For years, SEO and social media experts alike have offered varying opinions and recommendations regarding the intersection of SEO and social media marketing.

From correlation studies to case study experiments, digital marketers have been preoccupied by the mutual relationship between these two disciplines.

  • How does Google value a Facebook Like vs. a Twitter retweet vs. a Google+1 endorsement?
  • Do social profiles with greater followers rank better in search results than less popular ones?
  • How do we optimize content on our websites to make it more “social” and engaging?

These questions and many others like them have inspired countless debates, articles, and infographics. The problem with all these questions however, is that they propagate a limited view of the strategic opportunities brands can leverage for their inbound marketing campaigns. It’s a far better investment of your time to think about how SEO and social media can work together to move your target audience through the consumer journey. The labels we assign to SEO and social media as separate marketing channels are inherently flawed. In today’s digital landscape, a successful SEO program is inclusive of social media activities and vice versa. This truth extends to paid media and content marketing as well.

Customizing & Extending Content  

Consider this content research example: The SEO team brainstorms with copywriters on articles they should produce for a retailer’s web blog. The SEO team sources data from Google Keyword planner and Google Trends to identify topics that can capture keyword search demand. They also run a few queries on BuzzSumo or other social listening tools to mine topics that have viral potential. In addition, they conduct a competitive analysis to find the gaps in their current content strategy.

Would all these activities fall under the purview of SEO, social, or content strategy? Let’s take this example a little further….

The SEO team identifies the blog topic. The Content team writes the article. The article gains good visibility in the organic search engine results and subsequently drives incremental traffic to the website. The article succeeds at increasing brand awareness (as any blog should) but it does not lead to increased sales or conversions. But that’s not the end of it. Say, we track those users who visited the blog article using a retargeting pixel so we can later serve them a sponsored advertisement on Facebook. The ad content is closely tied to the blog topic that initially piqued their interest. The only difference is the destination link for this ad points to a custom-built landing page aimed solely at expanding the original blog topic, while offering a stronger call to action to purchase the product. Clicks on this ad do result in sales.

Which digital channel can we attribute to the success of this strategy? Who gets the credit? SEO? Social media? Paid advertising? Content team? Does it matter? Rather than attempt to decipher where SEO ends and Social media begins, we should strive to build comprehensive campaigns tailored to the consumer journey demonstrated by our target audience. Here are some practical applications for this strategy.

The solution is to remove our antiquated views of social media and SEO while redefining both.

Defining Your Brand Challenge

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As with the previous example, SEO and social media practitioners should adopt each other’s research tactics when identifying content marketing opportunities.

Start by identifying a core business challenge. What is the brand hoping to accomplish? Increase brand awareness? Grow its target audience? Improve search visibility? Or is it to drive traffic and sales?

These insights can be gleaned from multiple sources of information. Through SEO keyword research we can identify high opportunity keywords targets. Web analytics can tell you which areas of your website are driving or lacking in performance. Social listening can help uncover more current opportunities based on what your target customers are saying about your brand or vertical. Through social listening you can also initiate outreach to influencers with whom you can collaborate or amplify your brand message.

Developing Content and Planning Editorial

SEO and social media practitioners should build a single editorial calendar to align with both teams’ grasp of search volume trends, seasonality, current events, and shifts in the competitive landscape. This will ensure all social amplification tactics (e.g. organic posts, sponsored posts, paid media, social campaigns, and partnerships) will achieve the collective goals and objectives for both channels.

Utilizing Amplification

Whether you’re employing paid social tactics or strategic partnerships (with other brands or influencers) to amplify your brand’s message, be sure to direct those efforts toward content on your site. By rallying your social campaigns around an external content hub or microsite, you may be diverting SEO authority signals (traffic, backlinks, etc.) away from your domain. You want to channel as much equity back to your own site when executing an amplification strategy.

Reporting and Tracking

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By implementing a few simple measures, you can track the user journey of your target customer from their first interaction with your brand (be it through social or SEO) through to their final conversion. You can append social links with tracking parameters to capture campaign referrals to your site. In the example shared earlier, if you ran a paid social campaign retargeting site visitors, you would simply configure your tracking parameters to ads to capture this mixed attribution.

Other examples include adding unique hashtags to Open Graph descriptions on your website so you can easily track the reach of your content when those pages are amplified through social media and content partnerships.

Conclusion

At PACIFIC, we align all SEO and social media activities under a unified marketing approach we refer to as Brand Discovery. All brands and marketers should adopt a similar lens for their marketing programs to establish more cohesive digital strategies that can work together to drive performance and improve their bottom line.

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