Only a few years ago search engine optimization tactics to elevate websites higher on search engine ranking results and attract Internet users to specific sites was based around some extremely dubious practices. These so called SEO 'black hat' tactics included articles that were spun, (that is the same article changed slightly and issued in many different versions, on many sites.
Keyword filled articles and other tactics such as keywords that were in actual fact hidden in backgrounds. Other underhand tactics were widely employed.
The common thread was that this content did not add value to the Internet experience of those who were searching for content that added value to their professional and personal lives.
Google, as custodians of the most powerful and popular search engine took note of this and has released continuously updated versions of their algorithms (think of them as tiny robots that scour the Internet looking at content)that now punish these practices. The latest of these algorithms, called Panda (and the associated update, Penguin)have changed the playing field.
Today a company's search engine ranking is determined by and large by the quality of its content. Creating engaging content on social media sites is part and parcel of what is today known as 'content marketing.
This content can consist of video and images (in fact there are entire studies around what sort of content is best - a combination of types seems to be best) as well as copy.
Senior Google executive Matt Cutts has stated that the content provided must add value to the user experience, must be creative and unique and engaging. This means that content providers need to go that extra mile when they are developing the content that they showcase on social media sites, or the content on blogs and websites that host the content that is promoted by the organisation's various social media channels.
Social media marketing can be tremendously powerful. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have the ability to increase the reach of the organisation's sales efforts, as well as the brand itself through the sharing of key messages and the promoting of the brand. A single Tweet can potentially reach thousands though retweets and the reach of extended networks. Many of the other social networks operate in the same way through likes and +1's, in effect the impact is the same.
The advantages of using the social media are relative cost effectiveness over traditional marketing platforms. However care now needs to be taken to ensure that marketing efforts create value, rather than concentrate on keyword promotion.
Without paying attention to the creation of rich content which is now required by Google the company runs the risk of not taking advantage of the power of the social media.
If the organisation insists on maintaining a reliance on SEO (articles should now contain around 3 - 4% SEO keywords) they run a very real risk of being delisted (or banned) from the search engine ranking. That would spell doom for those companies that are relying heavily on the power and reach of the Internet in order to feed sales funnels.