Published On: Sat, Oct 23rd, 2010

Why SEO has to be Social

I thought I’d put this post together as it’s something I’ve been thinking about and discussing for a while – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has to be Social. Well, more Social than it currently is.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, to put it simply; good quality links are the currency of the Web as search engines equate them to authority. Google takes these links as an endorsement or vote which in turns enhances search position. Therefore, a key part of any SEO strategy has to be the generation of good inbound links to your website or Digital Embassies.

However, last weeks announcement between Facebook and Bing that will see the search engine return results based on Facebook ‘Likes’ from users friends is significant as it signals a greater focus on Social in SEO. This coupled with Google’s inclusion of Tweets in its search shows that the increase in focus is already under way.

Somewhat inevitably, this announcement will affect SEO placement strategies and Social Media professionals are going to have a greater say in the planning and execution of SEO campaigns. Some agencies understand this already and create SEO strategies in conjunction with a Social Media team. Most don’t.

One of the reasons for the shift towards Social SEO is not only the huge growth in Social Media usage, but the techniques SEO professionals employ, such as, researching keywords, altering pages names, meta tags, headings and anchor text, internal links to keywords and keyword rich content. These techniques are employed with Google spiders, rather than human beings in mind.

Above is a great case study from Content & Motion who undertook a successful Social SEO campaign for Morgan Stanley Real Estate company.

Social Media is different. It thinks about people from the outset and enables them to have conversations around brands and products which provides genuine opportunities for recommendations and links. Whilst, keywords, titles, descriptions, tags and links give Google valuable context, it is Social Media which provides the most natural platform for humans to link, vote, and endorse content.

Although, KPIs such as sales or ROI will always be the main business objectives, Social SEO and Social Media compliment each other by enhancing a brands earned and owned media – leading to higher Google rank – and hopefully sales.

This is why a Social approach to SEO coupled with a robust Social Media strategy should be the cornerstone of any online activity. Tools like widgets, badges, sharing, social sign in and social commenting are great ways for brands to generate positive organic backlinks and social recommendations – all of which enhance brand visibility, amplification and Google rank.

However, the Social aspect of SEO planning still seems an afterthought for many and there is often a gap that needs to be bridged between the often fragmented SEO and Social Media functions. SEO activity should not be owned by one department. Nor should Social Media.

However, the reality is that the Social Media team normally manages Digital Embassies adequately, but SEO is nothing more than an afterthought. Whilst, the SEO team often overlook the value of using Social Media, such as blogs, videos, audio, images, social networks, forums and messageboards to increase SEO. It’s rarely joined up or integrated and too many people miss the link and benefit between Social Media and Google rank.

Image from David Saunders under Creative Commons

I’m adamant that Social Media teams are well placed to produce the engaging, rich content that people want to share, comment and link to. I should also make it clear that I’m not suggesting Social Meda teams are best placed to undertake traditional SEO (far from it). However, the evolution and growing importance of Social Media means that they should become part of SEO planning. Right from the start.

Technies know the traditional and latest SEO techniques, but the way Google’s search aglogrithm has evolved has given more weighting to Social Media, which is where the Social Media strategists come in.

As always I would be interested to hear thoughts from both sides of the Social Media and SEO divide and anybody in between about the increasing importance of Social Media in SEO activity.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 5 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Couldn’t agree more. SEO is an interesting niche profession where techies meets marketers. So far SEO was owned by techies (it still very much is where I live, in Australia), but the increasing importance of Social Media as part of SEO will be the final nail in the coffin for techies with no marketing concept or experience. It is a natural evolution of SEO, a branch of digital marketing, not IT.

  2. Ben Cotton says:

    Hey Boris,

    Thanks for the comment, it is much appreciated.

    SEO finds itself in a strange place as it’s a technical and subsequently, niche role that has found itself heading towards mainstream importance.

    The reason for this shift is down to Google and Bing’s increased focus on social media, essentially marrying a techie discipline with a social one. Subsequently, the next generation of SEO guys will need to have a much deeper understanding of social media and digital marketing, whilst social media guys will need to learn more than the basics of SEO.

    As you mention, Social SEO does seems a natural evolution of SEO and for me, it is only right that social media via links and recommendations will now form an important part of search, rather than techniques aimed at Google spiders.



  3. Joey Ng says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for sharing such an insightful blog post. I agree with your points about the importance of incorporating SEO thinking behind brand generated content such as releases, blog content or even tweets. I find that many PR professionals can get stuck in the traditional mindset when drafting up press releases and often forget neglect the importance of incorporating key words that make them internet friendly.

    Ultimately, PR professionals should increasingly look at their ability to create content that is “socially” friendly, likable and linkable. I think if done well, there’s no reason why PROs can’t own this discipline, but an understanding is imperative.

    Look forward to more great content.


  4. Ben Cotton says:

    Hey Joey,

    Thanks for commenting and adding to the debate.

    In my experience too few PRs have even a basic understanding of SEO principles. Many would benefit from reading up on the importance of keywords, tags, title, URL etc.

    This knowledge gap is a missed opportunity and something we as an industry need to get better at. Content produced primarily for humans, but with Google and Social in mind will score higher on search leading to more eyeballs, interactions, sales etc – and hopefully better results for clients.



    P.S. Check out Chris Norton’s top SEO rules:

  5. […] online participants. However, the social media activity in the past month greatly increased the company’s SEO – especially in the area they are located, which means they can better beat their rivals on a […]

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