Can You Replace SEO With Social Content?
In the early days of search marketing, marketers learned how to "game the system" with Google search results, bumping their irrelevant, keyword-laden content to the top of the results page. Google users became frustrated with this low-value content being delivered by the search engine, so in an effort to provide more relevant and useful results, Google implemented two major changes to its ranking algorithm: Panda and Penguin.
The first, Google Panda, penalizes and deprioritizes "thin content," pages that contain content "below the fold" (i.e., that would only be seen by scrolling down) and pages that have more advertising on them than relevant content. The second, Google Penguin, penalizes content that contains links for the sake of links and keyword stuffing, providing no real value to the subject matter within which they're contained.
The bottom line is that content that benefits those who search will increasingly find a place at the top of search engine results. So where does this put search engine optimization efforts? Without the ability to manipulate content as freely, will SEO firms find their expertise to no longer be useful in a world where search engines are based more on science than art?
Social content puts SEO on life support
Forrester Research predicts SEO spending will reach $5.1 billion by 2014, so while the industry isn't going away, social media is increasingly serving as a driver to finding relevant content on the web. Here's why: relevant content drives shares across social channels (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc.), which result in backlinks — i.e., natural links that are the result of sharing, not the result of a purchase. When publishers share this valued content on their social networks, they amplify their reach and show up more frequently in search results.
The way a brand's social presence is "ranked" is its number of likes/followers, how authoritative its followers are and how fast its following is growing. All three of these ranking factors will be furthered when relevant, timely and compelling content is shared through social channels.