Social Doesn’t Help SEO, and That’s OK

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There’s a lot of buzz in SEO about social media and its impact on SEO. True, some sites, like LinkedIn get indexed in Google’s search engine. That’s because Google is allowed to crawl LinkedIn’s discussion boards and Q&A section and index the stuff it finds there. Great. It’s a hidden benefit if you are willing to spend a little time optimizing post titles and your profile.

Notice that none of that, though, is being “social.” When you try optimizing post titles for SEO purposes, you typically end up thinking “what would Google like?” instead of “how do I contribute to this conversation (or, alternatively, how to I start an engaging conversation?)?” Posting good SEO titles doesn’t always equate to posting good conversation starters.

The two could potentially find a crossover point, but often you won’t see that. Unless the person is knowledgeable about online marketing, he isn’t worrying about keyword density in his post.

So, many times in life you end up seeing these wonky posts that were clearly written for the search engines and not readers. Think about how people start a conversation online—in a social context. They typically either say something that they’re passionate about, share something that’s funny or inspirational, or they start by asking questions. How many times have you seen funny pictures of cats being shared on Facebook? How about the number of times you’ve seen business questions being asked on LinkedIn?

OK, now think about the number of times you’ve seen conversations like this: “Cheap Insurance Rates!” Those were promotional, weren’t they? There’s not much there to discuss, is there? Yet, this kind of headline is rich with obvious keywords that any good marketer would love to rank well for. Since LinkedIn gets indexed by Google, there’s a chance this kind of headline might do well in Google’s search results. But this isn’t “social.”

Being social means engaging the audience. Often times, at titles like “should I bother with paying for marketing at this stage?” isn’t likely to garner much Google love, but it’s likely to get noticed on-site and generate a discussion. That’s a good thing.

Click-through traffic is a lost art. In the old days, before the Internet, marketers had to rely on stimulating peoples’ imaginations. They did this through the strength of a headline. A headline like “What Julie Becker Can Teach You About Increasing Your CTR” might earn you some click-throughs.

Writing good headlines is an important skill, especially since search engines can’t currently crawl and index social media accounts. It’s true that Yahoo and Google will soon index public forum comments that utilize Facebook’s integrated commenting system, but those search giants still won’t be getting into Facebook itself to index all of the many, many posts that are on-site only.

Do You Really Need to Worry about Your Rank on a Social Site?

A lot of rookie marketers are loosing sight of what actually happens on social networking sites. They’re still chasing the #1 spot on Google. Hello, you have an audience right there in front of you. Speak directly to them. Forget about where you rank for a second. Write compelling non-SEO headlines that grab the users’ attention.

At the end of the day, referral traffic coming straight from a social networking site is just as good as—perhaps even better than—search engine traffic. Think about it: If someone bothers to click through a link you post, they’re interested in what you have to say.

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Federico Einhorn
Founder and CEO at FullTraffic. Passionate about Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, regular writer for the FullTraffic Blog. Since 2005, FullTraffic has evolved to become... Read Full Bio
Federico Einhorn
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Where the rubber meets the road: A look at SEJ's own social media strategy.