Twitter’s importance for spreading information and influencing SEO was made clear in this test.
Optimizing websites for search rankings is something I do for a living. When people work on Search Engine Optimization they typically focus on two parts: on-site and off-site SEO. The on-site portion involves site hierarchy, inter-linking, meta and copy optimization. Off-site is usually just thought of as link building. But with the rise of social media sites a lot of SEO experts have been caught off guard by this question: do Facebook and Twitter links help boost my website’s ranking in search? The short answer we now know is yes, social media sites do play a role in ranking webpages. With self-serve advertising platforms available on both Twitter and Facebook, the ability to run a successful advertising campaign that contributes to your site’s search rankings is an affordable reality. But even with this accessibility to social media advertising, there are generally few real-world Twitter marketing examples from these ninjas, evangelists and gurus so I’m sharing something from the exploits of my past.
The business and it’s target market.
During the time I did this experiment I was employed by a company that provides audio visual equipment for events all over the country. An important segment of their customer base plans events in hotels and other venues that have audio visual equipment available already from in-house companies. The average customer in this market simply checks a box that says “provide audio visual equipment for $XXXX” and they call it a day.
How we imagined our customers would feel if they knew about our service. There was an opportunity here because my employer could usually provide faster, more reliable and less expensive services. We thought this market would appreciate that a lot if only they knew it was an option.
We have an awareness problem.
I drafted up a pretty compelling article about the benefits of hiring an audio visual company instead of using the in-house audio visual company and we used it as a landing page.
Here’s a screen cap of the main call to action image for the page. I tested some Google Adwords search ads pointing to this content but they performed poorly. People weren’t searching for the issue and the ones that landed on the page were looking for immediate needs and left quickly. Search advertising is a great way to get in front of people when they have an immediate need. But how can someone search for something they don’t know exists? With this in mind, I started working to figure out the answer to this question: “how do we get in front of people who are planning these events at hotels and have absolutely no idea they can bring outside audio visual companies into their events?”
We have a social solution.
I found a strong segment of these event planners on Twitter. At the same time, Twitter happened to email me a $100 advertising credit to try out their advertising platform. I figured what the hell, why not give this a shot.
I spent some time monitoring hashtags and users on Twitter. After a little research I set up the ads to target a few key influencers using these hashtags. If you’re interested in good ways to find influencers check out Klout. I put together some quick creative, made sure I had Google Analytics segments ready for measuring and fired up the Twitter campaign.
Initial results = mediocre.
I ran the ads and saw roughly 35 visits attributed to the ads during their run time of three days. This includes traffic from Twitter ads and retweets as a result of the ads. Not awesome but not bad. Around $2.85 per visit. I would normally have written this off as a mediocre result that needed more testing with different creatives and segments of the event planner market. Then I got a pleasant surprise on a Tuesday morning one week later.
Surprise secondary wave of visits.
I got my coffee in the morning, logged into Google Analytics and checked visits to the content. My jaw dropped as I saw a large spike of visits in real-time. The first thing that popped into my head was “we’ve been hacked!” After disproving that quickly, I realized what was happening was a re-share of our content by someone with a much larger audience than I expected to receive from simply running Twitter ads. After some research I was able to match the source of this traffic to a large organization I had targeted with the Twitter ads. They published the article in their email newsletter that was distributed to 75,000+ individuals all over the world. The traffic continued coming in for two weeks as the content was shared.
The SEO bump and the kicker.
When I launched the page describing hotel audio visual solutions it was ranking well past the fourth page of search results. Immediately following the Twitter buzz and giant bump in traffic the page steadily rose to the first page of search results. It’s been a few years since I ran this experiment and as of today, you can search “hotel audiovisual” or “hotel av” and the article I wrote and optimized is in one of the top three positions on Google. It outranks or runs right next to the biggest competitor in the industry who specializes in hotel audio visual solutions. Most importantly, it’s brought in leads, customers and plenty of visits.
But here’s the kicker.
No links from other sites going to it. Page Authority of 1. Looks like a dud. IT’S NOT! There are no links going to this page, it effectively only has a decent domain and on-site optimization carrying it along. I do believe the Twitter and burst traffic helped move the page up in Google’s search results. Granted the term is around a medium competition rate, but I was able to get this page ranking for a niche term of high value right next to the primary competitor in the industry.
The big takeaway.
The biggest thing to learn from this is: try stuff. Do you have a free offer for XYZ and it couldn’t hurt your business? Try it. The second thing is how powerful Twitter advertising can be if your market is there. It makes it incredibly easy to put a piece of content in front of the right people. Will every Twitter ad result in getting picked up in an email newsletter going to 100,000 people all over the world? Of course not. But the more you try, the more success you will have and if you’re trying to build awareness for something you should consider it.