We’ve all heard a lot about search engine optimization (SEO) and the impact it can have for business. Having a well crafted and thoughtful SEO campaign can be the difference between running a thriving business or being left behind by your competitors. While the importance of SEO is easy to measure and understand, it’s not as easy to grasp the importance of establishing a complimentary social media optimization campaign (SMO). Social media optimization’s importance to business can be found not only in its ability to reach new audiences and promote content, but in its ability to compliment SEO. Simply put, not having a complimentary social media optimization plan means leaving money on the table. Below are five key ways in which social media optimization can compliment SEO and can help business’s improve search rankings.

1. User Generated Content:

Having active user communities on your site in the form of blogs, forums, or other types of social media allows users to contribute content, including important variations of site specific keywords. User generated content is not only cost effective, but highly prized as a source by search engines. It is organic and often has a higher level of “trust” in online communities, which in turn lends itself to being more credible to search engines.

When engaging with user communities, it’s important for the business’s social manager to become a fixture in the communities the business interacts with. Ideally, the social manager engages in discussion not only to foster goodwill, but to keep content fresh and updated. These conversations in turn help SEO, as quality content is not only engaging but easy to share, and that helps increase search rankings through increased page content and links to your site.

2. Link Building:

Social media is an extremely powerful tool for link building and creating both direct and indirect links. A direct link is created from the platform directly (links in a comments box on a blog, profile links in comments on Facebook, etc) while indirect links are created by bloggers, webmasters, or others who find and share your content indirectly (this can be through other blogs re-posting the content or adding re-shared content to another social medium). Link creation of this manner is essential due to social media’s propensity to spread compelling content in a viral manner. The more links that are cultivated through social media, the more a business will improve its search ranking.

3. Brand Related Search:

New metrics available for social media have determined that an increasing number of brand related searches originate on a social media outlet. These can be a fan page, review, or recommendation made through a friend, and in-turn searched by someone in their social circle. Consumers see these outlets as the new “front window” of a business and use them to take a peek inside the store to see if its worth their time to investigate further. Do their friends like it? Is the business socially responsible? Do they have an interesting product line? Consumer’s are using social media to answer these questions and conduct brand related searches.

4. Ranking:

Search engines rankings are valuing social media more every day. Factors such as comments, ratings, shares and other social metrics determine how valuable the search engines view content across social circles. Google +1 goes even further by tailoring your specific search results based on who in your social circle has “+1’d” the content, and how relevant that reviewer is to you. Therefore, if a friend has “+1’d” a business, your search results for a similar business or product will show that same business much higher in rankings than if they had not “+1’d” the business. Simply put, the more relevant that members of your social circles find the content, the more likely it is to rank highly on your search results. Combining a strategy to encourage customers to share, like, or +1 a business’s content with a solid SEO strategy can greatly increase a businesses search rankings through relatively little work.

5. Reputation Management:

Utilizing as many social media outlets as possible gives you more opportunity to have more of your products on the first page taking up more real estate. Because content taken from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg etc. ranks so highly on search engines, it becomes easier for your business to take up more of the first page. Ideally, when a brand is searched, their Facebook, Blog, and Twitter should all rank on the first page along with their home website. Increasing mediums through which a business represents itself online gives it a tremendous opportunity to take up lots of prime real estate on the first page.

While there is tremendous opportunity, there are also many pitfalls that the social media manager needs to be aware of, such as negative sentiment being spread. This reality makes the social media managers job of monitoring conversations even more important. With more channels comes more conversations, and with more conversations the possibility of negative conversations getting out of control increases. The social media manager needs to make sure they stay tuned into their communities and address any negative content swiftly and in an open manner. As positive content and conversations increase, so do search rankings which makes it all the more important to vigilantly manage your businesses reputation via social media.

Search engine optimization continues to evolve and change in a constant attempt to gives consumers the highest quality and most relevant results to a search possible. As consumer habits evolve its important for a business to evolve with them as well to ensure that they retain their current customer base while attracting new customers as well. By adopting a complimentary search engine optimization and social media optimization plans, a business can ensure that they are staying on the cutting edge of consumer trends and demands. Any successful optimization campaign starts with a plan and goals. Keeping the above points in mind when establishing a complimentary optimization plans is key, and by using them as guidelines to establish goals a business can ensure that it stays relevant to its consumers and successful in the long term.