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How to Use Social Media for SEO in 2012

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Eric Schmidt of Google has confirmed recently in an interview that social media activity is a ranking signal for Google search. Earlier confirmations were still a bit vague and unofficial. I already predicted that soon it will be one of the main factors in the Google algorithm as links become less and less reliable. For years some people in the SEO industry denied that you need social media at all for SEO.

Now that we know for sure that we have to use social media also for SEO reasons, we have to ask ourselves How to use social media for SEO in 2012?

What is social media?

Social media is Internet based media that facilitates conversation. You probably think Facebook or Twitter and you’re right. There are also social media sites geared towards specific content like YouTube or Flickr or content curation sites like Delicious and Blekko. Most importantly though, social media does not have to be large third party sites. Your blog, forums or feedback communities are social media as well. For business people these social media are the most important ones.

What social media are important for SEO today?

In 2005 Digg and Delicious were important for SEO, both for large traffic spikes and many links at once. In 2012, Facebook is the largest social media site, everybody knows it. Is it also the most important one for SEO as well? Well, not really.

Facebook can bring large numbers of visitors to your site and it’s great to socialize with your fans or friends but it’s not a reliable or steady traffic source. You can’t depend on it for converting traffic or for link building. Most of Facebook can’t get indexed by Google so that most of the likes and shares do not count at all as links.

For SEO you need to look first at what you specialize in and then decide what social media sites are suitable for you.

 

In general they have to be indexed by Google (naturally) to help you directly with your Google SEO. Google+ is new but it’s good to establish a presence on there now but also look to wider opportunities:

  1. As a photographer you probably need to use Flickr and Tumblr
  2. As a journalist Twitter and YouTube is your friend
  3. As a recruiter you have to focus on LinkedIn and maybe Xing
  4. As a musician you probably want to use MySpace, BandCamp and SoundCloud
  5. As a local small business owner you might need to take a look at Qype, Yelp and Fousquare

For all of the above, one social medium is a must have though, no, it’s not Facebook, it’s your own blog. In the best case you also host it yourself instead of Blogger or WordPress.com

Without a blog you are not really participating in social media, you are just a spectator, someone that visits other people’s sites and spends your time providing content for them. Some of the above mentioned sites are better equipped to assist you with your SEO efforts than others but without a blog there is no real connection between the social sites themselves and your static site.

The blog is like an interface, like a secretary who welcomes potential visitors. You can’t send casual social media visitors to a static site that just sells something or offers services. People want to see informing, witty, intriguing or eye opening content they can engage with – at least comment on.

How do we approach social media?

Remember, social media is just a way of getting found – not a way of spending your time.  The day has only 24h and you can’t spend all of it on social media sites. However, you must secure your branded profiles on most social sites even though you may only focus on a handful of sites that you really want to contribute to. Oh, and never contribute more on third party sites than on your own blog unless you are guest posting on other blogs.

Social media sites are meant to connect you with others in your industry or niche but not to waste your best content on.

So you have to publish your content on your own blog first for it to get exposure on social media. The best way to get exposure is not blatant self promotion but outreach and participation.

Find out who the influencers in your industry are by using Klout and then socialize with these people or contact them directly.

  • Sharing their content
  • replying to their questions
  • or simply chatting with them

is often enough. After a while a relationship or at least a familiarity ensues and once you publish your post they may retweet or reshare it as well. That’s the point where your SEO has worked out. A share on social sites counts for Google as well but you have to treat the sites themselves as well as “search engines”. People use them to find your content more or less actively.

It’s also important to curate and share content by others on a regular basis. This way you can establish yourself as an expert an gain an audience.

What does SEO mean in the context of social media?

SEO on social media is not about creating hundreds of profiles to get backlinks or the automated flooding of Twitter with your links. It’s not about “submitting to” hundreds of “social bookmarking” sites. Social media SEO is about establishing yourself, your blog and ultimately your business as an authority in your industry or whatever else you specialize in.

You want to convince people who are not your customers or clients (yet) that they can trust you.

You want to make them share and spread your links for you not because they feel obliged to or get paid for it but because you’re awesome. In order to become awesome you have to follow the people who are already awesome at doing what you do and at least match them. You will quickly find out by searching for such people on Google, Topsy or Blekko.

Social media in 2012 is about creating solid relationships and creating content that others will naturally share because they find it so useful.

* CC image by Matt Hintsa

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