Social media continues to gain popularity. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of U.S. adult internet users are active on at least one social network, up from 67 percent in 2012 and only 8 percent in 2005.
As social and search merge, brands have the opportunity to listen and engage more with consumers than ever before and in turn, gain a clearer understanding as to how to continue to grow those relationships.
We recently spoke with Warren Lee, Adobe SEO Manager, on our weekly FOUND Friday Google Hangout about the intersection of social and search. Here are some tips from the discussion that will help you in your search and social efforts.

Don’t ignore Google+

Warren shared that Google+ is an identity engine. He said that while Google is not really monetizing search in Google+ yet, you do see what people in your Google+ circles are +1’ing in your personalized search results.
Warren estimates that 20-30 percent of audiences are going to be logged into Google and getting personalized search results.
GinzaMetrics Founder and CEO Ray Grieselhuber said that the impact of Google+ has been much bigger than realized. He said that from a social networking perspective (viewing Facebook as the competitor) they are smaller, but Google is good at longer term thinking, and they have a vision. Their ability to work in new features and products in that space is huge, and it’s fair to assume that that Google+ will continue to grow and have an impact.
Google+ users are increasing. Google also recently made changes to the YouTube interface, making it a requirement for users that want to comment to link their YouTube and Google+ accounts to fully engage; however, there continues to be considerable backlash surrounding those changes.

Understand how to properly craft social media posts, train your employees 

Warren also pointed out that just sharing your own brand’s links would not help you build an audience. In fact, he said it would cause you to lose engagement and audience. Here are some tips from Warren’s recent SMX East presentation on how to craft better tweets.
Slideshare: Getting SEO & Social Media Alignment Inside Your Organization by Warren Lee
Training employees how to engage via social media gives you scale, he shared. Creating and sharing social media policies will help you avoid issues in the future with employees and help guide them on appropriate usage.

Facilitate collaboration between SEO & marketing teams to establish shared metrics

Due to the convergence in search and social, it’s important for teams or individuals responsible for SEO to collaborate with other business units within marketing departments.
Warren shared that establishing clear engagement processes helps to facilitate communication. Some business units may be interested in engagement and sentiment, while others want to know how search rankings contribute to upgrades or retention.
Adobe hub-and-spoke model enables them to scale and tailor efforts to stakeholders. “We want to be using the data and converting it into the language of our stakeholders,” Warren said.
Aligning with stakeholders around their core business objectives, and then translating your SEO metrics into business objectives by stakeholder can help facilitate the convergence of metrics across your company.

Find a marketing model that works for you or create your own

The hub-and-spoke model that Adobe uses for marketing works well for a large company, but it may not translate for smaller organizations.
“Really what we’re moving toward is a more holistic model, and I think that’s the goal,” said Warren. “A lot of companies like start up might have a more distributed model where they engage as they see fit, but they may not have the same objectives or aligned processes.”
Warren said that smaller companies should establish benchmarks and company strategy up front. Then you will train and measure and share your results. Doing this helps create a feedback loop and data that can be used to develop your content strategy.
Slideshare: Getting SEO & Social Media Alignment Inside Your Organization by Warren Lee

Embrace big data and find ways to make it more relevant

“We’ve seen a huge revolution going on now with big data technology and data science becoming an emerging field that has really brought statics and statistical knowledge into the hands of business people who are required to make decisions based on it,” said Ray. “Knowing how to make sense out of all of it is really important.”
“Data is really only half of the equation,” he added. Learning how to make it relevant to the right people who need it is hugely important.
“At GinzaMetrics, as we continue to build our platform, that’s one of the questions that we are always asking ourselves – how do we make everything that we do as relevant as possible?” said Ray. GinzaMetrics actively seeks feedback from customers to help improve the product.
Siloed data on related topics such as search, social and advertising has produced challenges for companies.
“Everything is quickly becoming a reflection on the brand’s identity and engagement with users wherever it happens to be,” said Ray. “Something that ties it all together and makes the engagement metrics relevant to all of the cross-functional teams responsible for making decisions based on it is a big challenge.”
Ray shared that in order to turn pure data into something that is useful to people, you’d have to understand how each member of a team would use it and make decisions on it, and then base your ongoing architecture on that information.

