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Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

Posted By Guest Blogger 29th of July 2011 General 0 Comments

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Welcome to an increasingly social landscape on the Web.  Social media started this shift from information to conversation, and now with the search engines increasingly using social signals to determine what to show searchers it’s a trend that, as a publisher, you have to get on top of to write and promote great content.

This post will discuss the movement of Bing and Google towards social search, and how that affects the organic search landscape. Then I’ll provide some tips on how this impacts your writing and promotion of your content.

Search and social integration

The integration of search and social media is already here.  Back in October 2010, Bing and Facebook announced plans for tighter integration. As I learned when I interviewed Bing’s Stefan Weitz, Bing is already using Facebook signals as a ranking factor:

“… if any of my friends anywhere have liked any (relevant) link across the entire world wide web, I am going to inject that link into my results page.”

Stefan refers to the notion of boosting a search result just because one of my friends Liked it.  But that is just the beginning, as we also can see that Bing is making use of the wisdom of the crowd, as per this example search on the New York Post:

Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

Even if none of the 54 people that Liked “15 Best Dresses” are my Facebook friends, Bing thinks the article’s popularity is still noteworthy enough to show it to me.

Google does not have as close a relationship with Facebook, but is making use of other social services such as Twitter, and recently launched Google+

The bottom line is that social signals are a ranking factor in the search engines’ algorithms, and you can’t ignore this.

The social media revolution has much broader implications

We don’t know exactly how the Web will continue to evolve, but we know that more major changes are coming our way.  To get a perspective on why this is, consider the three major stages of the Web’s evolution so far:

  1. the initial failure of the Dot-Com Bubble from 1998-2000: too much focus on a land-grab mentality without understanding how to make money in the process
  2. the combined revolutions of ecommerce (Amazon, EBay, et al) and getting instant access to all the world’s information online (Google): this second stage is still unfolding and the third stage is already underway
  3. the social media revolution: this is driven by instant and continuous access to your friends, and the ability to communicate and engage simply.  Texting, Facebook, Twitter are the current driving forces, but more are to come.  People love these short communications so much that email is becoming passé, and the idea of making a phone call seems unnatural to many teenagers.

What has come with this third wave is a new way of communicating and a whole new emphasis on relationships.  People are beginning to associate online familiarity with your personality and who you are, and with trust. And trust sells, trust engages, trust makes people come back.

The implications of this on how you approach your writing are profound.  And, chances are that the importance of this social approach to writing will only become more important.

Impact on your writing: three critical concepts you must adhere to

1.  Build relationships with your audience

Social networks like a personal approach.  They want to see your personality.  They want you to share. They want you to evoke emotions.  These elements are key to creating engagement not just with your content, but with you.  Social networks make you more accessible to your potential readers and can play a significant role in growing your reach.

I remember when I first began publishing sites on the Web, the approach I used was dry and academic.  This was the strategy I used to communicate authority and trust.  I am beginning to think that this is no longer the right approach.  Do you trust the advice of a university professor that you have never spoken to?  Or does the combined opinions of your friends count for more?

The wisdom of the crowd is very much upon us and it is only going to get stronger.  As a writer, you need to accept the notion that trust comes from familiarity with you, and your ability to be approachable will enable you to communicate your message.

2.  Tell me why I care

The other big factor that emerges from the ability to get all the world’s information online is that there is too much information. We are more impatient than ever.  If I am going to spend the time reading your article, whether or not I trust you, tell me why I should read this article in the first paragraph.  Get to the point.

3.  Strive for uniqueness, not “me too”

Lastly, don’t waste your time writing “me too” content.  To see what I mean, consider this screen shot:

Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

Making French toast is really, really easy.  I have not made it in 20 years, but I can still tell you how in two minutes.  We don’t need 2.54 million web pages on the topic!

For the search engines, showing multiple results with little distinction from one another is a waste of time.  For your average web surfer, reading more than one such article is a complete waste of time.  So even if I trust you, and even if you tell me what the article is about in the first paragraph, don’t waste my time with a useless review of something that tons of other people have already covered. Give me something new!

Mastering these concepts is essential for today’s bloggers.  Those who get there the fastest will be tomorrow’s authorities.

