What is Social Media Optimization

“Social Media Optimization” or “SMO” was first coined by Rohit Bhargava to describe the method through which sites generate traffic and publicity through social media Web sites. Bhargava deduced that there were 6 rules for conducting SMO:

1.) Increase your linkability
2.) Make tagging and bookmarking easy
3.) Reward inbound links
4.) Help your content travel
5.) Encourage the mashup
6.) Get communities connected

The idea behind SMO is to get as many sites to link back as possible to your site using the readily available tools of the large social media Web sites such as digg, stumbleupon, and Facebook as well as blogs, forums, RSS syndication sites, press release aggregators, and article hosting sites. SMO goes a step further than the standard SEO best practices because it also incorporates video and images as optimal content. SMO greatly benefits SEO though through the generation of organic backlinks and SMO benefits from the core concepts of SEO forming a symbiotic relationship.

The end goal of Social Media Optimization is to drive traffic to a site and generate backlinks. Backlinks are links from another Web site to your Web site. They help to increase your authority in the search engines and improve rankings. Organic links, such as those from social media sites, also generate traffic. Organic links are links that develop without payment to the third party Web site. These are ideal links and provide the most value to a site. They provide both authority with the search engines as well as good amounts of traffic. This essentially places SMO on the crossroads between SEO, online reputation management (ORM), and general Web marketing.

SMO as an Integral Part of SEO

The core practices of SEO are sound, but restricting. With any SEO campaign, there is always the subject of inbound linking to consider. There are many ways to go about it, but the very best links are generated organically. These links are much harder to get which is why they are more highly valued. They also make a statement about the quality of your content. Only great content has a lot of organic backlinks. The search engines know this and rank pages accordingly. Because of this, organic linking must be a part of an SEO campaign for it to be truly optimal. For many sites, organic linking and paid linking can be made to work together to maximize the number of backlinks.

If we take a typical SEO campaign that addresses text content, META tags, architecture/URLs, and inbound links, then inbound linking comprises approximately 60% of your rank. This means that it is the single most important aspect determining where you rank in the engines. Of course content is important, but the major engines consider links to be the most accurate description of a site’s authority. The keywords you actually rank for are determined by the text content on the site and the text in the inbound links, but the power and authority of a site is derived from the quantity and quality of inbound links.

This has a very powerful effect on the effectiveness of an SEO campaign. You can write the best text content on the Web on the most search engine friendly site around, but without links you will find it hard to rank for even non-competitive terms. SMO dictates that we not get tunnel vision on the search engines and consider the millions of other sites that might also like our content and direct their users to it. In this way, we are really optimizing a site for not only search engines, but Webmasters in general as well. SEO provides what the search engines want and SMO provides what other sites want. Together, they provide the most effective campaign possible.

Link Baiting Your Way to Big Traffic

Writing good articles that people want to link to is called ‘link baiting’. Link baiting is inherently viral because it relies on many different sources to pick up on it and spread it. There are a number of ways to get people to link to your articles simply by writing them a certain way. Articles should always be informative, but it takes a little more to make them interesting enough to be link bait.

The goal of a link bait article is to hook the reader enough that they want to link to the material. There are a number of different hooks that can be used in your articles.

Informational Hooks – The goal here is to provide very rare or useful tips and news that benefit the reader. Oftentimes, these come in the form of detailed guides or breaking news articles. This is the most widespread type of hook.

Humor Hooks – Create something funny that catches on across the Web. This is the hardest hook to develop because people like such a wide variety of things and it can be hard to develop something with wide appeal that will generate a lot of links. Lately, humor hooks are generally funny videos.

Negative Hooks – These are articles that are controversial or attack something popular. Negative hooks are not recommended for most business sites because they can also generate negative buzz for the company. They do however generate a lot of traffic and links.

Widget Hooks – Create a tool that is widely needed on your site or create a tool that can be embedded on other people’s Web sites and includes a link back. A great example of this is Adobe’s Acrobat Reader software. It is linked to from thousands upon thousands of Web sites so that users can view PDFs.

Keep in mind that long term link baiting is dependent on quality content. If you are writing content that is not of the highest quality, it will be hard to maintain any kind of long term link bait traffic. It’s also important to keep in mind that viral sources are generally volatile; meaning they are temporary. Humor and negative hooks especially are volatile as trends and fads change rapidly on the Web. So, it is always advisable to work on your link baiting and not rest on your laurels once you have a single popular piece of content.

Opening Up Your Content to the World

The goal of SEO and SMO are essentially the same: to bring content to the masses. They just take different, overlapping, approaches to it. To bring attention to our content, we must first generate it. Text content must be interesting and appeal to your audience. If it does not, you cannot expect people to link back to it and it’ll be hard to rank the page. In this case, it can be tempting to go with a 100% paid linking campaign to make up for the fact that no one will link to your boring content, but it’s more effective to simply write the content right from the beginning. We should be improving the quality of the Web. Keep this in mind at all times when writing your content.

Once we have some good content on the site, we want to make sure everyone has a chance to read it and direct their friends to it. One way is to do it through organic search. This is why SEO works so well with SMO. It ensures we have all our bases covered. SMO directly targets social media sites, but it also refers to the method of making the content easy to share. This can be done through some of the following:

o Company profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace
o RSS feeds of your blog entries
o Optimized press releases
o Adding social media submission buttons to your articles
o Providing incentives for Webmasters to link back to your articles
o Online photo galleries through Flickr showing your offices
o YouTube channel for videos
o Submit your RSS feeds and articles to aggregate sites
o Add an ’email this article to a friend’ button
o Set up a mini PR campaign around a new link bait article

These are all very simple ways to increase your visibility and expose your content to the world, but they are often overlooked. Individually, they are not the biggest traffic generators, but together they can form a powerful source of inbound links and traffic. The more eyes you can get your content in front of, the larger number of backlinks you’ll receive generating both authority and traffic.

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