Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses on optimizing a website to increase visibility within the search engines. However, social media has made an impact on SEO and has become a driving force in increasing customer traffic on websites.
For example, doing a quick search for local restaurants will bring up the options, along with reviews for each restaurant. Doing an online search for a company may bring up review or consumer opinion sites before the company’s website. Companies need to take a step back and look at their social media optimization just as carefully as they have with SEO methods. For companies who are still hesitant about embracing social media, SMO is yet another reason why it is so important. As social media continues to define a company, it needs to be embraced and incorporated into a company’s culture.
In short, social media optimization (SMO) involves increasing visibility and traffic to your company’s site through social media. This can take many forms, and companies need to analyze where they are now and then develop a plan for where they want to be. By using several of the techniques below, a company’s visibility will increase, which will result in higher customer traffic and the potential for increased sales.
- Blogs: blogs are strong in the search engines and tend to carry more weight than traditional websites. You can choose to create a blog hosted on your site or take advantage of a free blogging site. This is a low cost method of increasing visibility.
- Community participation: the point of social media is to connect with others and build relationships. By participating in online communities and commenting on blogs, you will not only meet this goal, but many times you can include your company website as part of your signature or comments.
- Facebook and Twitter: if you don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account, you may want to consider starting one. These are high visibility sites that can drive traffic and build relationships.
- LinkedIn: this is where professionals can network and build profiles. A company profile can be created as well, allowing you to promote your company and feature your work through published articles, online presentations, YouTube commercials, etc.
- Video and Picture Sharing sites: companies are starting to use these sites to host commercials, promotional videos, and marketing materials. Additionally, these are sites that are gaining strength among the search engines.
- Message boards, forums, and consumer review sites: search engine results from these sites tend to show up high on the results pages. While this is the area you have least control over, you need to be aware of what sites reference your company. You can often times update your company information if it is outdated or incorrect, and begin to engage with users. Consumer reviews are helpful when making purchasing decisions, but seeing company representatives engage on these sites drives confidence and positive first impressions of the company.
- Social bookmarking: sites such as Digg, Technorati, and StumbleUpon allow users to tag and share items that interest them. Sites become more popular as users “tag” or vote for them.
- Article marketing, white papers, and online press releases: while not entirely social, these should be taking into consideration to drive traffic to your site, gain authority in your industry, and improve search engine rankings.
There are some things to keep in mind once the above options are evaluated and the company has developed a plan for social media optimization:
- Discovery: even if your company is not participating in social media, and social media optimization has not been a focus, you can be pretty sure it has been started for you. Do a search on your company name, as well as more general searches (ie “restaurants in cambridge”) and see what comes up. Spend some time reviewing the results, including what information is out there and what might need to be updated, and then look for potential areas to engage with users. This is a good first step in understanding your company’s online reputation.
- Links: Always provide a link to your website on any social media forum. This will provide backlinks to your website, which will also enhance your website rank in the search engines. Likewise, provide links on your company’s sites to all social media venues in which you are active. When possible, use social media sources on your website, perhaps in the form of embedding your YouTube promotions on your site, for reciprocal links. It increases visibility and helps with SEO.
- Keywords: as you are creating blogs, fan pages, or forums, keep the desired keywords in mind. Create keyword rich content and use tags wisely. Like keywords, tags help people find you. As is the case with search engine optimization, a keyword discovery tool may be useful in finding the best keywords for your content.
- Social media monitoring: monitoring the health of a company’s online reputation is important. Where are people talking about your company? Has new information become visible? Determining what people are saying and how far it is traveling across the internet are important factors. Doing what you can to keep positive information at the top of the search results will mean being proactive.
- Chicklets – if you don’t know this term, it is a good one to learn. Chicklets are small pieces of code that you can place on your website, blog, or other social media sites, which allow people to rate your site or share on social bookmarking sites. There are also chicklets to allow users to easily subscribe to your feed. It’s all about making it easy for users to promote your site and spread the word on your behalf.
The best advice in starting Social Media Optimization is to do your research first, and then decide which methods will fit with your company culture and provide the greatest impact. Social media changes almost daily, so staying on top of it with a good social media optimization and marketing plan will keep you a few steps ahead of your competition.