5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)

This is the original post that started the Social Media Optimization revolution and has been cited by thousands of blogs and media sources around the world.  For a more updated view, read the 5 New Rules Of Social Media Optimization published by Rohit exactly 4 years after this post on 08/10/10.

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For years now, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for websites has been honed into a fine art with entire companies devoting considerable effort to defining best practices and touting the value of SEO for raising a site's performance on organic search listings.  While I believe in the power of SEO, there is a new offering we have started providing to clients which we call Social Media Optimization (SMO).  The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and vlogs.  Here are 5 rules we use to help guide our thinking with conducting an SMO for a client's website:

  1. Increase your linkability – This is the first and most important priority for websites.  Many sites are "static" – meaning they are rarely updated and used simply for a storefront.  To optimize a site for social media, we need to increase the linkability of the content.  Adding a blog is a great step, however there are many other ways such as creating white papers and thought pieces, or even simply aggregating content that exists elsewhere into a useful format.

  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy – Adding content features like quick buttons to "add to del.icio.us" are one way to make the process of tagging pages easier, but we go beyond this, making sure pages include a list of relevant tags, suggested notes for a link (which come up automatically when you go to tag a site), and making sure to tag our pages first on popular social bookmarking sites (including more than just the homepage).
  3. Reward inbound links – Often used as a barometer for success of a blog (as well as a website), inbound links are paramount to rising in search results and overall rankings.  To encourage more of them, we need to make it easy and provide clear rewards.  From using Permalinks to recreating Similarly, listing recent linking blogs on your site provides the reward of visibility for those who link to you
  4. Help your content travel - Unlike much of SEO, SMO is not just about making changes to a site.  When you have content that can be portable (such as PDFs, video files and audio files), submitting them to relevant sites will help your content travel further, and ultimately drive links back to your site.   
  5. Encourage the mashup – In a world of co-creation, it pays to be more open about letting others use your content (within reason).  YouTube's idea of providing code to cut and paste so you can imbed videos from their site has fueled their growth.  Syndicating your content through RSS also makes it easy for others to create mashups that can drive traffic or augment your content.

There are many other "rules" and techniques that we are starting to uncover as this idea gets more sophisticated.  In the meantime we are always on the lookout for new ideas in Social Media Optimization to encourage even better thinking.  Perhaps we may even see the rise of entire groups or agencies devoted to SMO in the future …

Update (8/13/06): Jeremiah Owyang has added Rules 6 and 7

Update (08/15/06): Cameron Olthuis has added Rules 8, 9, 10, and 11

Update (08/16/06): Loren Baker has added Rules 12 and 13

Update (08/17/06): Lee Odden has added Rules 14, 15 and 16

Update (08/22/06): Jean-Marie Le Ray has translated all 16 rules into French

Update (08/22/06): Marko Derkson has translated the 16 rules into Dutch

Update (08/29/06): Marco Faré has partially translated the 16 rules into Italian

Update (08/30/06): For those interested in helping spread the word about SMO or adding rules, read my follow up post – "Adding the 17th Rule of Social Media Optimization."

Update (09/01/06): Oscar Ugaz has translated the rules into Spanish

Update (09/04/06): Marcus Puchmayer has partially translated the rules into German

Update (09/05/06): Makitani Yasuki has translated the rules into Japanese

Update (09/26/06): Alexander Lingris has translated the rules into Greek

Update (11/09/06): Luís Augusto Okamoto has translated the rules into Portuguese

Update (12/28/06): Ilia Rabchenok has translated the rules into Russian

Update (1/2/07): See below for several more articles about SMO on this blog, including my thoughts on not being the "gatekeeper" for a 17th rule to the list (for all those who have emailed me their ideas):

Update (01/09/07): Eyal Harofe has translated the rules into Hebrew

Update (11/27/07): Due to an increasing amount of spam comments on this post, comments have now been closed (old spam comments have also been removed).

Update (02/17/09): Jarern Lucklertkul has translated the rules into Thai

Have more rules to add or a translated version of the rules?  Send me a link to your post at rohitaustralia [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll add it here.  Also, I am tagging you can view all posts that reference the idea of SMO with the tag "socialmediaoptimization" on del.icio.us.

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