If we were to ask you how you’re using SEO in your online strategy would you have a quick answer? If not, it’s okay – SEO, or search engine optimization, sometimes gets lost when designing websites and developing strategy, but it is important for anyone trying to be heard to incorporate it. SEO is becoming more prevalent and necessary to stay competitive. And with the need for SEO comes an endless amount of “experts” hoping to make a quick few bucks off of you. In our office, we try to help demystify SEO for our clients, especially in its use for issue advocacy or political campaigns.

The Basics

At its core, SEO proves vital because most traffic to your site will come from people using search engines. Part of how search engines work is by determining ratings and rankings of links – if your website is ranked high, you will show up more often and in a top spot for searches. When it comes to people researching a topic, having your message visible in the top search results becomes key to attracting potential supporters.

Through many different tools available you can figure out what keywords or phrases are truly driving traffic to your site and make an effort to utilize that keyword or phrase in new content or future blog posts and tweets. Another way to increase your ranking is determined by backlinks. Are you linking to authoritative sites, such as universities or major news outlets? Or are a lot of your links, and those linking to you, of “low quality?” With Google’s recent change to the way they rank sites through an updated algorithm, backlinks are becoming more and more significant.

Along with SEO, you can use search retargeting to target people who are searching for specific keywords relating to your business or site. If you don’t rank #1 for a key word, such as “Social Media,” which has a high competition rate, you can still target people who searched that through online ads. They never had to visit your site, a person only needs to search “Social Media” and you can target them. But SEO is changing and developing into something new every day.

How Social Media is Becoming a Player in SEO

No longer is SEO just about catering to a search engine and its algorithms – there is a new avenue that has begun to take center stage. 

It’s not just about finding the most effective keywords and links within your website or a specific blog post. Now, it’s how big is your social network? How many friends do you have or how many people are following you on Twitter? The greater your reach on social media, the more often your article or site will pop up higher in searches.

Social networking sites are beginning to integrate with all different types of search engines and this will affect how often your site shows up and how much traffic s driven your way. Google recently added the +1 tool, allowing users to endorse certain websites or ads, ones that they find the most helpful and interesting in their own searches. When they +1 a URL, they are telling their friends, followers and others searching for similar information that the site is worth checking out. Therefore, your goal is to find a way to entice users to +1 your site or your Google ad. And Google searches, as well as Bing searches, aren’t just influenced by +1. According to Mashable, they also take into account tweets and Facebook likes.

A new feature in Facebook ads also impacts your organization’s SEO strategy. An organization can choose a post, photo, video or link that can act like an ad and show up on the right sidebar. Friends of your fans see these ads – they see that someone they know likes a certain brand or group. For example, if you have a friend that likes Democrat Elizabeth Warren, you would see an ad on the right side of your screen featuring a post Warren chooses to promote with an “endorsement” from your friend: John Doe likes Democrat Elizabeth Warren will be written above an ad for the promoted message.

Political SEO

It wasn’t that long ago that political campaigns and bloggers were using “Google bombs” to help drive unsavory content about an opponent to the top of the search rankings. Google and other search engines spend a lot of time trying to prevent the gaming of results, but it is still possible to be the target of so-called “black hat” SEO tactics. Because of this, it is important that political campaigns and advocacy organizations institute both a defensive and offensive strategy when it comes to SEO. Do you monitor issues that matter to you, and where your organization is ranked on them?

SEO is a changing industry and will continue to change as social networking and search engines begin to integrate even more. Having the right keywords and quality links will still prove beneficial in boosting your online presence. But your organization should start to adapt to the increasing importance of your social networks and the role they are beginning to play in helping drive traffic to your site.