The digital landscape is becoming more social
Companies that don’t use social media optimization are making a dangerous business decision. Luckily, not optimizing your website for social media is a mistake that can easily be avoided.
Social media — including organic and paid search media — continues to impact the digital marketing industry. 45% of the world’s population uses social media and spends more than 140 minutes a day surfing. First world and third world countries alike lean on the power of social media. If you want your business to be successful, optimizing your website and social channels isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.
I love all things digital marketing. It works, it can produce great results, and it’s constantly changing. I wrote this blog because I wanted to investigate and identify best practices businesses should apply to their current marketing strategies. If social media is continuing to grow, how do businesses make it work for them?
SMO vs. SEO
What’s the difference between SMO and SEO? SEO is a type of digital marketing that focuses heavily on helping users find your business on search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engines like Google are paying more attention to social signals as a way to determine the value and which content should rank.
This blog post focuses on social optimization for your website and social profiles so they help your overall business goals. This includes everything from brand awareness to customer service to sales. You don’t want to only optimize your website to be found on Google. There are many more opportunities for optimization. Knowing where your audience spends their time helps businesses get started. Social platforms continue to grow in usage, and companies need to ensure their websites are optimized for those platforms.
Let’s get started.
Overview: what is SMO?
When used correctly, word-of-mouth advertising is an extremely powerful (and free!) marketing strategy. Essentially, SMO is a digital version of word-of-mouth marketing. Unlike SEO (which can be very technical in terms of optimization), SMO requires more intuition. That’s great news for people like myself who aren’t “techy.” Common sense, blended with data and a dash of creativity, are the main ingredients needed to slay your company’s social media.
Definition of social media optimization
Rohit Bhargava was the first person to coin the term SMO. He defines it as “a process of optimizing your site / blog to be more visible in social media searches and sites, and more frequently discussed online in blog posts and other social media.”
In short, SMO is optimizing your website for social media. This is similar to how we optimize a site to rank in Google using SEO. SMO looks at two main areas: the website that needs optimizing (on-page) and the platform you want to feature (off-page). Your website needs to work well with your social platforms, and there are several ways to do that.
What is the purpose and goal of SMO?
Many businesses aren’t investing in SMO, which means they’re leaving money on the table. The purpose of SMO is to improve the visibility of your products, services, pages, and brand on different social channels. These include
- LinkedIn, and more.
How do you incorporate SMO? By creating valuable content that users engage with and share. This can be easier said than done, so we’ll go into more detail later in this blog.
If your audience is on Facebook, you need to make sure your website content (copy, images, and video) are shareable, fit the required dimensions and are attractive to the user. Simply sharing your content on Facebook isn’t good enough. Your content needs to encourage people to share it for you.
As with any type of marketing, the purpose of SMO is to generate revenue. However, there’s a lot that happens before that. You have to start by generating user interest and engagement.
As a business, your reach is limited to new people who visit your site and people who are already following you. SMO opens up the potential to reach people who are affiliated with your followers. In other words, SMO efforts extend your reach beyond your sphere of influence.
What are the benefits of SMO for businesses?
Why should you use SMO? Because it offers value. Here are a few reasons why every business should invest in SMO. SMO helps you:
- Improve brand awareness, reach, and exposure.
- Acquire business intelligence by listening to customers and observing competitors.
- Participate in online conversations, revealing a more personal side of your business.
- Increase shareability and linkability, which is great for SEO.
- Diversify traffic channels by offering an alternative medium through which to distribute your content.
- Increase your sphere of influence by reaching a wider audience via other users sharing your content with their networks.
- Establish your business as a trustworthy, authoritative resource.
- Identify valuable users who can act as brand ambassadors.
- Analyze your target audience and how they associate with your brand.
- Find, learn about, and create compelling content that may be overlooked by Google.
Two major areas of SMO
When it comes to your website, there’s a lot that can be optimized. This includes copy, HTML, keywords, images, relevancy, and more. These all need to be taken into account when you’re trying to make your website rank and run at optimal performance. Social media optimization takes a more personal approach because it’s not just about your website. It’s about giving your audience the chance to interact, no matter where they are.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does my image look attractive on the social media channel I’ve posted it to?
- Does the heading fit the designated heading width of the social platform?
- Is it easy to share my content from my website? Are there social sharing icons?
- Does my page / service / product offer value? Is it worth the user’s time to share it?
- Can the social platforms understand and extract all of the necessary data to display the content correctly?
There are two main areas you need to optimize for – on-page and off-page.
This type of SMO focuses primarily on the website itself. How does your website affect the way your content is shown, shared, and displayed on third-party sites or apps? Businesses gain a lot of control over their content by ensuring their website is socially optimized. Be sure to take advantage of the on-page SMO factors below.
Use Yoast OpenGraphs
If you use WordPress as your CMS, the Yoast SEO plugin OpenGraphs is a great way to optimize your pages and posts for social media. OpenGraphs adds a tag to your website that highlights specific features that you’d like Facebook to read. These OpenGraphs are used by Facebook, Twitter (AKA Twitter Cards), and search engines to understand and display the following:
- The type of content on that page.
- The specific context of that page (similar to a quick summary).
- A specific image that’s displayed when shared or posted to different mediums.
- The location of an event, business, festival, parade, etc.
- The metadata (i.e. title and descriptions).
