Digital marketing has come a long way over the past few years and new disciplines, previously bundled under the ‘online marketing’ umbrella, have now become stand-alone offerings in their own right. Search engine optimisation, social media and content marketing are three areas that have enjoyed huge growth and are now credible marketing disciplines. Yet, with a call for more integration between the three is there a chance that we could revert back to bundling these marketing practices together or can they continue to survive as separate entities?
For years now marketers have been working hard to build their industries, it’s not uncommon to see separate SEO agencies, individual content providers and social media specialists all offering services in their own areas. Equally, businesses are finally managing to fund separate marketing campaigns to ensure each specialism has its own strategy and dedicated resource.
What’s the issue?
While it’s great to see that growth in the market, it’s becoming more and more apparent that content, social media and SEO are deeply linked. Google’s algorithm updates continue to flag the importance of quality content and social media signals within natural search, and though this is nothing new (Google’s first Panda update - aimed at reducing spammy content sites - hit back in Feb 2011), it does highlight just how important it is to integrate the three.
Why do we need integration?
Traditionally, how well a site performed in natural search came down to two main factors, relevancy and authority. Proving that your site is relevant for the intended audience was critical if you wanted your site to perform well in the natural rankings. With various ways of doing this, from using the right keywords in headers, anchor text and meta-data to ensuring in-bound links were from a relevant source, SEOs had plenty of ways to optimise their site. Authority on the other hand, was generally defined by the number and type of in-bound links to your website.
Relevancy and authority are still hugely influential in gaining a good natural position within search engines, but with the introduction of content and social specific algorithm updates from Google, the way in which we define those concepts has to change. Marketers now need to consider how relevance and authority is defined across the board.
From a content marketing perspective, relevancy is about aligning content to the intended reader, ensuring it’s interesting to read as well as being aligned with your brand. Authority falls to the quality and accuracy of the content alongside the publisher’s reputation. Social media however, sits somewhere between content and SEO, relevancy is supported through keyword optimisation, (be it in hashtag or handle form or through the conversations that you’re having) and audience targeting (ensuring the messages are relevant to the people you’re trying to reach).
Muddying the waters further is social search. Social search and social links are becoming an increasingly popular way for people to consume and share content – on average more than 70 billion pieces of content are shared across Facebook alone each month. The reason that this is important to marketers is down to the way in which content is now served to a user via a social platform, shifts in social algorithms now take into consideration networks and social connections to ensure that the content the user’s being served is most relevant, i.e. if it’s being talked about in your networks, has been shared by a friend etc. it will be prioritised over other content. Further to that, with recent reports suggesting that there could well be a positive relationship between social shares and inbound links, it’s equally as important to consider social seeding alongside your content and search strategies.
How do we move forward?
It would be foolish to think that we need to revert back to the days when each discipline fell under the catch-all marketing term and were controlled as one, however with the changes that are being made across the web - within search engines and social networks - it’s clear to see that there does need to be a level of integration and consistency across the channels.
Ultimately, any good marketing department or agency should ensure that the three disciplines work in tandem and feed into the over-arching brand strategy, if done correctly you should be able to reap the benefits across social, content and search to help drive your business forward.
For anyone just starting to think about bringing the three together here’s a few things to bear in mind: