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Findability: SEO Insight

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SEO and Social Media Advice for Small Businesses

by: | February 9, 2012

In a previous post on SEO and social media, I talked about my concern for small businesses that may come across SEO providers that don’t fully understand how social media is playing a growing role in optimization. This post examines some of the reasons that small businesses should be using social media, and a follow-up post will help tie that more explicitly to how it impacts your search engine optimization efforts.

As a reminder, here’s the main impetus behind using social media for SEO:

Search engines want to incorporate social signals (Facebook Likes, Twitter Tweets, Google Plus-Ones, etc.) into their algorithms to improve their results. They know that algorithmically derived results are good for some things but less effective for others, and they are motivated to improve because they each want to remain the primary source for how we find information online.

Does It Really Matter?

If you want to rank well in organic search results, you need to be aware of what the search engines are looking for. And right now, one of those things is social media. In December 2010, Google and Bing admitted to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land that they were using social signals to influence rankings.

EConsultancy found, in a survey produced in partnership with Adobe, “. . . that only 25 percent of company marketers currently regard social signals as ‘very important’ for determining search rankings. Tellingly, when asked how important they would be in three years’ time, the percentage increased to 57 percent.”

What’s a Small Business to Do?

Given that social has become a factor in search rankings, what’s a small business to do? First, let’s start with a few basic rules of the road when it comes to effectively using social media:

  1. Social media is like a dinner party. No one wants to listen to endless sales pitches from you— or even one, if it’s the first thing you say. Social media is about engagement, it’s about building a mutually beneficial relationship that starts with you giving (far) more than you get.
  2. So, you met at a dinner party. Now, what are you going to do to keep the relationship moving forward? Remember, your new friend still isn’t anxious for a sales pitch but might be open to getting some good advice or tips from you— if there’s no expectation of anything in return.
  3. Keep the relationship the focus. Do you hope that, at some point, your new friend will become a customer? Sure. But just like in a real-world relationship, you can’t force that. Only after proving your value will you be in a position to “make the sale.”

Remember that the days of push marketing have given way to permission marketing, a term coined by marketing expert Seth Godin to describe the fact that the best way to sell your products now is to find people who actually want it.

Expert Advice for Small Businesses on Social Media

Here are a few great suggestions from experts on the subject of small businesses and social media:

When asked by Growth University about the most effective way small businesses can use social media, Missy Ward, co-founder of Affiliate Summit, said, “The important thing to remember is that no matter what you’re going to use social media for, your audience is not going to grant you permission to engage them if you don’t share in their interests.”

Susan Payton, President of Egg Marketing and Communications, said this when asked the same question: “Small businesses first need to understand the goal of social media. It’s not to generate overnight sales; it’s to build trust with current and future customers. Engage in conversations, share links (even if they’re not your own), ask questions, and respond to comments about your brand.”

In my next post, I’ll provide some specific advice for small business owners about how to create an SEO-friendly social media plan.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Branding, Campaign Development, Content, E-Commerce, Facebook, Findability: SEO Insight, Geolocation, Link Building, Optimization, Social Networks, Twitter

About the Writer:

Rob Croll is Program Director for the Internet Marketing Bachelor and Master degrees at Full Sail University. He also owns a consulting firm that works with small businesses and nonprofits. Rob has been included on Social Media Marketing Magazine's list of Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter and has had numerous articles published both online and in print. He has a BS in Finance and an MFA in Media Design. Follow Rob on Twitter @rcroll.

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