Thanks to Google’s elimination of exact phrase matching and implementation of search personalization, SEO rules have changed. Websites can no longer compete against each other for first page rankings because results are no longer standardized.
However, don’t toss out SEO just yet. Keyword optimization is still important, but Google relies on latent semantic indexing (LSI) more than individual keywords to determine the value of a page.
LSI in a nutshell
Rather than looking only for keywords and phrases, Google’s algorithm identifies whether the content is relevant to a user’s search by looking for phrases related to their search terms. When it comes to being found in the search engines, context, not content, is king.
Although important, SEO is no longer a guaranteed strategy to bring you relevant leads. However, social media optimization is. By understanding it, you can leverage it.
Social media optimization doesn’t increase SERP ranking
SMO is not a technique to boost your website’s ranking in the SERPs. In fact, it’s completely unrelated. Social media optimization is a method of efficiently engaging your target market through social platforms.
The goal of SMO is to make your content easily shareable across social media platforms. It’s important because many websites get more traffic from social media than they do from Google. For example, this chart shows how Comedy Central, Forever 21, Etsy, and other websites receive more traffic from social networks than from Google.
Social media optimization is designed to drive qualified traffic
The user experience of a website determines its value, not its technical structure alone. SMO is a long-term strategy that develops trust and authority through an active social presence. The more value people derive from your content, the more they’ll engage with you and share your content with friends.
As of February 2017, nearly 50% of webpages were viewed from a mobile device. Remember that the goal of SMO is to make your content shareable, so pay close attention to how your content appears to mobile users. Here are a couple of tips:
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Just because your WordPress theme says it’s “mobile ready” doesn’t mean it looks good on a mobile device. It takes skill to build good mobile layouts. Look for yourself to make sure your site looks professional on a mobile screen. Make sure your pages have appropriate share buttons so mobile visitors can share your page without having to dig through their Facebook newsfeed to rediscover your post.
- Create a Google My Business listing. Instead of typing out your phone number and hours on social media each time you’re hosting an event or a large sale, link to your Google My Business listing instead. Once on your listing, mobile users can click on your phone number to call, or click on “directions” to get driving directions.
It’s not a stretch to say having a Google My Business listing contributes to safer driving. Although nobody should be looking up directions while driving, providing directions with a single click does reduce the amount of driver distraction.
A December 2014 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that “in 2013, 21,132 passenger vehicle occupants were killed and 2,046,000 were injured in traffic collisions on U.S. roadways.” Many of these incidents were due to distracted driving.
Don’t get swindled by impossible ranking promises
Anyone who promises you a first page ranking on Google using any method is suspicious. Due to search personalization for every user, that promise is impossible to fulfill. The results one person sees on the first page will not be exactly what others see, even for the same search phrase.
It’s easy to manipulate results to make it look like this promise has been fulfilled.
When you’re trying to generate traffic, you want to put your site in front of people who haven’t been to your website. That’s what a solid, long-term SMO plan is for.
Google doesn’t use social signals to rank your website
A few years ago, rumor had it that Google was using social signals to rank webpages. The idea was the more your links were shared, the higher they ranked in the SERPs. Some SEO companies added this to their list of services, and people paid thousands of dollars to have their website URLs tweeted and posted across Facebook.
In 2014, Matt Cutts published a video dispelling this myth. According to Cutts, Google doesn’t use social signals because they’re often blocked from crawling social sites. Also, social media content is subject to constant change, which cripples their ability to rank objectively.
Although social signals aren’t used directly to rank your website, Cutts emphasizes the importance of using SMO to be ranked as an authority in your industry. Being seen as an authority is the secret to getting more traffic from social media than search engines.