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January 10, 2011


Social Media Optimization: Just Another Slice of the Pie

by Anthony Verre

Social Media Optimization is Just a Slice of the PieSince 2008, this term has been all the buzz among search marketers: social media optimization. In 2009, it’s spread like wildfire through the big corporate business community (you know who I’m talking about: Dell; the poster-child of Fortune 500 social media). And in 2010, it was a must have for every business (even if it may not be right for your business) thanks to mainstream press organizations and anyone with a blog. It seems that 2011 is picking up where 2010 left off: pushing social media profiles and optimization.

Another SMO Push Article

iMedia Connection had a post last week explaining why SMO (social media optimization) will be the new SEO. If you haven’t read it, here are the major points that solidify SMO as the “new” SEO:

  1. Dennis Franczak and his colleagues get the majority of their news from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, before resorting to Google/Bing/Yahoo search to find an answer. Hence viral communication is more important.
  2. That it is less about finding information (the search for information) by optimizing it, rather the lasting model is targeted-audience pull information.
  3. Because Bing now has “firehose” access to Facebook data, he argues that specific content is now available on personalized pages. Thus, making it a better experience, and more attractive, to audiences that don’t want to deal with Google SERP information

Push-back on the “Push” Article

I don’t completely disagree with that article; in fact, many of those points can have a case made for them. But not now. Not until average users raise the level of their understanding do any of those statements become realized. Just because social media usage has increased across the board at every major demographic, doesn’t mean social media optimization is the new SEO.

More Social Media Indoctrination for Business Owners

This does not mean that all these existing and new users want to find information on these social platforms. I have no choice but to chalk up this article up to another indoctrination piece.That’s the issue I have with the iMedia article; there is no consideration for the average user (this is not the “Reasonable Surfer“) and how they use the web to find information.

We don’t have to look any farther than the author of the piece: he’s a CEO of an agency that does a lot of traditional marketing work, but “is grounded in interactive”. It’s no secret that traditional agencies have been beating their clients over the head the last year and half with social media. It’s the last ditch effort to get in on the “internet marketing rage” and put in a stop-loss measure to losing their clients to search marketing firm, keeping that revenue in-house.

Search Marketers Use Social Media Platforms for Information

Marketers use social media platforms to find information. Marketers want to encourage users to get to business pages, interact, and provide answers.

Average users do not use social sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) to find information. They go to these sites to tell people about what they’re doing personally or what’s happening in their careers, and to interact with friends and family members (i.e. connect, re-connect, catch-up). Average users may see product or service comments in these spaces, but will go to a search engine to validate/investigate those claims.

In my opinion, that article doesn’t take that into consideration. I don’t know a single person (friend or family member) that begins their information hunt on Facebook or Twitter. They simply stumble into it and use search engines to find sites about that product/service/topic.  And, I think Pew backs me up on this:


2010 Internet Usage Stats by Generation

Click to Enlarge

SMO is Just Another Slice of the Search Marketing Pie

No one is ever going to suggest that SEO is the end all, be all of search marketing (even though we’d like to think so 🙂 ). It just isn’t so. There are plenty of other avenues a business must take into consideration to have real online success: paid search, email marketing, conversion rate optimization, social media, and traditional marketing pieces. Are all these slices created equal? Are all these slices of the same urgency? No.

SEO is not social media optimization; never has been, never will be. And, I would venture to say, that SEO should be largest piece of the pie with the most urgency attached to it. Social media can be an important piece, but it doesn’t work for every business, can’t be effectively implemented for every business (not without looking you just got off the bandwagon express), and still has yet to stand-up to the ROI question.

The Website and Search are Still King

As long as search is still the one of most popular activities among all major demographics (see Pew image above),SEO Still King of the Web there’s no reason to feel rushed/bullied by traditional or hybrid agencies into starting a social media optimization campaign. While social media has increased usage across the board, it is still tangential/supplementary element to an online marketing effort.

The website is still king. Search is still a primary activity among all demographics; the idea that people are/will be using social platforms as primary source in lieu of search engines to find information is simply wishful thinking. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve your company in social media; by all means protect your brand name on the web by owning profiles on major platforms.

But social is not a make-or-break solution. That is, if you don’t have social media, your online efforts aren’t dead. However, not having some modicum of SEO on your site (in the event you’re not a huge brand name), could very well damage your ability to create a successful online marketing campaign. As far as I’m concerned, SMO is should be a very distant thought in your SEM arsenal.

