Social media is certainly the new shiny thing in the eyes of corporate marketers. Global consumer brands have started integrating social networking into advertising and marketing campaigns, but there is even lower hanging fruit in the world of search engine marketing. The following article outlines various strategies for integrating social media marketing with search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Socialized Marketing

I’ve written extensively on social media marketing in the past, but not specifically on the concept of integration with search engine marketing (SEM) elements like SEO & PPC. In the world of search, it all starts with keywords. Identifying the ideal target keyword can make or break an SEM campaign. Social media offers insights into keyword selection as it is essentially the world’s largest focus group.

For starters, monitor industry terminology and competitor mention in social media (via sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg) to identify new search terms. Using trending tools (like Google Trends and tag clouds) you can determine which terms are growing in popularity and be the first to take advantage of the latest buzz.  Once identified, new content can be built around the target terms on-site (FAQs, blog posts, etc.) and offsite (syndicated articles and press releases).

More advanced strategies include incorporating new terms into product collateral or corporate messaging. More importantly, keyword insights can be used to improve customer service and products. For example, common customer complaints can be anticipated and addressed by support and R&D can evolve future iterations of the product to address these issues.

Organic Search and Social

Social networks offer a somewhat unique and very powerful opportunity to generate awareness in search results. A vast majority of popular social sites have a strong Trust Rank with Google. Open profiles and content are indexed quickly and can rank for related search terms (think Tweets in Google real-time search results). Any links from the social profiles back to the corporate site can positively influence PageRank (a component of Google’s ranking algorithm), for the corporate site. The social profile links back to corporate sites also generate highly qualified direct traffic.

One of the truest forms of integration between search and social media are Google Local Business Listings (LBLs). Residing in Google Maps, Google LBL “Places” pages are essentially yellow page listings within Google’s own business directory. Once claimed by the business owner, listings can be populated with content and optimized for visibility in the “Lucky 7” localized search results.

Securing a position in the Lucky 7 is sure to generate traffic to your site as well as phone calls.  To appear on the map for geo-specific searches, optimized listings include owner-provided photos, videos, coupons and associated business information. There are other criteria Google considers when ranking the Lucky 7, including the quality and quantity of reviews and citations. A company with negative reviews may be hurt and should consider proactive reputation management, which we’ll cover in just a minute.

A well-optimized social profile ranks well in internal searches (on YouTube for example) but also in search engines for target search terms. A well optimized social profile should easily rank in the top ten for branded terms (i.e. company name, trademarked product names and unique services). More advanced optimization technique can generates social profile visibility for unbranded terms (i.e. Portland hotel).

An integrated social search strategy can even alter search behavior. Target search phrases utilized consistently throughout social profiles can aid in recall and increase search volume for targeted terms (particularly terms for which your corporate URL already ranks). Combined effectively, social platforms can both appear in branded and unbranded searches, as well as boost the visibility of the corporate site for targeted search phrases.

Perhaps the most powerful use of social media in organic search, is for online reputation management (ORM). When dealing with negative or undesirable listings in search results, time is of the essence. Google’s obsession with real time search and love affair with social platforms provides a unique opportunity. A company looking to mitigate negative results can create, optimize and syndicate social profiles to push down negative results. Used proactively, social can be used to “own” emerging phrases or markets via the creation of compelling content and engaging with other industry influencers in social media.

Paid Search and Social

Social media offers similar benefits to PPC as it does to SEO. As mentioned earlier, social is the world’s largest focus group. Your customers, partners, peers and even competitors are talking about you and your industry, which creates a unique opportunity for development and optimization of paid search campaigns.

A successful PPC campaign is built on highly targeted keywords. Social media provides a cost-effective way to identify desirable keywords. Using a host of free and low-cost tools (Google Trends, Twitter Search, tag clouds and SM2 for example) can help identify emerging trends, as well as “tail terms” or low volume, niche phrases that tend to generate higher conversions and a lower cost.

Finding the “right” keywords does not guarantee success in paid search, especially if you lack the appropriate messaging. The very same social media monitoring tools used to identify keywords can be used to aid the development of relevant messaging within the text ads and on landing pages. For example, monitoring competitors can help indentify key differentiators or market needs not currently being addressed. Understanding your position within the marketplace in relation to customer’s wants and needs provides a competitive edge.

Similarly, social media can be utilized to explore special offers to be incorporated into PPC text ads and landing pages. For example, research could determine which of the following offers is most desirable to your target audience: free shipping, no sales tax or 30 day money-back guarantee. Existing conversations on social media may provide sufficient insights, but a LinkedIn or Facebook Poll could validate with quantitative data.

Insights from PPC campaigns can also influence social media. Keyword, ad copy or landing page performance can be used to validate content strategies for social profiles. For example, specific messages originally developed for PPC can provide insights into content updates on social profiles (i.e.  offers, contests and posts). Secondarily, there is a chance that consumer-generated reviews will be integrated into PPC results, as seen in the limited test feeding Yelp reviews into select Google ads. Look for this down the road.

Getting Started

Although the strategies and tactics covered thus far may seem theoretical, they have been tested and validated., an online 3-D animation school, was able to achieve page one rankings in Google with its Facebook Fan Page. Through the strategic use of keywords, content and profile configuration, AnimationMentor was able to rank for unbranded terms in Google. Syndicated social content also improved rankings (via inbound links) as well as increased search volume on terms for which they had a strong organic position.

Overall, social media offers a wide variety of benefits to search engine marketers. Social platforms can be used like focus groups to identify keywords, messaging and offers for SEO and PPC campaigns. Social profiles drive direct traffic to corporate site, which can then be filtered and measured. With strong Google Trust Rank, social platforms can rank well in search results, which can lead to greater traffic and a strong reputation.

Author: Kent Lewis is President and Founder of Anvil Media and Formic Media, search engine and social media marketing agencies for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to local businesses.