By Michele Linn published July 16, 2013

Where Search, Social Media Content, and Content Marketing Meet

social-media-content-search-intersectionOne of the topics I hear content marketers ask most about is the combination of SEO and social media content. It’s not surprising, considering how critical those two aspects are to getting your content found.

Last week, the Content Marketing World team (#cmworld) had a Tweet Chat focused on search, social, and content marketing. A big thanks to Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) who was our featured guest (along with Joe Pulizzi). The conversation was fast and furious, but I found that there were many themes running throughout. While you may be familiar with the heated debate between SEO and content marketing, most participants were in agreement on many of the points we discussed.

Want to learn more?

People come before search engines

Without question, you should write for your audience instead of for search engines.

Ask yourself these questions about your audience:

  • What do they want to know about?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What words are they using to search for information?

Figure out what words / phrases buyers use — instead of focusing on product terms. #cmworld

— Ardath Albee (@ardath421) July 9, 2013

Most marketers forget this — what is the outcome for the reader? What is the pain point you are solving? #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

People search like they ask questions. Make sure you create meaningful content around important questions. #cmworld

— Angela Dunn (@blogbrevity) July 9, 2013

@CMIContent A1: Distill customer interest along buy cycle into keywords/topics that inspire content & optimization. Refine repeat. #cmworld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

 Not only is this simply good business practice, but participants agreed that better quality content is critical for Google, regardless of its algorithm: 

A search strategy that has to change due to an algorithm update is a failed strategy to start with. #cmworld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

If you focus on epic content that your customers/prospects share, to heck with Google’s algorithm. Great stories win! #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

Stop chasing the algorithms and you won’t have to drastically alter your search strategy. #cmworld #duh

— Katherine Griwert (@kgriwert) July 9, 2013

But, Lee Odden reminds everyone to pay attention to the algorithms as well:

Keep in mind, even the best quality, customer-centric approach should heed changes in search. Smart SEO works! #cmworld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

Search and social are tied together

Everyone agreed that search and social are closely tied together:

Can you honestly look at search separately from Social today? I don’t think so. #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

Social is jelly, SEO is peanut butter, & content marketing is the bread that holds it all together 🙂 #CMWorld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

That said, there are slightly different approaches for each.

In search, you are often optimizing for long-tail keywords that people are searching for. However, you may not want to make some common terms a high priority — particularly if there is a lot of competition for them. This is why marketers often focus on keywords that are more specific and have less search volume, yet are easier to rank for (and, chances are, the audiences who come across your content will be more relevant to your business).

Compare this with optimizing your content for search, where you need to use common terms that people are monitoring via news alerts, Twitter, etc. How do you balance the two objectives?

Search engines consider social signals, so getting your content shared will also help with search:

Useful content shared on social networks helps people & provides a signal for search engines. Win Win Win. #CMWorld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

Ideas cross boundaries / channels — If people like/share your content it will show higher in search results. #cmworld

— Ardath Albee (@ardath421) July 9, 2013

@CMIContent Social shares are important to how well a site does in search, and content is (or should be) shareable. #cmworld

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) July 9, 2013

Different content may be better suited for social vs. search optimization:

Search phrases express specific intent to find. Social topics expect interaction or reaction. #CMWorld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

@leeodden Search only reaches people who know they want to find the info. Social reaches people who want it, but don’t know it yet. #CMWorld

— Stephanie Walton (@StephLynette) July 9, 2013

Both social and SEO need to start with a solid content strategy:

Search, Social, Lead Gen — it all starts with a defined content strategy today. Most marketers skip this stage 😉 #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

Optimize images and videos for search

While many marketers have at least a quasi-process in place for optimizing text, such as blog posts, it’s important to also optimize images and videos:

People underestimate the power of optimizing images/videos. Big opportunity. #cmworld

— Angela Dunn (@blogbrevity) July 9, 2013

Key: Tagging and adding relevant copy so important for video and infographics. Help Google discover your content. #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

Create transcripts to take advantage of SEO

Another way to take advantage of search is to create transcripts of your video and audio content:

Whenever possible, include transcripts for video or audio, and always alt tag those images. #cmworld

— Erika (@SFerika) July 9, 2013

Transcribing videos is also useful for people who can’t watch the video. Helps with search, too. #cmworld

— Christoph Trappe (@CTrappe) July 9, 2013

Video can be limiting. The audio part prevents many business users consuming it. Me, I want to quickly ‘scan’ video like text! #CMWorld

— Phil Ayres (@consected) July 9, 2013

Content, social and search will continue to play together

Lastly, we asked participants their prediction on the future of SEO. People agree that it should continue to be tied with content and social — and may even be part of the content team:

