Gini Dietrich

Twitter, Not An Engagement Tool, But An SEO Tool?

By: Gini Dietrich | July 19, 2010 | 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use Twitter, not as an engagement tool, but as an SEO tool for some of our clients. And then, one of my favorite Canadians, Danny Brown, blogged about using social media in a way that’s right for you. And, just like he always does, he pulled the rug right out from under me! Okay, not really, but it is true that I think through something only in my head and he writes it before I have the chance to say it out loud. Now if I could just figure out how to switch that around!

Not the point. The point is this…Google now considers Twitter when it crawls websites and, if a website doesn’t have a Twitter account associated with it, it “downgrades” the site.

We work, almost exclusively, in the B2B market. And, most of our clients not only don’t have Twitter accounts, but NO ONE is talking about their industries, them, or their competitors online.

I think it was Seth Godin that said something to the effect that if you wait for a case study in your industry before you get started, you’ll be too late. For our clients, we live that mantra.

So we look at things, such as Twitter, to give them a leg up on their competition and within their industries. But sometimes we go out there with really great content and no one is listening.

So, what if instead, we used Twitter not as an engagement tool (yet – just because no one is using it in these industries), but as as SEO tool? Not only does that help their Google juice, but it keeps them one step ahead so they are the case studies and their competitors are too late. They’re already there when their customers and prospects inevitably begin using the tool.

Look, I’m a high user of Twitter (I know, big surprise) and I believe strongly in its ability to help you network and engage. So it makes me crazy when I see a tweet stream full of just company tweets. But, if their audiences aren’t there yet, what does it hurt if it’s helping them to own the first page of Google?

Am I off my rocker or can you see this tact working for some of your clients or the companies for which you work? Those companies who don’t want to use the tool because they don’t care what someone had for lunch or that their customer isn’t there? I think it can work. What say you?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Gini,
    As usual, you write about something I’ve been pondering for a while. While I’ve built my community by engaging and can’t even imagine trying to shift towards SEO focus and lose what I have, I have begun to seriously think about creating other businesses and taking a totally different approach.
    Bottom line comes down to “what are your goals?” High SEO, less community building? Then I think it’s very appropriate to use Twitter in this manner. Don’t get me wrong. I may not follow those pages (even my own when that time comes-who am I kidding? I’ll follow my own!), but there’s plenty of others that will. Content and brand mentions are more important than how many followers when it comes to SEO with Twitter any way, correct?

  • Gini,

    You are correct that Twitter helps SEO results. Ultimately, it is about producing “remarkable content” (to quote the Inbound Marketing guys).

    A good way to think about tweets is how would someone search on google for that topic. I think a lot of people (myself included) type in a question into the search engine. So if the search engine inquiry matches the tweet title which matches the blog post… ah, remarkable content.

    If it helps, I posted this article awhile back about writing headlines on twitter..recognizing the more times something gets retweeted, the more it builds credibility as remarkable content.

    Thanks for all that you do.


  • I like that Google now includes Twitter. If I search for my name, my recent Twitter action shows up second on hits Google brings up. That’s pretty exciting stuff from an employee/employer perspective, because the fruits of your social media labor show, and a portfolio of sorts on my resume.

    But the thing I’ve been thinking about is this. How does an exclusive mom-and-pop shop use Twitter to benefit their small business, but still maintain its level of exclusivity. (My in-laws have a mens suit boutique, which tailors to larger mens needs)

    They recently asked after dinner the different ways they can freshen up their business model for the new wave. Essentially, I told them about “The Next Evolution of Marketing,” and how Bob Gilbreath Chief Marketing Strategist of Bridge Worldwide says that advertising is dead. “traditional ads are irrelevant.” So they panicked.

    To them their savior so far has been Google. Google provides the name of their business, whenever clients search for specific things.

    But beyond offering them a suggestion to treat their best clients to a VIP dinner evening as a thank-you gesture, there was little else I could offer in the way of new marketing/advertising/social media, without them being alarmed. “But we want to stay low-key and exclusive, because our clients like that not a lot of people know about us”

    So to them, Twitter was out. Then I suggested a menswear street blog in conjunction with the latest styles in their boutique. That too was out.

