The Evolution of Social SEO from Confused Beginnings

3 Henry Kingston

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What is ‘Social SEO’? Is it an amalgamation of traditional SEO strategies and social media activity? Or is one aspect weighted more than the other? Since the introduction of what is now popularly named ‘Social SEO’ there has been confusion as to what it is and where it came from. Most people have a basic grasp of the definition of ‘SEO’ as well as ‘social media’, however placed together things start to seem a bit more complicated.

Let’s start from the beginning. Search Engine Optimisation has changed drastically over the past few years in Google’s bid to remove those that use black hat methods from appearing in the SERPs. Firstly, we had the Panda update which focussed on the content of a website – this lead to websites with little or ‘spammy’ content falling off the results pages. Next, we had the Penguin update, which focussed on a website’s backlink profile and penalised those with low quality, paid, or unnatural links. Once again, after the introduction of Penguin a large percentage of websites dropped off the results pages or were removed completely.

This left some digital marketers in a confusing situation – if Google doesn’t want links or an abundance of keywords then what do they want? And how are they going to know what each website is targeting? The answer at first seemed relatively simple: In order to rank highly in Google’s SERPs webmasters need to build up their website’s content, usability and authority in order to be beneficial to those searching the web. In short, Google wants to ensure that websites appearing in the top rankings actually deserve to be there as they are of use, and not just because they have an impressive backlink profile.

This doesn’t mean that link-building is no longer beneficial; in fact Google encourages webmasters to have natural links to other websites. They advise that in order to acquire links you should create something that people actually want to share because it is of value, and are not just linking to it because you asked nicely (or have employed some more shady methods). This is where Social SEO came into fruition, as more companies started talking to their customers to find out what they wanted and then adapted their SEO strategies accordingly.

Finding out what your customers want in the modern age is relatively simple, as most people are now on some form of social media platform which they regularly use to voice their opinions. By engaging with your target demographic you will be able to glean more insight into what they are looking for, and can then tailor your SEO strategy to target more specific – or even human – terms instead of hero keywords. This approach also enables companies to represent themselves as more than just a brand, but as a personality which actually values its customers.

There are naturally downsides to this new, more personal form of Search Engine Optimisation. Firstly, creating useful and engaging content takes time, effort, and a substantial amount of research into your target demographic and your website’s data. Even then, there are times where a certain piece of content doesn’t receive the engagement it deserves, however you can be consoled by the fact that having fresh content on your site shows Google that you are making an effort.

There is also the fact that developing a positive online presence takes time, which means that gaining one hundred followers will not equate to you jumping up a number of places on Google’s rankings. The key here is to create a long term relationship, where you continually update your website, social media accounts, and strategy to benefit your customers. Ultimately, Google’s goal is to only have websites that are truly beneficial on their first pages, and in return companies are rewarded with increased visits and a higher likelihood of conversions.

So what is Social SEO? Put plainly, it’s putting the customer first in your SEO strategies by optimising your company’s website and social media platforms to suit their needs. This is Google’s way of ensuring that whatever sites appear in their search results focus on the needs of the customer, and not the company who are looking for conversions. Social SEO is a kinder, more PR focussed, and quality-based form of SEO, which requires digital marketers to rethink their approach to their customers.