Exploring The Relationship Between Social Media & Search - Social Media Explorer
Exploring The Relationship Between Social Media & Search
Exploring The Relationship Between Social Media & Search

We try to keep a reasonably tight editorial focus on social media here. The name of the blog is, after all, Social Media Explorer, not Random Internet-Related Stuff Explorer.

(Note to self: Mention to Jason in passing that while he’s working out the details of the blog revamp, to just consider a name with a broader scope. WebCrunch is kind of catchy. Fallsaleizer?)


For a moment, I’d like to widen the scope a little, and look at the sticky relationship between social media and search engine optimization.

Up to this point, there have been two distinct camps: the blogging/social media crowd and the SEO crowd. While there are a few people who move in both circles, there is also a history of discord between the two. Social media peeps complain that SEOs abuse and “game” the social web, effectively lowering the human value of those networks for material gain.

SEOs complain that bloggers, social news power users and other social media types are pimping the system in their own way, and are often woefully uninformed about the basics of how search engines index and rank sites.

On the other hand, I also see a lot of cross-pollination of ideas among the top players on both sides.

The fact is, search and social are, if you’ll pardon the pun, intrinsically linked. As long as Google dominates search (which all evidence points to being for the foreseeable future), developing quality inbound links will be invaluable in search engine optimization.

Unless user behavior dramatically changes, linking to others’ content is going to continue to be the working “social capital” of the social web. Smart bloggers and social site developers have a decent understanding of at least the basics of SEO; and smart SEOs understand how to use the tools of social media.

Ultimately, both camps roughly fall under the old, web 1.0 description of “webmaster.” Both disciplines share many of the same goals–attracting eyeballs and the dollars that go with them.  In both groups, the grey areas between “optimization” “marketing” and “manipulation,” of search engines and human visitors alike, can get fuzzy.

But there are tremendous opportunities ahead for the people who can master both elements.

About the Author

Kat French
Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.
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  • Hey Ravm. Thanks for the encouragement. This post is over a year old and I don't think the Tweet tool we have installed goes back and shows Tweets from before it began measuring. That's all. I'm sure it was tweeted well. But thanks again for the affirmation!

  • ravm

    You seem to have a decent following on this blog. Why aren't any of them on Twitter and tweeting this post? C'mon people, hop on the social media bandwagon! There's no reason this post should have 0 tweets!

    • Hey Ravm. Thanks for the encouragement. This post is over a year old and I don't think the Tweet tool we have installed goes back and shows Tweets from before it began measuring. That's all. I'm sure it was tweeted well. But thanks again for the affirmation!

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  • You nailed it with this post. If you compare what's being said/written by the pragmatists in both camps, there's not that much difference in their recommendations or methods. Using Charlene Li's terminology, the tension is really between the social media purists (i.e., the “ClueTrain as a religion” set) on one side and the corporatists on the other (SEO blackhats).

    The reality is that off-page factors are the biggest driver of search engine ranking performance and google's ability to detect “bad links” keeps improving (i.e., paid links, exchanges, etc). This is going to push people towards legitimate link building strategies. There are a limited number of link building tactics and the two that provide the biggest opportunity for competitive advantage are social media participation and SEO PR. Given this, I think it's almost a given that the PR, social media marketing and SEO disciplines are increasingly going to bleed into each other and the people who can master the different skills are going to be highly sought after.

    Keep the gooey goodness coming. ;-)

    • KatFrench

      Exactly–when you step away from the extremes, both camps are generally occupying the same space, making the same recommendations, because they work.

  • Great post Jason. I think SEOMoz does *alot* of Good at covering the intersection of social media and SEO. The thing is that 'gaming the system' in social media doesn't work long term.

    Also, I do agree with you that “Webmaster” is kind of a dated term. I'm pretty weary of anyone who even calls themselves a webmaster anymore.

    • KatFrench

      I agree–I've been a participant at SEOmoz for over a year, and have contributed a couple of posts to YOUmoz. And if you want a really good breakdown of how gaming social media for SEO is an epic FAIL as a long term strategy, check out this post from Naomi at IttyBiz.

  • I can see both sides of this argument, frankly, since I think of myself as one of those shades that passes between both worlds. It comes down to understanding two things:

    1) You can't write copy, like any fool SEO would do. The Social crowd can spot that from very far away, and since they're the ones that bestow all of those Diggs and follows, they can break you. Stop writing copy and actually take part in the conversation.

    2) You can't bust on people for wanting to promote something. No one can say a “real conversation” doesn't, at times, involve someone saying, “this is a really great product and you should try it.” If that someone happens to do this with a properly anchored text link, so be it.

    In fact, anyone who says another group is “gaming” something online is in fact saying they alone have devined the true purpose of the Internet, and you'd better listen up. It's a bit like saying, “if you don't recognize the truly open, free, utopian nature of the Internet, I'll throw your ass in the Gulag.”

    Off Madison Ave

    • KatFrench

      I take exception to your statement that you can't write copy, but mainly it's a semantic argument. A really good writer can “take part in the conversation” in such a way that they're being extremely persuasive, but it's subtle and soft-handed enough that it doesn't feel tactical or manipulative–even if it is tactical and manipulative!

      • Feel free to take exception, but we both know most SEO writing is not expertly crafted copy. In many cases, if, say, a search marketer wants to do well for golf bags, you can tell in the golf bags quality of their golf bags writing that they don't give a golf bags about what others think of their golf bags copy. Just so long as they mention golf bags.

        “Copy,” as I use the word, means writing that is a monologue about product. Talking about products shouldn't be verboten, but since social is at its core about dialogue, prepared, one-way writing isn't the way to go.

  • Meant to type 80's song

  • In an industry that is ever changing all the time, and eventually we will be pushing into the Web 3.0 world, any suggestions on how to better inform one on learning more about the other? I am slowly learning more about social media techniques from a marketing perspective, and would love to increase my awareness on SEO and link building, although I have to put it on the backburner for now. Do you have any suggestions on where to start with the basics of SEO?

    By the way, Fallsaleizer is terrible, make sure Jason doesn't rip off Scobleizer. How about WebItNow? A corny take off the 90's song Whip It.


    • Please allow me to assure you “Fallsaleizer” is Kat's attempt at being funny. If I rename the website anything it will be, “Jason Falls's Gooey Goodness,” with the tag line, “Don't get any on ya!”

      • KatFrench

        Egads! Someone thought the “Fallsaleizer” comment was serious? Well, that's what I get for taking off the pocket protector and trying to lighten up… ;)


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