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December 6, 2006

SMO: Social Media Optimization

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Next up, the Social Media Optimization panel examines how using community-built Web sites can be a great way to tap into links and search-driven traffic.

Chris Sherman is moderating this one with speakers Andy Hagans (TLA), Neil Patel (Advantage Consulting Services), Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz) Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl) and Lee Odden (Online Marketing Blog).

This has nothing to do with the fact that I’m not-so-secretly in love with him, but whose idea was it to put Rand’s gorgeous face behind a large computer screen. It makes no sense. How am I supposed to stare be able to hear him? Life is so cruel.

[Okay, after I typed that Rand peeked out and blew me a kiss (I wonder if we're so connected he gets a mental RSS feed of everything I type?). I have witnesses, people. We are so getting married.]

Up first, Neil Patel on Wikipedia:

Neil touches on all the benefits associated with getting involved with Wikipedia, like authority links, increased traffic, brand recognition and great information.

And though your mouse finger is starting to get a little itchy, Neil gave attendees a humorous rundown on all the things NOT do on Wikipedia:

  • Don’t use Wikipedia for link building (wink, wink.)
  • Don’t add biased information about your company.
  • Don’t delete accurate information because you don’t agree with it.
  • Don’t break any community rules.
  • Don’t spam. You won’t get away with it.

Neil gives examples on what happens if you spam, including the famous Steve Colbert elephant example.

To correctly build links, you should first establish a reputation for yourself as a Wikipedia editor. This typically involves modifying around 500 pages before your user account gains a strong reputation. Once you’ve hit this benchmark you’ll be able to edit pages, shall we say, ‘more freely’.

Once you do decide to create a page for your company or brand, add the quality information before you add the links. If Wikipedia thinks you’re adding too many links too quickly, they’ll go in and remove them. Make sure to mention any awards your company has earned or link to news sources that have covered you. This will help you to meet Wikipedia’s ‘notoriety rule’.

Next up, the delicious (not del.icio.us) Rand Fishkin:

I realize that while I was daydreaming about our life together, Rand was actually talking about the benefits of social media marketing, including the ability to control your brand, get link love, show the community that you’re a participant, build traffic from alternative sources and influence traditional media.

I think showing the community you’re involved is really important. Rand notes that social communities view SEOs like we’re a bunch of evil spammers. By sharing valuable content and showing your company is "good" and "friendly" and "helpful", it helps the community to accept you. It also helps to shape how people view the search engine optimization community as a whole. It’d be nice if they didn’t hate us.

Part of creating that friendly image is to create one user profile for your company and use it among the various sites. This should be a robust profile with a picture so the community you’re dedicated and not just trying to get links (even if you are). Rand mentioned that for SEOmoz, Jane Copland is their community queen. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Jane is the only one responsible for digging article or submitting things to del.icio.us, it just means that when Rand is up late thinking about me and wants to dig my Friday Recap, he’ll log in as "JaneCopland" to do it.

Doing it this way helps these sites to see you as a dedicated member of the community.

Rand listed, in order, the social sites he recommends using:

  • Digg – Don’t forget to embed the "dig this’ button on sites to allow users to easily submit content for you.
  • Del.icio.us – All links are nofollow so you’re not getting link love, but you may get click throughs and direct traffic when users find your del.icio.us bookmarks through the search engine’s index.
  • Flickr – Use popular tags and encourage linking and comments by sharing the photo stream on your blog and other public profiles. Add links to your profile and to relevant photos.
  • Reddit – Less tech-oriented. Users can communicate with other members through Reddit, vote on content and leave comments.
  • Newsvine — Your Newsvine user name becomes your own subdomain, so make sure to use keywords in your profile. Submit news stories, comment on other popular stories, create connections with regular users.

Other social media sites Rand mentioned: StumbleUpon, Technorati, MySpace, Yahoo! Answers, Google Co-Op.

[I'd like to personally thank my boyfriend Rand for all the Bruce Clay shout outs during the panel. I swear we didn't pay him for it. However, I'd be willing to take one for the team and buy him a drink if he'd like. :)]

Andy Hagans is up next and immediately states that he’s not interested in actually being part of a community or forming warm and fuzzy feelings with members. He just wants to use them to make money. All hail, Andy! [That's my kind of guy. Buy him a drink too, Lisa. --Susan]

That being said, how do you take advantage of social media?

  1. Create Bookmark-able Linkbait: You need to first create a piece of content or a tool that is remarkable enough that people will link to it and really bored people will be interested in.
  2. Get your message in front of the right people: Before you go to Digg, write a personalized email to a dozen or so relevant bloggers in an attempt to get some links. Stroke their ego and ask for their ‘help’ on your content, even if you don’t really want it and you’re just after the link.
  3. A del.icio.us bump: Tag your content on del.icio.us. Take time creating an expert account so that when you submit something it has some weight to it.
  4. Don’t Spam.
  5. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Even if you do all that, chances are it won’t work. But if you keep doing it, eventually it will stick. And once it does, all the time and energy will have been worth it.

Todd Malicoat and Lee Odden didn’t give presentations but they were on hand for the Q&A.

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