Social Media – Part 2: Dominating the Search Engine Results Pages

Last week I talked about how to stay active, answer questions, etc. to keep brand awareness high and reputation management under control. This week, I’m going to give you an overview of how to dominate the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) by using Social Media to your advantage.

We all know since the “Web 2.0 Evolution” there has been a massive influx of Social Media properties on the web. That being said, you can use this to your advantage from another Branding and Reputation Management aspect by using them to control the top 10 results listed in the SERPs for your branded search. (e.g. digg)

Here is what you do:

1. Find Social Media sites that are relevant: Do some quick research and find the sites that are relevant to you. If you do real estate, using YouTube is a great site…at the same time…if you are a large tech company, TechCrunch’s “CrunchBoard” is a great place to get a public profile about your company. Quick note though, keep this up to date…some brands do a bad job of this.

2. Build your branded social media page: Getting a public page on hot spots like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is very easy to do and build. There is already a template behind them, all you need to do is adjust it so that you are branding your page appropriately. Some sites, (e.g. MySpace) require some markup/css, but still very simple. Most organizations have already done this, if you have, GREAT!, you’re already one step closer to success.

3. Subdomians: Google has cracked down on the subdomain issue as of late, but, that being said for branding purposes, it is still helping out in dominating the SERPs. For example, having a careers or jobs mini-site/subdomain on your brand (e.g. careers.myawesomebrand.com) will give you yet another listing.

4. Blogging: O.K., I realize this is not so much related to a social media site…but it is related to the SERPs and control them. Blogging around your topic and creating linkbaitable items will not only get you a ton of traffic, but the true success comes from the amount of links for your site. So, be sure to set your blog up on your domain as a subfolder (http:://thegreatestbrandever.com/blog) or as a subdomain (blog.myreallycoolbrand.com). Along with all of that, you can use your blog as a great tool to pass some great PR value and Link Popularity to your Social Media sites.

5. Link Building: Doing link building on your “.com” is not the only place to focus. Granted, that being said, most social media sites do contain some heavy PR value and a good starting point. So, with very little effort, but an effort none-the-less, you will be able to rank those pages. So, send a link from your “.com”, your blog, etc. and a small link building effort should help.

Now, remember, these are the 5 steps to achieving Search Engine Results Page domination. Doing only 1 or 2 of these things will help your organization, but, you will receive the most effectiveness by following the steps and ensuring the dependencies.
Overall, your goal for the overall effort is reputation management and ensuring that your brand is controlling the SERP for a branded search (e.g. “Digg”). Doing so can have a tremendous amount of value and reduce a ton of negative publicity for your brand.

Social Media – Part 1: Being Active in your Community and Answering Questions

I’ve wanted to start writing more about Social Media and I think the best way to start would be to talk abut what I love doing, and that is building my own personal brand and how it applies to an organization as well.

I have always considered it to be tremendously important in getting my name out there whenever possible, it has been absolutely crucial to my career development. This approach also really applies to companies and organizations as well. How you represent yourself online through Social Media can play a very important role in how your business is perceived by many. Building an online brand as a whole might be a bit more complex than building your own brand. But, when it comes to the aspects of Social Media though, more specifically thought leadership, it is definitely not as complex.

You can do this quite simply by doing the following:

Answering questions online: LinkedIn and Yahoo! Answers can be a great place to get some Brand Awareness by showing off some of your knowledge and expertise with a community. Branded usernames and/or individuals representing your brand through these services also builds a trust in your organizations ability to follow through on the products/services offered.

Comment, Comment, Comment: Commenting on Blog posts by sharing feedback and or getting involved in the community shows a real passion about the topics at hand. Especially in communities like technology/web/internet, you will gain a massive amount of respect if you can hold your own.

Be active on your own blog:
So, you wrote a blog, people are getting to it, linking to it, and commenting on it…you’re done right? WRONG! There is still another step to this, staying active and responding to your comments shows that you care about the community following you. The Mozzers over at SEOMoz do a great job of staying active on their own blog, and same with Aaron Wall of SEOBook.

Ever heard of “Twitter”, if not, you better!:
Microblogging using sites like twitter is an awesome way to reach users and amazingly enough, control any negativity. Although it is widely used for sending out updates and such, using the “track” feature, you can find out what people are saying about your brand. Steve Ganz at LinkedIn does this CONSTANTLY and I am always watching him follow up with complaints, issues, etc. and it just makes me feel good knowing that some people really “get it.” As a matter of fact, a blog post recently talked about how LinkedIn Hits the Mark.

All of the above items will help you build brand awareness and control the reputation of your brand.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are using this or other things to either build your personal brand or corporate brand through the use of similar strategies.

Web Standards based design and SEO

So, I figured to ring in the New Year of 2008, I would post about how the whole SEO industry should really start to take an understanding of Web Standards in the design of Websites. Semantic Web Design and using CSS for layouts is not really cutting edge people!! We have been doing this since 2001!

I have been so thoroughly frustrated with the quality (rather, lack of quality!) that I am seeing in some of the top agencies and experts in SEO. Even being at Webmaster World PubCon this year and sitting in on some of the interactive site reviews I was horrified by the lack of real web knowledge.

Now, as much as I love the SEO industry, I feel the need to call everyone out that is doing this. We are at a point where the web is becomming more and more semantic and browsers are standards compliant (See: Private Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 build passes Acid2 test).

What I am not going to do is start giving you a tutorial for how to build CSS layouts or semantic websites. Although this is an area of expertise of mine, there are TONS and TONS of resources for this out there already. (Resources Below).

Building Web Standards compliant websites that are semantic will add tons of value, not only to your services, but to your overall value as an organization. We are no longer in the 90’s and do not have to use tables for design purposes and layout, CSS is extremely powerful now. Using a CSS layout will dramatically reduce the amount of markup on your page. Also, use semantic markup up in your html document, such as using semantic CSS styles, insert the appropriate HTML (e.g. paragraphs, strong instead of b), etc. There should never be a class named “style6” or a div id with the name “leftside.” Classes should be named “footer” and similarly your div id’s should signify the content on the page, (e.g. div id=”logo”).
Here are the two **VERY IMPORTANT** reasons that you should build Standards Compliant websites with semantic markup.

Crawlability and Indexability is of course one of the most crucial things when working with SEO, because, the truth is, if a search engine doesn’t crawl your site, you won’t have any business. Standards compliant and semantic markup allows the search engine to read through your html documents with many pre-determined factors. To break this down in its simplist form search engines read through an html document the same way that we read through a written or “Word” document. From a User Experience stand point, page load times will drop and allowing the page to even render correctly will increase conversion.

Websites Maintenance can be a big part of the work that is taken on for consultants, agencies, and SEO Experts. Especially in larger organizations that have hundreds or even thousands of pages. Using the methods that I have been talking about will allow you to dramatically reduce the time it takes to even put up pages or re-design pages on a site, thus reducing your cost to build new or update old pages. This leads to you offering discounted rates, increasing customer loyalty, and/or increased margins for your organizations. From an SEO perspective, the benefit of building a site this way is that you do not have to attempt to stuff keywords into your content, less markup will in-turn help with keyword ratios on the page.

In summary, please build standards compliant websites that contain semantic markup. You will see a great benefit from it and help in cleaning up the web!

Resources:
A List Apart Articles – Great Web Design Resource
Web Standards Project – Do I really need to explain this?
Designing with Web Standards – A GREAT book by Jeffrey Zeldman that explains why Web Standards is important (yes, even for SEO) and goes into code level detail.

If you are using Standards based design with your websites and/or are practicing SEO…please comment!…I’d love to hear and share your thoughts!