SEO without social; Cereal without Milk

How does a bowl of cereal without milk sound? Some do it but you are always left with an extremely bugging question “Why?”

SEO, SEM & SERPs – The Whats, Whys and Hows?

Search Engine Optimziation according to Wikipedia is the process of improving the volume of traffic to a website from a search engine (aka Google) via organic results. Actually it is not just limited to Google, but if you don’t exist on Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) then do you exist at all?
Search Engine Marketing according to Wikipedia is the process of promoting a website by increasing visibility on said SERPs via paid methods or contextual advertisement. In my opinion paid methods are for websites that want the easy way out; my advice is do it right and focus on content and context.
So how is this all tied to the Social Web? Let us start with Web 3.0; a concept in which the semantics of the web are defined. In other words the Semantic Web is an extension to today’s Web that make it possible the exchange of data, information and knowledge (aka sharing). But wait how can I define Web 3.0 without mentioning its older brother Web 2.0? Well the fundamental reasons behind Web 2.0 is to facilitate collaboration, sharing, and interoperability of information on the web. Web 2.0 is by no means fancy design and cool buttons; Web 2.0 is a mentality and a philosophy and without understanding the fundamental reasons behind it do not throw the term around loosely. 
Today a lot of people equate Web 2.0 with a certain look. You must have heard the phrase “web 2.0 look and feel” or “web 2.0 design” but unless the design includes elements to enhance sharing and facilitate collaboration then it cannot be identified as a member of the Web 2.0 family. “Web 2.0 look and feel” reminds me of a computer salesmen that went ahead to explain what 2GB RAM means to me and his explanation was that 2GB RAM allows me to run multiple applications at once – as opposed to my 1 GB RAM machine at the time that allowed me to run one application at a time? Yes that is what “web 2.0 look and feel” reminds me of – a terrible sales pitch. It definitely sounds better than “cool look and feel” and since so many people are throwing the term loosely here and there then it is very easy to throw it around ourselves. Don’t; nothing will make you look worse than trying to sell something to a potential customer where they know just enough about this than your explanation implies about you.

SEO & Social – Please put some milk on my cereal

Okay so how does this all fit together in the big picture? Remember we talked about Google SERPs, content and context to improve the volume of traffic to your site? Well the Social Web provides you with a tremendous opportunity to generate fresh content and add context to your site. By joining the Social Web be it Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Del.ici.ous, Stumble Upon, Flickr, and using the tons of applications that enhance your Social Web productivity you are generating a lot of indexable and shareable content. Your investment will pay off when you notice you are still getting more traffic on weekends than you did on weekdays prior to joining.
With the rise in popularity of SEO many companies have sprung up that claim to be SEO professionals and claim to have a ‘fool proof’ strategy. First be very wary of companies that claim a ‘fool proof’ strategy for anything that is as volatile as the web. Ranking algorithms change frequently to battle such companies and their claims. Second, if their ‘fool proof strategy’ does not include a Social Media strategy then walk away because SEO without Social is like leaving money on the table and who wants to do that? Besides on top of leaving money on the table you are paying them for half a supposedly ‘fool proof’ strategy. Would you buy a car and leave the wheels at the table?

Corporate 2.0 – Humanize the brand

Times have changed, and corporate websites need to catch up – and they already started to. Again Corporate 2.0 is just like Web 2.0, it is not just a look & feel. It is in fact a complete overhaul of the web, marketing and strategies – and an overhaul to the internal work philosophies in favor of more transparent communication between employees that allow the company to capture, store and manage all the intellectual property generated from these internal communications. 
The days of talking about me i.e. the corporation are long gone. Customers expect to find you participating in the Social Web, and to really be on there corporations need to come down a notch and put human faces on the brand. The days of hiding behind a logo or a “we” are also gone. Twitter accounts, blogs, profiles, pictures, comments, ratings, videos,  Screencasts, Youtube, are all important building blocks of a corporation’s web and sales strategies.
For example let us consider the sales technique of “cold calling” and how Twitter is a better technique. By definition this method is “cold” yet it is one of the most popular tools in a salesperson’s toolbox. Is it even effective? What is the success ratio? 
Briefly, Twitter is a better tool mainly because after you have a built a community by contributing and not just marketing yourself you can easily approach these members of your community – your followers. These individuals and companies have pretty much subscribed to your content because they found it interesting – they could also be automated marketing bots that follow anything under the sun so don’t get too excited. Anyway, so real “Twitterers” have subscribed to your content  - you are already in the door. You don’t need to sell them right away – actually do not do that as one of my favorite people on Twitter @theexpert says “It’s eConVERSE before eComMERCE”. This micro-blogging site allows you to contact anybody with a public account and direct a 140 character message at. Not only would they notice it, but also other people will too. So even if the 30 seconds you invested in formulating that 140 character message does not bare any fruit from this person, your 30s investment is not just visible by that one person, it is visible for all to see. This is a priceless fact.
Corporate 2.0 also includes usage of crowd-sourcing i.e. you allow your community to do some work for you. This is a very natural result of joining the Social Web. People will share, comment, rank, digg, like, stumble, re-tweet, debate, criticize, discuss and collaborate and all of this enlarges the pie for you. What is important is that companies should provide their customers and employees with an open channel for these actions – even the criticism; this is important too. The criticism is a golden opportunity for your employees to “flip the table over” and turn what was a negative comment into a positive experience for everybody to see. Remember that Listeriosis outbreak in Maple Leaf products? Imagine Mr. Michael McCain did not come out publicly and openly with his messages; imagine he instead chose to go through the legal systems to fight the lawsuits thrown at Maple Leaf and declined to comment? Because of what he did, the story has died and I would assume people accepted the fact that mistakes happen to everybody and it is really about what you have learned from them. This is why a mistake or criticism pointed out publicly by a customer’s comment on a corporate website is big and golden opportunity; not always threat to the brand’s image or a PR nightmare – of course the PR people want you to believe that otherwise they will be out of a job…
What is more important is that there is no way a company can compete with all this authentic 3rd party content. All of which will be considered more objective and useful than anything present on a traditional corporate site where every page is basically an About Us page.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to Twitter, there are many tools out there; it is up to you to find the best combination but for now at least Twitter is definitely at the core of any social media strategy.
So now you have put some milk on your cereal, doesn’t it taste better now? Remember it does not stop here, you need to keep the content rolling and keep it fresh, otherwise how would a bowl of cereal with sour milk sound?
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