Leveraging Social Media Sites To Increase Search Visibility
Traffic from socially driven news sites has been called many things. There are people that love it and call it a godsend (SEO 2.0), and there are others that hate it and think that it’s useless. Regardless of what you think, there is no doubting the fact that online marketing and content creation has been heavily influenced by social media. Creating content that is specifically designed to be popular on social news sites has become an art, which, if done right, can be incredibly viral and can have a significant short-term impact (from direct traffic from social sites), but also a substantial long-term impact (due to higher search ranking from link-building) for your site, product, or service.
The short-term impact from having your content promoted on social news sites can be massive—think 50,000 unique visits in a 24-hour period—but it lasts for about a day, and we want a long-term solution. Here’s a look at three different options to explore if you want a great short-term boost but also a good long-term source of traffic through higher search rankings and more search visibility.
Note: This is not an invitation to abuse social news sites to game your search rankings or search visibility. Use this as a guide to understanding how social media affects your search rankings, and use it to optimize your best content (best in terms of most likely to be socialized). Always remember that good content is good bait (and that’s all, folks).
The Digg effect
Explaining the importance of Digg to an online marketer or your average content producer is very simple. Getting on the front page of Digg instantly brings you—on average—50,000 visitors, but can also bring you hundreds of links to a specific article and to your site. These links increase your SERPs, and irrespective of how well your site or service is generally ranked, the specific post that was socialized and linked to can outrank most of its competition for those keywords.
Consider the following submission I made a few days ago (Disclaimer: The article used as an example here was not submitted for marketing purposes. I submitted it because I liked the article and thought that the social media audience would similarly appreciate it—and with 800+ Diggs, it did).
As a result of getting promoted on Digg, the article got almost 500 links and is now favorably positioned on Google (and will probably rise even higher in the coming weeks):
Because of the potential for a massive, relatively rapid acquisition of links, marketers have been quick to target Digg, but until recently, there was no long-term reason for marketers or your average content producer to create content specifically designed for any other social sites. Sure, the short-term traffic is good, but is it worth the effort if it doesn’t convert to long-term traffic? With steps taken by StumbleUpon, and, more recently, Del.icio.us, to incorporate submissions on the sites into Google and Yahoo, it’s time to give these social media services a serious look.
The StumbleUpon effect
Unlike Digg and Reddit, both of which can send upward of 25,000 visitors on any promoted submission, StumbleUpon traffic is usually lower in numbers but much more consistent and spread over a much longer period. From my experience, a post of mine that was popular on the site received 5,000 visitors for the first day, 3,000 the next two days, 2,000 for another few days, before dropping down to 500 for a while and eventually becoming insignificant (with the exception of some random days on which I will still get a burst of 500-800 visitors). Though there are exceptions to this, the average popular submission on StumbleUpon would fall short (even in the long-run) of the average Digg submission.
With its “social search” upgrade, however, StumbleUpon combines the authority of Google rankings with the likes and dislikes of your network of friends on the social site to provide cumulatively better (and more visible in search) results. If we revisit the above-mentioned article with the StumbleUpon Toolbar enabled, this is what we see:
Not only is the article already highly ranked on Google, but because it did well on StumbleUpon, it is even more visible and authoritative to the over 4 million active Stumblers. The images around the link show you if the article has already been liked/disliked, how well it has been rated and reviewed, which (if any) of your friends also liked the submission, and which category it was discovered in.
The Del.icio.us effect
The Del.icio.us story is very much like the StumbleUpon story. Although the site does send a substantial number of visitors to you if you manage to get to bookmarked all the way to the site’s “hotlist,” there is no long-term value created otherwise (from a marketer’s or content producer’s point of view). Now, however, Yahoo is testing Delicious integration in search results, and is widely expected to make this a permanent feature, raising the link value of a Delicious bookmark significantly.
The integration is very similar to the StumbleUpon social search integration:
In these search results can see how many people bookmarked a link, followed by relevant tags people entered for each link. Much like StumbleUpon, this will increase the visibility of your content that is popular on social news sites, regardless of how well the content is otherwise ranked on search.
Ranking versus visibility
One misconception a lot of people have is that Digg is the be-all end-all. It’s true that Digg is the site that sends you the most traffic and helps you improve your search ranking through link building, but if you look at the above-mentioned initiatives from StumbleUpon and Del.icio.us, you will realize that they’re just as worthwhile. Even though they don’t always explicitly increase your search ranking, they implicitly increase it by making your content more visible.
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
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