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Social Media Optimization: SMO is the New SEO – Part 1

Originally published in the Shutterstock newsletter as a two-part series…Part I

To keep things consistent, I didn’t change the headline. However, for the sake of reading this post in context, SMO should be part of an overall SEO strategy (SEO + SMO = Amplified Findability in the traditional and social Web)

As a brand, publisher, designer, photographer, artist, or filmmaker, the social web is your new distribution channel as well as your portfolio for intellectual assets. Whether you’re in the business of creating, marketing, selling, or distributing media, the social Web is an incredible medium that can create a brand, establish visibility, and build demand, all without active promotion. It’s about letting your expertise or work market itself through the practice of a socialized form of inbound marketing that helps make content discoverable when people search.

This may sound a bit familiar to you; after all, this is the purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) right? We know that people use search engines like Google and Yahoo to find relevant content and as such, we optimize our work so that it is discovered in search engine result pages (SERPs).

However, the technicalities involved with wiring SEO are not the same processes required to boost visibility in social networks like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. And it’s in social networks like these where people are increasingly spending time communicating, finding relevant and interesting content, and sharing it with their connections. So now, in addition to SEO, we have to implement and manage a Social Media Optimization (SMO) program around our content to increase visibility in these new environments.

A failure to do this could be an enormous loss. Everyday people are taking to social networks to discover new content in and around their social graph. According to a recent Nielsen study, social media sites such as Wikipedia, blogs, and social networks account for 18% of where searches begin, outperforming sites that are dedicated to publishing information specifically to help individuals find deeper analysis and details. This is a trend that’s only now gaining momentum; as Nielsen observes, “Social Media is becoming a core product research channel.”

This momentous shift in behavior represents an opportunity to connect your value and insight to those who can benefit from it.

I’m not a professional photographer, but you wouldn’t know that from where my images have appeared. Through the diligent posting of pictures on Flickr and Facebook, my pictures eventually earned the attention of Hollywood, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and event organizers. However, it wasn’t the unique quality of the pictures, the framing of each shot, the artistic views, or the dramatic compositions of my subjects that earned prominence. It was simply making the pictures findable by those looking for related content. The same is true for the many articles and papers I’ve written and published in content networks such as Scribd and Docstoc.

SMO is defined by the distribution of social objects and their ability to rise to the top of any related search query, where and when its performed.

At the center of any successful SMO program are social objects. Social objects represent the content we create in social media, including images, videos, blog posts, comments, status updates, wall posts, and all other social activity that sparks the potential for online conversations. As such, the goal of SMO is to boost the visibility of social objects as a means to connecting with individuals who are proactively seeking additional information and direction.

Serving as conversational hubs, these social objects are personified by the pictures we publish to Flickr, the videos we upload on YouTube, the events posted in, the wall posts shared in Facebook, the tweets that fly across Twitter, the links bookmarked in Delicious, the votes cast in Digg, the places we check into on Foursquare, the documents published in Docstoc, reviews posted in Yelp, communities built around themes in Ning, a thought shared in a blog post or a blog comment, etc. They are to social media what web objects, pages, and sites are to the traditional Web. As SEO helps increase the visibility of content in Google and Yahoo for example, SMO helps build the essential bridges between social objects and the individuals performing searches to find relevant content.

Social objects are also the catalysts for conversations and occurrences — online and in real life — and they affect behavior within their respective societies. Have you ever wondered how YouTube recommends related videos or how content within social networks is linked to the keywords you use in search? Search results in social media are defined by the elements ingrained in each social object, which is commonly referred to as Metadata. Essentially, metadata is the data that defines other data.

The Social Web relies on metadata, leveraging “the crowds” to classify and organize the volumes of user-generated content uploaded to social networks and blogs everywhere. In some ways, we became the web’s librarians by indexing the volumes of useful social objects to help others discover them quickly and easily.

At the very least, social objects are contextualized through keywords, titles, descriptions, and/or tags. Understanding these attributes of social objects, which is a topic I will discuss next month, is one of the most important aspects of a successful Social Media Optimization plan.

Continue to Part Two

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412 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Social Media Optimization: SMO is the New SEO – Part 1”

  1. gwen says:

    SMO/SEO are the most important factor on the success of a certain site. Those people behind it, are very helpful, given that without them, page rank is impossible. Great post, I'll be adding you to my bookmarks, so I could follow your blogs. Keep it up. 🙂

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  2. jasongaya says:

    Good article. Social media is changing we communicate, share , express and converse from an individual or business angle.

