The search-engine optimization (SEO) community has gone gaga over social media. The evidence is everywhere.
, the news-voting site for search
and interactive marketers -- affiliated with Danny Sullivan's esteemed Search Engine Land
. It's truly a great resource, producing a river of valuable
content throughout the day. But there's a super-high frequency of top-voted articles around social media and its application for search-engine optimization (SEO). As of this writing, the first page
was littered with headlines that included social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg and Wordpress.
This new infatuation among SEO practitioners also was evident during the
last SEMPO New York Working Group Meetup
, where several attendees approached me about using social media. Some were interested in
engaging in social media for genuine customer connections, while others were investigating ways to game social-media platforms purely for SEO sake. (Disclosure: I cofounded and am an organizer of that
Even a fellow MediaPost columnist -- Ambar Shrivastava, an SEO agency practitioner -- touted
last week the
quick SEO benefits that can be achieved through blogging. His lead went: "Quick results in search marketing are only possible with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, right? Wrong. The advent of
blogging, as well as recent advances to search engine algorithms, has narrowed the gap between PPC and search engine optimization (SEO) to mere hours."
This SEO infatuation is
understandable. Social media -- including blogs, communities and voting sites, among others -- are abundant with the sort of immediacy, linking and data clustering that search engines love. Do
what the search engines love and you'll they'll love you back with prime organic visibility.Marketers Beware
SEO professionals should
be fluent in
social media; however, I'm deeply troubled by the philosophy of blogging for the foremost objective of SEO. As a marketer, with accountability for my company's brand and reputation, I would never
recommend this approach. In fact, I urge all marketers to go out of their way to avoid being led into social media when the motivation is rooted primarily in the SEO results you may achieve.
Why? If your social-media endeavors are not providing authentic value to your stakeholders or the venue you're operating in, then there's a good chance you're probably polluting them. Your customers
and the rest of the world don't like polluters.
While every individual brings their own ethics to the table, a lot of SEO-inspired social-media executions fall into the realm of the SEO
underworld, or "search marketing black hats." Not all, perhaps not even most -- but certainly too many. However, as a marketer stewarding a brand that depends on utter trust and transparency, that's
one world I stay far from.
Instead, a company should pursue social-media strategies -- or any communication, expression or interaction, for that matter -- foremost because it has something
meaningful to say. SEO should be a positive byproduct of a company's proactive and authentic participation in community. Social media should complement SEO strategies, but SEO should always be
subservient to higher goals of connecting and interacting. When intentions or priorities stray, you risk cheapening or damaging brand reputation.
It's also important to call out a growing
misnomer: that social-media strategies yield quick results, cheaply. While it's easy to jump in without thinking, and the technical infrastructure costs range (in most cases) from free to a few
thousand dollars, there are significant and real lifecycle costs. Consider the costs of educating management, inspiring and training employees to engage, online monitoring, balancing author versus
company brands, or integrating with company operations like product, marketing, PR, customer service, research, legal or HR. Think about the costs if you really screw up and damage your brand because
you didn't plan properly. Social-media strategies can pay off big, and we all need them now. But they rarely deliver with little or no investment.
I'll say it again: SEO practitioners need
to have their head wrapped around social media. But they also must balance their pragmatism with the higher duties and obligations inherent in promoting and protecting brand reputation.
You must ask yourself two critical questions: What is the intention and message of your behavior, really? And would your customers and stakeholders like you better because of it