Social networking sites are becoming increasingly important in the world of online marketing and search engine optimisation, according to one expert.

Rand Fishkin, chief executive of search engine optimization (SEO) company SEOmoz, said that the industry was increasingly using social networking sites such as Myspace, Youtube and Flickr to improve traffic to customers’ sites.

According to the PC World site Mr Fishkin cites these networks and others such as Wikipedia, Yelp, Technorati, Digg, Del.icio.us, TechCrunch and Reddit as a valuable tool for boosting brand awareness with viral marketing.

Mr Fishkin told the site on Monday at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle that in the past search optimisation has mainly involved sites like Google and Yahoo! but that now their job [had] "now extended into this new realm".

"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,’" Mr Fishkin said.

According to a recent report by McAfee criminals are exploiting sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo to defraud users.

The report claims fraudsters are befriending members and convincing them to provide personal data so that they can gain access to private information.

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