The other day a prospective client asked me... "Should I be approaching Social Media with a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy or a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy?"
GREAT question…and quite honestly, one that most marketing professionals wrestle with.
Google states that their mission is to "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." And so far they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it. From a marketers standpoint, it's the “useful” part of their mission that intrigues us. Google believes that in order to be “useful”, their search engine should provide the most relevant answers to search questions. To do this, they’ve developed a complex algorithm that deciphers search questions and answers with links to web pages. While Google doesn't disclose what makes up that algorithm, they have given us little snippets of hints as to how it works.
You see, in determining how useful an answer (search result) is to a question, Google looks to see how many people are linking to a page and/or talking about the content on that page which makes the content key and its corresponding social media, a delivery tool.
When you add a new page to your website or a new article to your blog you want people to know about it right? So you send a tweet with your link, you post it on Facebook, Google+ and any other social media channel your company happens to be engaged with. Now, every time someone reacts (likes, shares, comments, retweets, etc) to your posts, Google will recognize the “buzz” being generated and start to attribute relevance.
Here is the best part…those that like, share, comment on, and/or retweet your link are actually adding it to their timelines and tweet streams creating new links back to your original content. This is called Link Building and it’s powerful. So any time someone clicks on your link (or one created through the aforementioned Link Building), it not only makes your content more important to Google, it generates traffic to your website where your company information and products or services are on display for all the world to see. Win-Win.
Boosting – Pay to Play SEO
While Facebook started the whole “pay to play” trend, many other social media channels have followed suit using their own style, price points, and formula for trackable results. I guess you can only run on investment capital so long before you need to start making some dough.
Here is what we mean by the “pay to play” concept: When a business puts a post on Facebook, they can expect anywhere from 2% to 6.5% of their followers or fan base a.k.a page likes to actually see it. The higher the number of page likes you have, the smaller percentage of your fans will actually see it. Now, if you pay Facebook to boost your post, they will show it to a broader selection of your fan base or specifically to a targeted audience that you create through defining your boosting criteria.
In a nutshell boosting is really just paid SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since you are paying to put your organic content in front of people. Like it or not, boosting is an important strategy because you need people to see your content to have measurable benefits to your SEO traffic.
While all advertising within social media channels often gets lumped into SEM there are key differences between social media marketing and actual search engine marketing. With social media marketing, you are paying to have your ad (message) presented to an audience which is quite similar to TV, Radio, and Print advertising where you pay for demographics and the number of times someone sees your ad (referred to as impressions).
SEM is the act of paying for keywords (the words people use to search up information relating to your products or services) in order to have your message (the link to your webpage and/or original content) displayed to your audience (the ones interested in the information you are providing).
You probably already know that advertising within social media channels is very effective for building your brand. It gives you the chance to present your message to those people that are most likely to need your product and/or service. And while they may not need it right now, the exposure to your message over time will help to ensure that when they do need it, your brand will be first that comes to mind, this is what we call Top of Mind Awareness and it should certainly be the goal of any good brand building campaign.
So…Which One Should You Care About, SEO or SEM?
I guess this depends on your goals and timing. If you need quick exposure to your brand, advertising on social media can be very effective. You can target your audience and present a compelling message that will stick. But, if you are looking for long term results, developing great content, building links, and gaining relevance through boosted social media posts is sure to give you positive results in your SEO.
We believe that the best answer is a combination of both. Developing great content that gains traction through boosted posts along with an effective paid advertising campaign, which generates compounding results. Using both methods will produce results that are measurably more effective than the sum of the parts.
If you would like to learn more, please use the contact form below, and we will gladly answer any questions you may have.