As long as content can be found through the act of searching, there will be an opportunity for optimization. #CMWorld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

@CMIContent The term SEO may get swallowed by #contentmarketing, but the importance of being discovered by search will remain. #CMWorld

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) July 9, 2013

Prediction alert: SEO and Social roles start reporting into Content role in enterprises. This is happening now. #cmworld

— Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) July 9, 2013

As Lee Odden so aptly states,  you need to understand social, search and content to have the greatest impact:  

Content easily found but confusing is of no value. Neither is excellent content no one can find. #cmworld

— Lee Odden (@leeodden) July 9, 2013

Want to learn about and share info on content marketing for vertical markets? Join Joe Pulizzi and Content Marketing World speaker Mitch Joel today at 12 p.m. EST for our next Twitter Chat on content marketing for the Finance industry. Follow the conversation @CMIContent and #cmworld

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research to attract the attention of prospects, customers, media and other influencers. Before starting Mantis, Michele was one of the first employees of Content Marketing Institute where she was head of editorial and was instrumental in building the platform to 180,000 subscribers. For seven years, she had hands-on experience in all aspects of CMI’s editorial including the daily blog and annual research. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Pontus Staunstrup

    Great post on a very hot topic, Michele. I really appreciate that you put together these summaries on the twitter chats. Thanks, Pontus

    • Michele Linn

      So glad these are useful to you, Pontus! I am really enjoying the chats as well.

  • Andreas Ramos

    If a content marketing strategy relies on SEO, then it’s a sign of weak content. Good content doesn’t need to expect to be found in a search engine by its audience. Good content will be passed around by its target audience: the leading influencers will talk about it; the audience will share and forward it to each other. Good content bypasses the search engines. (SEO should indeed be done, just in case, but all you need is the basics.) Write a world-class document that’s far better than anything else and it’ll be passed around. #BBoCM

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Andreas — I think you are in agreement with many of the participants (and me). Understand and use the basics of SEO, but ultimately write the best content you can for you audience so it will be shared.

      That said, we have some content at CMI that is more forward-facing and not something people are searching for (at least yet). We optimize those posts as a matter of practice, but we often get traffic from social sharing. On the other hand, we have some content that is more often found in search as the content answers questions we know people have (such as, “What is content marketing?”) For us, it’s a balance.

  • Andy Crestodina

    I think it’s a mistake to not promote content in search engines. A great
    post gets a big spike of traffic from email marketing that lasts a day
    or two. It gets shared leading to sporadic traffic over a week or so
    (much of that within minutes of each share) but it can also rank
    bringing in a steady stream of traffic over months and even years. This
    often dwarfs the other traffic sources eventually.

    One downside to search: no post will ever get more visits that the total search
    volume for that phrase that month. It’s a ceiling. But if it catches
    fire in social, there’s almost no limit to the number of people who may
    share it. Anyone who has written anything that went “viral” (even in a
    small way) knows the power of crowds.

    Someday I’ll write a post
    that shows screenshots of Analytics for various sites that are
    successful in various channels. Email looks like a heartbeat; social
    looks like a lightning bolt; search looks like a long steady upward
    line. Why not combine them all?

    • Michele Linn

      Andy — I absolutely agree that smart marketers should be using a combo of email, search and social. They are very complementary channels. Would love to see that post and graphic!

      • Andy Crestodina

        Morning, Michele!
        I’ll write something up. I have access to the Analytics accounts of around 500 clients and I’ve always thought about doing some general analysis on these. It’s really interesting to compare them. I’ll try to get you something before CMW…which I’m super excited about. 🙂

        • Michele Linn

          This sounds great on both accounts. I look forward to the post and meeting you in Cleveland!

  • Sarah Jocson

    Its true that there are lots of people who keeps posting about products which makes the readers turn away from the page. As I have read a lot of blogs, it really pays off to write something interesting and to plan your content marketing

  • cisshanu

    Search engine marketing expert are experts to whom you can hire for strong website promotion and it helps to bring your website on good rank.

  • Lee Odden

    Great job as always Michele!

    • Michele Linn

      Lee — Thank YOU so much for sharing your wisdom during the chat!

  • Cheyserr

    Any marketing efforts would be useless without a smart strategy, whether it’s for search engine optimization or for social media. However, to promote engagement, increase loyalty, and convince prospect customers to invest in your brand, it would be better to use all possible channels. This way, you can reach your customers, whenever and in whatever channel your customers are comfortable using.

    • Michele Linn

      Completely agree! I think it’s dangerous to focus only on one channel.

  • Dan Boateng

    Search and social are brothers; they just have different personalities, but in essence they help you achieve your business goals. I guess we have heard of social search? Facebook has millions of search queries so you can do one and leave the other.