If you want to be found on the internet, you need to utilise social-networking sites. That's according to experts who spoke this week at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle.

Search-engine optimisation experts are carefully using social-networking sites to improve traffic to their customers' sites and build their brands. By attracting more traffic and links, sites can improve their search rankings.

"We all go to Google and Yahoo and MSN and Ask.com and make them work for us, that's our job," said Rand Fishkin, CEO SEOmoz, an SEO (search engine optimisation) consulting company.

"Our job is now extended into this new realm."

Some of the social networking sites Fishkin likes to use are YouTube, Wikipedia, Yelp, MySpace, Flickr and Technorati. Other sites, such as digg.com, Del.icio.us, Techcrunch and Reddit, can also be used to boost brands and awareness through viral marketing, he said.

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"Social media marketing is about going out to Web 2.0-style sites and approaching them with the mentality of 'I'm going to contribute to this community'," Fishkin said.

That's an important distinction because marketers that use Web 2.0 sites in ways that counter the community's accepted use can run into trouble.

"If you break these rules, users get nasty," said Neil Patel, author of the Pronet Advertising blog and chief technology officer at ACS, a search engine optimization company. "They'll keep pestering you and really ruin your life."

For instance, a company that submits lots of its own content, creates multiple accounts in order to vote repeatedly, adds biased content and asks friends for votes will run afoul of most communities, he said.

But Patel also had advice for how marketers make the sites work for them. For instance, he recommends working hard to grow your "friends" list. If a marketer submits content and a lot of people vote on it, that marketer should add those people to their friends list. "Or, if you vote on stories and others vote on the same, they probably have similar interests" and could also be added as friends, he said.

Also, becoming a top user on one site can translate onto others. Patel is well known on Digg and when he goes onto Netscape, people there recognise him and then "show me love", he said.

MySpace can also be a good outlet to build a brand and improve a company's online presence, said Cindy Krum, senior SEO analyst at Blue Moon Works Inc. Companies can have MySpace profiles for different brands or products or even for specific people at the company who may be well known. Videos, coupons for free stuff, games and podcasts are all good content for attracting people to MySpace pages, she said.

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