Over the last few years, Social Media and Web 2.0 technologies have commonly been associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO); however, for many people, the SEO benefit of these sites and technologies remains unclear. So what exactly can Social Media do for your SEO? More than you think.
In this series, we will explore the SEO impact of the most popular Social Media applications. From blogs and social bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious, to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, we will look at link generation and other ways that Web 2.0 technologies can enhance your SEO program.
Note: We will be evaluating these mediums strictly for their SEO value and not as a means to generate direct traffic or leads. Using Web 2.0 for that purpose is called “Social Media Optimization” (SMO), which is its own discipline. Look for more details on SMO on the SEO Blog and future issues of Optimized.
The Basics: What Does It All Mean?
Web 2.0 – as defined by Wikipedia (a Web 2.0 site itself) is: “a trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to facilitate creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users.”
Social Media – the toolset of Web 2.0 technologies and web sites that allow for the creation of (On-site), and participation in (Off-site), virtual online communities.
The Business of Blogging
One of the most popular Social Media applications is blogging, which is where we’ll start this particular conversation. Blogs hold tremendous search engine value for a number of reasons.
Quality Content Gets Results
First and foremost, blogs tend to update content more frequently than web sites. Having a steady stream of high-quality content focused around your most important keyword-phrases, provides additional opportunities to rank well for those keyword-phrases. And, if you link correctly, it will increase the likelihood your existing content will improve in rank for those keywords.
Welcome to the Blogosphere
Second, having a blog enables you to reach a completely different audience (known affectionately as “the blogosphere”). Blog posts appear in “other” search engine results, including Google BlogSearch and Technorati, which are specifically designed to search only blog posts. The audiences using these mediums are considered to be more web-active and very likely to blog themselves.
Assuming you have great content, your readership will grow and include more and more active bloggers. If a blogger finds – and likes – your post, there is an opportunity for them to link to your post from their blog (or other online forums), thus resulting in increased link popularity. In summary, when you focus on content, and your readership grows into a community, there is SEO value in the resulting high-quality, authoritative links.
It is important to note that sophisticated SEO experts are well-aware of the benefits of comments on blogs and associated links, and spammers have exploited this benefit. As a result, many Social Media sites have implemented rel=nofollow tags on most links in the comment fields, essentially removing these types of links from the overall ranking equation. This means that user-generated links on your blog – as well as comments you post on other blogs – rarely pass Page Rank or other link connectivity signals, which translates to no SEO value. (This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t participate, but that goes back to Social Media Optimization.)
Value of “Bookmarks”
The third benefit of blogging is the association with social bookmarking sites. Social bookmarking sites allow bloggers and web users to share stories or web pages they think are important or interesting. The most popular of these sites includes Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx and Reddit.
The SEO value of social bookmarking comes from linking. By posting your story on a social bookmarking site, it automatically links back to your blog. If the bookmarking site is credible (and does not use rel=nofollow tags), links from this source will be valuable. More importantly, if your content is compelling, other bloggers may reference (link) your post. These links are desirable because they are one-way, on-topic (for the most part), and the more relevant the source, the more value it builds with search engines.
In summary, there are a number of effective strategies to take advantage of Social Media capabilities for both Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization. But, at the very core, it comes down to quality content.
Whether it’s your blog, social bookmarking sites, industry forums, or social networking sites, your goal in using these platforms should be centered on building your brand, image, and perception of authority in your niche. However, if you produce a great blog, blog consistently about topics related to your primary keywords, and participate in these sites for the right reasons, SEO value will follow.