Promoting your writing

This may be the most straightforward part of this post.  You do need to integrate basic social elements into your posts.  This includes elements such as the Facebook Like, Send, and Share buttons, a Tweet This button, and perhaps a Google +1 button.  While the +1 button does not have the same usage level as the other elements yet, one can expect a meaningful integration into Google+ in the near future.

Going a little deeper, consider using Facebook Comments instead of the built-in comments capability of your blog platform. The content from the comments does not show up as search engine-visible text on your web page, but given that you are writing original posts, this is probably not critical.

But what it does do is function like a Facebook Share.  It shows up in the News Feed of the commenter, and the News Feeds of all their friends.  This is a great way to spread the visibility of your posts. It also provides some inherent spam protection, as no one will leave a spammy comment behind unless they have taken the trouble to setup a throwaway Facebook account.

Also, think of ways to entice your reader to engage more with your blog.   Ask a leading question at the end of your post to invite comments.  Install functionality that suggests other related posts they can read next.

The most subtle part of promotion is the way you use the social networks themselves as a direct extension of your blog.  Daily activity on Twitter and Facebook may prove to be a great way to build the personality and trust that people are looking for.  They both offer great platforms for viral spread of ideas you want to communicate.

Use these platforms to communicate the same types of messages as you do on your blog, but in smaller doses of course.  Use them to establish your personality and build the trust.

Is your content social-web-friendly?

Fully embracing the social revolution is key to the blogger’s long term success.  Based on the pace of the evolution of the Web over the past decade, it is reasonable to expect that the next major shift in web behavior is around the corner.

Three years from now, those of us who are centered on Facebook, Twitter, and texting, but have not yet adopted the next new thing that comes after them will be seen as being behind the times.  There will be many more paradigm shifts in our lifetime, and it will be important to stay as current as you can. Use the media that your audiences use to communicate with your audience.  It sounds simple, and yet it is critically important.

The first step though, is to adapt to the changes that have already taken place.  I could call this a requirement for survival, but I always use a positive mindset—I consider it an opportunity to excel.

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Internet Marketing Optimization services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

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  1. I have always wondered if the time spent on social media is worth it… But it looks like social media is gaining more and more prominence each passing day!

    With all the changes that the search engines are bringing in, I don’t think there is any doubt that social media engagement would be quite crucial for SEO going forward.

  2. I’ve actually got your book on my desk, Eric, signed and everything (I stole it from my boss for the time being). And I have to say that it is amazing how far SEO has come since The Art of SEO was written. The edition I have was printed in October 2009 and there are a few mentions of social in it, but not all that much.

    Now, I’m not sure if there is a 2nd edition or whatever, but it’s amazing how in two years, social has really become a huge factor in SEO. And, like you said, in the next few years, if all we do is look at Facebook and Twitter, we’re going to be behind everyone else. The Internet really has come so far in the past few years and it seems to be growing even faster every day.

    With that said, I totally agree. By getting involved in the social networks early, you can develop trends and really start to build more awareness about your product. And that’s going to help you in all different forms of marketing. Enjoyable article. :)

  3. I love the idea of using FB commenting instead of indigenous commenting system.

    I currently use Disqus. I know you can sign in using your FB name, but is that what you mean? I love Disqus…but should I be using something else?

    • But you cannot get email and commenters’ website address from Disqus. These data is important for analysis your traffic. That’s why I do not use Disqus.

      • i agree with Yingjie

        how are we supposed to get the traffic info and other relevant details using FB comments,

        besides, other than for the new posts, there won’t be any visit by the commentors to the post, as now they can get the comments in their FB wall itself, won’t that gonna affect the traffic ??

  4. Having used it for a couple of weeks now, I have to say that Google+ is going to change the face of both Social Networking and SEO. Social Networking will change in that companies will need to integrate multiple communication channels and platforms to be able to compete (i.e. – Hangouts, Chat, Huddles, photo community, email, etc… all in one place).

    On the SEO side, the +1 button and the way Google seems to be using this information is going to be a massive shift for end users. Your search results will be dependant (at least to some degree) on what your friends think.

