Take a look at the following charts and graphs.
Notice something? All of the sites that strongly rely on social media (50% or more of their traffic) have gotten pantsed over the past year in terms of traffic. Why?
It's gotten so noisy in social media that the predominant way most of us are going to be found and discovered these days en masse isn't through social media. It's going to be through search. In looking at these accounts, their search volume has gotten stagnant or has declined!
With that in mind, here's a simple but not easy question: how carefully are your search and social activities tied together?
After all, search has changed dramatically in the past few years, and many people are using old rulesets in their heads when it comes to SEO. Let's see how up to date you are:
How important is on-site optimization?
Once upon a time, keyword stuffing, bolding text, and precise link text on each page mattered a great deal. Those days are gone. Today, the few things left that matter are:
- Appropriately named page and post titles
- Awesome content that is shared
- Fresh content
- A regularly updated XML sitemap
Let's be very clear about the demands being asked of you as a content producer: you must have awesome content, created frequently, shared often. This is a tall, tall demand, but if you want to be found, if you want to be shared, if you want to be known, you have to hit these goals. Awesome content that's infrequent won't win you the game any more - the freshness update penalizes you. Mediocre content or repurposed content won't win you the game any more - the Panda updates penalize you for that. Content that isn't shared penalizes you, thanks to social signals in rankings.
What matters in off-site optimization?
Once upon a time, building links as fast, furiously, and far as possible was the sole way to win the off-site optimization game. Nothing else mattered except links, links, links, and you could get them any way you could. Today, that game has changed, too. If you haven't read the SEOMoz 2011 Ranking Factors study, you missed the boat:
- Relevance matters
- Pay to play is getting tougher
- Social sharing matters a great deal
- User behavior matters
- ... all that said, more links are still generally better than fewer links
As a social media marketer, you have a great deal of opportunity to nail all of the criteria search engines consider important to a site showing up. If you're cultivating a focused audience in social, getting them to do things that matter (share, link up, click on relevant search results, etc.) should be easier than the average marketer working with very little, but we're not putting our resources together.
For example, the social media expert listed above has over 300 recent tweets, but only one of them references their site or a post they've written recently. I'm all for conversation and community, but throw yourself a bone every now and again, buddy. Your search viability is counting on it, and with as many fans/followers/friends as you have, getting powerful search signals out of the audience should be relatively trivial and would reverse that slow decline in your site's traffic.
What should you be doing?
Here's your recipe card, if you're looking for the quick answer, the TL;DR:
1. You must create awesome content. Sorry. There's no getting around this. If your content sucks, then you need to level up your content creation skills. Go read Content Rules by CC Chapman and Ann Handley if you need help on this front.
2. You must publish awesome content frequently. How often? Google is starting to report freshness results in hours and minutes, not days and weeks. Get a plugin like Editorial Calendar for WordPress to help keep you on track.
3. You must have a structurally sound website using XML sitemaps properly and doing title-based on-site SEO. Your content should be appropriately titled for words and phrases that other human beings might actually search for. Test out your blog titles or parts of titles in the Google Adwords keyword tool if it's a really important post. You should be publishing content on a blog that has a syntactically correct RSS feed, ideally routed through Google's Feedburner service.
4. You must get people to do things with your content. Share it, link to it, retweet it, post it on Google+, hit the +1 button - anything and everything you can do to demonstrate that other human beings find value in your content. That's one of the reasons I switched my newsletter to weekly, to get more people back to my content, sharing it, and doing stuff with it.
Is this recipe card complete? No. There are plenty of little things that happen after this, but if you don't get these 4 steps right, you're totally hosed, so focus on them first. This is the foundation of what I do, and I think it's working:
That's not a boast. That's an exhortation for you to go and do likewise. You have the recipe. You have the tools. Get to it.
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