Search & social integration: Takeaways from SMX West

Search and social don’t have to live in separate silos. Contributor Caitlin Jeansonne recaps SMX West sessions that looked at how SEO and social media teams can complement each other to provide stronger results.

As someone playing a specialized role in an integrated agency, I am always looking for ways digital teams can complement each other and truly integrate to bring more success for clients and brands. Last week at SMX West, the integration of social and search was first and foremost in my mind.

Below is a roundup of key lessons learned across various sessions last week.

1. Prioritize team integration

Team structure is crucial in integrating search and social in an organization.

Justin Freid, in the session on “Using Paid Search & Social Together to Deliver the Ultimate Knock-Out Punch,” laid out his team structure, in which a director of search and social runs the team, with support from supervisors for SEO, SEM and social that lead their distinct disciplines while working closely together.

For organizations where social experts and search experts are not on the same line in the organizational chart, seating the two teams in close proximity to each other fosters accessibility and idea-sharing (and camaraderie, which builds trust).

Standing in-person meetings, either weekly or biweekly, help the disciplines share data and execute cross-channel testing. These standups provide opportunities to share real-time insights and test ideas across both teams, and to follow up on previous tests and learnings.

2. Share social and search data to make cross-platform decisions

My colleague, Maggie Malek, in the session, “SEO & Social: A Match Made in Marketing Heaven,” laid out several sources to look for insights that can help inform search and social efforts.

  • Search informing social — In social media, people tend to post content that reflects the best version of themselves, which can make it difficult for marketers to get a sense of their true pain points. In the privacy of a Google search box, consumers tend to be more honest, asking questions they may not pose in public. Use this as inspiration for content to address these questions and needs.
  • Social informing search — Look at social to determine what people are saying about your product to their friends, what customer service issues they are experiencing, how they are interacting with your competitors, and what types of content they are engaging with. Social can also be a powerful tool for looking at what words people use to describe your product and competitors, which may inspire keywords and content.
  • Other channels — Don’t forget other search boxes outside of search engines. Consumers search YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, each in a slightly different fashion. Amazon reviews are also a great way to understand the questions your audience has about your product.

In the presentation “Bridging the Data Gap With Social,” Hannah Thorpe broke down some of the ways social can help fill in the data gaps that cause issues in search efforts:

  • How are people finding my content? — In a world where keyword data can’t always indicate which queries are driving visits to the site, social can provide data around related posts; use hashtags and popularity of topics in online conversations to help fill in the gaps in content your audience cares about and learn which words they use to get to your brand.
  • What content should I be making? — Search volumes used to tell us which keywords we should be targeting, and that data is getting more difficult to determine. Social data can reveal activity on content topics and themes, and searching forums and Q&A sites can give us an idea of what questions people are asking. This helps marketers create content better targeted for our users.

3. Craft messaging based on where the user is in the funnel, not which platform they’re using

Brands and agencies often plot out marketing messaging by channel, but consumers frankly don’t think in terms of channels. Our always-connected, modern consumers expect consistency and relevance with brands at every touch point.

Michael McEuen, in his presentation, “How to Reach Ideal Customers Using Advanced Search & Social Tactics,” recommends diving deep into identifying your ideal customers and their conversion paths in order to chart your strategy at each stage of the journey.

For example, sample tactics to consider at each stage:

  • Awareness — Video ads, display ads
  • Engagement — Sponsored content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Consideration — Search text ads (based on keywords around price, reviews, competitors, top-rated or “best” in your category), promoted-only social content
  • Decision — Brand keywords, search text ads based on high buying-intent keywords (specific product line, service, offering keywords), direct response social ads

4. Don’t forget that social content is indexed by Google

Yes, Twitter content is indexed in Google search results. Mark Traphagen’s presentation, “Google and Twitter: Singing a Duet for Your Marketing,” reviewed the specifics of how this content indexing has evolved over time.

Not all tweets are indexed, and Traphagen laid out several factors that may affect how tweets get indexed. The more favorites a tweet gets, the more likely it is that it will show up in Google search results. Retweets and number of followers tend to affect indexation as well, although the correlation is not as strong.

Wrapping up

Search and social are powerful tools that help marketers connect to consumers. When leveraged together in an omnichannel digital strategy, they complement each other to provide even more powerful results.

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