Rae Hoffman-Dolan recently reached out and offered to guest-write for the blogs of her online community. We asked Rae a series of questions about current trends in SEO, Social Media, PPC, and Linking Strategies. We’d like to thank Rae for her thoughtful answers, and invite our readers to add their thoughts in the comments below.
Question 1. With social media on the rise in usage and the validation of blogs in search engines, how important is a traditional links procurement strategy to a web site and do links from blogs count equally as links from standard web sites?
Rae: I think everyone needs to have a balanced and in depth link building strategy. There’s definitely still value in your more traditional, standard links – like directories and other low hanging fruit. But obviously, the rise of social media has added additional avenues of opportunities, like links from various social media profiles and then those profiles give you the opportunities to get even more links (think Twitter and then Twellow for an example.) As far as blog links vs. links from standard websites… If the link is in content, the platform of the site (WordPress, static HTML, ExpressionEngine, custom build CMS, whatever the case may be) doesn’t really matter. What you need to be concerned with – what makes a difference – is the authority of the linking site. That stands for in content links. As far as say, blog comment links vs. standard links, no, I don’t think they count the same. I think in very small or low competition niches, you might see them “having an impact” much more often than in your more competitive and mainstream industries. I think folks looking for link build advice will find some in depth advice in my latest edition of Link Building Pros, a yearly interview I’ve been doing for the last few years with some of the most respected link building voices in the industry.
Question 2. I realize this would differ from industry to industry and company to company, but when creating an emarketing plan, what is the current average ratio of importance between social media to SEO and pay per click advertising?
Rae: I don’t think there’s a canned answer or even close to a canned answer for that. The need for one can change based on your effectiveness with the others. I.e. a site that has strong ranks with organic SEO may not find PPC to be heavily important where as a site without those strong organic ranks may find it absolutely imperative. Social media, in my eyes, plays a strong importance in terms of branding and send signals that will help you rank better in the engines. I think a comprehensive strategy will contain all three. I totally admit to not being a PPC aficionado, so all of my affiliate sites depend strongly on organic SEO and social media efforts. And they obviously do amazingly well. It doesn’t mean they might not do even better with PPC at play – but I’ve usually stayed focused on what I have specific talent at and haven’t explored that avenue. However, recently I bought into a LLC formation service which is a true business and not an affiliate website. On that site, I definitely recognize the need for PPC to be part of its online marketing plan. So I’ve contracted my husband (a Houston PPC consultant) to do the PPC campaigns for that company (again, I stick with my specialities and hire out for whatever I need not within them.) I’d do my best to make all three a part of your strategy – and adjust the ratio of time spent on them based on the return they bring you (and or your company.)
Question 3. For companies who cannot jump in all at once, what is most important in emarketing today? If they had to choose to start one step at a time, is it social media, SEO, or pay per click?
Rae: It depends on the budget. In most cases, I would say SEO – but given as I mentioned above that it’s my area of strength – I may be biased. SEO (especially the DIY kind if you’re a small business) is cheap, but it takes a while. PPC can be expensive, especially if you don’t know your conversion rate, cost per customer and the other metrics imperative to PPC success and have to pay to learn them. But PPC is also nearly instant. I don’t think social would ever be my “all my eggs in that basket for the first few weeks” approach. But if I were? I’d be sure to check out these reports on how social media meets public relations in the new age. I think you need a balance between all aspects of your online marketing strategy. Even SEO, PPC and social doesn’t cover it all – then you have guest posting, cross promotion techniques, press releases, optimizing for local business networks (like Yelp and Google Places), CPM advertising and various other avenues you can use to promote your site.
Question 4. The rise of social media has given new life to many SEO marketers. Where to do you think social media and SEO is headed?
Rae: Well, I think if an SEO needed social media to bring “life” to their SEO work, they may not have been doing it right. LOL. SEO used to be an essential blanket word for doing what it took for your website to be found online – in the days when the only way to be found online was via search engines. I think SEO has absolutely evolved and there are so many facets to being “found” online now – SEO is merely one part of it. The focus of SEO is to make your site as friendly to the search engines as possible. I do a lot of SEO audits and the core focus of them is making sure a site is using technical SEO (on page optimization, site structure, internal linking, site indexing methods – quite a bit more) to the best of their ability. Link development is now its own division in an online marketing plan in my eyes. Social media is slowly morphing into the new PR and as a “backup signal” reinforcing the efforts you implement with proper technical SEO and a proper marketing (AKA link building) campaign and proper PR efforts.
Question 5. What up and coming individuals should one be keeping an eye on for future Social Media development ideas?
Rae: Lee Odden is a definite one who “gets” SEO and the overall online marketing picture while being more of a PR and social media guy. Kristy Bolsinger is someone else I see sharing a lot of tactical and valuable information in the social media space. I’m sure there are others, but Lee and Kristy immediately pop into my head upon reading that question. I totally admit to being overly skeptical regarding “social media experts” because I think too many people claim the title with little more knowledge than how to build a Twitter account.
Question 6. Do you know the correlation that Google takes into account between likes and shares when it comes to social media optimization? Can you discuss social media optimization versus search engine optimization?
Rae: No one can definitely answer that question unless they’re a Google engineer. Just like SEO, the “secret sauce” regarding exactly how social media popularity impacts your search engine rankings is an educated guessing game. Some people will emerge with big time talent in the department of bring right (as with traditional SEO.) The posts on the topic have already started – you just need to test the theories and find out what works.