your site can fit into some social media sites excluding the niche does you mentioned. Fny you didnt mention LinkedIn or FastPitch

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    Hi,

    These articles will surely help guys like me. It seems very easy but had to be followed correctly.  Now i have 25% knowledge in SEO.

    Thanks

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    I have been using forums for a long time now and I know the power fo this type of media. I wouldnt call them "micro communities" because the only networks bigger that forums are social networks like myspace and facebook.  No webmaster should over look the power of social communities. I really like your post it has very detail and useful info keep up the good work.

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    I used to submit to social bookmark. I think that’s very nice to get traffic. I also recommend forums which related to your site but pls DO NOT SPAM.

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    you can’t just join a community and expect everyone to go follow your links without first building some trust and reputation amongst the community, otherwise your post will get buried quickly.  learn who the regulars are and start an exchange with them.

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    Another great read… Thanks very much. 😉

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    Social media should be a part of all online campaigns.

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    Great article.  The best advice that I can give on using Social Media to market your site is to pick one community and really participate.  Too often people spread themselves too thin and try to join many social sites.  Instead, pick one and become well known on that social media site.

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    I wonder how long these social media sites will last? But at this point they do offer great ways to increase traffic. Thank tou for this article.

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    I have just finished reading through the first 6 SEO posts you have made, and I must say – I am blown away

    The detail and every fine point you explain just makes so much sense

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    I have been 0 rank for about 6 months. grr.

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    Great article.  I am still somewhat new to SEO.  One thing I don’t know a whole lot about is using Social Media Sites to my advantage.  Thanks for the great info!

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     Thanks for this article. Very informative! 

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    This is really a nice post about social media. this helps me out on some things i didnt know yet..

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    an article on social media and no mention of Digg ??

    Forum posting can be very successful depending on the forum and your posts, but also quite a bit of work. Plus all the really useful forums are quite careful to weed out the spammers/marketers…

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    I believe that social networking and media will be a larger and larger part of the future of the web, since it is really a ‘mimicing’ of how people socially interact, in a digital landscape.

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    I truly believe that the search engines are moving toward utilizing elements of social media more and more in ranking. Stickiness, trackable tool usable, bounce rated, return rates will all become more and more important.

    Since search and rankings are about what the user wants, this only makes sense, and ensures that the user found what the wanted.

    This is why I believe social media and Web 2.0 is so critical for websites moving forward.

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    Social media can be a powerful tool if used properly to drive traffic.

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    Social media is the fastes way to get targeted visitors to your site.  Social bookmarking and web 2.0 strategies should play a major part in your over all marketing campaign

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    Indeed Web 2.0 should be a major part of most search marketing strategies for businesses now online.

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    While I devote a certain amount of time to social marketing, I also haven’t felt that it was really all that effective.  For example, one of sites get quite a bit of traffic from Stumbleupon, but virtually no slaes from that traffic stream.  I wonder if my time isn’t better spent elsewhere in terms of building traffic?

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    Ways to improve your Social Media, thanks.

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    Thanks for useful info

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    Nice article. Social media is definately a big thing. We are working on several strategies to position our site on social networks as well.

  • http://wolfet.co.uk NeuroToxic

    Call me old fashioned but i prefer forums to blogs, and i prefer directories to social bookmarking, yeah ive got a blog, but that doesn’t mean that i like that kind of web platform, progress progress progress, change isn’t always for the best, it seems that i can’t search for anything these days without finding a blog within the first few results, and as for social bookmarking, grr i hate that concept, even Google has adapted a wiki search style comments system into its search results, the whole web is turning into a popularity contest, and its not about how good your pages are anymore, its all about who you know and who likes you…

  • http://www.GiantIsland.com/ GiantIsland

    The fundamental issue with this type of “social media marketing” is that it doesnt build long term strategies for reaching customers. It may help build a brand or fit into some twisted viral system, but its not adding value to either your product/service or the Web at large. It also adds to the millions of lines of empty commentary and links that permeate the web today, all contributing to Web that is increasingly difficult to search.

    It seems that these are attempts at desperation and popularity contests, as someone mentioned in this blog. I think we need to ditch most of what social Web 2.0 is and go back to the fundamentals of what made the Web great. It wasnt about texting and links to adwords….it was solid links to web pages that contained relevant information about a subject the user was interested in.

