How to tell if your site should be concentrating on search or social

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Every day I’m asked the same questions. Do I need a Facebook page? Do I need a Twitter account? Do I need some kung-fu search engine optimisation skills? There is an ongoing misunderstanding around what it takes to get more traffic to your website, or let’s say, more targeted traffic to your website, through the search engines.

If your company sells fly fishing rods and you would like to become more visible in Google, then there are ways to determine whether you should focus more on social or search. The best part is that it’s not too complicated, and that’s what I hope to share with you here.

The very first thing you need to do is perform a Google search for the keyword (ie “fly fishing rods”) you are hoping to receive more traffic for. From this search, note the top 3 or 4 website addresses that rank for the keyword. I recommend opening up a spreadsheet and listing each website on its own row. Don’t forget to add a row for your website.

Side note: When I talk about keywords, I’m referring to words that your potential customers may be searching for in search engines. The idea is to have a strong relationship with a search engine for a keyword – this would allow the search engine to display your website in the search results for the keyword that your potential customer is searching for. It’s important to understand that the keywords are the words customers are using to search for something, and not necessarily the words you feel would be best to rank for. This is another topic all together, if you have questions please leave a comment below and I’ll attempt to address them as best as I can.

Now to the technical stuff. Each of the items listed below need their own column in your spreadsheet and the values form the crux of this analysis.

  • Domain Authority: The domain authority is a prediction of how well a website will rank in search engines. Domain Authority was coined by SEOmoz and is determined with a calculation that uses over 150 different metrics. I use SEO Site Tools for Chrome, which is a toolbar that shows you the page authority with a click of the mouse. Once you have the domain authority for each website, place the values into the column in your spreadsheet.

  • Link Strength: To get a really good reading of how strong a domain is, we need to deduce how many links are pointing to the domain. There are a number of tools available for this, you could use Backlinks.in or OpenSiteExplorer (note: OpenSiteExplorer isn’t a free tool, but you do get a number of free runs each day) or even SEO Site Tools as mentioned above. Once you’ve got a back link count for each of the three or four sites that you’ve noted, and yours, put these values into a new column in your spreadsheet.
  • Anchor Text: Of these links that point back to the websites, let’s determine the anchor text that is being used. Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. A great tool, which works in Mozilla’s Firefox is Link Diagnosis — this will diagnose the links and you’ll be able to sort the anchor texts, what we want to do here is determine the percentage of anchor texts that include your keyword versus those that don’t include the keyword. Once you’ve established the percentages, create a new column in your spreadsheet and note the percentages that do include the keyword in question.
  • Link Follows: A further metric to use is the number of backlinks that are follow links. A follow link is a link from another website to your website that hasn’t been marked as nofollow and thus allows Google to crawl from the other website to yours. Follows can be determined using Link Diagnosis or Back Link Watch.
  • Facebook: To determine how many people are talking about your website on Facebook, what you need to do is open Google and type in, site:facebook.com inurl:posts “domain.co.za”, replacing domain.co.za with your domain. Google will reveal how many results there are. Make a note of this in another column in your spreadsheet.
  • Twitter: To determine your social signals on Twitter, there are two things you should do. The first is to perform a Twitter Search for your website, like this: https://twitter.com/search?q=domain.co.za and the second thing to do is to use Topsy, like this: http://topsy.com/s?q=domain.co.za — I prefer Topsy as it provides far more information than Twitter alone. Once again, create a column in your spreadsheet and note the number of Twitter mentions.
  • Google+: Similar to Twitter, you have two options to work with here, the first being the Google+ Search and the second one being Topsy — Create another column and write down the mentions.

I don’t want to exhaust this list, but you can carry on and test YouTube, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit, Pinterest and most of the other social networks in a similar manner. Please note that SEO Site Tools also has functionality to determine some of the social signals — the idea is to remain consistent with the tools you use, don’t use one tool to determine Facebook signals on one of the websites and another tool to determine the Facebook signals on another website. Use the same tool for each website.

At this point you should have a spreadsheet that has seven columns at the very least:

  • Domain Authority, Link Strength, Anchor Text Count, Link Follows, Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  • This is where things get interesting; you are now able to look at the grouped metrics to determine how the top three or four ranking sites are potentially ranking where they are. What you are doing here is looking for patterns between the top three ranking sites relative to the number you’ve placed in each of the columns. Remember, you can use any metrics you like when making comparisons like this, but these ones produce a nicely rounded sample set.

    By way of example, you can see from my spreadsheet below that there’s a strong correlation between rankings on Facebook mentions — most of the other metrics are fairly close to each other, so my advice here would be to invest time in a social media strategy on Facebook to increase the mentions. Note where your website ranks in Google, run the Facebook campaign and watch your rankings closely to determine whether the social signals are increasing your rankings. Of course there’s a lot of trial, error and measuring, but this is definitely a good way to step forwards into achieving more visibility in the search engines.

    If you take your time and do this carefully, I have no doubt that you’ll at least gain great insight into what your competitors are doing and how you might be able to vye with them for that important page 1 ranking in Google.

    Thankful References:

    Other tools that can help you:

    1. SEOquake Toolbar

    2. Quirk Toolbar
    3. SEOmoz Toolbar
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