Larry BraunerIf you and your organization are having difficulty justifying the high cost of social media marketing, consider this new and compelling factor:

Social media is increasingly influencing your visibility in the search engines. Businesses that fall behind in social media marketing could soon start noticing a reduction in their search engine traffic.

I wrote last year in The Long Tail and Social Media and Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization about ways in which your social media marketing can be helped by search engines.

Shortly thereafter, I discussed in The NEW Search Engine Optimization some of the effects that social media marketing can have on your SEO and on your web presence. Now that the topic of social and search is gaining traction, I’m revisiting it, and I present to you a brief summary of social and search issues and benefits.

Dubious Value of Backlinks

The use of social data by search engines isn’t something new. Backlinks can be regarded as a form of social data. Search engines have for many years relied exclusively upon inbound links to evaluate a site’s authority. A well known criterion derived from the analysis of inbound links is Google Page Rank.

Backlinks are, however, of somewhat dubious value, since they often result from non-organic gray- and black-hat link-building techniques, such as link exchange, outright link purchase, blog-comment spam and spam blogs.

Social Media Content Authentic

Social media content is growing exponentially. Social content can be mined for useful data, and it will be. Social media sites and blogs yield data that’s authentic, and which coupled with backlinks, promises to more adequately measure a page’s authority.

Social media data may also enable search engines to return results that are more personalized.

Social Media Generates Backlinks

Not only can data from social media complement backlinks, social media itself can generate valuable backlinks to your website. Your blog posts, your comments on dofollow blogs and your content on dofollow social media sites, such as Amplify and Posterous, can all link back to your website.

However, the potential for backlinks doesn’t end there. Your participation in social media will attract genuine backlinks from within your communities.

Social Media Appears in Search Results

Search engines are indexing more and more social media content. Your content on social media sites appears in search engine results and can receive traffic from them. Your backlinks contained in that content, even if nofollow, permit visitors to click through to your website.

Furthermore, when your content is returned in search engine result pages, it occupies a slot that might have otherwise been occupied by a competitor.

Consider the numerous ways in which social media marketing can help search, and you might find it easier to justify costs, even if you cannot satisfactorily estimate social media ROI.

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