As the web changes, so do the guidelines, rules and strategies for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This past week, I had a meeting with a client was incredibly keen on the idea of using social media as a way of optimizing his main site (more on that after the site’s official launch date, I assure you) and his overall web presence.
It’s no secret that this is a tactic that I employ to promote Tell Ten Friends. As much as I am a member of various online communities for the sake of the community itself, I also recognize the value of those incoming links, and the “web cred” it gives me to be so well connected online. The truth is, my business is a big part of who I am, and so it stands to reason that I promote it and link to it throughout my various online haunts.
With the onset of “Web 2.0,” a new list of guidelines apply in addition to the usual SEO tips of old. In fact, as tagging and self-publishing become more prevalent among users, the “old ways” of SEO will become less and less relevant. In the meantime, new technologies and codes already require a shift in your current SEO game plan. See this article by Jason Barnes of Jay and Silent Rob for a better explanation of this. And thanks to Jay for being the spark that ignited this entry.
I’ve often remarked how my blog content is infinitely more popular than my “static” content, and that should come as no surprise, with a number of faithful subscribers and a smattering of incoming links each week from other bloggers across the web. But I still maintain a higher number of new visitors each week, and enough referrals from things like my MySpace page to make it worth keeping the damn thing live. As you probably already know, as your traffic numbers grow, so does page rank, and the effect is not unlike a snowball rolling downhill. Actually, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that it is like pushing a snowball on flat land, because it requires constant effort, and the rewards are gradual. By constant effort, I mean publishing fresh content that can be consumed by interested visitors and indexed by search engines Google, as well as keeping your various other online profile info up to date.
Again, none of this comes as a surprise to fellow bloggers, online content experts or SEO specialists. But then, regular readers here know that I dedicate a great deal of time shedding light on all things web for regular users, the masses, who are just beginning to realize that there is a “new web” out there for them to discover.
Presumably, these changes in the way we use the web are what spurred Linda to create a blog dedicated to the subject of “Social Media Optimization.” Still a very new blogger, Linda works marketing, specializing in SEO, and is now turned on to the idea that online community involvement is about more than just search results.
Now, I love the time that I spend networking online, sharing ideas, content and “crowdsourcing” great ideas among the virtual collective. It gives me a rush when my user-generated-content generates discussion and incoming links among readers and friends online. But my point is, there are bottom-line benefits too, regardless of what the cynics have to say:
-My blog has generated almost a dozen warm leads since I launched the company earlier this year, of which three have become clients.
-Two more have come directly from MySpace. (Real leads too, not MLM and ‘get rich quick’ schemes)
-Via Flickr and various blogs by Vancouverites, I have “met” scores of online contacts, who I feel like I know when I meet them in the real world.
-Last week, I bumped into someone I recognized in Second Life, where we agreed to meet for coffee (in the real world, that is) in the New Year.
What does it all mean?
From a personal standpoint, I think it means we’re moving toward a time when companies (especially small-to-medium enterprises) will be evaluated by potential customers for a new list of criteria that will include their level of involvement in online communities, or at the very least, their level accessibility to those customers. From a more scientific standpoint, in terms of SEO, it means that if you have a static site with no opportunity for the community to stay in touch, or worse, no reason for them to return, you’ll soon be trumped by smaller companies with better, more dynamic online presence.
Like it has since its inception, the web lets you connect with a much larger audience. The new web takes this one step further. It allows even more connectedness, a better two-way exchange between publisher and user, and democratizes those definitions, too; now, any user can be their own publisher, building their own community, in a matter of minutes.
Bottom line: Small business people, join and contribute to your favourite online communities. Big business, consider building a relevant, useful online community for your customers and evangelists. It’s not right for everyone, but if you value the idea of community and want to be closer connected to your customer base and their feedback, it just might be right for you.
(As an example how my brain works, read this over again, and see how it goes from an article about SEO to the importance of being involved in online communities. ADD, anyone?)