Photo by Matt Hamm

The following is a guest post by Kristen Bradley.

We’ve all been pitched the social media hype about how setting up a business profile will miraculously make our businesses more popular or successful. The unavoidable media frenzy proclaims, “Your business needs to be on Facebook and Twitter NOW!” Although sale conversions on social media sites might not be worth your time, money and effort, setting up social profiles to direct additional traffic to your site and build relationships with customers certainly should be.

When well thought out and carefully implemented, a company’s social media presence allows for additional — and most importantly, free — marketing avenues. Maintaining a strong online presence via social media platforms also allows businesses to engage with new and existing clients.

In the recent past, a company’s presence on social networking sites lacked any significant impact on its search engine rankings, but that trend seems to be changing. Search engines, specifically Google and Bing, are now using “social signals” to help determine a web page’s ranking in search results.

Now professionals are trying to grasp the actual effects that social sites have on their SEO. For example, Google and Bing generally say that social profiles give off “human signals” as opposed to traditional “link signals.” Since the use of human signals is new in determining a web page’s authority, they don’t have as much of an impact on rankings as do link signals. On one hand this is entirely logical; otherwise linkaholics would just use their social accounts to add juice to their floundering sites. On the other hand, this formula limits reputable businesses that use social profiles to provide valuable information their clients.

Another key takeaway regarding this new social media juice is that articles referenced in tweets are tracked by both Google and Bing. Both search engines evaluate the “social authority” of the user to help determine the link’s signal strength when it comes to actual SEO, which essentially means they’re calculating the weight a link holds based on who exactly tweets it. For example, a link in a tweet by President Obama will hold a much higher authority than one posted by a college student. Links shared on Facebook are calculated in the same way, though only public status updates are included in the formula.

If you’re not buying into the potential effect that social sites can have on rankings, take a look at this tweet from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz.org, an industry leader in SEO. Trust me, it’s a worth a look.

Building on this knowledge, I’d like to offer three key suggestions to improving a small company’s online marketing plan.

  1. Establish a social media presence now, no matter how small your business is. Setting up an account on social networking site only takes a few minutes. Start off by following and/or requesting friendships with people you know who live and work in your area. If you have some loyal customers, see if they’ll recommend their friends to check out your page or “follow” you. This is basically digital word-of-mouth advertising, and it spreads like wildfire.
  2. Build credibility by establishing relationships with influential people in your niche. Contact established professionals who work in your industry. When you update your social networking accounts, be sure to reference other professionals in your industry from time to time because one day they could return the favor. On the other end of the spectrum, you know the age-old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Well, keeping track of what your competition is doing online can help you maintain a competitive edge.
  3. Interact in a way that benefits your search rankings. Here you should remember that it’s quality and not quantity that often counts when it comes to SEO. Sure, add a plethora of links to your Twitter account, but be forewarned that these kind of approaches backfire all the time, as search engines almost always catch those trying to work the system. When utilizing social network accounts, make legitimate connections with other users and then provide them with quality content, not a feed of links that work solely toward your favor. Then others will begin linking to your content. In the end you’ll do less work, and search engines will value the outcome much more.

Kristen Bradley works for SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide surety bond producer. SuretyBonds.com works to educate business professionals and other entrepreneurs about the steps that they need to take before opening new businesses.

Photo by Matt Hamm.

 

Originally posted by Guest Poster on June 27, 2011 in Guest Posts.

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