  3. CoachDeb says:

    Can I give this 3 Amens!?
    It's equivalent to 3 Cheers,
    only weighs more in Gold

    Social Objects & SMO = Brilliantly written & explained.
    (printing this out now for my clients)

  4. I remember Scoble tweeting earlier in the year, something like “Is this the year SEO doesn't matter anymore?” … what I think he really meant is that the term is kinda old hat, no longer enough. I like “SMO” much better 🙂

  5. John Paul says:

    Great post.. to me SMO seems a little bit easier then SEO. Since SO is based on conversation, relationships, which doesn't change week to week like SEO.

  6. Great post Brian,

    Another factor I find important in the SMO realm is freshness. This Social Monster feeds on socialites publishing often. There is so much stuff published every day, the only way to stay on top is to add to the pile regularly…

    • briansolis says:

      Serge, yes…optimized and relevant content is important. But remember, one's push and the other is pull, SMO contributes well to pull as a form of inbound marketing.

  7. Timothy Lin says:

    Hey Brian, nice post and really applicable given today's search industry. Everything seems to be moving toward social. It's becoming the avenue for content to be found, as you said. And with social search on the rise (and Google buzz), SEO is definitely changing.

  8. stefankrafft says:

    This is exactly the type of material every marketer needs to
    Understand… Now! There is too many out there still thinking
    It's just another channel for campaigns. Hmmm..

    • briansolis says:

      Yes…absolutely. Part of the problem is that this already forces some marketers to completely rethink their existing and future strategies…requiring them to go back to what's already published in order to optimize it. But, that's ok! 🙂

  9. InsuranceNick says:

    Well said Brian. I work in a “search engine marketing” department and we are constantly trying to collaborate SEO and SMO activities in a natural and unobtrusive way. With a PR background, I'm a bit biased towards SMO especially given the black, gray and white hat approaches to SEO and the moving target that is algorithms, but I've enjoyed learning both sides. Very much looking forward to Part II.

  10. “So now, in addition to SEO, we have to implement and manage a Social Media Optimization (SMO) program around our content to increase visibility in these new environments.
    A failure to do this could be an enormous loss. “

    Brian, I like the way you were inclusive on SEO and SMO… keep the bridges…

  11. lolbsolis1 says:

    Wont say the obvious :))

    How about tying in measurement, and monitoring of SMO. In this age of real time, web enabled mobile platforms and conversations at warp speed, it is imperative that you are able to measure, and monitor relevant metrics, in real time, and act. Any thoughts on that?


    • briansolis says:

      Of course…I've published many articles on measurement before, during, and after the program. In fact, understanding the performance metrics we need to capture before we even conceive a program, is how we can then design something of relevance for the community.

    • lolbsolis1 says:

      Thanks for confirming measuring, and real time monitoring is vital to SMO. Plus, now I can die a happy man (because you actually responded to me :))

      Would love your thoughts or suggestions on sources for Enterprise 2.0 SM, and how you think company cultures will need to change within, become more participatory, more inclusive, in order to succeed in this new environment?


  12. Brian, great article. You truly summarize the challenges and opportunities with SMO and the way in which this impacts all social media platforms. Any brand – big or small – would be wise to digest this properly.

    Last year, I pondered the creation of another new acronym, FPO – Facebook Page Optimization,, based on the evolution we're seeing in the way that brands are treating their Facebook pages as engaging experiences more than just a mere click-fan-move-on interaction. I can see this concept and others like it fitting in nicely as sub-sets of an overall SMO strategy.

  13. Tommyismyname says:

    So True. I have to agree that I like the way you keep SEO and SMO as equally weighted.

    I've read posts that try to suggest that SEO is dead, and while the world is shifting more towards content being shared socially, that doesn't mean that one should be ignored.

    Really what it comes down to is something that has been said within the industry forever, which is content is king. The three things anyone should be concerned with I think are High quality content, a well developed site for it to live in, and a network of people to share the content with. Everything else should take care of itself.

  14. Liza Hausman says:

    Great post – at Gigya we're seeing this trend across publishers/retailers as well as brand marketers. USA today now gets more traffic from Social networks than from Google. You can read more about it and see the data here.

  15. Tad Chef says:

    That's called SEO 2.0 not SMO 😉

  16. Jeremy says:

    Traditional SEO companies have been slow to respond to the opportunities available in SMO, but the tide is turning. You simply can't afford to ignore these issues as more & more searches originate in social networks.

  17. Glenn says:

    SMO today is only the tip of the iceberg.

  18. pierrekhawand says:

    Very nice! I am reading your chapter about the Social Media Releases (SMR) in the Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and I can fully see how SMO makes so much sense!

  19. Chris says:

    As always you put the current seismic shift into a digestible piece. Totally agree with you the convergence of social media and search marketing is upon us. You masterfully articulate the various ways folks should be preparing to manage this real-time information.

  20. BillSaint says:


    Great article!

