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Web 2.0 Expo – Social Media Optimization

Posted on Apr 22nd, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
In this article

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    My first post from the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco is the second half of “Free Traffic: SEO/SMO 101 (Search Engine & Social Media Optimization) with Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts and Muhammad Saleem of Advantage Consulting Services. Unfortunately, I missed the SEO portion and gauging by the crowd around Stephan, it went quite well.

    Muhammad Saleem’s portion of the presentation focuses on Social Media Optimization and Marketing 101. I’ve not met Mahammaed in person before and he’s sporting a very cool goatee with a waxed moustache.

    Saleem’s presentation focuses on 4 aspects of social media:

    • Blogs
    • Social News sites
    • Social Networks
    • Online Video

    Many other tools don’t have that big of an impact/conversionrate for the “average” company.

    Blogs, social news, networks and online video are low cost and fairly easy to implement. They can also work well with your other SEO efforts.

    9 Industry rules of SMO
    1. Know your audience – analytics
    2. Create original content – try new things
    3. Increase your linkability by creating evergreen content worth linking to
    4. Make tagging bookmarking easy. Example tools: ShareThis and Sociable
    5. Help your content travel through RSS, email subscriptions, newsletters, embeds, mashups and e-books.
    6. Reward and thank people that comment, that link and traffic sources.
    7. Be real and genuine – if you’re not, users are savvy and can tell if you’re just spinning or marketing
    8. Participate – Not only on your own site, but also with other sites. Especially if it’s a major traffic source. Don’t just “take the traffic”, participate on social news sites and participate.
    9. Make SMO part of the process and best practices. Develop a social media strategy and use the tactics wisely.

    One if the big problems with people optimizing social media is a short term perspective. A short term strategy is misleading.

    A long term strategy will show a spike and then a drop and then another spike and drop with about 20% of the traffic retained. The “Digg effect”.

    Stats that matter (Digg culture)

    – Audience preferences – what social site best matches the kind of content you have to offer
    – Popularity by container, keywords or by day. Shows a graph indicating what’s popular on Digg by category. The Tech category on Digg has been in decline for about a year. That should influence the categories you promote to.
    Gives examples of StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious. In the case of Delicious, tech is on the upswing and if following the data, you can see if you’re promoting tech, it makes more sense to promote on Delicious than Digg.

    Look at links by topic and track trends to see what the audience responds to. Same with links by keyword so you can make decisions about what words to use in your social news submission.

    Also look at conversion rates by time to find the optimal time to submit and promote a social news item in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

    When optimizing yoru site for social media, there are 2 things to keep in mind:
    1. Content – Copywriting and design that resonates with the audiences you are promoting to.
    Make your content pop – the 10 second rule. Write for regular readers, social media visitors and search engines.

    2. Community – To be able to seed content to mavens and power users, you need to be involved with the communities you’re promoting to. Muhammad mentions the tendency for these users to reciprocate the promotion of content. In order to do that, you need to have something to offer and you can do that by being actively involved in the community.

    Social media readers consumer content at a much faster rate. Site design and content organization should be laid out according to their information consumption habits of social communities being promoted to.

    Tips: Titles and headlines, sub hjeadings, bold, bullets, underlined, quotes, images, charts, graphs and a summary of the article.

    Check your content to make sure it’s original content, substantive topic and easily digestible.

    With plugins (All in One SEO Plugin for WordPress) you can have different titles for the same post.

    Social media titles:
    1. Lists
    2. Adjectives
    3. Figures, facts, numbers
    4. Indicating media type – photos, audio, video, interactive

    Whichever title tactic you use, it’s important to deliver on what’s promised if you want to have impact.

    Ex: 16 Incredibly Unconventional Hotel Rooms (PICS)
    The formula: [Number] [Adjective] [Keyword Phrase]

    4 Amazing Social media friendly site design tips: (my attempt at using Mahammad’s social title writing advice)

    Things to avoid with your site URL stucture and hosting service
    1. Hyphens or numbers in domain
    2. Keyword stuffed
    3, Any non dot come domain
    4. Not self hosted

    General site design tips
    1. Take down the registration wall
    2. Overselling ads
    3. Minimize use of widgets
    4. Show interest and participation with social community
    5. Recognize
    6. Access – Make sure you offer access to whatever conversion you are targeting

    High value content above the fold

    If everything above the fold is ads, you’re not delivering high impact content. [Doesn’t this run contrary to the advice to provide easy access to the conversions you desire? What’s the happy medium?]

    People say social media readers have a high bounce rate, it’s not that these readers don’t want to read the content, it’s that the content is not designed for social media readers information consumption habits.

    Community – actionable items
    1. Relationships with the community can be instrumental to being able to seed and promote content.
    2. The social media manual – Use common sense in your behavior, don’t just dump your content.

    Ways to share your content for more exposure:
    IM, email, share features inherent to social news sites, microblogging. Don’t use public forums and groups because the social news sites can easily see that a group is engaged in organized content promotion. [Muhammad didn’t say not to create a group, he just said don’t create a public one]

    The Digg algorithm: Recent participation and rank of the person submitting, who has voted on the content after submission, the submitters voting content on the site as a whole, the category being submitted to and activity in that category, the speed of votes and diversity of voters, buries received for the user submitting, comments made and comment ratings. All these factors affect how the story being submitted is handled by the Digg algorithm.

    Misconceptions people often have about the Digg algorithm:
    There is not specific number of votes, it’s dynamic. The news item doesn’t HAVE to be submitted by a power user. The number of people you “friend” on the site is not important. There also isn’t a 24 hour window required. It’s possible for content to go hot 3-4 days after being submitted.

    Social media and search marketing:
    Social media efforts can interact and influence search engine optimization efforts. The visibility of content on search can be affected by social media visibility.

    Interestingly, he gives example of a submission from a photo site that went hot and had 8 hyphens in the url 🙂

    How do you calclate the ROI on SMO
    – Standard web analytics
    – User engagement on seeded page as well as destination – comments
    – Cross pollination effect – Hot on Digg then hot on Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc
    – Actual conversions: registrations, subscribing, clicking on ads
    – Link building overall and ranking on long tail terms
    – Branding and mindshare – This is an investment. With the consistency of submitting quality content,

    5 Essential Rules of Social Media Optimization:

    1. Embrace technology, transparency and community
    2. Do your home work – know the audience
    3. Focus on niche communities
    4. Create value rather than expect value
    5. Encourage and reward interaction

    Audience Question which I also had: You’ve given great examples using blogs. What are the opportunities for regular web sites to optimize their sites for social media?

    Saleem: It’s easy for magazines to implement SEO – they’re already creating content. Wired, Epicurious etc do well. It’s harder for corporations to do it because you have to create content.

    However, car companies are an example where they communicate with enthusiasts and give them unique access and content. That might not generate traffic to the corp site, but it does increase awareness and can drive pickups on other blogs that point to the corporate site or blog.