It seems like every few weeks one blogger or another is heralding the death of SEO, usually citing social media marketing as the murderer.
Is SEO changing? Most definitely. Is social media marketing having an effect on how websites create and manage SEO campaigns? You bet. But is SEO really dead? Far from it.
Social media and SEO are not in competition with each other, as so many site owners seem to think. In fact, the two disciplines are joining forces to form social SEO, which takes the best of both campaigns and leverages them for a strong online marketing campaign.
Bing, Facebook and the "Friend Effect"
In May 2011, Bing and Facebook announced a new approach to searching, naming it the "Friend Effect."
As Bing explained in their blog post announcing the partnership, searching has become an increasingly social experience.
We ask our friends, family and coworkers for advice at various points during the decision making process, whether it be what movie we should see this weekend or what IT services company we should hire to manage our small business. Peer review sites like Yelp allow people to connect with users outside of their personal social network and tap into what Bing calls the "collective IQ of the Web." Because of the Friend Effect, Bing users "receive personalized search results based on the opinions of your friends by simply signing into Facebook."
So how does that affect your SEO?
It means that a Bing user logged into Facebook could potentially see an entirely different SERP than when they aren't logged in, based on the preferences of their network. A website that didn't even crack the top results is suddenly catapulted to the #3 spot, just because a handful of that user's Facebook friends Liked that page.
Now, more than ever, site owners have to make sure their content is easily shareable (and worthy of being shared). Installing the Facebook Like button on your blog is the first step, but you must take an active role in promoting your own content. Your brand's online presence could be severely diminished in the number two search engine if you don't use Facebook to promote your content.
Google+ and +1
Not to be outdone by Facebook and Bing, Google launched their much anticipated social networking site, Google+ in June. A few short weeks after Google+ launched, the site had over 25 million users that were sharing more than a billion pieces of content EVERY DAY.
The newest social networking site recently opened up the brand floodgates, allowing companies to create their own business profiles. Some have heralded Google+ as the Facebook killer; while others say it's doomed to fail like the other Google social networking attempts. Regardless of what you think, there is no denying that right now Google+ has a lot of potential.
The +1 button, the predecessor to Google+, was Google's answer to the "Friendship Effect" created by Bing and Facebook. As Google explained:
Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it's most relevant...When a signed-in Google user is searching, your Google search result snippet may be annotated with the names of the user's connections who've +1'd your page.
This means that when a Google user is logged into the Google account and searching, the search results will show who in their social network has liked which result. The idea behind the +1 button is that people don't necessarily want Google telling them which results are the best, but they are more likely to trust a piece of content that has been +1d by a friend.
So how does that affect your SEO?
Just recently, Google+ brand pages have begun appearing with the SERP alongside company websites.
In some cases, content businesses have shared on Google+ are also directly published on the SERPs. This is an excellent opportunity for companies to expand their overall online presence, especially for branded searches. The more chances a potential customer has to interact with your company the better.
While it has yet to be confirmed, many in the SEO industry suspect that Google might be giving more weight to websites that have an active Google+ account and receive numerous +1s on their content. Since Google no longer has direct access to Facebook's data, it makes sense to assume they are using Google+ and +1 to fill the gaps.
The worlds of social media and search are becoming more and more intertwined everyday. Bing wants to offer more personalized search, Google wants to be a social networking site, Facebook wants to become the hub of all our online activities and brands have to balance multiple campaigns at once if they want to compete.
The most successful websites are the ones who recognize social's impact on SEO and are integrating the two disciplines into one strong online presence.
Photo credit: ibizclicks.com
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is a Boston SEO consultant and president of Brick Marketing, a full service SEO and white hat link building company. With over 12 years of industry experience, Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and by publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.