Just when you thought you had the hang of SEO and SEM to drive traffic to your publication’s Web site, along comes another acronym for you to master: SMO (social media optimization). SMO was coined by Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations in 2006 and is a set of tactics to get more exposure for your site in social media (blogs, forums, social bookmarking sites, and so on). The goal of SMO is to make it as easy as possible for others to link to your content and thus get as many inbound links to your site as possible. This in turn leads to more traffic to your Web site and more traffic equals more revenue opportunity.

Rohit created five rules for social media optimization (see links at end of this article), and several others have contributed more rules along the way. At last count there were 17 rules altogether, but they were written primarily for marketers. Here is my adaptation of the SMO rules to create the Seven Rules of Social Media Optimization for Publishers:

  1. Increase Your Site’s Linkability
    You’ve got to give people something to link to. Make sure you have good content and frequently update it. Next, make your content URLs easy to link to. Finally, don’t move your content URLs. It takes a lot of work and time to get people to link to your content. The last thing you want to do is break all of those links when you do a redesign of your site.
  2. Make Tagging and Bookmarking Easy
    Somewhere on each content page where it’s easy to see, put links to major social bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious, and to personal portal sites and RSS aggregators like Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. With a single click, visitors to your site can add your content to these sites giving you valuable inbound links to drive both direct traffic and improve your search engine rankings. The graphic below shows an example from a b-to-b publisher that is doing it right. This toolbar is located at the bottom of every single article on its site.
  3. Develop and Promote RSS Feeds and Widgets
    Make it easy for other people to integrate your content and tools onto their own Web site. RSS feeds are the most common way to do this. RSS lets other outlets easily find and use your content (or at least just the headlines and decks) so that you get more exposure for your content and more inbound links. But RSS also requires that those other sites have the technical ability to read the feeds and re-publish them on their sites. Give people small "widgets";a simple line of code that people can cut and paste directly into their Web site without any further programming.
  4. Reward Inbound Links
    SMO is all about inbound links, and people who link to you like to be recognized and should be rewarded. Find ways to promote the blogs, forums, social networks, and other sites that link to you.
  5. Participate
    Someone on your editorial team should be responsible for setting up an account in the major social networking sites like Delicious, MySpace, and Digg, to put links on them to your own content. Your editors should actively participate in appropriate blogs and forums and post regularly.
  6. Be Real
    When bookmarking your content or participating in a community, be sure that the content is appropriately tagged and categorized, and that you put thoughtful commentary with it that is relevant. If you do not, you will be instantly recognized as simply self-promoting rather than truly contributing to the community.
  7. Monitor SMO on Your Own Site
    Don’t be afraid to allow advertisers and even competitors to post comments on your site or participate in your community. Allow them to use their URL in their signature blocks. However, do be very vigilant and make sure they are not blatantly promoting their own products in an inappropriate way and do constantly ensure they are providing useful and relevant commentary when they do participate.

For more about SMO, you can read Rohit Bhargava’s original post on the topic on his blog. Once there, search on social media. Also, search-engine guru Danny Sullivan is an excellent resource on this topic. Search on his name.

Eric Shanfelt is president and founder of eMedia Strategist, Inc., a consulting firm helping b-to-b and consumer media companies develop their online business. Learn more about Eric at www.emediastrategist.com.

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