Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Social Media Optimization

Social Media Optimization (SMO) or Social SEO is the methodization of social media activity with the intent of attracting unique visitors to website content. SMO is one of two online methods of website optimization; the other method is  SEO.

There are two categories of SMO/Social SEO methods:

(a) Social media features added to the content itself, including: RSS feeds, social news and sharing buttons, user rating and polling tools, and incorporating third-party community functionalities like images and videos

(b) Promotional activities in social media aside from the content being promoted, including: blogging, commenting on other blogs, participating in discussion groups, and posting status updates on social networking profiles

Social Media Optimization is related to search engine marketing, but differs in several ways, primarily the focus on driving traffic from sources other than search engines, though improved search ranking is also a benefit of successful SMO.

Social Media Optimization is in many ways connected as a technique to viral marketing where word of mouth is created not through friends or family but through the use of networking in social bookmarking, video and photo sharing websites. In a similar way the engagement with blogs achieves the same by sharing content through the use of RSS in the blogosphere and special blog search engines.

Social Media Optimization is considered an integral part of an online reputation management (ORM) or Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) strategy for organizations or individuals who care about their online presence.

Social Media Optimization (SMO), is not limited to marketing and brand building. Increasingly smart businesses are integrating social media participation as part of their knowledge management strategy (ie. product/service development, recruiting, employee engagement and turnover, brand building, customer satisfaction and relations, business development and more). Additionally, Social Media Optimization is oftentimes implemented to foster a community of the associated site, allowing for a healthy business to consumer relationship.

According to search engine expert Danny Sullivan[1], the term "social media optimization" was first used and described by Rohit Bhargava. Bhargava's original five rules for conducting social media optimization are:[2]
  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
Several authors added new rules to the original post. Today there are 16 rules, which were translated into French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Hebrew and recently also in Thai.
Four years after the initial post, Rohit Bhargava posted an updated set of five new rules. 
  1. Create shareable content
  2. Make sharing easy
  3. Reward engagement
  4. Proactively share content
  5. Encourage the mashup
Around the same time, entrepreneur and blogger Ben Elowitz proposed as SMO as a broader set of online marketing strategies for all published websites in an era where social platforms are ubiquitous.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Basics of SEO for Bloggers

The Basics of SEO for Bloggers

Here is a list of SEO basics — all the essential need-to-know stuff — for bloggers, beginners, and other non-bots:

1. Write a good title
A good page title is your bread-and-butter. It should include your keywords as close to the beginning of the title as possible. (FYI: Your page title isn’t always the same as your headline.)
You can see the page title by looking at the top of your browser window. For instance, You’ll see that mine is: “SEO Basics for Bloggers & Beginners | Goins, Writer” but that I have a slightly different headline.
Try to keep it under 66 characters total, so that it doesn’t get cropped by search engines.
2. Link-build
Links are essential to growing your search rank (especially others linking to your site). There are three ways to do this:
  • Link out to other helpful articles using anchor text with your keyword or keyword phrase.
  • Get other people to link to you, either by asking (don’t be a sleaze) or by writing great content.
  • Link to other articles on your site using anchor text. (This is just a fancy word for embedding links directly into text and not just the URLs.)
Inbound links (or “backlinks“) are the most important, but all are helpful. A great strategy for building links (other than writing killer content) is guest posting.

3. Mention keywords
Choosing a keyword is one of the hardest parts of SEO. What will your article be about? Once you choose a topic that is hopefully relevant to your site’s topic, then you need to include it in a few other places:
  • The page title and headline
  • In the URL
  • In the body of your article
  • In your site’s metadata
Use your keyword within the first paragraph of your blog post. Starting off with a question is a great way to do this without sounding like a robot.
Also, use it a handful of times in the body of your post (but not too much), linking to any relevant resources on your site or others about the topic, using anchor text.

4. Don’t write too little
Make your post the ideal length: 300-500 words.
Going over 500 is fine (unless it means your readers won’t read it, which can increase your bounce rate), but less than 300 isn’t ideal.
In other words, you’re not Seth Godin, and don’t try to be.

5. Focus on frequency
Posting frequently (more than once a week) teaches search engines to come back and check your website more regularly, which will cause your pages to rank more highly over time.

6. Don’t neglect metadata

Meta means “information about information.” It’s the invisible stuff that search engines see about your content that your readers don’t. While this is not as important as text on your site, it is a factor.
Include keywords in your meta tags, as well as your page title and description. Some blog themes already do this for you. If not, find one that does or use a third-party app like a plugin to help you.
A free WordPress plugin that does this quite well is All in One SEO Pack. Or, you could spend the dollars to invest into a product like Scribe SEO, which helps you with metadata, keywords, and all things SEO.

7. Make good use of images
Rename the file name to include your keywords and include them in your image title, alt text, and description (this is also meta data).
Images can also help hold the reader’s interest and can lead them to click other content on your site, as well.