    How do I tackle a business that wants increased presence, but in the form of a phantom? Can social media tackle the delicate balance of a business content on their phantom presence? Or is the survival of business now solely dependent on social media, because traditional advertising is now irrelevant? Possible, or not possible?

    • Social marketing is far closer to word of mouth than traditional advertising. If they’ve had their shop for any length of time and survived as a “phantom”, they must have relied heavily on referrals and word of mouth.

      I’d pitch Twitter again under that premise. If they use it in a natural way: announcing a short term sale or offering a free cup of coffee for anyone trying on suits tomorrow, people will talk about it and spread the word. Your in-laws can still leverage the new medium and feel comfortable with organic growth.

      Just an idea!

      • I’d argue and say traditional advertising is NOT irrelevant or dead. The focus has just shifted. For my parents who are not large computer users (or really anyone in my mom’s large family) traditional advertising is still the way to go, just needs to be less “advertising and selling” and more awareness based.

        Social media are simply tools to use to get across your companies strategic objectives. They are new ways to communicate.

        I know we are talking about twitter, but have they done a good job growing a solid email list? I rarely get pitched on twitter, but I respond better to emails. What about using video/pictures to show some of their suits or how they are made? Bring someone in and profile the entire process from fitting to finish?

        • Great post, Gini.

          Reading the comments – it’s interesting how challenging it is to keep B2B & B2C thoughts separate. For Puneet (clothing store) and Ryan (parents not on computer), you all are talking about more B2C examples and (as great as Gini’s post is!) she’s really referring to how to help businesses that sell to other businesses.

          Regarding traditional advertising, it’s absolutely not dead in the B2C space or in the B2B space where the product is more of a commodity, not sold through a direct sales force. But traditional advertising is as good as dead (thank goodness) in the higher end B2B world where salespeople do their best to sell on Value.

          Great conversational thread!

      • Maureen you’re right as far as traditional advertising is dead because there’s a new way.

        As I read on the chapters of Bob Gilbreath’s book The Next Evolution of Marketing. He’s drawn out a pyramid of a Hierarchy of Meaningful Marketing,the three important factors:

        -Achievement, (helps me improve myself, my family, and the world, which this blog is), -Connection (creates entertaining experiences that I can share with others, which this blog is)
        -Solution (provides valuable information, incentives and services which this blog does)

        What Ryan said about companies that “need to be less advertising and selling” he’s right. They can no longer use the old model of just selling us something, they have to use these tools and more engaging. Giving us those three values. Either they help us achieve something, connect, or provide a solution.

        And Luke I will try and get my in-laws on Twitter, after all, there’s nothing to lose, only much to gain, and with SEO and Google, it makes it easier to be searchable on the web, and have a presence. And being a Mom and Pop shop there’s little danger of an SEO focus of churning out content just for content’s sake.

  • Gini, I think that’s a great, creative way to leverage Twitter! Without guidance though, a purely SEO focus could run the danger of churning out content just for content’s sake.

    “Companies understand they can have longer conversations with customers when they can create entertaining or informative content online.” (taken from a great segment Fast Company did on Ford and their social media approach.)Granted that is a B2C situation, but I think the idea holds true here too.

    If companies can commit to showing up and creating something valuable (on Twitter), then it meets the SEO need and eventually the audience will grow as a result of the value provided. (insert kitchy Field of Dreams reference here!)

  • @Gini, I think the first step is persuading B2B companies of its overall value. But the trouble is the geekery of it all scares the C-suite away. Especially senior managers.

    Talking about specific benefits like SEO, fast-response crisis management, customer service, and media monitoring, I find, are the key strategies to get them onboard.

    SEO, is probably the hardest of these, because a lot of companies are still not engaging in keyword, SEO targeting. It’s a foreign language. But they get crisis management, customer service, etc.

    I start by getting them to get onboard with one key strategy and then, after they see results, bring up SEO as part of the next stage.

