April 18, 2007 By: Louise Rijk - Bio - Blog
Interactive Marketing:
Social Media Optimization (SMO)

This is the fourth in a series of articles dedicated to social interactive marketing, which started with an overview of the The New World of Internet Marketing - WOMM, SMM and SMO, followed by Word of Mouth Marketing and Social Media Marketing. In this issue we are trying to define Social Media Optimization.

There is a reason why many single news articles you read these days, whether they are published at major metro newspapers or on an individual blog, have an RSS button or one or more social media links to submit that article to web sites like Digg, Reddit, Slashdot or Netscape - the publisher wants the traffic and links those online tools can deliver.

Defining Social Media Optimization
Social media optimization (SMO) is much like organic search engine optimization but now targeted towards achieving higher visibility on social media web sites. When content is original and provides high value for your target audience, but has no easy way to be passed along on the social web, it is doubtful whether it will be effective in a social media marketing campaign.

To implement social media optimization a web site owner or blog publisher must make changes to existing content, site usability, navigation and information architecture to make it easier for visitors to interact and to help virally spread the content through the social web using social media tools.

Rohit Bhargava, Vice President for Interactive Marketing with Ogilvy Public Relations defined it well, back in August of 2006, when he introduced the 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization and said that "SMO is simply the concept of implementing changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and vlogs."

Social media comes in many different digital formats, including text, images, audio and video. Social mediums include: blogs, podcasts, wiki's, online forums and user reviews or review sites, but also various community-based web properties such as social networks (Facebook, MySpace), content voting web sites (Digg, Reddit, Netscape), content discovery sites (StumbleUpon), image and video sharing sites (Flickr, Photobucket, YouTube) and others. By making it easy for visitors to bookmark, vote or discover your content with their favorite tool they can associate themselves with your products and services and spread your message though the social web.

SMO is relatively easy to implement by site and blog owners. The most obvious form of social media optimization is the addition of links to Digg (Digg This) and Del.icio.us (Save to Del.icio.us), publishing RSS feeds and implementing usability and navigation enhancements.

Benefits of Social Media Optimization
The social media optimization effort supports social media marketing campaigns, generates free web traffic, providing an alternative traffic source to Google, and attracts many good links from external sources, which improve rankings in the organic search results at Google and Yahoo. Links typically come from blogs, content voting web sites (Digg, Reddit, Netscape), bookmarking sites (Delicious, Magnolia), video and image sharing sites (Photobucket, YouTube, Flickr) and others. In the past the pay back of creating good content was only marginally rewarded. Now, with the social media sharing web sites we can use these online communities to pass on or direct attention to good content that can generate between 1000 - 2000 links or more.

Social Media Optimization Tips
There are many ways content can be optimized for social media distribution. Here are a handful of tips that you can use to implement social media optimization:

web development Content Creation
Continually create content that is relevant to your target audience and organized in a way that it can easily be found and passed on to others through the social web. White papers, how-to articles, tip sheets, any content that works for your business niche. Good, relevant content increases the probability that visitors would want to link to your web site or blog and distribute your content through the social web using social media tools as well as email.
Update your content frequently with new articles and postings and promote these through email, RSS feeds and directories (e.g. podcast and blog directories). A side benefit of frequent text and image content updates is that search engines will crawl your site or blog more frequently for new content. Similarly - the more you post the more you'll get indexed by blog engines like Technorati and others.
Adding an "About" page is a tremendous opportunity to cement a relationship with your site or blog visitors. It puts a human face on an otherwise technical, dry, and impersonal page.
web development Copy Writing
Write your content specifically for the web. Writing for the web means: short, scannable, to the point (focused) copy. In general, on the Web people scan first to sniff out the main points and then, if necessary, comb the page for more details.
Write attention-grabbing headlines that immediately peak the interest of your audience. This is particularly important when you optimize content for content voting web sites like Digg or Reddit since many visitors will decide to vote for your content based on the headlines.
Put the information carrying words in the beginning of the headings and sub-headings and make the headings not wider than 60 characters. Copy Blogger offers free expert headline writing tips.
Don't write over-promotional or exaggerated. Credibility is more important.
Use the two-sentence test on web site copy. Ask yourself whether somebody reading the first two sentences on your page will take away the information you want to convey.
web development Copy Formatting
Use well-established web formatting techniques such as bulleted lists, numbered steps and short scannable paragraphs to improve readability. Short paragraphs should be under five sentences. Each paragraph should have one topic sentence and one idea.
Use bulleted lists when items require no particular order and numbered lists for step-by-step instructions.
Vertical lists are more effective then run-in lists at conveying a sequence of events of ideas. Use vertical lists when you have four or more items to emphasize. Shorter lists are generally overkill.
web development Design and Typography
Keep the use of font styles consistent throughout the content you are creating. Making use of cascading style sheets is a great way to manage all your fonts and to ensure consistency.
Keep it simple and stick with commonly used Web fonts - Arial, Verdana, etc. Verdana is the most web-friendly font, since it is wide, clean and easy to read.
Avoid overusing type styles (e.g. bold, italic, all caps). A long paragraph in italics, for example can be difficult to read. Keep all-caps to a minimum.
Use common font sizes at or above 10 points. Avoid using small serif fonts (like Times Roman); they are difficult to read on a computer screen.
Avoid busy backgrounds. Nothing screams out amateur more than a busy background. Text on a busy background decreases readability. Instead use black text on a white background.
Generous use of white space around each major grouping visually pulls related topics together. If there is no white space between many elements on the page the page looks cluttered. The eye does not know where to look first, nor is there a place for the eye to rest. As a results there is often no clear call to action.
web development Navigation
Don't use non-standard links and navigation. Follow as much as possible standard link conventions. Make obvious what is clickable: for text links, use colored, underlined text (and don't underline non-link text). Avoid using colored underlining text for anything that isn't a hypertext link. Differentiate visited and unvisited links.
web development Interaction
Implement tools and functionality that encourages interaction, e.g. blog commenting, a feedback form, polls and surveys. This allows your visitors to participate in and expand the content on your web site or blog.
web development Viral Content Optimization
Make your web site or blog content viral. For instance, instead of the traditional "Send-to-a-friend" message consider the following:
"Tell your friends" is better than "tell a friend".
Suggest telling five or 10 friends instead of one.
Use multiple address fields, instead of just one so that the message can be easily passed on to multiple people.
Make your content available through RSS feeds. Make sure you put the RSS subscription button in a prominent place. Also provide an explanation on what RSS is and instructions on what visitors need to do to subscribe to your RSS feed.
Make tagging and bookmarking easy, e.g. include language that encourages users to tag, bookmark and vote for your content.
Broadcast new blog posts as an email message to your email subscription list.
web development Message Optimization
Make an offer sound exclusive - "You only get 5 invitations or coupons".
Make your web site content into a gift that participants can give to a friend, e.g. coupon codes for discounts, samples, freebies.
web development Page Load Times
Optimize file size and minimize loading time even for broadband connections. At the 3 megabits per second, which is typical cable modem download time, we still require page size to be around 100 Kb for fast downloads.
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