What is Social Media Optimization
Those who have been keeping a close eye on the behavior of Google, Facebook, and other major players in the technology that powers the web have likely noticed a trend. People have been saying it for a few years now, but it is never more true than it has become today. The internet has become a much more social environment than it was just five years ago.
These changes will fundamentally effect the way that people use the web to find information, interact with others, and market their products or sites.
It’s a well known fact that links from external sites are important for a site to rank well in the search engines. The search engines are still used to capture most of the traffic on the web, social networks are beginning to play an important part in online success.
While a prominent blogger can recommend a site to their readers with a link, everyday friends can recommend sites to one another through the Facebook “like” button. Here are some of the major players:
– Facebook
– Twitter
– StumbleUpon

The Facebook “Like”
Users can now “like” a site, organization, group, product, etc in order to recommend it to their friends. Facebook search allows people to search the internet based on “likes” from their peers in the social networking world. How this system will evolve, and whether it will ever offer results as reliable as a Google search, remains to be seen.

What’s in a “Tweet?”
A post from a prominent SEO blogger announced the effect that a prominent tweet had had on their rankings in Google. The tweet causes a large number of followers to tweet the same headline.
Not long after, the web page was ranking prominently for a keyword that was so general that they had never even considered ranking for it. At the very least, this has important implications for short term search results. What’s the lesson?
– A large number of tweets from real users can affect Google rankings
– Some kind of “author authority” appears to be in effect (bot tweeters aren’t having the same effect)
– The tweets seem to continue to have an effect in the medium term.
– Factors such as “anchor text” and so forth are not yet fully understood

StumbleUpon is a toolbar and social network that allows users to rate sites, and randomly stumble across sites that fit there interests. A user selects topics they are interested in, clicks the “Stumble!” button, and lands on a random site related to their interests.
The likelihood of landing on a given site is influenced by the number of people with similar interests who clicked the “I like it!” button on their toolbar.

How Does this Effect Internet Marketing and SEO?
One thing is clear: the gap between search and social is shrinking. Google has already announced that it will begin displaying social network recommendations from a searcher’s friends if they are logged into their Google account. The evidence above suggests that, at the very least, Twitter is having an impact on Google rankings.

How do internet marketers and SEO experts respond to these changes?
– Create likable content
– Promote visibility
– Build connections

Creating Likable Content
The fundamental difference between a Facebook “like” and a traditional link is who is voting for your site. A traditional link is like a citation. There is something slightly more scholarly about it.
It is true that with the rise of blogging, links themselves have taken on a more social tone, but they still have an air of professionalism to them. You have to know bare bones HTML to create a link. A recommendation in a social network is something that can be done by anybody.
The key difference here is your target audience. To get a link, you generally want to come across as a source of knowledge. To get a social recommendation, you want to create something that people will want to share with their friends.

Visibility has always been important, but it may become less important to focus on “profitable” keywords, and focus more on overall traffic. The more traffic on your site, the more recommendations you will receive, regardless of the quality of your content.

Build connections
Having powerful friends will become more important. A recommendation in a social network from somebody who has a lot of friends or followers carries a great deal more weight than a recommendation from just anybody.

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