CONTENT, SOCIAL AND SEO: THE MODERN FAMILY? - huzzah! digital
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Before the days of Social Media and Content Marketing, SEOs pretty much ruled the roost. They were the people on the web team that no-one really understood, but got to dabble in all kinds of things. Forum and community postings (with a cheeky link placement), creating ‘content’ (or linkbait) and implementing technical SEO was all part and parcel of the role, and it was without limit. As search engines incorporate social context into search results and with an increased focus from Google on content relevancy, the way we optimise for search has to change.

With the advent of Social and Content Marketing, the SEO landscape changed dramatically. New people were being brought in to do things that typically fell within an SEOs remit and so these three marketing facets were forced to start working together. Not only that, thanks to Penguin and Panda, SEOs started to rely upon these new areas to develop and spread fantastic and unique content. Many people reading this will probably have experienced this change – the move to collaborating with new departments– some may even have dedicated content marketers within their SEO team, however some are yet to see it happen.

Yes, there are still those that cling onto a catch-all SEO team, reading through the comments of Rand Fishkin’s post last November, outlining the role of an SEO it shows that there are still SEOs out there who’re reluctant to collaborate with other marketers and are continuing to drive a one-man SEO campaign.

Why do we need to change?

Traditionally, how a piece of content is ranked fell to two main factors, relevancy and authority. In SEO, relevancy was all about using the right keywords in your URL, headers, sub-headers and anchor text, and authority was defined by the number and type of inbound links to your content. In Content Marketing, these words have very different meanings, relevancy is about aligning content to your target audience, ensuring that it’s interesting to your intended reader and is aligned with your brand. In content, authority is measured by the standard of written content, the accuracy of the content and the creator/publisher reputation. Social Media, it would seem, falls somewhere between the two. Relevancy does indeed come down to keywords – be it in hashtag or handle form, as well as aligning content to your desired audience. Similarly, authority (or influence as it’s termed in the Social sphere) falls to both the publishers account credentials – number of followers, shares etc and the standard of content that you’re sharing.

Relevancy and authority are still hugely influential in gaining good positions within Google and as we all know, the introduction of Panda – which looked to reduce rankings for low quality sites, instead giving preference to sites with great, unique content – forced SEOs to start thinking about these two factors from a Content Marketers perspective.

Social search and social link building also mark a seismic shift for SEO. Social search is a continuingly evolving area and relates to the way in which a search engine takes social network activity into consideration when serving search results. Essentially, content that has a social connection to you in some way will be prioritised – this could be something that a friend or ‘connection’ from  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. has seen and interacted with or it could be something that has gained a lot of interaction and as a result would seem the most relevant thing to serve.

Social link building is equally as important a tactic whether it’s natural or assisted. What I’m talking about here is the correlation between a piece of content receiving a social share and inbound links, it’s something that Dan Zarella of Hubspot has already looked into and pulled out data highlighting a positive relationshipbetween the two.

So what does this mean?

Essentially it looks as though the three disciplines are moving ever closer and will continue to do so. The more information social networks can feed into a search engine, the more relevant they can make the results. The more relevant and unique the content is, the more likely you are to acquire inbound links. If you want to appear in the rankings then you’ve got to start considering all of the above.

For anyone just starting to bring these departments together or who’re thinking about doing it there are a few things you should bear in mind:

  • Share feedback on performance within the separate channels – Let people know how they’re helping and they’ll be far more likely to do it again.
  • Share key areas of focus – Understand what each person’s trying to achieve, you may be able to find a common goal.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses – Utilise the ‘experts’ of each area to get the best results.
  • Understand capabilities and dependencies – Acknowledge that different departments work differently and find a way of working to suit everyone.
  • Create processes for inter-department working – Ensure everyone’s agreed on deliverables and processes to keep things running smoothly.
AUTHOR: Harriet Rhodes
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