“As social media continues to stake its claim as the dominating force of the Internet, the entire landscape of search engine optimization will have to change to accommodate it,” said Horst Joepen, CEO of search analytics company Searchmetrics Inc.
According to a recent Searchmetrics projection for this year, “social media optimization” will take an increasingly strong role in campaigns. The companies and agencies that will come out ahead of the game are those that start leveraging social media for scalable link-building efforts, according to the company.
“We've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence that collaboration with social campaigns helps search rankings,” said Jeff MacGurn, director-search engine optimization services at Covario Inc., which specializes in automated search engine optimization. MacGurn said that popular sentiment—the social “virality” of a campaign—can help gain search traction.
“If we're talking Facebook with lots of "likes' or many retweets via Twitter, or if social bookmarking sites get lots of "up' votes, this associated content tends to perform really well with search engine results rankings,” he said.
Brian Goffman, CEO of SEO company Optify Inc., said companies must participate actively to make this magic happen.
“Real-time search results can now be influenced pretty directly,” Goffman said. “Here, what's influencing search results is basically how often you're making contributions and updates, and how people are following you. The marketer has more direct control and can influence how often comments are updated,” he said.
The major search engines are already recognizing the impact of social and factoring social comments into query results. The Bing-Facebook partnership, forged last fall, means that search queries within Bing are now listed along with Facebook search results.
“This underscores the power that Facebook has on the Internet at the moment,” Joepen said. “Right now, we can only speculate on how this will pan out, but if executed efficiently, this could change searching for information online as we know it.”
Meanwhile, Google isn't standing still. The search giant's universal search results return keyword mentions in social, including videos on its social sharing site, YouTube.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a video blogger, views social media as the glue that creates this kind of synergy among marketing channels.
“It's like a friendly Ping-Pong match,” Vaynerchuk says in his book, “The Thank You Economy” (Harper Business, 2011). “Develop creative work that allows the platforms to rally, to work together to extend your story, continue the conversation and connect with your audience.”
Conversations get going for a variety of reasons, among them humor. Supply chain software company Kinaxis, for example, has as part of its social outreach devised a video spoof called the “Late Late Supply Chain Show,” featuring comic turns by Kinaxis staffers.
“Laughter is an important part of our site,” said Kirsten Watson, the company's director-corporate marketing. “It creates a personality for the company and shows a little bit of our culture. And, of course, in the supply chain business, laughter is really the best medicine when things go wrong.”
Watson also noted the more practical usefulness of dovetailing social marketing with search. At Kinaxis, she said, a consistent effort to optimize social content with pertinent keywords produced a 270% increase in website traffic year over year comparing 2009 to 2008, a 320% increase in leads, and a 530% increase in traffic to the company's blog site.