In our previous post, Get Found on Social Media – Part 2, we continued our series on how you can make it easier for people to find your social media efforts. In this post, we take a look at how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help get you found on social media.
Search Engine Optimization
It shouldn’t be news to you that Google is most often the top way users find Websites. Your site will probably be no different. So you need to make sure that Google can find you and that when they do, they categorize you properly, and rank you highly.
The art and science of ensuring high placement on Google and other search engines is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A related technique known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) encompasses SEO and also adds online advertising on Google and other search engines. We talked about advanced Google usage to find your community in the post Advanced Google Searching for Social Media. Now let’s turn that idea — finding interesting people using keyword searches — around: How can you be found via keyword searches? That’s what SEO is all about.
The basic goal of SEO is to ensure that when people use search words that are relevant to what you do they find you on the first page of search results. This is generally done, at least in part, by selecting a set of keywords that are highly relevant to your site, and then optimize your site to feature these keywords. We led you through this exercise in the post Partner and Cross-Promote on Social Media.
There are lots of SEO consultants out there that will guarantee first page placement, and some are quite good, while others haven’t a clue, so it’s best to have a basic understanding of SEO before you consider using one.
All of them do some combination of the following SEO techniques. We only scratch the surface of a very deep subject here, but many of these techniques you can do yourself without high-priced consultants.
We’re indebted to a very fine post on ClickZ by P.J. Fusco for much of the structure and material in this list. It’s one of the most concise and comprehensive lists of SEO techniques we’ve read.
- Optimize Title Tags
The title of a page is the part that shows at the very top of your browser window. It’s the part that is above the toolbar. It must describe the purpose of the page and it should also identify your site.The title tag of every page should begin with a uniquely optimal keyword phrase and end with consistent branding, such as the name of your business, or the name of the site.The words at the beginning of the title tag have more prominence and weight than the words at the end. The target length for title tags should be 65 characters (with spaces). The major engines recognize and index title tags beyond 120 characters, but only 65 characters are visible in the search results.
- Ensure Each Page Has a Theme
Just as you were taught in school that every paragraph needs a topic sentence, so each Webpage needs a topic, or a theme. This helps the search engine categorize your page correctly. If you’re tempted to dump all sorts of marginally-related information onto your yard-long pages, the search engines aren’t going to like you.
- Optimize Heading Tags
Second to the title tag, the <h1> is the most prominent location to accentuate your keywords. If you’re not familiar with the HTML <h1>, or heading, tag, it’s generally the first and largest heading on the page. It often is the title of a post or a section of a Website.There should be only one <h1> heading tag on a page, and like the title tag, it should begin with the optimal keyword phrase. Additional <h2> and <h3> tags, which denote secondary and tertiary heading tags, should help complement the targeted theme of each page. Unlike <h1> tags, there can be more than one <h2> or <h3> tags per page.
- Optimize Body Copy
The text of each page should contain introductory copy or a summary of the page text. Body copy should consist of at least three sentences with a minimum of 150 words. You should try to mention your target keywords as many times as you can in your body copy, without becoming annoying or unreadable. The general rule is to try for four mentions of a keyword per page. Of course if you have a set of 10 keywords, the result could be gibberish, so here’s where the art comes in.
- Create a Meta Description
A meta description is an invisible page component that is part of the HTML page header. You see it only when your page shows up in search results. Each page should have a meta description even though having one won’t improve rankings in the search engines. The major search engines ignore the meta description for the purposes of indexing your page. Having a good meta description can, however, increase the likelihood of users clicking on search results.Meta descriptions should be unique to each page and should contain no more than 265 characters. Typically, however, only the first 150 characters (including spaces) are displayed in the search engine results pages, so the meta description should include the relevant keyword phrases and end with a call to action.
- Create Meta Keywords
Meta keywords, like the meta description, are invisible parts of the HTML page header. They are lists of words that the page author think are important to describe the content of the page.Google and Bing pay no attention to meta keywords. Yahoo only reviews meta keywords for misspellings that might affect their indexing of the page. You should insert three or four keywords per page, ensuring that the words are pulled from the page. If they’re not, don’t bother producing keywords at all. Nonetheless, don’t make meta keywords a critical part of your keyword strategy.
- Optimize Alternative Attributes
You may have seen descriptions pop up when you run your mouse over a graphic or a link on a Webpage. These are known as alternative attributes, or alt tags for short. Create keyword-rich alt tags for all graphics and images. Also create mouse-over text for any links on the page.
- Optimize Videos
If you are embedding videos on your Webpage, follow conventional title tag and meta data standards as already outlined. Embed one video per page and organize video content around the structures of your pages, sections, and the site.If you are using a YouTube channel for hosting videos, ensure that you optimize the following YouTube fields using your keywords:
There are plenty of other aspects of SEO beyond optimizing your site and its content. One very popular and effective technique is to increase the number and quality of the inbound links to your site.
An inbound link is when another site links to you. Google assigns a rank to all sites, and if a more-highly-ranked site links to your site, it confers some of its rank — its prestige — to your site. Plus, the more inbound links you have, in general, the more highly you will rank. And the more highly your site ranks, the more highly placed it will be on Google search results. Google takes a dim view of such site and may penalize you for linking to them.
A common way to increase a site’s rank is to run an inbound link campaign. This involves contacting other, highly-ranked sites, and asking them if they’ll link to you. It can be tedious, but it can also be quite rewarding. Beware of those who want to link to you in return for a reciprocal link. Be sure the requesting site is reputable and not what is known as a link farm — a site that exists to try to game the Google system so that they’ll get increased ad revenue.
As we’ve said, SEO and SEM are very deep and complex topics and you really may need a consultant to move much beyond the advice we’ve given here. Just be careful of too-good-to-be-true claims. It generally costs hundreds or thousands of dollars per month to stay on top of search engine results. Those who claim to be able to do this for you for less may not be able to deliver.
There are few absolutes in the world of SEO, but one of them is that as soon as someone figures out how to game the search engines, they’ll change their ranking techniques, and perhaps penalize previously-effective SEO techniques.
Get Found on Social Media – Part 3 is the 64th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 208. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV
See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1
 You’ve seen mouseover text when you’ve moved the cursor over a link on a page, and popped up a little description.