SMO and the Art of "Tweaking"

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Seth Godin yesterday posted about his concept of tweakers – a name he has coined for people who make things better without changing the original intent.  He has created a lens on Squidoo about it, and describes web tweakers as "firms (or passionate individuals) who can take your website and, without overhauling the whole thing, make it better. Adjust the type or the pictures or the wording or the site map and make it sing."  The concept got me thinking about the role of Social Media Optimization in the development or redevelopment of a website.  There have been a few folks recently talking about how SMO might be better categorized as just a part of search marketing or as a subset of Search Engine Optimization.  To start, I should note that I am not overly sensitive about categories or turf battles.  I think if the premise of SMO helps someone to improve their site visibility, it doesn’t really matter which silo marketers need to fit it into.  But, because there seems to be some discussion out there – I think it’s important to note the difference between SMO and SEO.  I was tempted to do a nice graph, with pros and cons, or something similarly authoritative.  Unfortunately, I think the difference is much simpler than that …

SEO is essentially about improving a website’s visibility on search engines.  As such, it often requires wholesale changes to design, layout, content and coding in order to achieve this goal.  Search engines are based on algorithms and set rules, and SEO is about knowing those rules and optimizing a site to live within them.  SMO, on the other hand, is all about helping content to spread from person to person.  It is social.  The best SMO activity on a site might still leave the site unranked on relevant searches.  This may be unlikely, due to the nature of how search engines work, but the point of SMO is to help site visitors share content with one another, and navigate between related content.  Which brings me to the relationship of SMO to tweaking.  Many of the original rules of SMO could be easily considered "tweaks" – such as adding quick links for tagging, syndicating content through rss or submitting content to relevant sites.  These are not changes that require a full development team weeks to implement.  The basics of SMO are simply tweaks – and this is what makes this idea so powerful.  Of course, there is much more than tweaks that fit into SMO, which is where getting more professional advice from interactive marketing professionals comes in.  At some point, most websites need more than tweaks – but as Seth notes, there is a huge demand for these "tweakers" … and for many sites out there, implementing the basics of SMO may be the ultimate tweak.

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