8. Use categories
Intelligently name your categories to focus on major keywords your blog may talk about (e.g. “Stuff” isn’t a great category name). And please rename your “uncategorized” category title to something less lame (e.g. “Miscellaneous” or “General”).
This builds more links to your content on your site and allows search engines to see that you’re linking to keywords on your site.

9. Add header tags
This is a little technical, but not as hard as it sounds.
If your site’s theme has an option for adding headings or subheads (this is a built-in feature for WordPress), then it’s no sweat. If not, all you have to do is add some simple code into the HTML section of your article.
You should use subheads to lead your reader through the article, but also use variations of your keywords in your H1, H2, and H3 tags. (Note: Don’t use the H1 tag in a post if your blog system pulls this from your title.)

10. Get social
While the vote is out on how much links from social networks like Facebook and Twitter affect SEO, it is a factor.
However, the more important reason is that shared content via social media gets attention (and ultimately links) from other bloggers website admins.
I’ve often seen that when one of my posts gets a lot of traction on Twitter, it starts acquiring backlinks within a few days.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

SEO Tips & Techniques

1. Commit yourself to the process. SEO isn’t a one-time event. Search engine algorithms change regularly, so the tactics that worked last year may not work this year. SEO requires a long-term outlook and commitment.

2. Be patient. SEO isn’t about instant gratification. Results often take months to see, and this is especially true the smaller you are, and the newer you are to doing business online.

3. Ask a lot of questions when hiring an SEO company. It’s your job to know what kind of tactics the company uses. Ask for specifics. Ask if there are any risks involved. Then get online yourself and do your own research—about the company, about the tactics they discussed, and so forth.

4. Become a student of SEO. If you’re taking the do-it-yourself route, you’ll have to become a student of SEO and learn as much as you can. Luckily for you, there are plenty of great web resources (like Search Engine Land) and several terrific books you can read. (Yes, actual printed books!) See our What Is SEO page for a variety of articles, books and resources.

5. Have web analytics in place at the start. You should have clearly defined goals for your SEO efforts, and you’ll need web analytics software in place so you can track what’s working and what’s not.

6. Build a great web site. I’m sure you want to show up on the first page of results. Ask yourself, “Is my site really one of the 10 best sites in the world on this topic?” Be honest. If it’s not, make it better.

7. Include a site map page. Spiders can’t index pages that can’t be crawled. A site map will help spiders find all the important pages on your site, and help the spider understand your site’s hierarchy. This is especially helpful if your site has a hard-to-crawl navigation menu. If your site is large, make several site map pages. Keep each one to less than 100 links. I tell clients 75 is the max to be safe.

8. Make SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords in your URLs and file names, such as Don’t overdo it, though. A file with 3+ hyphens tends to look spammy and users may be hesitant to click on it. Related bonus tip: Use hyphens in URLs and file names, not underscores. Hyphens are treated as a “space,” while underscores are not

9. Do keyword research at the start of the project. If you’re on a tight budget, use the free versions of Keyword Discovery or WordTracker, both of which also have more powerful paid versions. Ignore the numbers these tools show; what’s important is the relative volume of one keyword to another. Another good free tool is Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, which doesn’t show exact numbers.

10. Open up a PPC account. Whether it’s Google’s AdWords, Microsoft adCenter or something else, this is a great way to get actual search volume for your keywords. Yes, it costs money, but if you have the budget it’s worth the investment. It’s also the solution if you didn’t like the “Be patient” suggestion above and are looking for instant visibility.

11. Use a unique and relevant title and meta description on every page. The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. It’s rare to rank highly for a primary term (2-3 words) without that term being part of the page title. The meta description tag won’t help you rank, but it will often appear as the text snippet below your listing, so it should include the relevant keyword(s) and be written so as to encourage searchers to click on your listing. Related bonus tip: You can ignore the Keywords meta tag, as no major search engine today supports it.

12. Write for users first. Google, Yahoo, etc., have pretty powerful bots crawling the web, but to my knowledge these bots have never bought anything online, signed up for a newsletter, or picked up the phone to call about your services. Humans do those things, so write your page copy with humans in mind. Yes, you need keywords in the text, but don’t stuff each page like a Thanksgiving turkey. Keep it readable.

13. Create great, unique content. This is important for everyone, but it’s a particular challenge for online retailers. If you’re selling the same widget that 50 other retailers are selling, and everyone is using the boilerplate descriptions from the manufacturer, this is a great opportunity. Write your own product descriptions, using the keyword research you did earlier (see #9 above) to target actual words searchers use, and make product pages that blow the competition away. Plus, retailer or not, great content is a great way to get inbound links.

14. Use your keywords as anchor text when linking internally. Anchor text helps tells spiders what the linked-to page is about. Links that say “click here” do nothing for your search engine visibility.

15. Build links intelligently. Begin with foundational links like trusted directories. (Yahoo and DMOZ are often cited as examples, but don’t waste time worrying about DMOZ submission. Submit it and forget it.) Seek links from authority sites in your industry. If local search matters to you (more on that coming up), seek links from trusted sites in your geographic area — the Chamber of Commerce, local business directories, etc. Analyze the inbound links to your competitors to find links you can acquire, too.