Budgeting For SEO & PR? Don’t Forget Social Media

Posted in Organic Optimization, PR, Social Media

Social media marketing is on the minds of many this year, while proposing ’09 budgets for in-house or SEM agency clients. We’re repeatedly being asked to help with proposals and business plans. If you think selling starter social to your boss could be hard because fledgling participation doesn’t always yield immediate benifit, look again.

Critical reputation management and SEO basics intersect with social, to make first step-social media budget requests no-brainers. Prudent social “campaigns” are not just about generating short term cash.

There are plenty of compelling PR and SEO motivations to start immediately and justify budget right out of the gate. The conundrum at money time, especially in this rotten economy, is convincing your team that social media not only matters, but is a crucial component of both reputation management and search engine optimization.

Truth be told, many businesses simply can’t afford not to begin a social media program because it’s so easy to get trashed (or miss cool treats) if asleep at the switch. Here’s food for thought to pitch your CFO’s direction at budget time:

Social Media Is Vital For SEO
Universal search
means search engine results replete with video, news, travel, cars and other specialized indexes called “verticals.” Search engine result pages (SERPs) driving media sharing sites like YouTube & Flicker are terrific verticals for claiming valuable SERP real estate.

Most SEOs would prefer to control every position on the “average” Google first page results with friendly (or at least neutral) content. With appropriate understanding of tagging schemas, it’s fairly easy to rank video and pictures for slightly contested keywords quickly.

With some networking, the power gets greater. The Zen of sharing sites is that in well crafted communities, participation is rewarded with internal link energy to make the sharing media rank even higher. Google wants to present the user with all trusted and topically relevant citations of your site. Google obviously trusts YouTube. It’s a no-brainer.

Anyone could register pubic social media profiles on the name of your business or, worse yet, your personal name and city. Imagine the damage to Google results that could occur if some malfeasant jerk registered the Twitter profile “Last Name-City,” “Business Name-City” or even “Business Name.”

Now the good news: All of this works in the positive opposite direction :) . Participating in public social channels like Twitter, StumbleUpon and Sphinn can bolster users perception of your brand.

Since it’s not uncommon for social media profiles to rank well, harness the sometimes-prodigal internal link energy of mainstream social sites. It’s low hanging fruit that Google just offers up.

Once a Twitter account owner gets busy with tons of followers, the powerful internal linking community does it’s magic. The name of your profile (and stuff you twit) ranks and propagates virally among the sweaty user-masses.

A word of warning. *evil laugh* The scenario of hijacked Twitter accounts is real. Protect yourself and loved ones. Sure, you might be able to enforce your service/trade mark(s) to ultimately get social media nightmares removed, however do you really want that angst and expense?

Register profiles for all mainstream social channels, mothball them if not appropriate marketing channels and define participation models for those where customers may be.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You Bad
Some communities (or parts thereof) are walled gardens, meaning that search engines don’t index them. Any portion of any site requiring login to access content won’t be indexed by Google, Yahoo, MSN or any other crawler.

The end result is one can’t easily know someone said something nasty, positive or outright false. This walled garden visibility gap can mean missed damage control measures or lost opportunities for engaging customers.

Google alerts, and other reputation monitoring tools, don’t work for walled gardens. Monitoring needs to be done by hand by an account holder-avatar. [Techno-geek moment: unless your technical crew feels like hacking the community’s login script for automated scrape-searches.

Obviously faked logins and scraping could violate sites’ terms of service (TOS)] To monitor walled chatter patterns and one-off events, someone needs to sign up to log in weekly, lurk and report.

To our mind, nearly every business should identify and monitor any relevant walled garden communities (private blogs, forums, etc…) where customers or potential customers might be. It’s even possible that competitors are already polluting your reputation in these spaces, talking trash or setting off bombs about your products.

When our clients see conversations, previously invisible, they’re usually somewhere between amazed, freaked or flummoxed. It’s not uncommon to find long standing threads, which have been doing damage for years. On multiple occasions, cease and desist letters, removal requests to forum owners and even litigation ensued after our first walled garden reports.

Social Media Marketing, Reputation Management & SEO
Augmenting public relations and SEO coverage makes for easy conversation at budget time. Social media channels are now classic tools to accomplish both. Consider whether you’re truly monitoring your brand or capitalizing on social media sharing opportunities.

When it comes to budgeting, it’s OK to start small. Lots can be accomplished, even in 15 minutes per day. Consider taking a long term approach and first strive to serve and socialize, until a favorable pattern emerges. Designate resources to bolster SEO using sharing sites and monitor your reputation where the sun doesn’t shine.

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