Normally in the SEO world, links are like money in that the larger the bill (more authority), the more powerful it is. So for a long time, most SEOs blew off links from social sites like Twitter and Facebook since they didn’t have much direct SEO value because the links are almost always nofollowed [learn more about nofollow]. Now that we know that Google and Bing use Twitter and Facebook to influence regular search results, it’s time to start thinking about how the person in charge of Social Media can start to think like an SEO as well.
Obviously every organization is different, but many times the person running the Twitter and Facebook accounts, is likely a marketer, but not always an SEO. This checklist will guide the Social Media Marketer in your organization with some SEO tips and best practices to keep in mind as they start their next social campaign (or even they’re just pushing your latest blog post). [Plus I’ve listed lots of great links for additional reading. Learning FTW]
Do Keyword Research
Any SEO will tell you that keyword research is always one of the first steps when optimizing a site for search. Well, it’s no different in Social Media. Since your social campaign can now help influence the search engines it’s just as important to do your keyword research before getting started in the social world.
The best place to start is with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. You can start by inputting a couple keywords you think searchers will be looking for to find your content. Then the tool will show you estimated (e.s.t.i.m.a.t.e.d.) monthly traffic numbers for those keywords plus others that it thinks are similar.
- Now this may be something that you want to work with your SEO on but do a little research on the topic at hand and see which keywords really make the most sense to use. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily only want keywords with the highest traffic volume, you want to find keywords based on their difficulty for your site to rank for them.
The keywords you choose will come into play as you craft your tweets and Facebook updates, plus when you look at the Title tag and meta description (discussed more below). We ran a test to determine which would get a page to rank faster, lots of tweets, or lots of direct inbound links to a page. As of right now (about a month later) the Tweeted version ranks #1 for “ending hunger sierra leone” while the regular linked to version is lost in the shuffle. Although we still have more analysis to do, and more tests to run, this is a pretty big indication that tweets can influence rankings (possibly) more than links!
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO – Chapter 5: Keyword Research from Rand Fishkin
- Choosing the Right Keyphrases from Sam Crocker
- Categorized Keyword Research: Step 2 of the 8-Step SEO Research Strategy from Laura Lippay
Set Up Social Segments for Tracking
Whee! This is a fun one… ok it’s fun if you’re a big ol’ data geek (which I’m assuming most of you are). Before you even get started on your campaign it’s important to have your tracking all set up. You probably already have a specific way you’re tracking URLs (more on that below) but what about setting up an easy way to see all “Social” traffic at one time.
Check out this post from Rand about how to Segment Social Traffic in Google Analytics it will walk you through the steps of setting this up.
The image above is looking at our new Team page and looks at Social traffic vs. all other kinds of traffic. It’s interesting to see that the spike in traffic happened about the same days for social media and other channels. Just think of the possibilities of having this set up for your campaigns!
Remember, URL Shorteners Matter
When determining which URL shortener to use remember that you want a shortener that will do a 301 redirect from the short URL to yours. That way you can keep as much of that link juice flowing to your own site as possible. Also, be sure to use one that gives you some analytics about clicks and such, like bit.ly.
We use a personalized shortener seomz.me through the bitly.pro service, which is essentially like using bit.ly but with our own shortened domain. It’s great we can get data about how many clicks a certain URL gets, what part of the world the clickers are from and the time of day links are clicked. This shouldn’t make up for your regular tracking but it’s an additional way to see how well your campaign is doing.
- URL Shorteners: Which Shortening Service Should You Use? from Danny Sullivan
Make Sure Content is Easily Linkable
As a master in getting your content shared on the social networks, have you also thought about ways to build direct links to your content as well? I know for me personally, we saw a spike in social sharing once we (finally) added sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook and Stumbleupon. But what about adding widgets and embeds to help build links to your page/site.
Some content is easy to share in this manner such as infographics, graphs, etc. Take a look at what OkCupid does on their blog. When you reach the bottom of the page, you get this hover over that not only allows you to easily share the content on the social networks, but it gives you an easy way to copy and paste the link.
When you’re working on quick and easy ways to make sure your content is shareable within the social networks, also think about how to build links to the page the traditional way. Your SEO will thank you. 🙂
Canonicalize The Page (what the what?)
Yea this is a big ugly word SEOs use to make sure that the search engines only see one URL for a specific page. For social sharing this is something to think about when you’re setting up the tracking for your social shares. Whether you use Google Analytics tracking, or get tweets from an RSS feed, you’re going to have URL tracking variables appended to the URL.
Let’s say I plan on doing a Twitter campaign around the 2010 Industry Survey. The direct URL looks like this:
But the tracking URL that I actually want people to use so I can track it better in Google Analytics is this:
While the search engines are getting better at deciphering all this, you definitely want to make sure that they can figure out which page is the real or “canonical” page. There are a few ways to do this:
Using the rel=canonical tag you’d point this at the URL without the tracking coded added to the end. Using the example above, if your tagged URL is:
Then the rel=canonical looks like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.seomoz.org/seo-industry-survey" />
Many SEOs will claim that this is the "proper" way to do it, and most likely is. Unfortunately it's not always the easiest to implement especially if you're in charge of Social Media and don't have quick access to the dev team.
- 301 Redirect or Rel=Canonical - Which One Should You Use? from Paddy Moogan
- Canonical URL Tag - The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps from Rand Fishkin
- Complete Guide to Rel Canonical - How To and Why (Not) from Lindsay Wassell
Check Page Load Time
Last year Google announced that they're now using speed as a ranking factor (although a small one). Since it does come in to play though, and speeds can be affected if the traffic spikes, it's smart to be thinking about this. Whenever possible, work with your dev team to load test the page or entire site before launching a new campaign.
Title Tag - Use Those Keywords!
Remember earlier in the checklist you did a little research to see which keywords would be most beneficial to use? Now it's time to put them into play! It's too easy to use fancy shmancy titles in your social content because it's a bit catchier than a typical "optimized" title. But there are a few things to remember:
- The Title tag is thought to be the highest on-page ranking factor and having your keywords toward the beginning of the title is best.
- If your social efforts can help get a page ranking in Google, that title tag is going to show up in the results and
- Title Tag Best Practices
- Writing HTML Title Tags For Humans, Google & Bing from Danny Sullivan
- Do Keywords in Post Titles Really Matter? from Brian Clark (an oldie but goodie)
The meta description isn't going to help with getting a page's rankings but in the social world it's often times the text that is automatically pulled into a social site. The best example is Facebook. When you add a link to your Facebook wall, it automatically pulls the title tag, meta description and let's you choose an image. Think of the meta description as a way to entice users to click on your link whether the user is searching on Google or checking out a page you shared on Facebook.
Measure & Improve
Yes! This is the best step actually. Determine how well your tweets are doing, then improve on them. As SEOs we're constantly talking about increasing our click-through-rate in the search results and on our pages. But what about the click-through-rate of our tweets? I highly recommend reading through Rand's post on Calculating and Improving Your Twitter Click-through-Rate to give you lots of ideas on how to make improvements.
Whew! That's a lot to think about. Some of this you may already be doing, but if you're not, I encourage you to give these a try. See how you can not only improve your social media sharing, but your search engine rankings! Also, don't forget to work closely with your SEO to teach them the world of Social as well. :)
Written by Brent C. Johns of Indian Creek Web Design - 208.703.2392