You overthink SEO because everybody has told you that Search Engine Optimization is the only kind of marketing in the entire universe. SEOSEOSEO! Just churn out text copy for the Great Lord Google, because Google gobbles keywords like a goblin.
Seriously, why do we even make media visible to human beings? Why do we even have an Internet? They should just have it set up where every morning we all take a bucket of keywords and walk it to Google headquarters and dump it into their volcano, and later they mail us a postcard with our organic search stats for the day. The humans in this equation are superfluous.
It's not like there's an alternative way to get visitors to your website. Not like people click links shared to them by trusted peers, confidants, family, influencers, and the occasional hashtag. Oh wait, there is a way to do this!
SMO - Social Media Optimization!
Now you have SEO on your eCommerce website squared away, from my posts on "Top SEO Factors BESIDES Keywords," "Amazing New SEO Method Discovered : Write Like A Human Being!," and "The Top SEO Tools For Content Marketing."
So perhaps we can talk about the great big part of the web you're forgetting. Everything below "Google" on the Alexa rankings of top visited websites. Do we even know what those are without looking?
- Facebook - #4
- Yahoo - #5 and clearly as stunned at that fact as you are
- Reddit - #6
- Instagram - #23, way lower than you expected
- Twitter - #28, even farther down than you expected
However, Instagram and Twitter each have their own apps, which sets them apart from mere web traffic stats entirely. As for Yahoo, does it even count as a social media site? Maybe not in the English-speaking world, but in Asia it's still huge. Yahoo certainly wants to be a social network, the same way it wants to be a dessert topping and also a floor wax, but it was never even as popular as Google+, which died like a crawdad at Mardi Gras.
But I digress. Links from social media are underrated, underappreciated, all but disdained by web entrepreneurs. They are more than happy if I, freelance web grunt, bill them $100 for a keyword-soaked blog post which will slowly yield 10-to-20 visitors per day, but if I spend five seconds tweeting that same post and it gets 300K hits that day, they're almost offended if I mention it.
The logic goes, "social web traffic doesn't stick!" Well, yes, but what's your bounce rate from search? How many of those visitors stick around? Then web clients huff "But the search traffic will be there forever, social media is just a flash in the pan!" Sure, nobody denies that, but what if I spend another five seconds to post the same link a year from now and get another 300K hit?
I mean, it's crazy what can happen down the line. If a post is popular enough that it gets 300K off a tweet, I sure don't have that many followers. What happened is that it went viral. If it's good enough that people see it and spread it around all by itself, why… then… that would mean… it doesn't even need to fetch any search traffic!
That means that we can actually write - hold on here, this is big, sit down for it, strap in - we could actually write FOR PEOPLE!!! We could just make something that people like and then they share it and more people find it and like it too! We will be liberated from the chains of Google oppression, no longer beholden to the foul, soulless algorithms churning away in the black, smoky tar-pit of Google's servers! What could this unfathomable world possibly look like?
Yes, something like that.
OK, let's not get carried away. I'm not suggesting anything crazy like we replace SEO with SMO, Cthulhu forbid (as the distant rumbling from Menlo Park subsides). But it doesn't hurt to give a nod to social media as well. You can serve Google and Facebook and Twitter all at the same time, at least until Google hands down laws on stone tablets stating otherwise.
But how do you optimize for social media?
Social Media Marketing is its own discipline. This is where you get your official account and schedule your posts to go out and promote your content to your followers. It's the same mechanism at play when you get people to sign up for your newsletter.
If you can't be bothered to post individually to social media accounts, there are easy solutions to load up the hopper with batches of posts to go out at scheduled intervals:
But more than that, your content has to be naturally shareable in the first place. You have to aim every post to go viral. Using tricks such as:
- Promise an easy read in the title, such as a numbered list
- Or use a title that provokes curiosity
- Keep the post URL short, and descriptive
- Keep an eye-catching image up top as the featured image or banner
- Begin with a hooky first paragraph
- Pour your heart into it - elicit emotions to invest reader passion
- Remember, "anger" is also an emotion...
