It’s the age-old debate: ‘does social sharing really have a benefit outside of social reach and the eyeballs that brings?’ Can getting your content shared across social platforms actually impact search visibility too? Our view increasingly, is yes.
As a standalone channel social is increasingly becoming central to many digital marketing plans, and for good reason. The audience is huge, engaged and extremely targeted.
Alone, this fact should have every site owner working night and day on ensuring the content they produce is as shareable as possible and the user journey to do that is as obvious and intuitive as possible.
But combined with the potential benefits such sharing can bring in a search context social optimisation is one of the big plays for 2014.
The process starts with the content, of course and you need to look at it and ask yourself if you would share it?
If someone finds this piece of content in 6 months’ time will it still be shareable? Does it answer one of the four main reasons for people to emotionally connect with it enough to want to tell their peers?
For those not aware of those a recent study concluded that people share content for the following reasons:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another.
- To define themselves to others.
- To grow and nourish our relationships
- For self-fulfilment. To get the word out about causes they care about.
Different Platforms and their uses
The first step in any on page social optimisation project is to work out which platforms are key for your audience. Understanding who they are (through persona development work, social insight work and from research) will help this but in simple terms less is more. The key options, certainly from a traffic perspective are:
Pinterest isn’t so much of a hidden gem anymore but a lot of companies and websites are still not leveraging it. Pinterest allows you to create boards so you can have one account with a variety of different board. For example your site is a general news site publishing the latest and greatest stories, why not create a board for each subject you cover. In turn this can send traffic to your site as you can add a source into the post.
It’s also a fact that Pinterest traffic can convert really well also. A recent study on Cyber Monday traffic concluded that the value of visitors from the platform is much higher in many examples than other social networks.
A lot of this is down to how far down the buying funnel those visitors are. Often Pinterest is used as a significant part of the research phase for purchases and therefore there is a higher propensity to buy.
By now we all know the capabilities of Facebook, it’s the largest audience available and its paid products give marketers a huge amount of control over targeting and reach. Sharing across the platform gives you access to huge numbers of people and peer-to-peer recommendation is by far the best way of earning trust for your brand or products.
Google+ is one of the networks that not all brands are using yet. This may be because they do not fully understand or that they see no reason to use it. The fact is, however, that Google is hell bent on enforcing its use and that means it will become increasingly more important, and trafficked!
Plus Ones are also likely to be one of the first hard coded social shares in the ranking algorithm (if they are not already) and so having them, as an option on your site for sharing content is a no brainer.
You can see a brilliant post by Kirsti Hines here about setting up a Google+ Profile if you haven’t yet.
We don’t know what effect Google+ will have on website rankings in the future. At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any solid proof that Google+ does improve SERPS but there are a lot of people speculating that it does. So why not take this opportunity to start building your circles and audience.
Technical aspects of social optimisation
When it comes to the technical side of social optimisation it can be hard to think of ways to improve your site, but some really simple changes can drastically improve how your site works with social.
If your site is run on a CMS then it’s normally very easy to get your site up to scratch.
WordPress has a couple of plugins that can help with this, including favourites such as Yoast. It is mainly used for SEO purposes but also has Social Media options.
It allows you to optimise your website easily such as using Facebook’s Open Graph and the use of Twitter Cards. There are also plugins, which allow you to install simple buttons, which allow content to be shared easily. The best of those options are shared below:
Mark up allows you to add tags to your site that show different networks the information they want to see in an easy to read format that they can crawl.
One of the main things that you should be doing anyway is using Title and Meta tags and if you’re not then it may be worth reading one of the best beginner guides there is. Google uses these tags for indexation purposes and will also be used by Google+ and other networks.
Below is a snippet of example mark up code for you to utilise. To do so simply fill in your own data into the bolded out areas below:
The basic Structure to use for social media mark-up:
<!-- Place this data between the <head> tags of your website --> <title>Page Title. Maximum length 60-70 characters</title> <meta name="description" content="Page description. No longer than 155 characters." /> <!-- Twitter Card data --> <meta name="twitter:card" value="summary"> <!-- Open Graph data --> <meta property="og:title" content="Title Here" /> <meta property="og:type" content="article" /> <meta property="og:url" content="http://www.test.com/" /> <meta property="og:image" content="http://test.com/image.jpg" /> <meta property="og:description" content="Description Here" />
There is a slightly more advanced structure that can be used which also includes the Twitter summary card, Facebook page insights and Twitter thumbnail.
<!-- Place this data between the <head> tags of your website --> <title>Page Title. Maximum length 60-70 characters</title> <meta name="description" content="Page description. No longer than 155 characters." /> <!-- Twitter Card data --> <meta name="twitter:card" content="summary"> <meta name="twitter:site" content="@publisher_handle"> <meta name="twitter:title" content="Page Title"> <meta name="twitter:description" content="Page description less than 200 characters"> <meta name="twitter:creator" content="@author_handle"> <!-- Twitter Summary card images must be at least 200x200px --> <meta name="twitter:image" content="http://www.test.com/image.jpg"> <!-- Open Graph data --> <meta property="og:title" content="Title Here" /> <meta property="og:type" content="article" /> <meta property="og:url" content="http://www.test.com/" /> <meta property="og:image" content="http://test.com/image.jpg" /> <meta property="og:description" content="Description Here" /> <meta property="og:site_name" content="Site Name" /> <meta property="fb:admins" content="Facebook numeric ID" />
The way you allow users to interact with your content is also a key part of the optimisation process. Blog commenting systems are an integral part of that as you can stick with classic blog commenting or you can let your users sign up in a click of a button.
Another big feature of this is the ability to share the actual conversations/comments on social media. For example a comment on a post from a very influential person who shares the same views as you do and you want to share it can do so easily and without any barriers to doing so. This is especially useful when writing egobait pieces as it allows them to have input as well as share what they think on their twitter or Google+ for example.
Disqus also has a brilliant content discovery feature, which allows users to browse other content on your site as well as being able to find your content on the Disqus network. This results in longer visits and referral traffic. The analytics feature also provides data on users commenting on your content such as reputation, likes and more.
Livefyre is very similar to Disqus but one thing it does better is in its ability to filter out spam as well as community flagging. There can also be multiple moderators for manual banning.
‘Live listeners’ is also a nice feature showing who is participating and listening to the conversation, and it also allows you to embed rich media such as videos, Spotify tracks, images and Wikipedia articles.
Using either of these commenting systems will have a positive effect.
Social media is hugely powerful when it comes to audience interaction and audience building. It therefore pays to ensure that the content you painstakingly develop is as easily shareable as humanly possible and has the maximum impact when it is.
Social optimisation ensures this is the case and it pays to think carefully about what happens next once the content is published.