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So you’ve embraced Social Media. You have a Facebook Page for your business, a YouTube channel and you even Tweet. Great! But can anyone find these pages? Or are they just being lost in the clutter? For too long businesses have believed that Social Media and SEO are two separate things, when in fact they are very much intertwined. And the biggest problem is that most companies know that they need both, but only invest in one or the other.

You’ve decided that Social Media is right for your business. You’ve determined your goals, developed a strategy and implemented it. You’ve created interesting, creative, and engaging content that gets shared through your Social Media profiles. Stop – you’ve already missed a step. Optimizing. Think of your Social Media Strategy as a party. You’ve decided that the best location for this party is at your friend’s house (Facebook). At your party you are going to have decorations (Photos), a DJ (Videos), an open bar (Events) and snacks (Blog Posts). Everything looks, sounds, and tastes delicious. But oh no…nobody has shown up to your party. No one has had the opportunity to enjoy all of these amazing things that you are offering. Why? Because you forgot one key element – the invitations – you forgot to optimize your Social Media.

You’ve essentially wasted a lot of time, effort and money planning and executing this unbelievable party that no one will get to enjoy because you failed to let them know that it existed and where to find it. How stupid do you feel standing there alone at your own party? See my point? It’s the same way with Social Media. It doesn’t matter how amazing your Facebook Page is, or how beautiful your Flickr photos are, if no one can find you, or even knows that you exist, you will be standing alone feeling stupid.

In order to leverage Social Media and SEO together, you must develop a roadmap with clearly defined goals. Begin by determining who you are going to invite to your “party”. Who is your audience? What do they like? What do they search for? What Social Media platforms are they present on? Deciding who you are going to “invite” is essential in beginning the whole process of integrating Social Media with SEO. There are many tools (free and paid) out there that can help you track, analyze, measure and understand your audience.

Next, determine the location of your party. Is it going to be a backyard BBQ, or a dinner and dance in a ballroom? In other words, are you going to be on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Flickr? You don’t need to limit yourself to just one. It all depends on your business, and your individual goals. There is no one-size-fits-all Social Media solution. Once you have determined which “venue(s)” is right for your business, you can begin to create your content.

“Produce great stuff, and your customers will come to you. Produce great stuff, and your customers will share your story for you. More than ever before: Content is king! Content rules!” – C.C. Chapman, Author of ‘Content Rules’

Chapman is 100% right – Content Rules, and Content is King. We live in an amazing time where we all have the ability to create content, and share it with millions of people with ease. Old-school marketers would advertise their business by interrupting people with full page newspaper ads, TV commercials and telemarketing phone calls during dinner. Today’s marketing world is all about permission marketing. The customer is coming to you and saying “Hey, I like you, I give you permission to talk to me.” So stop interrupting them! Talk to them, engage them, entertain them. This is where content really does rule.

It’s almost party time – but where are your decorations? Your DJ? Your caterer? Your bar? You’re missing the content of your party, the things that really make it worthwhile for people to attend. Write an awesome blog post, post some photos, create a video, record a webinar. But don’t stop there. Entice your audience to share them with their network…and their network’s network. You’d be surprised by the ripple effect it can have. Increased social interactions within your network, and their network will improve your brand’s visibility in a search result. Remember, all of those inbound links provide you with excellent Link Juice.

“Content + Links = Search Engine Success” – Lee Odden, CEO TopRank

Now for the invitations. If anyone is going to attend your party they need to know it exists – where it is and when. Build your networks, establish trust and engage in conversations. Reach out to them. Invite them to your party and to try the food. Listen to the music. Look at the decorations. Make it memorable and valuable enough for them to tell their friends about how awesome my party is! Getting it? And it stretches far beyond your current community. What about all those people not in your network that you want at the party? Let’s say Peter and his friends are searching for a BBQ party in Ottawa playing Classic Rock music and serving mini burgers; will they find your party? You better hope they do.

Developing an online strategy that focuses on your audience’s wants and needs that is keyword optimized and easily shareable will make your party a hit. Track how your content is being shared. Who is consuming it? Who is passing it along? During this process however, don’t lose track of your ultimate goal. If you have a great party, but XYZ isn’t being accomplished, then you need to rethink your strategy. Always keep your goals in the front of your mind, and measure success continually throughout.

By integrating SEO techniques into your Social Media efforts, and vice versa, you will begin to see increased search traffic and interactions with your audience. While Search Engines such as Google have begun integrating social functions into their search results, Social sites such as Facebook have started improving their internal Search functionalities. The two roads are no longer parallel, they are beginning to intersect. Have you optimized your Social Media?