Thursday, January 3, 2013

Social Media Optimization Is the New Search Engine Optimization

If a website goes live in the worldwide forest but no one notices, does it make an impact? It does not. To attract attention, your site must be crawlable and indexable by search engines.

Of course, everyone knows this: SEO is as mandatory as it is old. What everyone doesn’t know but which we’re now beginning to realize is that your site needs SMO, or what I like to call “social media optimization.” That is, you need content that people want to share—to like and tweet and pin.

The original master of this insight is Matthew Inman, aka the Oatmeal, whose quizzes constitute perfect linkbait. His successor is Jonah Peretti, whose BuzzFeed behemoth racks up 30 million visitors a month, most of whom don’t come in through the homepage or Google, but because a friend, colleague, or celebrity recommended an article to them via social media.

Addendum (1/4/2013): It turns out that BuzzFeed has been shouting this secret all long. As David Carr observed one year ago,

As the consumer Web has matured, readers have become minipublishers, using social media platforms to share information they think will entertain and enlighten their friends. . . .

Hit the right note, and your readers become like bees, stopping by your site to grab links and heading back out on the Web to pollinate other platforms. That behavior has tapped into something visceral, a kind of game in which the person finding something delicious gains social capital for sharing it.