In this article the brilliant Paul O’Brien discussed the influence of social media on search engine rankings and highlights a number of tools which can be used to help bring some strategic focus to your content marketing programmes. Organisations often struggle to understand the relationship between their website content and social media. They have almost all embraced content marketing in the last 24 months and at this point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that isn’t interested in social. Nonetheless, the specific relationship between these two disciplines is hazy at most companies. How do these two critical elements play a symbiotic role in your marketing mix?

In a recent Forbes article from contributing author Jayson DeMers, Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, the keys to content marketing and optimisation were reinforced as being no more complicated than building a quality experience, earning industry validation, and creating satisfied customers. In SEO parlance, for those of you trying to figure out the mysteries of search engine optimisation, showing up prominently in search results is as simple as unique / quality content, links from credible and related sources, and social media coverage from your advocates, influencers, and customers.

The Principles of Search Engine Optimisation

Over the past decade and more, search engines have engaged in a constant tug-of-war with the search engine marketing industry. In the nascent years, marketers learned how to leverage link building and content, replicated across dozens or even hundreds of different owned domains, to capture as much of a search results page as possible. As search engines evolved to understand when these tricks were taking place, web developers and marketers uncovered different techniques to hack their way into search results: keyword stuffing, buying links, and other “black hat” methods.
At the end of the day, Google and other search engines are trying to do one simple thing – to deliver the best search result possible. An engine like Google simply wants to be comprehensive and relevant while delivering the very result that you expect to find. The easiest way to understand how to optimize your content is to appreciate Google’s own goals and align your tactics accordingly.
In more recent years, Google has accomplished this with localisation and personalisation of search, improving the likelihood that the result you see is the result appropriate to where and who you are. But even understanding personalisation and localisation, businesses and websites are still struggling with creating the ideal content experience such that Google knows where and when to present them.
Consider the reason for this challenge from the search engines’ perspective.  You can create quality / unique content and you can earn links but if businesses can buy or barter for links, links from websites to your site lose their credibility. To ensure the ideal search experience, the engines need other indicators of the relevance, popularity, and merit of a businesses’ website and content.Over the past few years, social media has increasingly replaced links as that indicator. The fundamentals haven’t changed: a quality experience, industry validation, and satisfied customers – rather Google has increasingly learned how to validate the quality of your site by referring to the opinions of your customers more than links from websites: social media coverage from your advocates, influencers, and customers. That begs the question, are you leveraging social media to help support your content?

The Evolution of Social Media Marketing

DeMers captures simply the role that social media plays in supporting your website and how search engines interpret that role:

  1. Interact in social media channelsGet out there and get connected. All too often, businesses expect social media to deliver customers or to serve merely to engage with them.  And while it is capable of that, you have the wrong understanding of social media if you’ve ever said about your business, “We’re not on Facebook because our customers aren’t there.”  Your engagement with social media channels helps search engines interpret the popularity of you, your business, and the content you create.  Simply put: you will get more customers through your website BECAUSE you are on Facebook, than you will from Facebook itself.
  2. Build your brandBuild word of mouth that gets you customers, mentions, and links. The challenge with expecting Twitter to result in customers is that it’s only likely to do that, at any meaningful scale that warrants your attention, when you have thousands of followers.  But when you consider what those followers, fans, and re-tweets, mean to potential partners, investors, and customers in their evaluation of your brand, you can see how social media influences their opinion.  The same influence is true of your content and where you rank on Google – if your brand doesn’t exist where your fans, as well as customers, can be found, how can search engines infer the strength of your brand?  Then, have you considered the implications relative to your competitors who are there?
  3. Generate social signals by making content easy to shareMake it easy to share your content.  As often as you think of how to improve your website’s conversion rate, you should be asking if you’re making it just as easy for your audience to share you brand and it’s content socially and encouraging readers to do so.
  4. Have a platform strategyWhat platforms are going to be the most effective for you?  Ever notice those sites that have a dozen share buttons?  They’re on Google+ , LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr… even Foursquare and Yelp.  Does anyone actually click all of those??  And how can you possibly participate in each social network??  You don’t need to be everywhere, you need to be somewhere.  Understand how Facebook and Twitter work and engage where it makes sense for you and your business participate.  You aren’t sending the right signals to search engines if your audience loves you on Pinterest but you aren’t even there to acknowledge your fans.  There is no harm in ignoring Twitter to dedicate your attention to Google+
  5. Think Google+: Still doubt the importance of social media in content optimisation?  DeMers adds that, “Google has been explicit that social signals play a role in its algorithm.” Twitter and Facebook matter some, but the network that carries the most weight is Google+. Have a + profile connected to your site and spend time building your Google+ audience.

How on earth do you do that?

Social Media Marketing Tools for Content Optimisation

According to Catalyst Search Marketing, those mug shots you increasingly seen next to some search results, deliver a 150% increase in clicks on YOUR search results.  Getting your face there isn’t an SEO technique, it’s a result of Google+


Introduced a few years ago by Google, the first social media tool you must learn about is called Google Authorship.  It establishes legitimacy of your content, as well the author(s), by linking Google’s social media, and the fans and social engagement there, with both your brand and the content author (be that you or someone else).   This isn’t too hard to set up, you start with a Google+ Profile and add a tag to your website.  Adding that tag can be a little complicated, so start here and give yourself some time to figure it out (or tweet me and I can steer you in the right direction).   If you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, which you should be, this is pretty simple.
The next great tool to consider was introduced to me by Shawn Collins, founder of the Affiliate Marketing Summit.  Getting a little more technical than you might want/need, Collins discovered KnowEm which analyzes not just your Google+ setup but social graph markup (as it’s called) in a report that also give you some insight to traditional search engine optimisation.  A quick run through of your website by KnowEm and you’ll have some intel on how to proceed with Google-like integration of Twitter, Facebook, and other networks to ensure your content gets the most out of social media integration.


Now that we have you integrated, consider how you can leverage social data to explore industry trends and keywords related to your business.  The Dachis Group platform is unmatched at doing this for your brand and related terms, competitors, and products. You may want to complement it with other applications as well, one I like is SocialMention’s free tool.  With SocialMention, you can get an indication of basic sentiment and the top social keywords associated with a query and optimize your content using the terms that are hot.


The last most important tool to embrace is that which enables your readers to share content. Stay away from the laundry list of share buttons or the plugins that present your audience with every network imaginable. Remember your platform focus, encourage your readers to share content where you participate most. The best way to do this is to add the code for the specific network on which you want content shared. Let’s focus on the big three and if you prefer another network, I think you get the idea: Google +1Facebook Like, and the Tweet button.
Another often overlooked resource for capturing the credibility of social sharing are your own employees. By definition every company is composed of people and you’d be hard pressed to find any of them inactive on social channels. If you can efficiently activate those individuals as amplifiers of your content, you can reap major rewards in your search rankings. The Dachis Group Employee Advocacy platform module is designed to explicitly do just that.
Social media marketing has become a critical path to content optimisation and no longer can you think of SEO alone in optimizing your website. Much like Google’s own goal, delivering the best result possible, content optimisation is as simple as delivering the best online experience possible, and the pervasiveness of social media means that business have to embrace the social media tools that ensure Google treats you right.
This article was originally posted here, we are thankful to Paul for letting us repost it to share it with you.

About Chris Norton

Founder of Prohibition, listed in the world's top 30 marketing bloggers and an award winning online PR and crisis management specialist. Co-author of Share This Too.