A special guest article from my friend Dave Taylor
One of the things I’ve learned running my tech support site AskDave Taylor.com for almost a decade is that sustained visibility is built on participation. Well, participation or a lot of money to spend on ad campaigns that let you substitute dollars for time. Either way, being popular online is critical to the success of our business, whether the business itself is online or not. In a nutshell, more traffic = more transactions.
Even from its first days, Google has been about popularity in a way that previous search engines (notably Yahoo) weren’t. If you have more inbound links, if there are more other sites pointing to your site, you’d rank higher in the search results and garner more traffic from user searches. Fairly straightforward, even if difficult to accomplish.
The last year or two have seen a distinct shift towards social media, however, and that poses an even greater challenge because now it’s not about people linking to your Web site from their blog or Web site, but people “liking” your content, sharing your posts, tweeting URLs and even posting material on Google Plus or Pinterest. The buzzword we use for that? Social signals. It’s still the same basic concept, though: if more people share your content, you’ll be considered more valuable and rank higher in the search results.
But how the heck do you do that? How do you produce content that’s so good that people want to click “Like” or “+1”, to share or retweet, or to repost on their own Pinboards? Let’s have a look…
Facebook Edge Rank
Understanding how Facebook works can make a world of difference in gaining popularity on the site. Facebook filters your newsfeed based on whom of your friends you actually engage with online. This means you can exploit the Facebook algorithm to ensure your every status update has maximal readers by being sporadically controversial. Fact is, you can never be too controversial in your posts.
As an example, I posted a fairly neutral question about the Second Amendment of the US Constitution on Facebook recently, and within a few hours it had almost 100 comments as gun control advocates argued with gun enthusiasts. Works for me.
Popular posts — even those where people are debating — help your other posts on Facebook become more visible to your followers through Facebook’s “edge rank” algorithm. What this effectively means is that my next post on Facebook will be seen by more people because the system sees that my posts generate discussion, likes, and sharing.
Promote Others to Become Interesting
Twitter’s the ideal place to practice this tactic, but it works on every social media site: share unto others as you’d like to have them share unto you. Or something like that. 🙂
The basic idea is that you should retweet others on Twitter to both build a following and ensure that your own Twitter stream is more than just self-promotion. If you’re participating in the Twitterverse, retweeting and responding to posts by others, they’ll be much more likely to share your posts.
In fact, I recommend you also use the mobile Twitter app to allow you to post sporadic updates based on films you’re seeing, concerts you attend, hikes you take, or even TV shows you watch. The more you mix it up between advertisements for your Web content and other content, the more likely people will actually pay attention to your Twitter stream and respond. And retweets of your content are easily analyzed by Google to increase your site’s popularity and ranking.
Content Is Still Important
I teach classes on search engine optimization and one theme I really push is that a Web site with poor content and great SEO is like a restaurant with a beautiful facade and no chef: you can get people to your home page, but no-one’s ever going to engage. Keep that in mind and ensure that you have great content on your site, content that’s good enough to share, and keep it fresh. Google, it turns out, doesn’t really like old Web pages and a site with lots of new content is a site that is going to move up the rankings and increase in traffic.
Content is also important on any social media sites you want to utilize. Don’t just post links to your blog posts on Google Plus, actually share photos, funny news stories, other posts with your followers. Same with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc etc etc, ad nauseum. (you know what I mean!)
Engage and Participate
Finally, don’t forget that at its heart, the Web is a massive social community, so spend the time to engage in discussions too. It’s not a one way street. Follow interesting people and participate in discussions that are related to your area of expertise. Becoming known in your customer community is a great way to build a reputation and that’s ultimately what helps most online companies thrive, because trust, credibility and authority are the cornerstones of any successful commercial Web site.
And here’s a great place to start: leave a comment on this post.
What do you think about what I’m suggesting and how does it align with your own online strategy?
Guest article thanks to: Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since before the turn of the millennium and can be found on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, and just about every other social site. He also helps companies find their own social media marketing strategies and welcomes email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org