    Of course, if they’re already working with SEO they get the concept immediately but I just don’t find this with my B2B customers.

    • I think you’re right, Jon. We’re still trying to figure this out. In some cases, our clients say, “Okay. Let’s do it.” And then they cover their eyes until we start producing results. It’s great to be trusted, at the same time, scary they don’t want to watch! 🙂

  • Gini,

    I think most companies, large and small, can accomplish both by simply being creative in determining what value they can provide their audiences, and provide a steady stream of tweets.

    As an example, simply aggregating news, posts and articles that your audience would have an interest in and tweeting them out provides educational material and builds brand recognition. Mixing in your own original content, some conversation, and the occasional promotional tweet will keep the company engaged, build their audience, and establish a presence.

    I find in talking to my clients and prospects, it does not take long to create a strategy and implement it. Obviously the speed that you can grow your audience will be dependent on its size, but it is certainly easy to “clip” articles in the 21st century. Once the audience has grown sufficiently, there will be an audience for blog posts and promotions.

    With all of the fashion content on the web, even a mom and pop clothing boutique could aggregate content for their clients, but more importantly, for those who have never heard of them, possibly expanding their customer base.

  • Gini,

    We explain this to our clients constantly!
    It does work and has been impressive to our clients when they actually see it work.

  • So it sounds like I’m right! Yay! I love it when I’m right. BUT! Like Tim, will anyone follow a tweet stream that is no RTs or conversations? I get the SEO value of it and what Luke and Brent are saying about writing Google-appropriate headlines, but will it really get RT’d (and does it matter?) if it’s not a big brand name that no one knows? I think it probably doesn’t matter because it’s being used against a different strategy (and, hopefully, one day it is used as an engagement tool), but I’m not sure. I do know that if I see a tweet stream that seems to be all about a company, I will not follow back.

    Which leads to another discussion point…should you worry about followers if you’re only using it for SEO?

    • If you are just pumping out information and not interacting, do you really care the follower count? The hope would be the content is ok enough to get RT’s and to help with SEO. I’m not 100% sure how google does SEO for tweets, but I would imagine the number of RT’s would help SEO?

      I do follow a limited number of automated twittter accounts for deals or for news because the links are solid information.

    • With the advent of real-time search, I don’t think there’s any question that Twitter becomes crucial for maximizing your Google juice.

      But a company tweeting an SEO-friendly message is only a small part of the equation. Based on my understanding of SEO, the real magic happens when a large number of followers retweet that message.

      So, yes, I do think number of followers is a key part of the equation since obviously the more followers you have, the higher chance you have of a large number of retweets.

  • Another thought provoker Gini! Maybe this is the way to get companies (like mine) to understand the value of twitter if for nothing else…search.

    This is timely especially with other tools like Foursquare being in talks with the search engines.

  • Being that I do this for a living, I am always in the middle of things regarding Google’s Algorithm tendencies. I won’t elaborate because that is a whole blog post on its own.

    I will say this. My clients who are actively involved in social media have a better success rate than those who are not.

    Further more, with the changes and directions I am seeing, it will be VITAL…

  • @Gini, another great post – thank you!

    For me, the great content in this conversation highlights the value of social media/social technology as a way to connect, communicate and do business. The particular way ‘in – be that as a way to connect, or to get SEO rankings improved – might be less important than taking action.

    I now routinely hear franchisors here in Australia talk about the challenge to locate prospective franchisees and build the trust and confidence that is essential if they are to make the move into owning a business.

    Social media, IMO, provides a great way to create interest in franchising and to build relationships that might eventually result in someone becoming a franchise owner. Sure, the pipeline is longer and more informal than we might be used to, but honestly, I don’t see the downside. In the end, if we’re not getting the results we want from existing strategies it’s time to quit or try something different, right?

    As Jon mentioned, the geekery of all this may scare franchise execs away, but I believe there is great potential advantage for those who find a way to embrace these tools.