    In my opinion, Google is knocking it out of the park, and while Twitter and Facebook don’t have to worry about being insolvent any time soon, they are going to have to re-think their strategy. The integrated services are going to have to more than just an afterthought, which is what they’ve been for far too long!

    • WOW!!! Thank you for your introducing some info about +1. In the past, I think +1 is another kind of facebook. Now I need to learn more about +1 then make use of it to drive more traffic.

  5. I am astonished that bing is using FB tool as one of rank criteria. It seems that we, as bloggers, should pay more attention on FB, twitter and something like that. One of things I can do is to add more friends in my FB, thus, the possibility that one post will be liked will increase. Don’t you think so!!!

  6. Because of your statement about French Toast, I am actually going to write a How To on French Toast, and it will be search result 2.55 million!! MUAHAHAHA

  7. social media is the most important aspect these days. a large audiences relies on it as a source

  8. Very interesting…the Google+1 button is gaining ground…Infact, they just posted an update to their +1 code to speed its load them (http://adsense.blogspot.com/2011/07/1-button-now-faster.html?utm_source=facebookEN&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=ww-ww-et-facebook2011-07-28) …

    The comment on using FB like commenting is also valid but that would mean updating all blogs to the new commenting system…is that feasible?

  9. Really interesting post, thanks. I’ve used my Facebook page initially as a mini blog, now more as an opinion-centre for my blog and to leak previews. I think there’s something to be said for facebookers seeing things first, also for it being a friendly place.

  10. Hey Eric,

    I have been looking into using the Facebook comments to get more exposure over at Facebook. At present I am using comment luv plugin which helps usere promote their last blog post.

    But with Facebook becoming more and more popular you can’t really not but utilize all the traffic it could be bring you.

  11. Great post! I devoured every word. Just put up a blog post yesterday with some tie-in to this one, and I wish I had known about the Facebook comment tool. D’oh!

    Thanks for all the insights, and I agree that we’ve got to be light on our feet and keep moving with the technology.


  12. I recently disabled comments on my blog because they were simply getting out of control. I tried using Facebook/twitter comment plugins but I found them rather buggy. Janrain has the right idea but just not user friendly.

    Which plugin (wordpress) would you reccomend and do you think I made a big mistake disabling comments?

  13. I recently disabled comments on my blog because they were simply getting out of control. I tried using Facebook/twitter comment plugins but I found them rather buggy. Janrain has the right idea but just not user friendly.

    Which plugin (wordpress) would you reccomend and do you think I made a big mistake disabling comments?

    • I’ve used Akismet (dot com) for years on several blogs and it works like a charm. Lots of Spam caught with nothing making it through yet — and I’ve only had a few false-positives, but those comments had several links in them, so it made sense.

      • When I say ‘out of control’ I’m not talking about spam. I’m referring to people leaving comments that are completely off topic, offensive to others, inquiries about the product I offer… etc.

  14. Thanks to Eric for sharing this article. I guess therez a lot more to see about Search & Social Networking in the coming days. The three critical concepts of writing was quite interesting. Thanks again!

  15. This is a great blog post and makes us ponder on the power of social media and the need to network with like minded people. Problogger is a wealth of information. How about an article on link building?

  16. With the rise of social media empire, the internet is dominated by User Generated Content. It’s natural then to consider the social media content to include them in the search results as it will be made more relevant.

  17. Ah, but how may minutes for content / how many minutes for SEO wording? Yikes, it takes too long, all-told!

  18. Hey! I wrote my article on How to Make French Toast and linked to this article, I published it late last night and it’s gotten over 350 views today! WOOT! Hopefully it sends more people to ProBlogger as well!

  19. I liked so much the article. The question I have just now is How can a person compite against the big social media content producers? Information is out there, but time to access is extremely easier for them than for individuals. The only result for a lot of people is making french tosts… or what’s the alternative?

  20. Awesome writing, and timely, too. I agree that robably the most important is promoting one’s writing – Facebook Like, Send, Google, Tweeter, etc. These buttons are really helpful.

  21. Every one remembers that today’s life is high priced, however different people require cash for various issues and not every person gets big sums cash. Thence to receive good mortgage loans and bank loan should be good solution.

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