Real-Time Search and Social Media Force SEO to Adapt

Dart arrows missing targetRecent announcements by Google and Bing about their increasing inclusion of tweets and social network status updates in SERPs is setting the SEO community alight. SEO is already a highly dynamic endeavor. While there are certainly core best practices that can be applied in virtually any circumstance, it requires customized effort to forge and defend page one rankings in a competitive space. Now, inject real-time feeds that can refresh literally every second and you understand why SEO is about to become infinitely more challenging and complex.

A moving target is harder to hit
The marriage of search and social is critically important for technology marketers to understand and address. The two stand to give consumers access to “sponsored” marketing content as well as authentic third-party conversations. This, in turn, affords marketers unrivaled insight into purchase decisions and brand sentiment. But for the SEO mechanics under the hood, it means a lot more moving parts.

Keywords will remain king
It will remain important to continue channeling consumers along relevant search phrases that you can control, such as through pay-per-click advertising. But you’ll also need to listen now more than ever…to determine the vernacular of the day that is driving people to (or away from) your products and services. Social monitoring provides a great high-level view of this dialogue and can help motivate new web content that you create – either on your site or blog. Parlaying this all into impactful organic search results will require a long-range view.

Rob Garner from Search Insider mentions some good points to observe in a sound, long-term search and digital marketing strategy:

Content publishing: Marketers must now accept the fact that they are in the publishing business. Creating highly engaging content on a frequent basis will help marketers gain the most from the search channel, in addition to direct visitors and social networks.

Engagement: Because much of the new Google framework is driven by social network signals, marketers must clearly understand their target audience, and keep them highly engaged. The bottom line is that engaging content translates to higher network visibility, and this translates to higher search visibility and traffic.

Market research: The importance of guessing the intent of various keywords is rapidly diminishing as it relates to personalization and real-time search. Enterprise marketers must place research at the forefront of their search strategy. This means that deep analysis into audience behavior must be conducted via interviews, focus groups and studying search behavior. Analysis should be applied and mirrored in social, content, search, mobile, and Web development strategies in a connected way.

Network distribution: The promotion and distribution of content in social networks is also critical, and ultimately allows for content to quickly spread to like-minded audiences, in a way that benefits both search and social. In some ways, this could be described as the “earned” counterpart to paid content distribution via syndicated news networks, and is particularly important in building links and other external signals.

Social media: Because of the increased importance of network distribution, a higher understanding of engaging in networks and social media should be a key element of a connected search and digital strategy.

I talk frequently of the “fundamental shift” social is causing for technology marketing. We’re knee deep in that shift now (yes, it’s going to get deeper. The impact of mobile is probably next up.) For now, it’s imperative to know your key search phrases and stick to your guns. Value those keywords and find ways to communicate them in all venues…your web sites, public forums, your social networks, your blogs, your video descriptions, and your tweets.

There’s a lot of turbulence ahead in search marketing. Before you attempt to analyze the impact of real-time search and social media on your broader SEO effort, at least tie down one variable by knowing and committing to your prime target keywords. They could be your life preserver amidst the stormy waters ahead.

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