Optimizing Social Content for SEO

As the distinctive Internet marketing areas of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media become more interlaced, Web professionals must be aware of how social content can affect their search marketing efforts.

The traditional conversation about SEO usually revolves around old staples like metadata or link building, but social media has changed all of that. This evolution is marked primarily by the desire of many users to interact and engage with content they find in search results.

Great Expectations

Because of these new expectations, SEO has now become just as much about a brand's social content as it is about on-page SEO factors. For online marketers of all shapes and sizes, this means trying to balance their ranking optimization and display optimization on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Ranking optimization is merely conventional SEO, in which one wants to procure the highest possible ranking position for their website/page for a specific search query. Display optimization is a less familiar term for some, but refers to the art of making content visible in other sections of SERPs, such as personalized searches, time subsections, or search subsections, all of which are more socially influenced.

With everything on the Web becoming more personal, especially Google searches, social content grows in importance, requiring more of an emphasis on display optimization. Because of this, publishers should be aware of the fact that their content is likely to appear in these other sections of the SERPs based on the amount of social activity it sees.

Creating Socially Aware Content

Any content that can be searched should (obviously) be optimized for relevant search queries, but it should also include additional social elements that increase its potential for virality. This includes adding social signals or share buttons to on-site content (such as a Google +1 or Facebook Like). But adding social elements is no match for heavily promoting and linking content on social media properties. Basically, the idea is to display content across a publisher's primary site and social media channels, and make it easy for others to share it, as well.

Web pros can easily produce social content by blogging. Blog posts are among the most shareable types of content on the Web, and those that provide unique value to readers and foster engagement are a goldmine when it comes to SEO. Posts that are especially viral include how-to pieces, resource lists, and interviews, along with many others. Of course, publishers aren't limited to just text posts, as they can also offer images or video (both of which are probably more likely to be shared, anyway) on their blogs, websites, or social network profiles.

Optimizing content for social search also works hand-in-hand with long tail SEO practices, as the material that one publishes can utilize his or her long tail keywords. Publishing material with an eye on display optimization for long tail terms will increase the likelihood that searchers will look at it, as it provides unique information about the more detailed, specific query they were searching for, thus making it relevant to them. Offering social content for the long tail is a great way to get your stuff in front of niche consumers, and encouraging shares/likes/retweets means that they may share it with other interested parties.

It's also worth noting that for a little while now, Google has been pushing to make content more social (largely because of Google+), and one of these initiatives has been highlighting individual authors, as opposed to just a website or business. This places an author's name, picture, and reputation next to their content in the SERPs, and can be a major boon to the SEO efforts of the publisher, as it adds authenticity and authority to their content. By attaching the authorship tag (rel=author) to a blog post, one can include an additional social layer to their content.

Going beyond keywords and links and finding a balance between traditional SEO and optimizing for social search is a necessity these days for most online marketers. Hopefully, it is looked at as less of a burden and more of an opportunity to reach relevant consumers and grow their audience using nothing more than their own original content.