Social Media and SEO: A Case Study

Every so often I feel compelled to write about a marketing project I have worked on. I want to keep the story as real as possible but I also care about the privacy of client. This blog is about a former client, with some of the more identifiable elements changed or removed.

A long, long time ago…

I had a client trying to do something big and great on the Internet. He wanted his website to be “the hub on the internet” for a specific type of medical professional.

With his big business dreams, he needed a big Internet marketing campaign to help his dreams come true. I was contacted and hired to be apart of his marketing team.

The client, Anthony, spoke with me and an associate about all he wanted to accomplish. He dreamed big, but he had very little understand of the Internet (or even computers for that matter). After a very lengthy meeting, he was excited about the idea of incorporating SEO and social media marketing.

In our next planning meeting he brought his social media expert, a very lovely person, Amanda. She had a media company specializing in social marketing. Everyone was very committed and eager to get things going right. Spirits were high.

The Best Laid Plans…

It was up to me to conduct the social media research and the search engine optimization. After reviewing their website layout and their content and keyword strategy, we were on our way to launching a new website.

Once I finished researching the best social platforms on the web for the site, I presented my findings to Amanda. After going back and forth, she was ready. We picked Twitter and Facebook because of the sheer user mass, two niche sites because of the quality of users and blog-sphere search engine boost that blogs provide a website.

Some scoff at the idea of a blog being a social media tool. In reality, it’s one of the older and most useful forms of communicating on the web. By having a blog you are establishing credibility. Adding new pages to your website keeps your website relevant. You can create a loyal group of followers by regularly contributing meaningful content to the web and blogging helps your ranking. Adding fresh unique content on a website helps with search engine optimization. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one.

Amanda kicked off her social media efforts developing the Facebook fan base and blogging. The blog, which was a part of the website (not on a sub domain or a separate site), had several new blog posts added daily. The sheer volume of work that Amanda was putting out was awe inspiring. All looked promising until I actually began to read the blogs. br />
Every post was copied from a popular industry news site.

Amanda was copying other website’s news articles and putting them on the doctors site! This may not sound that bad to most people until you consider how plagiarism or “duplicate content” is dealt with by search engines.

Cheaters Never Win

First of all plagiarism is wrong. Some seem to think that they have a free pass because the Internet is some kooky place where they can break the rules. However there are intellectual property laws that include content posted on the Internet. Webmasters can and do go after plagiarizers. I have done it myself. Producing good content for the web isn’t easy and those that make the effort should be rewarded; Search Engines think they should be rewarded too.

Search Engines such as Google, value original content on the web. Sites that have really unique, high quality content are favored and will rank higher in search results than sites with less valuable content. Low quality sites or Content Farms are constantly being pushed down by search engines whenever Google makes an algorithm change like the Google Panda update so having duplicate content on your site is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

At best, duplicate content will be ignored. At worst, duplicate content will have you banned from Google. If Google bans you, basically you cease to exist.

As the duplicate content keep getting added I spoke to Anthony about it but he seemed to ignore my concerns since the Facebook page had a lot of activity. I read all of the fine print about duplicate content and it said as long as there was a link back to the originator the site would get banned. There always was so the site was riding the line of being safe.

Put Out the Fire

As the months went by, the rankings were not improving. Pressure was put upon me to circumvent the duplicate content issue and circumvent I surely tried.

I combed through every blog post to change the wording, add keywords, optimize and re-optimize alt tags. I changed the URLs of the posts. I went through hundreds of old blog posts in an effort to make the site better.

As time progressed, and the rankings were slow coming. Anthony grew more frustrated with the inability to get above position 20 for some of his core key terms. URLs linking back to the originator were changed to no follows links (grey hat, yes I know). For a short time there was a slight improvement in rankings. Amanda, who turned out to be a long time friend of Anthony, received much of the credit for all of her diligent efforts, while suspicion loomed about my ability to get them on the first page. My talk of original content became more of a nag to everyone and they was growing weary of hearing it.

Towards the end of our time together, a couple of original blog posts were added to the site. In the end several pages of oreiginal content couldn’t compete with hundreds of duplicate pages on the site.

High quality links were hard to come by, in part because their site’s Page Rank never got past zero and webmasters refused to link to “suspicious” sites. We ended our professional relationship, prematurely but it was for the best; I could not help them and they would not stop copying content.

The Moral of This Story

A divided house cannot stand, meaning your SEO campaign won’t work if your social media marketing is killing it.