Do you really need to ‘pay to play’ on social media?

So I have a question: how the heck are we supposed to get noticed and win SEO points nowadays when literally everyone is adopting the same techniques and competing for the same space?

This exasperated question is one we’ve probably all asked ourselves at one time or another, and there’s no denying that getting noticed organically is only getting harder.

Hubspot asked 700 marketers across Europe about their experience with organic versus paid content distribution methods and as you might expect, free, organic techniques were rated highest.

Organic traffic (SEO) has been named as a top-rated marketing objective (62%) for 2015, which suggests that focusing on SEO is still as important as ever despite the ongoing debate that it’s not as effective as it once was.

The key to standing out in the SEO stakes is to understand what content works on which platform – how it works – and to build your strategy around using each network to its fullest potential.

And the secret to staying on top of what’s hot in SEO is to, well, make sure you keep on top of things (funny that).

You’re not going to be competitive if you aren’t ‘down’ with the latest tricks when it comes to content marketing and social media.

I attended The Digiterati’s Social Media Masterclass to find out exactly what these latest changes were and how I would need to adapt my practices to gain as much SEO value from my work as possible.

But as with all things in this fast changing digital world, a killer tactic today may soon be worth very little tomorrow if the network you’re using it on decides to change the rules or if it simply becomes diluted due to the fact that everybody else starts doing it.

So what are some of the key social/content tricks you should be aware of right now, according to the experts?

Here’s my roundup:

Google only indexes certain sites so don’t waste your time optimising for search on all of them.

  • Forget organic reach on Facebook – your posts aren’t indexed by Google. If you want to get your message seen, you need to pay to play (aka advertise).
  • Google now indexes tweets but generally organic reach on Twitter is abysmal – much worse than Facebook in fact. Twitter also demands that you share content more frequently to get noticed, or pay to play to maximise your outreach.
    • TIP – did you know that you should never start your tweet with an @ because only people following you and the person you’ve ‘@ handled’ will see it? You can insert any character apart from a space in beforehand to resolve this.
  • Google does index Pinterest pins but affiliate links are banned. You can include one verified link on your Pinterest profile page, so remember to plug this link when you post your pins to encourage referral traffic to your website.
  • Pinterest as a whole has less frequent visitors but they each spend more time on site. Alt tag descriptions should be unique for each pin and different from your website content because in a duplicate content battle, Pinterest will win and steal SEO authority from you.
  • As it stands, you’ll only pay for promoted Pinterest pins if someone clicks through to your website – this could change soon so get in there quick.

50% of European Marketers surveyed are not using Twitter ads.

  • Twitter ads can be really pricey and the Digiterati team think that the 3 legacy ad-types (promoted accounts, tweets and trends) are all pretty useless. They rate Twitter cards instead.
  • Twitter cards are a good way to advertise for free, and the rich snippet style visual will help you get noticed, make the most of your marketing real estate and improve your click-through rate.

Twitter large image card

  • Large image summary cards are best for blogs, and lead generation and app install cards also come highly rated by the Digiterati crew.

Twitter lead gen card

Take Twitter analytics with a pinch of salt.

  • Twitter analytics are pretty cool but make sure that you put the stats into perspective. Ask yourself, what is engagement and what does it mean to me and my business? Twitter ‘favourites’ is a vanity metric – it makes you feel good but doesn’t really mean much. The only really value to be had is in follows, retweets and replies.

The question marks.

  • Snapchat is a really good platform to use for storytelling if you’re targeting teens or early-twenty-somethings. Bear in mind that it’s a brand awareness platform, not a direct response or conversion based one. You can now also enjoy the ‘nice to have’ geo-filters which enable you to overlay text depending on where or what you’re doing.

snapchat image

  • Periscope is a cool live broadcast platform that auto tweets your broadcast message, so use @ to notify people of your broadcast. For more information, refer to the Up Your Periscope guide.
  • Google+ is here to stay – whether we like it or not. And having an account will only help your SERP rankings because Google likes Google. According to Hubspot, only 15% of marketers have had a good experience with Google+ so perhaps it’s better known as the ‘grin and bear it’ platform.

Around one third of businesses are expected to maintain their current budget for content marketing in 2015, with just a small proportion planning to decrease spend – particularly on paid social distribution.

Remember content marketers, if your objective is to work on organic outreach, you could be missing a trick if you opt not to advertise or at least get creative with snippets and freebies on social media.

You don’t get something for nothing – it’s a pay to play world out there.


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