  • Hi Gini! I am really happy that Google has now started to ogle(pardon the pun) Twitter. Hopefully, other search engines would also follow suit. From ‘Link’ to ‘Like’ is a journey most businesses ought to take.

  • If you talk SEO/SEM-traditionalists, they’ll say that Twitter has no SEO-value (at least the one’s I’ve talked too) mainly because Twitter is a no follow site. I totally disagree… With that being said, the post itself, your name, handle, profile, and the website listed on your profile are crawlable. Tweets index well in search but doesn’t effect your company’s overall SERP. Maybe that’s why SEO/SEM pro’s discredit Twitter as a valuable SEO source. Is this changing?

    With engagement and community building, you can still do that too. If you’re tweeting on behalf of a brand just include keywords in some of your tweets. This would help in long tail search.

  • Jamey

    “Google now considers Twitter when it crawls websites and, if a website doesn’t have a Twitter account associated with it, it “downgrades” the site.”

    This statement is, at best, misleading and, at worst, completely false. Google (in the SEO world, the voice of Matt Cutts) has never communicated that a site without a Twitter account associated with it is downgraded or devalued. Google values well written and unique content, and authoritative links from sites with good PageRank. Tweets are 140 character snippets of text without the power to bestow link juice. Tweets are not valued content.

    Twitter uses a “rel=nofollow” HTML tag that is automatically attached to Twitter hyperlinks. This tells the search engine spiders NOT to follow that link. Twitter is a way to drive traffic, but Tweets do not directly influence a website’s “juice”.

    Twitter is a very cool SEO tool that can syndicate your tweets in search engine results pages (SERPs), but they only appear there for a short time. That is why it is important to tweet consistently as your tweets will quickly fall out of these pages. Twitter is a way to engage with users and communities, and it can be used as another lead generation medium. Twitter has a role in good search engine optimization, but it is not an ante or a necessity to SEO.

    • Gini,

      I agree w/ Jamey – I’ve never heard that Google will somehow downgrade a site because it doesn’t contain a link to Twitter (or other social channels). This is untrue.

      Not sure what back-end software you’re utilizing … statistically speaking, there might be a positive correlation between a link to a Twitter account and higher traffic volume, but it’s not due to a Google ranking algorithm.

      But if you can substantiate this claim somewhere, please show us!

  • Maureen illustrates my point pretty clearly. It’s really easy to find customers and prospects on Twitter if you sell directly to consumers. Where I’m talking about using Twitter as only an SEO tool is when the company doesn’t have customers, prospects, competition, or industry peers on Twitter. In the past, if there wasn’t anyone to talk to, we would recommend they avoid Twitter.

    But now, knowing how it helps drive traffic, which provides Google juice, I wonder if it makes sense just to set up an account to have content tweeted when it’s published (blog posts, white papers, eBooks, podcasts, webinars, etc.) and link that to a company LinkedIn page, as well?

    Which is why I ask the question if it matters if the account has followers. Because we already know the customers and prospects aren’t using Twitter, so I think it’s not really important.

    And Jamey? I certainly didn’t mean to state anything false. When we look at how a client’s site is performing in our back end software, we always show a gap if there isn’t a Twitter account associated. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Gini very good point, you need to target keywords and write a very catchy 140 character summary. I would say many people do it wrong and do not interact after pushing out the information, does not help the whole social element.
    Twitter has become many people’s replacement RSS!

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  • I think your absolutely right Gini. While many are banging on about the need to engage, which I think is important, its difficult to engage when there aint no one there to engage with…which just leaves the search engines…so lets engage them!

    I approached social media from an SEO perspective in the beginning as I suspected that twitter and foursquare and their like where going to have an affect on the SERPs and indeed they have. They are valuable as an SEO asset and anyone ignoring them is quite simply making their own efforts harder to achieve.

    Forget all the nonsense about PR and nofollow, at the end of the day, social profiles rank, and if thats a fact then they can be used as a safe guard and a promotional benefit for a company name or brand in the form of SEO at the very least.

    • Gini Dietrich

      I don’t have much more to add between this and the Twitter convo we just had, but I AGREE!