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How Large Advertisers are Accelerating their SEO with Social Media - SES San Francisco

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Hi, everyone. My name is Imelda and over the next few days, I'm going to be live blogging from SES San Francisco for my friends here at Search Engine Watch. If you see a short, young(ish), Asian-looking chick, that speaks with a British accent, scoping out power outlets and typing away furiously -- that's me. Come say hi.

It's going to be an action-packed first day here at SES, with a bunch of souped-up sessions going on.

This first session is moderated by Covario's Arnel Leyna, with Jeff MacGurn, also from Covario, and Doug Loots representing "Large Advertisers", Wells Fargo. They're going to look at whether big brands worry about SEO and social media (of course they do!).

I'm a big Covario fan -- these guys are super smart, so this should be good.

Let's get started.

Arnel explains that SEO and social media are the new "earned media." Earned media is most effective at the top of the funnel (for awareness, opinion and consideration), which supports and drives PPC media further down the funnel.

Differences in Media

Owned media: Where the advertiser owns it (e.g., your website, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts). Benefits: brand controlled, cost effective, longevity

Paid media: Where the advertiser pays a third party to use the channel (e.g., PPC, display). Benefits: Immediacy, scale, controlled

Earned media: (e.g., SEO, Twitter, Facebook). Benefit: Most credible, but least controllable

How Does Social Impact SEO?

Doug: Search engines now allow searchers to filter by recency. So advertisers must constantly reinvent their content. Especially since content that's been out there for three or four years really is considered dated now.

Jeff: Search and social do have an impact on each other. More social results are finding their way into the engines, and into the algorithm. There is a correlation between the two.

What are the Algorithms Looking For?

Jeff: Mentions in social media platforms is a good indicator.

Doug: A good (or even negative) social media campaign can also drive query volume toward your page.

Is Social Media a New Thing?

Doug: Social is about two different things: the social aspect and the technology that drives it. The social part has been around for years (e.g., you can use the Better Business Bureau to provide feedback for vendors), but now the technology allows messages to spread much more quickly.

Jeff: People giving their opinion isn't anything new.

Every day users don't really use filters. So why should we invest in social and SEO?

Jeff: Social bookmarking is an indicator of popular online content. It's not just about time stamps, but also relevancy. Jeff sees a lot of correlation between the two. An example was a rank 1 showing for "Apple's Death Grip" page just after all the bad stuff kicked off. There is definitely a correlation, so there must be some social aspects that have an impact on rankings.

How do you Know it Wasn't Someone at Google Who Forced it to the Top?

Jeff: Can't say that there isn't someone at Google who does that. But most rankings are algorithmic as opposed to someone statically ranking pages. The algorithm can train itself to understand and sophisticated enough to understand those things [I'm thinking iRobot, right now]

Doug: Can't believe that anyone would be sitting at Google HQ ranking things manually. It's not very scalable.

How do you Determine your Budget for Social Media vs. SEO?

Doug: Online marketers can easily measure, so allocating dollars should be based upon what returns. Over time, you get more educated on where to place it. SEO and PPC are often the first steps. Social media is still emerging, so you tend to put less in to it.

Jeff: Big brands understand their share of the market, so spend should be increased in line with market share. Start up companies should start out with what is measurable. Start out on PPC, and then move next to SEO. The better you can measure, the better off you will be in the end. Concentrate your assets in the areas that work.

Arnel: Encourage clients to develop social media assets by taking a small percentage of your budget (maybe leftovers from PPC) and allocate it to social. For example: put it toward developing your blog.

Doug: It doesn't take a lot of money to develop your SEO. It is a hard choice to allocate out, and will depend upon the organization.

Where is the True Value in the Long Run: Organic or Paid?

Jeff: Paid is instant gratification and easy to track. SEO can be tracked, though there is a lag. Social media is not just about Tweeting or Facebooking. You need to promote your own content and work hard to drive people there. Once Jeff's clients start executing on social and start tying results to it, they see the cost per acquisition is a lot lower, and then more budget gets assigned. Sometimes you just have to hold your breath a little longer for the results to come.

Doug: People often want instant gratification and will just throw their money at PPC. You are constantly chasing your next click. If you build SEO and social, it will sustain a lot longer. There is more investment up front in time and effort, but it will return a lot more in the long run. That's why it's called earned.

When something goes viral, is it natural or planned?

Jeff: A lot more is planned than we'd think is planned. Think Old Spice [Bites lip... Strike 1]. And these are planned by the agency down to a tee. You can get quite a good idea as to what will be popular and what will work. Prepare for developing interesting content based upon hot topics of the moment (e.g., World Cup).

Doug: It is both. It's important for companies to be more natural though, especially when it comes to responding to a viral campaign. Companies need to be listening more and ready to handle a response, especially if it's negative.

How do you Optimize the Content?

Jeff: A lot of it is about relationship building and getting people to link to the content and get the word out. The way you do it is critical. Infographics tend to be very popular viral content, as opposed to a 30 page document. Top 10 lists are also popular.

Doug: It's about creating content that is valuable to your customer, not to you. Does it help your customer learn something? When you do it that way, the profits will follow.

Jeff: Understand what people are searching for and build the content around the keywords. Similarly, with social, build the content around what interests your customer.

Doug: It's not about shoving the content down your customer's throat (push marketing). It's about providing relevant content to your customer when they need it (pull marketing). For businesses to be successful in social media and search, you need to understand the fundamental difference between push and pull.

[BTW, There are lots of skeptics in this audience about the tenuous link between search and social].

Do you see Value in Hashtags?

Jeff: Hasn't seen hashtags been that valuable (yet) when it comes to search engine rankings.

How do you Integrate Multilingual Global Content in SEO?

Jeff: Sites that are popular in America aren't necessarily popular everywhere. But from a SEO perspective, SEO best practices still apply. It helps to have local resources. There are even differences between what people in England call a toilet [a bog] and a cell phone [a mobile]

How Often Should you Post on Social Networks and How do you cut Through all the Noise?

Jeff: "Please retweet" is the most tweeted phrase on Twitter. It must be effective, but it creates a lot of noise. You don't want to mess with your relationships by spamming people with a lot of stuff that isn't relevant.

Doug: Is your next tweet providing as much value as the previous one? Is your next blog post providing as much value as the previous one? If you can't answer "yes" to that, then maybe you're doing it too much.

Jeff rounds up by picking on the non-believers in the audience.


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