This blog entry first appeared on openforum.com, American Express OPEN's award-winning site providing insights, advice and connections for small business owners. You can find more articles and updates at http://www.openforum.com.
You can also follow me on Twitter at @jasonrudman and follow OPEN Forum @openforum. This post was written in collaboration with Courtney Colwell at Federated Media.
The power of social media to help make connections may be obvious to many business owners, but what may not be is the effect it can have on your search rankings. And for marketing your business, there are few tools more critical than search rankings, as this is most likely how your customers will find you.
There are many Web sites, articles, and other resources that can help explain the impact of social media on search engine optimization (SEO) more fully (John Battelle’s Searchblog is one such resource). At a basic level, though, SEO involves incorporating into the content of your Web site(s), blog, and/or other online properties target keywords and other tactics to increase your rankings among organic results (as opposed to paid inclusion). Important tactics include increasing the number of places where your content exists, as well as ways people can find it.
If another site links to yours, search engines read this, i.e. the more “inbound” links to your site, the better. However, not all links are equal; quality matters. Inbound links from “quality” web sites with high relevance and authority hold greater value, as do organic (editorial) links. Good examples include a link to your site from within an article, your own guest blog post, or a profile on a site.
So where do you start? Well, first answer what you are trying to accomplish with social media. In an article about getting started in social media, John Jantsch outlined some initial thoughts to consider in building your social media strategy. He described a “hub and spoke” model, in which your “hub” is the central location for your online brand presence – the home base you use the “spokes” to drive traffic to. Your Web site and/or blog could be your hub; your spokes (link) could be a fan page on Facebook, videos on YouTube – or a profile on OPEN Forum. These quality links can then help elevate your ranking in search results and, thus, increase exposure for your business.
For OPEN Cardmembers, creating a profile in the Connectodex is an easy way to add a high value link. By creating a descriptive profile on OPEN Forum, one that includes your own URL, your business site may benefit from OPEN Forum’s demonstrated “authority” in search rankings. And, the more “spokes” you link to via your profile, such as to your Twitter page or LinkedIn profile, the better. Remember also that a compelling description, one that includes terms that potential customers might use to find you, can help.
One of the most compelling examples of this is demonstrated by my search for “Hufft Projects”, an architectural firm and OPEN Forum member based in Kansas City, MO. The image above shows those search results, the first being their Web site, the second their listing in a regional directory of architectural firms, and the third is their profile on OPEN Forum. What is worth noticing about these results against some other searches is that Hufft Projects’ Connectodex profile appears even higher than their Facebook and Twitter pages. While it is not necessarily the case for all Connectodex profiles, the detailed description Hufft Projects created indicates how a robust profile can help you build search equity.
If you are an American Express OPEN Cardmember and haven’t created a profile on OPEN Forum, I invite you to do so – simply log in to OPENForum.com with your Americanexpress.com user name and password to get started.