Create content that’s easy to understand
Developing a well-thought-out content marketing strategy is fundamental for effective SEO and SMO. Hierarchy and how you format your content helps different mediums show the information you want them to show. When you don’t optimize for SEO and SMO, it can look messy. For example, long headlines might be truncated. Previewing your posts in different tools allows you to adjust your content and ensure the most important information is visible to your audience.
Use sharing buttons
Making a webpage easy for users to share is a no-brainer. Adding social sharing buttons to your website content makes it simple for users to distribute your content to their networks.
Off-page optimization is part of traditional social media marketing, but it focuses on optimizing your social platforms for best performance. Make sure you’re following these fundamentals:
- Optimize your social accounts. This should include your business name, address, phone number, website URL, about info, relevant images, etc.).
- Post regularly. Don’t set it and forget it. Post information that you feel is useful to your target audience and share relevant content from other people.
- Engage with others by showing interest, gratitude, and empathy.
- Answer questions. What do users have questions or concerns about? Your answers can be voted on / liked depending on whether users find your answer useful. Quora is a great social platform for answering questions.
- Manage your online reputation. Off-page SMO is an effective way to manage your brand’s online reputation. Reviews, comments, mentions, and tags can be strategically administered. This is very similar to public relations, where you can encourage positive content and control negative brand mentions.
This topic has already been covered in detail, so I don’t want to be repetitive. To learn more, take a look at some of these best practices for off-page SMO:
Social media optimization tips that businesses can practice
I don’t think enough businesses are strategically thinking through the opportunities available when they optimize their website and content for social. Here are some SMO tips and actionable tactics businesses should implement when employing SMO:
- Focus on what matters most. You don’t have to optimize everything. There’s a lot to consider, but everything won’t have the same impact. Don’t target every social platform. Instead, focus on and optimize for a few.
- Remember that SMO isn’t about sales. It’s about people and creating relationships and trustworthiness. Sales will come as a result of that.
- Know your audience. Use analytics tools that are freely available to create content that you know your audience is interested in.
- Give credit. Acknowledgment is a great way to flatter people who you consider most influential. Tagging people and businesses you glean information from is a great way to improve engagement. Captivate your audience’s attention by being creative and thoughtful.
- Create communities. Private groups or social communities are a great way to build rapport and trust. Groups are useful ways to learn about your audience and get honest answers from them.
- Be social. Too many businesses only use social media to push and sell. While that’s a company goal, it shouldn’t be the main objective. Be social, connect, interact, and most importantly, be human.
- Claim your business / brand name on the major social networks. Sneaky competitors may try to steal your brand name on popular social networks. It’s anyone’s game, so be sure to act quickly.
Visual Optimization Tips
- Use the right image dimensions when posting images. Each social channel has different requirements, and ignoring them can have a negative impact on how your images look. Here are image sizes for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- Post high-quality images. I’m not a fan of stock photos because they look inauthentic. Users can see through this. Post or create your own photos. Along with looking better, they’re unique and nobody else will have them.
- Include branding wherever you can. Include your logo in images you post and your company name / URL in text, comments, or responses.
- Include large text with simple wording. This is easy to glance at and also gives the user just enough information for them to click through.
- Avoid words on your images. Just like search engines, social platforms can’t read text on images. A few words here and there aren’t a problem, but keep it to a minimum. Here are some great examples from Facebook.
- Keep your branding consistent across all of the platforms you’re active on. Don’t confuse your users. Colors, logo, and images should emulate your website.
Topic Optimization Tips
- Use hashtags to increase your reach. Knowing which hashtags to use will help you reach the audience most relevant to you. Try these tools to know which hashtags to use.
- Use social media chatbots. Not everyone has time to respond to every user on social media. Social media chatbots are a great way for you to respond to users by programming responses based on frequently asked questions. Mobile Monkey offers a free tool to help you create a chatbot on your business Facebook page.
- Update your website regularly with helpful content for users. New website content can then be shared on your social media platforms.
- Create original content and be a thought leader. It’s easy to share other people’s content or regurgitate what someone else wrote, but that content isn’t yours. Have an opinion, take a stance, and share something of value.
- Use keywords from organic search and PPC. Including well-known search terms is a simple (but effective) way to optimize your social profile pages.
- Be relevant and stay on topic. It’s not about optimizing for everything — it’s about optimizing for what you want to be known for. Write content that is specifically for your audience.
- Tap into and make the most of knowledge management. Learn from your community. Ask questions and get firsthand insight from those who engage. Use this information to improve your products / services and business offerings.
- Do research to gain business intelligence. Learn from your audience. Social channels give great insights into what users care about and what interests them. Use these digital analytics to adapt your business.
- Do research to gain competitor intelligence. Learn from your competitors. Where are they the most active? Who do they interact with the most?
- Try different CTAs. A good call to action helps increase engagement, so it’s important to figure out which CTAs work best for your content.
- Look for opportunities to engage. Find people you want to connect with and figure out how to start a conversation with them. Be social.
- Identify influencers. Who does your audience follow and trust? If an influencer speaks positively about your brand, the benefits will be significantly greater than your immediate sphere of influence.
If you want your website to be found by the right people — the users who matter — you need to invest in SMO. Too many businesses are using social media with only sales in mind, which doesn’t work for most companies.
Optimize your social media for your users. When users interact with your website or social profile, where are they in the buyer’s journey? Knowing the answer to that question is the best way to use SMO to improve your business. Create great content that’s easy to share and is memorable and valuable. Always optimize with the user in mind.