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Just a couple of years ago, search engine optimization (SEO) was all the rage for getting attention and traffic to a website. Working with a set of keywords you expected people to use in search engines to find products and services similar to yours, you tried to outrank competing sites for these keywords and get higher placement in the search results. Ranking highly was accomplished by getting lots of high quality backlinks to other sites. The more closely related the sites were to your own, the better it counted toward your search engine ranking.

In the very early SEO days, you could even hide your chosen keyword targets in strategic places on your website to make them stand out more when search engines came crawling. SEO was an inexact science, but if you worked hard at it, you just might get ranked in one of those coveted “top 3” positions for your keywords and get a ton of traffic to your website. The drawback to SEO was that search engines are constantly changing the algorithms by which they rank websites. That meant that what worked one month to get your site ranked highly might not work so well the next month or year. It might stop working entirely if you are not using the right methods or strategies.

A Brief History of SEO

When SEO was first conceived as a technique for getting websites ranked highly, the search engines knew nothing about it. You could rank a site at the top of the search engines for any keyword simply by getting more backlinks to your site than your competitors. As search engines got wise to what people were doing, they began to change how they ranked sites, and SEO changed as a result. The past three years have seen numerous search engine algorithm updates that have each individually changed some aspect of SEO.

SEO Has Changed With the Times

You can’t just throw a bunch of backlinks at a site anymore and hope to get it ranked highly. You have to have particular types of quality backlinks, they have to be placed gradually, reciprocal linking no longer works as well to raise a site’s rankings, and some say Google measures other analytical factors such as click through rates and bounce rates (the amount of time a person stays on your site) to help determine rankings for a given query. SEO is far more difficult and a lot more time consuming than it was in the past. This is not to say it does not work at all anymore. It does have an effect on where a website ranks in the search engine results. If you have time, perseverance and dedication; you can get a lot of great results from SEO.  However, the better strategy now is to take a more holistic approach to marketing your website or business.  Diversifying the different channels of traffic that flow to your website is key.

Social Media Steps into the Spotlight

The Internet is becoming more social. Therefore, social media is becoming more important as another ranking factor and another way to drive visitors to your website. Search engines are now looking not just at how many other websites your site may be linked on, they are also looking at how many people are sharing your website on social media. Social media includes sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, StumbleUpon and other sites where people share things with each other. Today, the more a website’s link is shared on social media, the more likely it is to rank highly and gain more exposure in the search engines.

social media marketing

Social Media Attracts Traffic Even Without the Search Engines

While search engines are slowly placing more importance on social media sharing for how they rank websites nowadays, you don’t necessarily have to be ranked on the search engines at all to get a huge influx of traffic to your site. While it is still true that the top three sites on any search engine results page tend to get the bulk of the traffic for that particular search (and if it’s a highly searched keyword, the traffic can be amazing), it is possible for a website to get all of its traffic through social media. In these cases, search engine rankings don’t matter at all and can render SEO obsolete.  The key is to know where to find you target market and what is the most appropriate method to communicate with them.

The power of sharing on social media is what drives this traffic. If you put your website’s link on social media and promote it through relevant content, frequent updating, and joining in discussions with others on social media sites, you may find your site’s link gets shared many times. While your own friends or associates may be the first ones to share it, their friends, and their friends’ friends, and so on can share the link until you’re getting a ton of traffic from social media sharing alone. Your website can now become a hit without the years of SEO labor. That’s the magic of social media.

A prime example of a social media video that went viral is the promo video for DollarShaveClub.com.  By crafting a clever and humorous video about how you can order their razors for only $1 per month they were able to reach millions of viewers very quickly.  Most important, however, is that they not only reached millions of viewers quickly, but they also increased their customers and sales very quickly as well through their video and social media sharing.  The best approach to take for your digital marketing campaigns is a multi-faceted approach where you are doing a little bit of marketing and branding in most of the top areas such as SEO, Social Meida and PPC to get the best results.

By Jeff Shjarback

Jeff Shjarback, MBA is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Writer and Blogger that enjoys blogging about online marketing, small business, lead generation, economics, innovation & emerging technology, future trend analysis and business philosophy.  To learn more about Jeff, you can visit his Google Author Profile.