Social Media Optimization has been hitting the big time at several recent events on web marketing including a session entirely devoted to SMO at the recent SES Chicago conference last week and discussion of SMO at the recent Vegas Pubcon WebMaster conference.  I was reading Lee Odden’s recap of the session that featured many smart folks in the world of interactive marketing, including Neil Patel, Andy Hagans, Rand Fishkin, and Todd Malicoat.  I really wish I had been in town to be able to attend the event and participate, but reading some of the posts about the event and session, it seems that the concept of SMO was introduced to the entire audience of search marketing professionals at the event and some even considered it the main theme of the entire event.

Clearly, SMO is growing up – and finding lots of advocates and experts that are introducing new tools for SMO, talking about smart techniques and sharing insights and expertise.  But why has the concept taken off in such a big way?  Others have been talking about Social Media Marketing, or Consumer Generated Marketing, or Content Co-creation.  In short, there are lots of new concepts being introduced by smart folks every day in the world of interactive marketing.  Why is SMO different?  Here are a few thoughts on what the secrets behind the growing popularity of SMO might be:

  1. SMO connects search marketing to social media. Over the past few years, search marketing has been the darling of the interactive marketing community, with more and more time and sessions at just about every online marketing event dedicated to search.  Yet recently, the new darling of this same community is social media and viral/wom marketing.  SMO bridges the gap between the two, and so far has been primarily driven by those in the search marketing community.
  2. SMO is about optimization.  Part of the reason why SEO is so popular is that is focuses on a site or blog that already exists.  For many organizations or individuals, the concept of SEO offers an attractive alternative to conducting a redesign, rebranding, or more hugely involving activities.  Optimizing a site that already exists makes sense.  SEO makes sense.  SMO offers the same appeal.
  3. SMO is actionable.  This could easily be first on the list, but all the initial discussions about SMO on several blogs were centered around "rules."  Though conversation has gotten much broader, the fact remains that there are tangible things that webmasters, bloggers and just about anyone else can do to implement SMO on their sites.  This makes SMO a concept that can be easily understood and used by anyone who has a site online – and not just web marketing pros. 

There are probably many more reasons for the emerging popularity of SMO, but moving into 2007 I imagine we will see a greater number of examples of how SMO can be used as part of an overall interactive marketing strategy designed to promote content, foster conversations and links, and drive site traffic.