Is SMO the new black? close

Agnieszka Oslak
Agnieszka Oslak
In Musings, Codegent College
18th November 2010
Is SMO the new black?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has been around forever, but with the emergence of Social Media, should brands focus their effort in SMO (Social Media Optimisation) instead?

The number of people turning to social networks for answers is growing exponentially and social media is currently the fastest developing tool for branding, customer acquisition and retention. 

Up until recently, webmasters and marketers used SEO techniques to get top rankings in search engines and drive traffic by hitting their target audiences with customised messages based on the most relevant keywords. Now, SMO potentially gives us an opportunity to create responsive and timely dialogues with our audiences. With SMO ,traffic is driven by two way interactions. But is SMO a bit of a flash in the pan, or should we be ploughing all our efforts into this now and worry less about SEO?

Let’s have a look at both of them:

SEO – is a part of Search Engine Marketing (alongside PPC) has grown from being a small wildcat operation run by webmasters to a multi-million pound industry. SEO aims to improve your visibility in the search engines via natural (unpaid) search results. Many factors determine the success of your campaign and the fact that Google keeps the exact ways in which it measures the relevancy of a particular phrase a secret means that it can be something of a black art to get it right. It requires constant monitoring and refinement. 

SMO - has only become popular in the past few years as the use of social networking sites has exploded. Some argue that since Google’s PageRank is social by nature all Social Networks should be considered as the new SEO. The value of SMO builds over time as the content acts as a permanent archive and creates a “long tail”. And, every piece of UGC (User Generated Content) becomes in itself a SEO landing page. By using SMO your Google rankings can be significantly increased as once you have harnessed your social channels the response is instant and leads to social recommendations, backlinks and enhancements. The success mainly depends on the content so the more interesting and up to date your content is the more traffic from Search Engines you attract. Through SMO you can also encourage influential groups, networks and individuals to spread your content further and share it with their audiences, resulting in a series of healthy keyword-optimised backlinks along the way.

Emerging trends:

  • Location based recommendation engines - one of the fastest-growing segments of the tech industry.  Increased focus on personalised and localised searches (Google Places). Search engines are accommodating the geographic and personal preferences of the user which results in predicted, tailored search results.
  • HotSpot – Google users will be encouraged to rate and review businesses directly from their Google-linked profile. Also, Google plans to add "layers" of social networking to Gmail
  • Real time search – social media content will enjoy more real estate on search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Optimisation for mobile search - text-based queries (i.e. SnapTell). Increased focus on websites that are correctly optimised for mobile apps. The current 5% of total web browsing is done on mobile and will increase up to 15% by the end of 2011.
  • Increase in link value for “in context”/quality pages/posts
  • Rise of Yahoo and Bing – may grow from current 15% of total web search traffic to 20% by the end of 2011
  • Decrease in the proportion of client-side companies carrying out both SEO and paid search since 2009
  • The growth of SEO scams that results in paid search scams can drive up PPC costs and intercept traffic that is searching for the legitimate site.
  • Social media integration – Google is expected to combine popular social networks and feeds into the normal search results (as it is for Twitter already). Facebook/Twitter pages potentially may become like physical addresses in Google Places
  • Companies committing a larger portion of their budget towards social media strategies with Facebook and Twitter ever dominant. More than half of companies (56%) are planning to boost social media budgets by more than 20%
  • Group buying (Groupon) – gives the ability to share deals with friends. The whole sector spreads fast and is expected to continue in a big way over the next couple of years with copy cat services
  • Questions and answers sites – social media is making collective knowledge easier to spread (i.e. Quora) and drive traffic
  • Twitter - promoted tweets, real-time information with commercial value
  • Privacy issues – users’ tendency to turn into the companies that offer the most valuable experience alongside the reassurance that they act responsibly with our personal data
  • Facebook credits – expected to be ubiquitous across the web within 2 years as people use the trusted platform to by all sorts of things
  • Facebook email service (Project Titan) – the value added to existing database of information. From a commercial point of view, it has vastly more potential than the information that Google collects by knowing what we type into its search engine.

What does this all mean apart from the fact that things are moving so fast it’s difficult to keep up? Social Media is here to stay for the foreseeable future and we ignore its impact at our peril. The way we are perceived on Social Media will inevitably have an impact on the way we are shown in Search Engines and vice versa. As Google becomes a central part of everyone’s social media experience, it will be increasingly impossible to distinguish where SEO starts and SMO begins. We need to need to be good at both!