SEO typically refers to on-page optimizations made to improve your ranking within Google (and to a lesser extent Bing). But when you think of the myriad of websites that we all use during the course of a month, you might begin to realize that trying to get your content to “bubble up” to the largest potential audience often means getting “social” on a number of different websites.
Google has repeatedly hinted that social sharing in the form of Facebook shares, retweets, etc. count as “votes” for your web content. It’s another way – albeit less impactful than backlinks – that Google determines whether your content is respected by the community and thus a valuable inclusion in search results.
Bottom line: In general, don’t waste time trying to figure out what keywords to infuse in your social media posts; instead, work on building an audience and engaging with your industry. These are the people who will help market your content, give it “votes” in Google’s eyes, and spread it beyond your immediate network.
That being said, you should pay close attention when building out your social media profiles. While not as strong as your website’s on-page factors, inputting keywords in your profile helps create a seamless integration across all your content. You’ll probably never see a Facebook Page in the top results for “Cleveland wedding photographer”, but a search for your name will likely yield your social media sites, which should succinctly describe your business using your keyword hit list.
The major exception to this rule is Google+. SEO experts generally agree that Google built its own social media platform to take away some of Facebook’s thunder (whether this is possible or not remains to be seen). The reason they have any chance of succeeding is because Google pays very close attention to your G+ page and interactions. For more on this topic, see How Google Gets Personal and Why You Need To Know About It, #3: Google Products.
Of course, all these social media platforms have a different set of rules for what types of content sharing and self-promotion work best. We could fill another guide with social media optimizations (oh wait, we did! The Photographer’s Social Media Handbook), but here we want to give you a glimpse into some of the factors that are operating on the other, less talked about social media sites.
Ok fine, Facebook is much more than mainstream these days, but there is a new-ish term that you need to be aware of: Edgerank. Edgerank is the term that Facebook has coined for its algorithm that determines whether your posts appear in your friends’ newsfeeds. The newsfeed is the core way that people learn about your activity on Facebook, so don’t operate under the assumption that people are going to your Profile or (business) Page. In Facebook parlance, an “edge” is any piece of content (e.g. photo, wall post, video, etc.). The idea is that you can improve Edgerank by getting your followers to interact with it via Likes, Comments, Surveys and Shares.
One of the benefits of using Pages (as opposed to a Profile) is the built-in “Insights” that can help you understand your “reach,” that is, the number of people who are seeing and interacting with your edge content. Good Edgerank gives you better visibility, which in turn can help you build your audience and get more likes/shares. But remember, most people on Facebook are passively browsing content, and not raring to buy your products and services. So as with most social media, use Facebook as a “top of the funnel” mechanism to engage your potential customers and get people to spread your content.
This week’s soup du jour is the virtual pinboard, Pinterest. Pinterest’s audience skews heavily towards 30-something females, and is mostly used to “pin” photos of clothing and accessories. When items get pinned and categorized, other users can “like” and “repin” content. They also have the opportunity to “follow” you and get a steady stream of your newly pinned items.
Pinterest works really well for retail businesses, and can be a strong referral traffic source. Imagine a woman pinning a new spring blouse from J. Crew and having several hundred people click through to the source, and buying the item. Retailers love it because it’s free marketing, and the photo that’s used for the pin isn’t the monetization point (i.e. J. Crew isn’t selling photos, they’re selling the item in the photo, so they’re not concerned with copyright theft). For photographers, the value is less clear since 1) the photography channel isn’t as vibrant as, say, clothing, and 2) photographs don’t see the same intensity of repins.
Succeeding with Pinterest means growing an audience who believes in your curation skills. This is why it’s important to pin more than your own work, pin often, and keep in mind that the thumbnail of your image needs to be eye catching enough to trigger click-throughs. An image that looks good on a full screen display might lack the contrast and large detail as a thumbnail. If you can generate significant referral traffic to your website via Pinterest, it could positively correlate with an increase in organic traffic.
“Follows” and “Notes” (e.g. reblogs, likes and replies) are the currency of Tumblr. Tumblr’s search mechanism across all the tumblogs operates via tags (similar to hashtags on Twitter), but people are typically finding content by following others or traversing notes left by others. Audience building is key, so interacting with other people’s content is fundamental to building visibility for your own blog.
Another reason audience building is so important is because the set up for tumblogs doesn’t encourage good on-page SEO. For example, Tumblr has a reputation for being highly visual, and images simply aren’t going to get you the same keyword optimization as textual content. This means that people are likely visiting your Tumblr via the Tumblr homepage or other tumblogs, not organic traffic driven by search engines.
There are a lot of advantages to hosting your blog on Tumblr – easy to create new posts, a great reblogging feature, and fun themes. But remember to optimize your content with relevant page titles, meta description, and images that link back to your photography website with keyworded anchor text.
StumbleUpon = random navigation of the web. Users literally stumble upon user-submitted content on everything from photography to video games to extreme sports. It’s one of those sites where you could sit down and start hitting “Stumble!” again and again, then realize that three hours have gone by.
There’s not much in the way of building SEO with StumbleUpon, but it can be a strong source of referral traffic. Across the board, PhotoShelter members have seen roughly 2.8% of their referral traffic come from StumbleUpon (compared with 12.8% from Facebook and 10.1% from Twitter). But keep in mind that StumbleUpon penalizes users who consistently submit just their own content – the idea is to share anything and everything you find across the web.
Question-and-answer sites have been around long before Google took over the world. Remember the days when you would enter a question into a search engine and every result was from Yahoo! Answers? (actually, those days still exist to some extent.)
Then along came Quora, the Q&A platform that claims to deliver information on every subject from the people who know the answers first-hand – like “real doctors, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans.” The estimated user base is already hovering around 3.5-4 million after just under three years of operation.
The interesting thing about Quora is that it’s kind of legit. You will actually get flagged by other users if you try to answer questions that are clearly outside your expertise (people often judge you by your Quora profile) or if your answers are self-promotional in value. But if you’re a true expert in your field, you can start to build a following and get your answers promoted by people who appreciate your response.
Currently it looks like searching for a question on Google rarely yields results from Quora, but there’s certainly room to grow into that possibility. Still, the more active you are on Quora, the more likely a Google search for your name or business will return a link to your Quora profile. There’s no linking to your website, but your answers might encourage people to look you up elsewhere on the web.
Simply put, the more traffic sources you have pointing to your website, the better. Linking directly to your site’s content via social media platforms is an effective way to build an audience and drive traffic. Google is also constantly indexing all these sites, so active participation can also help your social profiles – and even website – move up in the rankings. As with any marketing strategy, it pays off to plan strategically so you’re working with the platforms that serve you best.
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