Listen up search marketers. Listen up good. I’ve got something to say.
The goal of social is to drive traffic, conversions, and brand loyalty, NOT rankings.
Many of the most socially shared posts on SEOmoz are focused around social and how social affects rankings. Just look at this graph, showing you the disparity in sharing between the social and non-social posts (with outliers removed that skewed the data unnecessarily):
Posts having to do with social get 63% more tweets and 61% more Facebook activity on average. WOW.
Social is sexy, right? However, because we’re all so stoked about social affecting rankings (and I do think it does and I spoke on it at SMX), different Link and Like networks are sprouting up, offering 50 +1s for $19.99 and such crap.
Enter the man from Bing
Duane Forrester from Bing recently wrote this article about Link and “Like” Farms. He says:
The ideas presented above are meant to be broad. I’m sure there are examples when having a network of the same people liking your content can be beneficial, but broadly speaking, we don’t value those signals as highly as normal, organic social growth. Same can be said for links. Having more links can drive direct traffic to your website, which is fine. Just don’t count on them to always bring value to your ranking efforts as well.
Duane pointed out that this is what a truly viral article looks like when graphed:
And this is how a manipulated “viral” article looks:
What qualifies as manipulative?
Non-ethical SEO is seeking to manipulate rankings by shortcuts. Hacking and buying links are shortcuts to an end, dangerous shortcuts. Throw spamming in here too. I hate that spamming works, but it does at least in the short term. Link and like networks CAN be manipulative, which is why Bing (and I presume Google) are taking action.
Buying social mentions is manipulative, no matter how you spin it. But what about joining somewhere that gives you more social mentions?
I was a member of Triberr for a while, which was built by my friend Dan Cristo. The way Triberr works is:
Every time you publish a new post, everyone in your tribe will tweet it to their followers. And you do the same for everyone in your tribe.
I had a few people (10-12) who got my RSS feed into their Triberr account and tweet it out. These shares are probably discounted, even though they are not meant to be manipulative in the first place.
The goal of Triberr is to drive traffic to your site. That’s what I care about. If I had an ecommerce site, I’d care about revenue, but at this point I care about eyeballs on the page (and RSS signups, which I’m working on getting more of).
Here’s a screenshot of my Triberr Analytics:
It’s important to note that the traffic to my post about the SERP Analysis tool was naturally 3x what Triberr drove (191 natural vs 64 through Triberr). So Triberr is just a tool to drive traffic, but a traffic driver nonetheless. And, it got different visitors on my site, so it increased my viewership. I just did not expect these tweets, as they come from the same people time and time again, to influence my rankings.
It is important to note that Triberr is invite-only and you are encouraged NOT to share everything published by all of the people you are in a “tribe” with. Dan says it better than I could:
Triberr is modeled after real life. It is invite only, and it really only works with bloggers who join up with related bloggers. We aimed to build a system that automated things bloggers did in real life. If you always tweet my posts, every time, then why not automate it? If done right, your Triberr network should look quite similar to your network before Triberr. That is the whole concept behind tribes.
Social signals take into considering WHO is sharing your stuff. Even Kout can tell who are the broadcasters who share anything and everything under the sun. This is a factor in the search engines determining spam networks. Spammy, paid networks aren’t going to have authorities on the payrole. They care too much about their reputation to share crap content for a few bucks.
*NOTE* Triberr actually just recently disallowed automatic sharing of updates from people in your tribes, so I plan rejoin it, as my problem with it was that I did not feel like I earned those social mentions. Now, it can be a more useful content curation tool!
The next part we should care about is conversions. Avinash’s Mozcon talk instilled in me the power of measuring conversions, and we can do this on our social traffic as well! Rand wrote a great post about the KPIs of Social recently, but I want to go a step further and give you a custom GA report that I also gave away at SMX.
This report, which you can download here, will give you the eCommerce statistics (assuming you have eCommerce set up) for your social referrers (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+). I hope you find it helpful!
Have you considered the power of social for branding? The company I know who does this best is Zappos. I recently ordered some shoes from them and received this email that same day:
We then proceeded through a number of tweets back and forth. Long story short (I wrote the whole story here), I got my shoes the next day, for free, and I got upgraded to VIP status on Zappos so I get free overnight shipping anytime.
And then a few days later I arrived at my desk to find this:
I’m a customer for life. This is how you use social.
Social is for driving traffic, conversions, and branding. It’s not for increasing your rankings. That’s a nice side-benefit (when it happens), but that is not what we should focus on. Zappos did all 3. Traffic to their site from me, conversions since I’ll buy more, and they are branded as “awesome” in my mind.
We should not look to manipulate rankings. As someone recently tweeted (I can’t remember whom), “Don’t seek to learn tricks of the trade. Learn the trade.” Produce such phenomenal content that you get a lot of social mentions on your own. Work to build your Twitter following, create some cool resources, and EARN your social mentions. Don’t cheat.
Here are 3 actions to take:
- If you’re an ecommerce site, respond to your social mentions (note: this assumes you’re doing mention-worthy things).
- Encourage people to share your content (articles, blog posts, whatever) with their real friends. Encourage that personal touch, and I bet you will have more repeated viewers than the one-off viewers.
- Use non-manipulative tools like Triberr to help spread your content. If you curate these tools well, they can be quite useful.