  1. Jan 10 2011


    ‘Just because social media usage has increased across the board at every major demographic, doesn’t mean social media optimization is the new SEO.”

    Thank you for saying it. It has been bugging me for awhile that people are saying they are “equal” or SEO is not necessary if you have social media. To me social media a supporting marketing technique that works for some, but not all. However, SEO can really work for everyone in my opinion.

    • Jan 11 2011

      Melissa (@SEOAware),

      [Since I’ve got a few minutes where both Momma and baby are catching some zzzzz’s, I’m going to take the opportunity to get some replies done. ;-)]

      Precisely. SMO or SMM is not the substitute for a solid SEO and search marketing campaign. No matter how much others would like it to be. The fact of the matter is, social media doesn’t work for every single business. The guy selling lawn rakes online should find it difficult to muster up any type of social media campaign, and find it odd that a SEM firm or Traditional Agency would offer that up as a possible solution. And, I agree with you that SEO can work for everyone, and usually does. As Rishil’s post pointed out, SEO isn’t just about onsite vs. offsite, SEO is total and holistic strategy applied to websites and strategy.

      Thanks for the great comment! May the Force Be With You!

  2. Jan 11 2011

    Here’s my favorite part:

    It’s no secret that traditional agencies have been beating their clients over the head the last year and half with social media. It’s the last ditch effort to get in on the “internet marketing rage” and put in a stop-loss measure to losing their clients to search marketing firm, keeping that revenue in-house.”

    I love the fact that you are “calling this out” so to speak. I don’t feel that enough SEOs have stepped up and been honest about what they think in this regard. SM is the new “Web 2.0” the new and latest, hottest thing. It is a buzz word. It is and can be very powerful and effective but I feel that it is has been blown a bit out of proportion. And I believe that both digital and traditional agencies have blow it way out of proportion. I also blame the media for over hyping (jeezuz what a surprise, the media sensationalizing!) SM which has caused executives to flock to it in droves and also in turn makes agencies focus on it because of demand. As opposed to driving strategy I feel that most agencies today are driven by what they feel the client wants to hear.

    I want to call out one last thing. And that is that in my experiences in measuring the impact of social media on rankings and traffic directly, the rankings and traffic from those rankings are short term and tend to fade away with time. Whereas good SEO can last a lifetime. But I do want to point out that SM leads to traffic and links and participation demonstrates to search engines that you are legitimate and therefore increases trust, all of which are great for SEO!

    • Jan 11 2011


      Always grateful for your insightful comments here man! I suppose I was calling it out, but I just assumed that this was a known fact and accepted by all, heh. 🙂 When it comes down to it for me, traditional agencies simply do not want to have the resources available to go toe-to-toe with search firms. The cost of good people and building a department from the ground up would eat away at the already dwindling and fragile profits their making now. It’s slighted and sad short-term view. Granted that’s a pretty wide brush stroke, but I can’t imagine I just didn’t really hit the pulse of the issue for traditional agencies.

      For certain “social media” and it’s cousins: “viral”, “Web 2.0”, and distant cousin “infographic” have had their 15 minutes of fame. They have catapulted to heights that are realistically becoming hard to live up to. It’s high time that the social media buzz fall in line with other viable marketing strategy pieces. I won’t be hypocrite and say that SEO hasn’t had the same 15 minutes, but it certainly knew its place and when to fall back as a piece of the overall scheme. Not like social media, where it’s proclaiming it’s the “Second Coming”. Ridiculous.

      Clearly, as you pointed out, and most SEOs/SEMs know, social is great at forging dynamic, versatile link profiles. It’s great at getting new eyes and potential new consumers to your site. It has a role to play, and it can be a lasting role if handled well and done well. But jumping in head-first and naked into boiling waters isn’t the smartest choice either. It has very likely possibility to burn you.

      Thanks for the thoughts Miguel.

  3. Jan 25 2011

    Another great post Tony!

    Being a Strategic Search Consultant about to be Head of Social Media I agree w/ you 1000%. Our digital agency competitors in the UK are scrambling to get SMM into their mix b/c it connects well to their marketing orientation. Yet, the connection to SEO is missed and you’ve nailed it when you point out that no one really searches for answers in Facebook & Twitter. As long as people have questions and queries they will go to Google first as it has proven itself over time to retrieve relevant results. This is why SEO is always going to be important – it connects people to information. Once they have that information/solution/desire fulfilled they’ll be using Social Media to share about it.

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