- Keep content useful, practical, or informative
- If you can't do that, keep content outrageously funny
- Be genuine, it's the #1 most attractive factor in content today
- Use a mix of media with images, videos, and text
- Post during the time when your target nationality is awake
- Write for popularity
Of course, there's an art form to viral content that's difficult to quantify scientifically, but you know it when you see it. There's also a luck factor. Somebody posted an egg on Instagram one time and it broke the Internet. Since then, a million people have tried posting eggs and nobody cares. They've tried omelets and poached and deviled and Easter eggs.
When it comes to your own social media postings, you need to diversify your accounts, spreading a wide net. I include hashtags in your social media posts. As a matter of routine, check social media every day and note the trending topics and hashtags. Is there a hot topic which you have written about before? Quick, repost that sucker with the trendy topic hashtag! It's like free bonus Internet brownie points!
Finally, target your audience by social media demographic! Not all social networks are the same. There are differences which can make you a hit on one network and a flop on another:
- Facebook - Middle-aged adult, slightly more females, higher income, international
- Instagram - Younger adults, overwhelmingly female, middle-class income, US-centric
- Twitter - Youngest adults, slightly more males, all incomes, broadly international
- SnapChat - Kids, overwhelmingly female, dirt poor, US-centric
- Pinterest - Middle-aged and older, overwhelmingly female, filthy rich, US-centric
- LinkedIn - Middle-aged, slightly more male, middle-class incomes, international
Furthermore, the different platforms are tailored for different kinds of content. LinkedIn caters to business professionals, so anything business-related does well there. Pinterest is stereotypically the place housewives go to share recipes and home crafts, so go all-out Betty Crocker and bridal catalogs there. Instagram is geared for ze haute couture and people who ache to see the tissue Kim Kardashian blew her nose on, so go there with celebrity gossip.
The Reddit Section
Reddit is the Internet's replacement for UseNet, and the most recent iteration of message boards. It is a microcosm of the Internet at large. While it has a reputation for being one of the most toxic places on the Internet, that's actually because it's also one of the most libertine places in the Internet. Avoid the crappy places and you'll be fine. Reddit is subdivided into forums (called "subreddits," a name so barfingly cute that we won't use it again).
There's some facts you have to keep in mind about Reddit:
- Anyone can start a forum
- Forums can be moderated by anyone
- Moderation runs the gamut from fascism to anarchy
- Mods post rules for the forum on the sidebar
- If the target forum for your topic is hostile, there's a million alternatives to it
- No niche is too small - there is a forum for anything
- Self-promotion is fine
- 90% of forums, however, do not link to the outside
Reddit tends to be a self-contained, claustrophobic, walled hive. In terms of demographics, the site skews to young adults, overwhelmingly male, lower-to-middle-class incomes, and international with a slight US lean and a major English-speaking majority.
I say again, self-promotion is fine there. My Reddit account is under my online moniker, I link it right from my home page, I post my own stuff on Reddit all the time, and have next to zero problems. Neither will you, as long as you're not a spamming jerk about it. One post per week per one forum is about the limit. But one key caveat: READ THOSE FORUM RULES in the sidebar and follow them religiously; most mods will not ban you as long as you abide by their personal quirks.
The occasional moderator will get testy and ban you from one forum for posting too high a ratio of self-promotion over time, but then the occasional moderator will also ban you from a forum for liking green socks. Mod power abuse is ten times the problem that spam is on Reddit. When in doubt, look over the posts in the forum before posting. If nobody else is doing what you're about to do, don't do it there.
Like any other social network, you get points for actually being social there, so post something besides your own links too, discuss things, support people who make it a good place, and contribute to the quality of the site whenever you can spare the minute. The busiest top forums are useless to post in; they're impossible to gain traction in. Head for the right niche at the right time, and you'll thrive.
If you screw up, lie low for a while and come back. Reddit has the collective memory of a goldfish.
Shhhh, don't tell Reddit I said any of this.
Nobody is telling you to abandon SEO. But there's so much more to content marketing online than SEO, that SEO actually ends up around 60% of the effort you should be putting in. Use your psychology, study the Internet's ebb and flow, and get a feel for what makes it tick and how people do well on it.