Like many things in life, certain SEO tactics will fade into oblivion as Google Penguin matures. This has left many people who used to practice the art of SEO wondering where to go.
The good news is that while certain SEO tactics may be under the gun and likely to fail in months to come (if they haven't already), other tactics are destined to succeed, impervious to algorithmic changes. Many people believe that search marketing integration, or SMI, is one of these. Some people have even gone as far as to say publicly that SMI will be required to rank on the first page of Google in the future.
What is Search Marketing Integration?
Search marketing integration uses traditional SEO but also combines social media marketing. In the past, many people just worked on getting inbound links; now we're seeing social media playing a growing role. This makes sense since both of these methods should be about creating quality content, building trust, and establishing your brand.
In addition to regular backlinks, SMI integrates social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Search engines have started using retweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1s, to help determine organic search rankings. Since Google has already shown that they will reward sites with good social signals, integrating them into your marketing plan is important; not only now, but even more as the industry (and Google's algorithms) continue to progress.
Who do you Follow?
In the past, many people tried to game the system by getting as many followers as possible. In some cases, they even bought followers because it increased their numbers. Now there is growing evidence that Google and the other search engines are looking at not only who you follow but also who follows you. Google has indicated that as they continue to refine their algorithms, they will soon be able to tell who is influential in a given area partially by their social media profiles. Once they do this, one influential follower will be much more valuable than lots of unknown ones.
While we're on the subject of using social media, it seems like a great time to bring up branding. Social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook can be a wonderful way to establish your brand. However, we still see too many people abusing social media by constantly promoting their products. The "push" mentality needs to stop; those days are over.
It's the quickest way to get unliked, unfollowed, and untrusted. If you want to build your brand and establish trust, you're going to need to take the time to provide quality information and help your customers. I've observed that, somewhere along the way, many people have forgotten that.
Good branding and social media interaction comes through engagement with your target audience. Rather than just posting links to your newest blog articles, ask stimulating, thought-provoking, and discussion-sparking questions. Start polls, host interactive webinars, and respond to blog comments. Do whatever it takes to humanize your brand, make it organic, and make it likeable.
Becoming a Thought Leader
"Thought leadership" may be an overused buzzword, but as the popularity of content marketing continues to become more pervasive, thought leadership is going to continue to grow in importance. To put it simply, becoming a thought leader is really about being an authority by having the answers that are relevant to your niche. When you boil it down even more, it's really about knowing your niche and helping people by giving out your knowledge. Social media can be an easy way to do this.
Discover the questions and answers that really matter to your customer. These can be found on forums, Q&A sites like Yahoo answers, LinkedIn groups, and others. Once you have identified them, answer those questions on your website or social media pages. Odds are good, if you pick the right questions, and provide solid answers, other people will want to know the answers as well.
Sometimes it can even be a good idea to let your customers participate. By communicating and interviewing your customers, you can find the problems that are hindering them and publish content with the answers.
Integrating Traditional SEO and Social Media
Regardless of how many people declare that SEO is dead, traditional backlinks still hold some influence, when acquired correctly. It used to be that using low-quality, spun content and automated tools to build links was a popular link building solution. However, those days are long gone; the concept and practice of content marketing has taken link building in an entirely different direction.
What if you could write one article and have thousands of people read it, and acquire dozens or hundreds of inbound links from it? Let's imagine this scenario. What if you successfully scored a guest posting opportunity and posted one well-researched, though-provoking article to a publisher with thousands of visitors per day? I'm talking about the type of publisher that will only publish exquisite content. After reading the article, many people are intrigued by what you have to say, but still not familiar with you (the author). Two days later, you publish another popular article on the same website. It engages the readers and leaves them wanting to learn even more from you.
At this point, they may recognize your name and realize that you are writing a series. The next day, the third article in the series is released. By this point, you've had an opportunity to build trust with the reader. You've established yourself as a thought leader with enough knowledge in the area to write an entire series of articles on the subject.
Guest posting can be very powerful if executed properly. While there is a lot of benefit to receiving one link from one article, there is much more benefit to be had by posting a series. By being in front of readers for multiple days on the right high traffic site, you get more opportunities to establish trust, build your brand image and recognition, and bring traffic to your site as a result.
While you are writing that incredible content, don't forget to set up Google Authorship for each article. By doing this, you're telling Google that you wrote the content and are establishing a reputation with Google as being an expert in your area. This will also help build your Author Rank, leading to improved rankings for the content you author, along with recognition and visibility as an authority in your niche.
Maintaining your Social Presence
After setting up Google authorship, don't forget to link to your newly written content from your social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). This gives you a great excuse to promote quality links and helps you maintain your social media presence. Don't forget, this isn't just about you. It is important to share other people's work as well.
What About Your Site?
Once you've added that content to your site that makes people want to read and share with their friends, it's important that you allow them to easily share your content. If you use WordPress, it's very easy; there are many plugins that will let you easily add social media buttons to your site. Personally, I like this one. For non-Wordpress sites, you can add code to your site so the social buttons will be added to each page.
Many authority sites have recently started adding valuable quotes with tweet buttons into their posts. This makes it easy for a person to click the link while they are reading your engaging content and share it with their friends. If your site has high traffic volume, it may be difficult for users to share your content as the server load grows. This can also become an issue when content goes viral (the holy grail of online marketing campaigns), or hits the first page of Reddit. If you're going to really focus on your social media campaign, consider CDN hosting rather than traditional hosting; it prevents problems before they can happen.
Integrating social media with your SEO isn't difficult. It all starts with a good content strategy, which coordinates your marketing and content efforts into one cohesive plan, and is supported by engaging your social media audiences rather than only pushing your content on them. This knowledge, along with easy social sharing options on your website, will foster a social media following that will not only support your SEO campaign, but become brand ambassadors themselves.