For years now, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for websites has
been honed into a fine art with entire companies devoting considerable
effort to defining best practices and touting the value of SEO for
raising a site’s performance on organic search listings.  While I
believe in the power of SEO, there is a new offering we have started
providing to clients which we call Social Media Optimization
(SMO).  The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to
optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly
visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as
Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs,
podcasts and vlogs.  Here are 5 rules we use to help guide our
thinking with conducting an SMO for a client’s website:

  1. Increase your linkability – This is the first
    and most important priority for websites.  Many sites are “static”
    – meaning they are rarely updated and used simply for a
    storefront.  To optimize a site for social media, we need to
    increase the linkability of the content.  Adding a blog is a great
    step, however there are many other ways such as creating white papers
    and thought pieces, or even simply aggregating content that exists elsewhere into a useful format.
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy – Adding content
    features like quick buttons to “add to” are one way to make
    the process of tagging pages easier, but we go beyond this, making sure
    pages include a list of relevant tags, suggested notes for a link
    (which come up automatically when you go to tag a site), and making
    sure to tag our pages first on popular social bookmarking sites
    (including more than just the homepage).
  3. Reward inbound links – Often used as a barometer
    for success of a blog (as well as a website), inbound links are
    paramount to rising in search results and overall rankings.  To
    encourage more of them, we need to make it easy and provide clear
    rewards.  From using Permalinks to recreating Similarly, listing
    recent linking blogs on your site provides the reward of visibility for
    those who link to you
  4. Help your content travel – Unlike much of SEO, SMO
    is not just about making changes to a site.  When you have content
    that can be portable (such as PDFs, video files and audio files),
    submitting them to relevant sites will help your content travel
    further, and ultimately drive links back to your site.   
  5. Encourage the mashup – In a world of co-creation, it pays to be more open about letting others use your content (within reason).  YouTube’s
    idea of providing code to cut and paste so you can imbed videos from
    their site has fueled their growth.  Syndicating your content
    through RSS also makes it easy for others to create mashups that can drive traffic or augment your content.

There are many other “rules” and techniques that we are starting to
uncover as this idea gets more sophisticated.  In the meantime we
are always on the lookout for new ideas in Social Media Optimization to
encourage even better thinking.  Perhaps we may even see the rise
of entire groups or agencies devoted to SMO in the future …

Update (8/13/06): Jeremiah Owyang has added Rules 6 and 7

Update (08/15/06): Cameron Olthuis has added Rules 8, 9, 10, and 11

Update (08/16/06): Loren Baker has added Rules 12 and 13

Update (08/17/06): Lee Odden has added Rules 14, 15 and 16