    What if you focused on building web pages that talked about this product but also how it has helped someone (ie a real customer)? What if you actually said something great about what you were selling in a simple web page and stuck a comments or “weblog” section so people could leave comments, rather than filling up everyones web pages with manipulated link farms? Its old fashioned but sure has allot more meaning to spiders like Google and MSN than blogging every site you can find.

  • http://www.frankenradar.de Matthias

    Thank your for this great series of SEO articles. I could really learn a lot while reading these articles. I definitely will visit this website more often in the future.

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    This article gives some very useful insights on Social Media.

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    your social media is powerfull but don’t forget to use web 2.0

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    Thank you so much. Your articles are about SEO are some of the best around the internet. Mery Christmas!

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    I think you’ve brought up a good point, and one that separates a valuable web marketing approach from basic spam.

    As with all things on the web recently, everyone is looking for and now expects relevance. If your marketing campaign can provide useful and relevant information within the confines of a discussion then very few people will mind that you represent a commercial interest. As you stated, being up-front about who you are is a big step in this.

    We are beyond having your own website and expecting the world to come. What you discuss is key, providing good content to other sites that allow for discussion and absorption among an existing community while increasing brand awareness.

    Good article!

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    Thanks for the interesting article about social media.

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    Social Media is in fact the most important tool to utilize when we are talking about Seo. Anyone studying about seo should not neglect social media as a versatile tool.

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    Social media is a powerful marketing tool if we know how to exploit it. Now we have new terms like VSEO etc..

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    Li– nicely said.

    Social Media is growing and it

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    Great ethical Social media utilization and search engine marketing tips with website placement solutions and services to meet or exceed SEM industry standards. Really this article was of great help.Stickiness, trackable tool usable, bounce rated, return rates will all become more and more important.With social marketing and web 2.0 moving up faster this tips will help a lot.

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    it’s very hard to build a good profile on this type of websites. But if you catch the first page you will gain a huge amount of traffic.

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    It’s not easy in getting on the front page of big social media sites, like digg.com. But it’s not easy building a high profile over time and getting a high PR for your profile either.

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    So, if you are in the technology world and want to leverage the online social media, what are your options? Current wisdom is that social traffic doesn’t convert – they aren’t looking for software development, wb development, Internet marketing, SEO, etc.

    There must be a way that a company like ours can make use of the social media resource.

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    “REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — The Center for Financial Executive Education (“CFEE”) and banker and social media expert Jesse Torres, today encouraged social media implementers to adopt the Social Media Risk… “

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    need more time and hard work to take advantage of Social Media, especially for beginners like me. thanks for your info

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    I’ve found that with social marketing in smaller communities, like you’ve said, it all has to start out with being casual and conversational. You can then start to introduce some link building or marketing some of your information in these communities but only after you have come to be known as a part of the community. I find this is especially true now with Twitter.

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    Social media has become an important factor for success and will remain so.

    And though (or better because) this is an SEO guide there’s one question to keep in mind when using social media for marketing: Would I do the same thing if it wasn’t for SEO reasons? If the answer is yes you might be on to something.

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    Nice article. I was doing some backlinking for my website and been posting to forums and blogs however I got a questions with regards to backlinking.

    Should I post to forums with high index page but the actual page for putting links has no PR at all? Will google still consider this as a boost to my PR?

    Many thanks.

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      Quality forums use a “NO FOLLOW” rule. Most forums also provide separate pages for comments, which have no page rank.

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    Excellent presentation! Excellent post! I was just thinking it seemed as though it was time for Google to segregate social into its own category, add them to the Google Accounts page so that a user would have one sign in for all social accounts (talk about a mass listserve), and then they could monetize that which they haven’t yet parsed.

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    Good tips but only long term, I prefer working on my business and I bought 10000 facebook fans on http://www.socialkik.com for my Business Fan page and I immediately started seeing the conversion rate of Orders/Visitors on my online store increase dramatically ! That was the best advertising investment I made !

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    Good tips but only long term, I prefer working on my business and I bought 10000 facebook fans on http://www.socialkik.com for my Business Fan page and I immediately started seeing the conversion rate of Orders/Visitors on my online store increase dramatically ! That was the best advertising investment I made !