If search engine optimization (SEO) is already part of your digital marketing mix or you are thinking about adding it, then you are likely familiar with the concept of a backlinking strategy. That is, what is the overall long-term plan to increase the number of other websites on the Internet that reference and link to your website? This is a “backlink” and search engines view a backlink as an indication of relevance.
But are backlinking strategies starting to take a back seat to social signals as they relate to SEO? Is your time better spent investing in a “social signals strategy”?
In this blog post discover:
- How Google’s algorithm changes impact both backlinking and social signaling.
- How to build an SEO social signals strategy.
- How your SEO backlinking and social signals strategies come together in your content strategy.
- How to measure it all.
Google’s Recent Algorithm Changes Impact both Backlinking and Social Signaling
First off, yes backlinking is still important and yes you still need to build backlinks. Remember a backlink works similar to an academic citation. In academia, the more frequently a piece of work is cited, the more relevant it must be. Apply this to the web – the more frequently your website is linked to from authoritative sources (Forbes, The Wall Street Journal), the more relevant it must be.
So here are the academic Coles Notes on SEO backlinking strategies in 2012:
- Be familiar with Google’s Panda updates. The Google algorithm will become suspicious and penalize you for being involved in link farms.
- Be familiar with Google’s Freshness update. Fresh, relevant content with fresh, relevant backlinks will win.
- Don’t buy backlinks. Don’t even think about it.
- Don’t focus just on backlinks in your SEO strategy. Ignoring the fundamentals of SEO, social signals and fresh content is an opportunity for your competitors to outrank you.
- Increase the number of backlinks to your site at a steady rate. Slow and steady will win the race.
- Ensure your anchor text includes non-branded keyword phrases that are part of your keyword strategy.
- Understand the quantity and quality of backlinks your competitors are producing on a weekly and monthly basis.
But more interesting are the Coles Notes on SEO social signaling strategies in 2012:
- Social signals now account for 8 to 10% of both Google and Bing’s search algorithms. This will only increase over time.
- Social signals include: Facebook Likes and Shares; Twitter activity such as number of followers, tweets, retweets; and now Google+.
- Whether or not your organization has embraced social media and social networking, it emits social signals to Google. If there was a social signal scale from 0 to 10, think about the volume of social signals you produce in a month.
- Imagine if your organization published content (blogs, case studies, etc.) in Twitter and Google+, and the New York Times or Forbes retweeted it or +1’d it. That would send massive social signals to Google indicating that significant, trusted and authoritative sources believe your content is relevant. This one retweet or +1 would improve your overall web presence.
- Understand the volume of social signals your competitors are producing. What will it take to out signal them?
Building your Content Strategy & Social Signals Strategy
Ok, so now you’re asking, “How do I build a social signal strategy?” The answer is, you start by building a content strategy and consistently publish the content into the social channels (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook). Remember, an overall SEO strategy is only as strong as the content, and without the content you cannot execute on either a backlinking or social signal strategy.
Content in your content strategy can consist of:
- Press releases
- Customer case studies
- White papers
- Guest blog posts
- News items
Think about the types of content your organization already publishes over a month or a quarter (you may have a content strategy and not even know it). How do you socialize this content now? How could you more effectively socialize the content?
Here are 10 steps to generating both backlinks and social signals from your content:
- Start with a newsworthy story and issue a press release about it. For example: a new product offering, a client success story, expansion into new markets, etc.
- Within the content of the press release add sufficient backlinks to your website.
- Issue that press release through PRWeb, Marketwire, Businesswire, etc. When done properly, your press release will get picked up by online news sources multiplying the number of backlinks to your website.
- Ensure there are social icons on the press release for people to socialize with.
- Publish that content on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
- Ask employees and other trusted partners to help get the ball rolling by +1, Sharing, Liking, retweeting, etc.
- A couple of days later publish a video blog or written blog that is an excerpt of the content. Again, provide ample opportunity for your viewers and readers to socialize the content. In the case of the blog content, ensure there are backlinks in the blog post.
Measuring the Performance of your Content in the Social Channels
The report below indicates how a particular piece of content (in this case, a press release) performed in the social channels. The press release can be tied to the number of tweets, likes and shares that were generated. (Note: when this press release was published Google+ was not in use.)
If you haven’t already, I recommend asking your SEO professional or in-house SEO team what their plans are for your SEO social signals strategy across your web presence. Start to think about how a content strategy drives a strong web presence. When we see organizations base their SEO on content, they win. They win on backlinking, social signals, and ultimately organic search rankings.