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If you do a search on Google for “search marketing” and compare it to a search for “social marketing”, you’ll see that there are pretty much no similarities. The two disciplines have been separated for a long time and companies usually focus on one or the other (though it seems like everyone offers a little of both). As 2014 draws nearer, the need to keep these two disciplines separate is starting to fade.
In fact, talking about them separately is starting to become a huge mistake.
Search is getting more social. Anyone who is watching the way that Google and Bing present their results and determine rankings on keywords can see this. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (not to mention Google+, which is trying to seamlessly tie in search with social) are all becoming more prominent in search while continuing to improve their own internal search engines. These two facts are pushing us towards a collision course where search marketing and social marketing are becoming the same overall concept.
It is already a best practice to consolidate strategies around a singular overarching goal. That has been the case for years, even before the rise of social and the true harnessing of search. The change that is happening today and looking to intersect completely in 2014 is geared more around the activities that are required to make both sing properly for a business.
All that one has to do to truly see the importance of social signals from a search engine optimization perspective is to look at the most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors analysis from Moz. As you can see in the image above, three of the top are social. One may think that it’s a small portion compared to the number of factors, but with the majority at the top of the list having to do with inbound linking, it’s clear that those are all individual portions of the same basic factor.
In other words, if you break it all down properly, you’ll understand that page authority is #1, Google +1s are #2, inbound links are #3, and Facebook sharing is #4. Page authority is an abstraction of the following three plus the domain authority itself, so the actual actions that are at the top of the list would look like this:
Two of the top three ranking factors that one can act upon to improve rankings in Google are social signals according to the survey that gets the opinions of the best of the best in search marketing. That’s significant.
It’s hard to do a search on either Google or Bing that does not pop up something from a social perspective. Bing recently integrated Pinterest directly into their image listings. Google+ pages are instantly added to any search where a business is associated.
Searching for companies by name will yield the company website first followed by a flurry of social and review sites. If the Facebook and/or Twitter accounts are active, they’re almost certainly listed on the front page of search results.
Taking it a step further, most social sites are working their own variations of internal search engines to make content on the sites themselves easier to find. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are constantly tweaking their search engines to show more, more, and more.
There can no longer be two separate strategies for search and social. To try to separate them is like trying to serve portions of a meal at different times. Instead of giving them spaghetti and meatballs, you would be serving the spaghetti noodles first, then bringing out the sauce and meatballs on a separate plate when they were done with their noodles. It’s an odd analogy, but that’s really what many businesses and marketing agencies are doing with search and social.
The strategies must be unified. It has worked okay in 2012 and 2013 but as we draw near to 2014, the distances between the two disciplines must be removed. We cannot treat them as two different disciplines. They should be worked together with an overall strategy that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.