Do you want to be an average content marketer or a great one? The answer lies in how well you understand how search marketing can help you build a connected brand. As brands wake up and realize they are in the digital publishing business, they have the chance to produce a great publishing strategy that combines search, content marketing, and social media. Here's how the synergy works:
Search engines process natural language: Believe it or not, too many marketers still think of natural search as simply "stuffing keyword.” Wrong. Keywords are connections to people, which means that you must be cognizant of the language you use, and the language used by your audience. Furthermore, search engines are the super heavyweight champs of processing the natural language of the Internet, while social networks and content management systems lag behind.
Search engines perform deep network analysis: Search engines don’t just spit out results. They perform intricate network analysis (analysis of the entire Web, and the weighted connections in between, among many other factors). This same type of network analysis is being used as a framework for identifying connections in social networks, and can help the social user experience by understanding themes and the influence of people within a network, among many other areas. So the imperative for the social strategist is to think like a network analyst or like a search engine to better understand influence in networks.
Search helps social marketers find their audience: There is a bigger social world out there beyond Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and G+, and the social Web extends to answer sites and discussion boards, among many other places. Companies should value their audience no matter where they may congregate, which includes answer sites, forums, and the commenting sections of various types of publishers. When marketers use deep keyword research and look far to find their audience in these places, they are better able to serve their audience. That's why keyword research and search skills are critical.
Search data provides market research and show your audience’s tastes: John Battelle didn’t call search engine databases “the database of intentions” for nothing. This data is like a living focus group for a social or content audience, and should be leveraged to find gaps and opportunity for conversation and content. Using other search tools like Think With Google or Google Ad Planner, marketers can let a search engine’s network analysis do much of the heavy lifting, helping to better understand what their audience wants, and how and where they want it.
Search metrics reflect content performance: Backlinks, unique indexed pages, and network analysis of your owned assets are a reflection of your own content’s performance. Don’t just look at SEO metrics in a search context, but as a social and content thing as well.
Social networks are becoming more algorithmic: I’ve been writing about this concept for years in this column, and I see no reason to stop banging the drum now. The biggest updates coming up in Twitter and Facebook are algorithmic, and will affect how you get your information. On its own, showing the “most recent info first” is a fairly simple algorithm. As social networks become more algorithmic, social marketers will increasingly find themselves trying to reverse-engineer the algo, just as search marketers sometimes do. “Reverse engineering” is not a bad term; it just means that you want to exercise more control over how your information appears, as you have a right to do.
Many of the ideas in this column are from my forthcoming book, “Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Marketing.” I hope this article shows how we are all playing in the same sandbox now. I’ve heard a lot of people speaking about search as being tactical -- so if you disagree with me, I would like to know why you think search is simply tactical in the context of social and content. Don’t be shy -- hit me with your best shot.