Use social media insights to fine-tune your content strategy in real time

“You don’t just want to focus on social signals for boosting rankings,” shared Warren. “It’s more of an indirect relationship.”
Companies should use social media to listen to audiences and inform them on what they like and where they share content. Listening and responding will help your search rankings.
Four or five years ago before you had the ability to instantly distribute your new content, you had to wait around to see if Google it indexed yet. Social has changed that.
“Social distribution gives you the ability to get much faster indexing or recognition of new content that you’re creating, and you’re not just waiting around for people to come and find it,” Ray added.
He said that once you publish new content, you could use social media to create a push that gets it in front of people and see how they engage with it in real time. You can use this information to adjust your strategy around the content.
“Anything you do while there is going to have a positive impact on your search results over the long term if you continue to feed it in the right way,” Ray said.

Understand the impact of Google’s Hummingbird & Secure Search 

Ray said that in the long term, these recent changes are going to help.
“What you’re seeing is a shift away from keyword-specific search and new content creation,” said Ray. “It’s still very much the way things are done now, but what you are starting to see is a shift toward semantic search and topic-based content creation.”
That means that instead of trying to own space around a specific keyword, you now have the opportunity to create topic-level content that might match many different keywords. It also opens up the idea of long tail. The long tail concept goes beyond just simple keyword matching now where you can have entire topics to play with. If the topic happens to be relevant to an audience, you have to ability to capture an audience’s attention.
“Basically what you are looking for over the long term is to understand almost in real time what your audience happens to be interested in engaging with and what their intent is,” said Ray.
Discovering that can help with your overall content creation and add to your company’s credibility, he shared.
“Social will help you determine what topics and trends are important to your business and where you should be creating content, “said Erin Robbins O’Brien, GinzaMetrics COO.

Seek opportunities to group your online marketing strategies

In traditional advertising, large companies often tried to coordinate creative efforts between the three channels of TV, print and radio. This resulted in a much better lift.
With online campaigns, you are now able to create intelligent grouping on different channels online. This gives you the opportunity to engage with people consistently across the channels and measure the impact of the specific creative approach. Not being able to group and manage campaigns at that level results in you flying blind.

Begin your research for 2014 now

Ray pointed out that 2013 was the year that content marketing became a hot topic that people started to pay attention to and that trend is only going to continue. That means that the days of siloed SEO and online marketing, social and other areas are really over.
The companies that are ability to create cross-functional teams, no matter the size of your company, that really look at content creation and engagement and performance holistically will have a powerful strategy. The companies that aren’t able to do so are going to have a hard time against competitors that will likely be merging teams together.
Mobile is going to continue to be big next year, Ray posited. He said that Google’s new Android OS shows that the operating system is coming into it’s own in many different ways as a very high-quality operating system. Anedotally, he said that he knows numerous of previously very loyal Apple customers that have switched to Android devices. There is a perceived lack of innovation from Apple whether that is true or not that is driving some of the increase in Android adoption.
The influence and impact that you can have based on the scale and volume of data available will make companies much smarter, said Ray. “They will be able to do things is real time that they were unable to even imagine a couple of years ago.”
“Data is really important, and if you’re not able to capture things across multiple systems now which includes search, social, what’s going on with brand and advertising as a whole…I’d say that 2014 is definitely the year that you should start,” said Erin.
She suggested gathering top-level analytics now and begin to review. For example, look at some of the following:

  • What is popular on search
  • Your social engagement practices
  • Where popular press releases get published
  • Top subject lines on emails with high open rates

Check out Warren’s Search Engine Land column, “SEO & Social Media Alignment.” Watch our FOUND Friday hangout.