05.15.20177 min read

The Sneaky Way Social Media Affects SEO

Remember "great taste, less filling," for those old enough? Search and social are no different—not an either/or proposition. Let's explore the hidden ways search helps social and vice-versa.

Nearly 10 years ago, if you typed in "Facebook ads" into Google, I was ranked No. 2. No. 1 was facebook.com/ads, so it's unlikely anyone will be displacing them anytime soon, no matter how "ninja" their SEO skills are.

I got that result not because I "did" SEO, used magical software, or spoke to the SEO witch doctor. I simply wrote several articles on high authority sites, such as allfacebook.com, insidefacebook.com (now SocialTimes), TechCrunch, AdWeek, and so forth. I spoke at conferences and was quoted in the mainstream press on the topic of Facebook ads.

In short, I created some articles and videos. It wasn't meant for the Google robot or Facebook's algorithm to consume.

I created a "topic wheel" that had the related subtopics for Facebook ads—how much to spend on FB ads, the primary types of FB ads, how custom audiences work, how to use FB ads to drive PR efforts, using FB ads for lead gen, and so forth.

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Today, this activity is called "content marketing," the act of promoting this content is called "social media marketing," and the result is SEO.

But oddly, people today still don't know that ranking in search engines is a result, not an activity you perform.

We helped Rosetta Stone with digital marketing over the last few years and we noticed that the keyword "Rosetta Stone" in Google organic drove us the most sales. Of course, the executives wanted more revenue from this search term, which meant either more revenue per search or more searches.

Since we had maxed out conversion rates, the question was how to get more searches on this term.

After 90 days of experimenting, we found an answer that was so obvious. We promoted on Facebook—video tutorials, travel tips, memes, contests, Black Friday sales...you name it.

We drove almost no revenue from Facebook, as far as we could tell then. The CEO was skeptical of social media (this was back in 2010) but allowed us to keep going.

And it wasn’t until a few months later that we had the ability to properly test and be able to measure incremental search traffic driven by social media.

In hindsight, people don't just type in "Rosetta Stone" into Google. They had to have seen some content, talked to a friend, walked by an airport kiosk, or experienced some form of intermediate touch.

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In this case, social media was an assist to Google, who drove the last touch conversion. Great taste, less filling.

And two years later, we learned that Facebook was particularly good at driving email collection, which then allowed email and search to drive conversions. When we were promoting on Facebook before, we had no control over getting people to search our keywords on Google. But with email collection from Facebook, especially through a few apps we built, we could shorten the buying cycle.

Flipping things: Search assisting social

We had hundreds of thousands of language learners coming to our site every month, with search being the dominant channel. Being a top 100 advertiser of Google AdWords helped, but we ranked on most terms organically.

With Facebook's custom audiences (yes, a paid product, but you need only spend a dollar a day to be able to use it), we could remarket to people who didn't buy.

With only single digit percentages of people buying a $300 piece of software, we needed to get people to come back. Committing to learning a new language is not an impulse buy; it takes time and money. So Facebook custom audiences let us continue the conversation, as people went through the buying stages.

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Consider the buying cycle for your customers. What information do they need to know for initial awareness of your product, then to engage with you, and eventually to convert?

For those of us who are fancy and have a lot of traffic (more than 500 visits per day from search), then you can segment by what search term they came from and remarket into Facebook. You just pass through the keyword in your UTM parameters. If that sounds hard, it's not. And you could hire any decent marketer to set this up for you in a few minutes.

Three years later, Rosetta Stone found they drove more Facebook revenue from site/search remarketing than from direct Facebook targeting. In other words, our best converter on Facebook was Google traffic. Less filling, tastes great!

Pro marketers know that search drives social traffic and vice-versa. Facebook is the Google of social, absolutely dominating. And Google is the Facebook of search, with no clear No. 2 except in Russia and China.

Two birds with one stone

So if you're lazy like me, then you'll want to do half the work and get twice the output. And this secret becomes yours when you realize that you produce but one set of content and have one set of activities.

In other words, you don't create one set of content for social and one for search. You don't have separate customers, separate funnels, separate teams, separate budgets, separate goals, or separate whatever, even if you have infinity dollars to blow.

You have one strategy, which is your unique set of goals, content, and targeting.

You don't have separate ones by channel.

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And when you do it right, you get rewarded by Google and Facebook at the same time. Great taste, less filling. Or for those of you under legal drinking age, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

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Dennis Yu is the chief technology officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is the co-author of "Facebook Nation"—a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you.

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