How to SEO your site: Episode 4 - Social news as an SEO tool
I'm not an SEO analyst nor am I a PPC guru; I'm a web developer who just happens to spend too much time blogging and on the Internet - this means I have a broader opinion of SEO and how it can be used to your advantage. A conventional SEO analyst wouldn't dare of quoting something as lucrative as social news as an SEO tool but there is sufficient reasoning behind my thinking.
How could social news ever be related to SEO?
The Internet moves quickly and you need to move with it. Social news is a massive figure in the Internet landscape so to avoid it would be silly, especially when you've seen first hand the effects it can have on your content. The problem with social news is that it is lucrative, difficult and very circumstancial - which makes it inconsistent and frustrating but equally worthwhile if leveraged properly. Before I use any more adjectives it's worth explaining what social news is.
What is social news/bookmarking?
Social news is where a user base decides on the value of the news they are presented with - essentially giving items a thumbs up or a thumbs down depending on whether they think it's worthwhile or not. This uses the wisdom of crowds philosophy; if you're given a large enough number of users they will automatically seek out the best content and award it as such. In context this means that only the worthwhile pieces of news are deemed popular. Sites such as Digg and Reddit are major players in this. Whether social news or social bookmarking; both models require a positive action from a percentage of the userbase before that specific news item is "promoted" to the front page where the mainstream will find it.
Okay, so why should I care?
Social news sites carry a lot of traffic because the very best content is automatically presented to you without having to dig around (get it?). Therefore these sites are where a lot of savvy readers go to get their news; many blog about what they find. Therefore if you're able to write content that is deemed worthy, being made popular on these social sites suddenly sends thousands upon thousands of visitors to your site. Some users will choose to blog about what you've done and it is here that the SEO gains are made.
Get some news published and the backlinks pour in
Social news is one of the best ways of securing free publicity for your site, certainly more effective than landing an expensive PPC campaign on your homepage (unless you're selling a product). If people like what you're doing they'll write about you = backlinks. Lesser news sites that feed off the larger ones will also pick up your content = backlinks. Users will then find your content through the lesser news sites, like your content and blog about it = backlinks. Other users will read the blogs of others and blog about it themselves = backlinks. Getting your content popular on a social news site is the equivalent of sending your content viral, with a network of backlinks connecting the dots.
Easier said than done?
Absolutely - because you're dealing with the wisdom of crowds it becomes difficult. Users are savvy enough to spot shameless self promotion when they see it, so your only hope is writing link bait. Link bait is a piece of content tailored to the demographic you're trying to reach: in this case you need to have useful information presented in an easy-to-read manner to attract the attention you need. Social news users are lazy so you need to spoon feed them your content in bite-sized pieces. I recently wrote a post explaining how to get success with social news sites which paraphrases another post I made back in February (how to get on the Digg front page). With these two posts you should have a rough idea of how to leverage social news sites; it's a case of writing good link bait and having the tenacity to keep trying when you fail.
This was quite a short "how to SEO your website" episode but next time we're going to be looking at something quite clever - how to use competitions and give-aways as an SEO tool, discussing the pros and cons of doing this and the maths required to make it work. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to the feed (below) and come back for episode five.
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