6 Steps to Social Engine Optimization
By: Marc Acton, Associate Creative Director
If you just want my list of tips for creating social-optimized content, skip to the listicle at the bottom of this post, and you’ll be in and out in no time.
But, first, here’s why you should care in the first place: Numbers don’t lie, and Google is out as the number one web traffic driver for most websites. In fact, they have been for quite a while. So don’t fire your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts yet, but if they’re still driving your content program, you’re going to find yourself behind in the what’s-next game.
The reality is that the SEO boom was always doomed to fail because it was built on the simple idea that businesses could game the search system. Search engines make billions of dollars to give users valuable content, but SEO’s job is to fool Google into thinking your content is better than it really is. In other words, SEO is directly counter to Google’s best interest because it’s counter to its users’ best interests. That’s why your SEO expert will always be locked in an epic struggle against web search companies. And, I’m sure your person is great, but, in a contest, my money is on the huge team of billionaire geniuses with the best technology in the world and bottomless snacks.
Here’s another way to look at SEO: Imagine you’re in the magazine business, and Google runs a corner newsstand. You and Google both make money off of selling magazines. If you produce a great magazine, you win, and Google wins. In that scenario, would you put an expert printer in charge of producing your magazine? No—you’d end up with a terrible magazine with a pretty wrapper, which people would stop buying very quickly. And since Google’s job, in that scenario, is to give their customers the best content possible, they would quickly stop carrying your crap content with the shiny wrapper. Same with your website—put a great SEO wrapper on crap content, and Google is going to find you out.
So how do we optimize for social instead of search? Step one is to create great content. But that’s the easy part—if you’re not finding it easy, you should check this out.
Step two takes a combination of art and science, but it boils down to making content that gets noticed and shared. That’s the tough part, but here are six ways to make sure it happens:
1. Don’t do five of anything.
You might point to Buzzfeed as a clickbait factory, but in reality they’re huge data nerds who know how to draw eyeballs. A few years ago, they did a huge data analysis on the length of their lists and found a big jump after 5s of things. They also found that, overall, odd numbers performed noticeably better than positive. There is also a lot of data that says that list posts work.
But, the takeaway here really is this: Embrace content science. Putting out content that feels right is for artists. Building content around data is for empire builders.
2. Match your message to your medium.
If you’re posting the same messages on each social platform, you’re not maximizing for your audience. For iostudio’s social media program, we use this simple content strategy:
- Facebook—Personal touches, celebrating our iostudians whenever possible, preference for referencing our iostudians by name, include some teasing of content
- Instagram—Personality-driven posts (IG’s crowd skews young and progressive)
- Twitter—Boil the post down to the most important nut, make dramatic statements
- LinkedIn—Speak directly to the business audience, identify the most practical business impacts of our content
As an example, here’s the social content for this post—see if it aligns with the above strategy:
The fact that you're reading this already pretty much proves Marc Acton's theory that the new SEO should be Social Engine Optimization. That means his six steps to optimizing for social are probably right, too. Here's a preview: #1 is, "Don't do five of anything."
If you put a shiny SEO wrapper on crap content, Google is going to call your bluff. That's why your new SEO should be Social Engine Optimization. Link in profile. Six steps to killing it on social in post.
SEO is dead. Long live SEO. @fastacton gives you six steps to Social Engine Optimization.
You've probably noticed on your own site: On today's internet, social drives more traffic than search. If you're still writing around SEO, you're going to lose the what's-next contest. Do these six things instead.
3. Make your messages matter.
One of the most important differences between optimizing for social vs. search is that the primary audience of SEO is the search engines. Optimizing for social, on the other hand, puts your audience first. If your content doesn’t give them value, you’ve failed, even if you’ve tricked them (probably through SEO) into visiting.
To build value-based content, ask yourself these questions:
Is this entertaining?
(There’s nothing wrong with being fun for the sake of fun—just ask Buzzfeed.)
Does this content help my readers in some way?
(And, how can I make it even more helpful?)
Then, use those answers to drive your social posts accompanying your social-friendly content.
4. Toe the line between teasing and tantalizing.
The most important piece of content you’ll write is your headline because that’s what does the conversion. It gets the almighty click. Even if you’re writing content for entertainment purposes, you’re not in the clever post business. You’re in the conversion business.
Along with the headline, your social posts should offer readers just enough to whet their whistle but should never give away the farm. If we’d just listed these six things in our Facebook post, you never would’ve come. But, if we hadn’t given you at least a hint at what to expect (information on Social Engine Optimization, six ways to improve your own social content, etc.), you wouldn’t have even cared.
5. Make the most of every post.
Stop building your content streams independently of each other. You’re designing a cohesive content empire not a bunch of solitary post islands.
That’s why, at iostudio, we centralize our content production instead of parceling it out to disparate teams. Our messages are more cohesive, our content dollars go farther, and ROI is easier to track. More on that here.
6. Don’t make your posts any longer than they absolutely need to be.
Marc Acton was born at a very young age in a moderately old town in Florida. Some other stuff happened, and then he became iostudio’s Associate Creative Director. For us, he proudly pokes and prods projects for the Army National Guard including social media and web, writing and strategizing content that converts. He is a fan of the Oxford comma, saying more with less, and helping write bios for extremely talented iostudians. He also flies helicopters for the Army National Guard. Which reminds us, how can you tell if a helicopter pilot is at your party? (He’ll tell you.)