Steven Gradidge

Steven Gradidge, White Hat Media

Search and social have finally come together. They’re hugging. Ahh. That’s the premise of Steven Gradidge‘s talk at the Brighton Digital Marketing Festival.

There’s been a shift from a link-focus to a content-focus, with a wrapper of social. Google have implemented 27 updates to their algorithm this year so far. Panda was the first one – that took down link-exchange sites. Penguin targeted over-optimisation. And Venice targeted local companies rather than big brands.

So – content and friends are far more important to the SEO ecosystem now.

For the Gym Group – a budget gym chain – they used social in part of their campaign. They’ve grown from five gyms in 2009, to hit 50 gyms this time next year. SERP domination is the bread-and-butter of their work, because the gym is focused on pushing all the admin online. It’s a tough, competitive market. The demographic is 18 to 34 year olds – socially savvy and active. They do like commenting on posts or retweeting. They’re heavy smartphone users. Mobile traffic is up 300%. And ⅓ of the members have never been a gym member before.

Facebook membership is biased towards males, and they get 202 sign-ups for a Facebook referral. They focus on social because Google has made it clear that social is part of the algorithm – Google are “feeding us the bullshit” that they’re protecting the users. More and more data is being extracted from us as webmasters. People engage more with subjects they have some idea of – so social reverses the wisdom about duplicated content.

They integrated Facebook with the sign-up process, so you get a Facebook facepile of friends who are users of the gym when you complete sign-up. They ask for reviews on services like Yelp. They target the honeymoon period of the first month or so to ask for reviews.

Obviously, they’ve had to optimise the site for mobile – and they’ve used responsive design. They run competitions – they do work. The reward has to be of value or interest.

Incoming tweets are up 103% – they’ve compared themselves with rivals, and target gaps in the market. Followers are up 32%. Retweets are up 61% – they members love the monday motivation tweets. Referrals from Facebook are up 25%.

Key points:

  • Seamless sign-off process – a planned, managed editorial calendar
  • Minimal stakeholder environment – as few people involved as possible
  • Trust between client and team
  • Awesome content – what people want to see.