    I was wondering if you have spent any time in Google Buzz? I would love to hear your thoughts on how Buzz will ultimately affect page ranking in the future. I believe it is going to have a huge impact on organic search results for the people learning how to use Buzz effectively now. I'd love to know what your perspective is on this topic.


    Will St.Pierre

    • STLrealtor says:

      I am using google buzz as well and I dont really see much benefit from it except in website grader programs they judge me partially by how many links I have from google buzz. I dont see how it can help SEO much being that people will change their buzz status often I would think

  21. tomasmiranda says:

    How will some of the “less-professional trends” on social media sites impact their viability as business platforms, if at all? That is, is there room for an official Olympics Facebook Fan Page next to pictures of intoxicated College students? I read an interesting blog on the matter –, thoughts?

  22. jacobmorgan says:

    As someone who has been doing SEO for years I can tell you that this is nothing new. SEOs have been optimizing images, videos, and pretty much anything else for several years already. The saying in the SEO world is that if you can search for it you can optimize yet. SMO is just SEO for social media, it's a new name for what we we've been doing for a long time. It's important but it's not new. SEO is a great way to bring in visitors to your site (including SEO of images, videos, and anything else searchable), and social media is a great way to keep them coming back.

    I think Rohit also does a pretty good job of starting the SMO discussions:

    • briansolis says:

      For the record, SMO goes back a lot further than mant think…It's something that I've talked about at the beginning of the SM movement and spent countless hours documenting through code, organic and backchannel campaigns, as well as through traditional SEO. I would disagree that SMO is simply related to promotion or viral marketing as implied in the wikipedia article.

      Just to be clear, SEO for social media is not the same whatsoever as SMO…it's about manipulating results specifically by algorithm (distinct to each social network). More specifically, it's not necessarily about site traffic on the static Web, it's about optimizing individual social objects, something Jyri Engeström (founder of Jaiku) has discussed for many years. His research is important and worth further review. Hugh MacLeod has also experimented successfully with SMO using his business card drawings as individual social objects.

      Most of the SEO shops and consultants I've worked with over the years opted to focus on traditional search results instead of the techniques used by say Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc., because the fees were greater for SEO in Google than they were for social. And, traditional search engines are just now starting to figure this out and as such, SMO will become a formal program offered by both SMO and SEO specialists.

      At the same time, Facebook is also changing what appears in your news feed (ranked by the activity that defines SMO now) as well as by relevance. It's a new world, fully dictated by the evolution from firehose to personalization.

      While the foundation for social and real-time search (in and outside of social networks) changes, brands are just now starting to officially produce streamlined and professional content specifically for the social Web. With the increase in production of social objects, brands now need both SEO and SMO…

    • jacobmorgan says:

      Yes, but what you call optimizing social objects is what SEOs call…SEO. Anything that you can search for can be optimized and this includes things such as Hugh MacLeod's cartoons, pdf docs, videos you put online, press releases, web sites, and anything else users can search for. Perhaps I'm not understanding how you are differentiating SEO from SMO. If anything that can be searched for can be optimized (SEO) then what is SMO? The example you used with Flickr images is SEO 101. I think I'm putting everything under the SEO category and perhaps you are just separating optimizing websites (SEO) from everything else (SMO)?

    • I agree with Jacob. Although I understand your sentiment Brian, I think the article is miss-guided and the terminology blurred. That is where you don't do yourself any favours. To suggest SMO is the new SEO would be at the exclusion of SEO altogether and i think they are not mutually exclusive, nor independent, they go hand-in-hand and when working in tandem can produce spectacular results.

    • briansolis says:

      Vincent…any editor from traditional or new media will tell you, if you can't write a headline that gets people talking, then you didn't do your job. 🙂

      In Part 2, it's pretty clear…

      And concludes here: Let's make sure that everyone walks away with this message, “SMO is important as a function of an overall SEO strategy….”

    • Sorry, it wasn't the headline that got me talking, that piqued my interest, it was the stuff I read that got me talking. I've noticed with social media, the more flame-worthy the content, the greater the number of comments, that doesn't necessarily make it right. I feel sorry for editors, because it seems social media is turning us all into editors. before too long they will all be out of work.

  23. We are big proponents and users of services such as Scribd and other services to bridge between content of value and the social networks we participate in. Nice article. Its actually very complimentary for our listings and real estate business and not something 'new' to manage.

  24. markwilliamschaefer says:

    Brian, I love this concept and have been teaching a similar concept in my classes. I am encouraging my students (often established businesses) to think beyond a website and methodically populate the information eco-system. Other than the “optimization” benefits you mention, there is also the obvious issue that if you don't do it, somebody else (like your competitors) will. By not methodically and intentionally populating the social web, you may abdicate your brand responsibility.

  25. MeganBucher says:

    I took notes on this like I was sitting in a lecture hall again!
    Social Media showing up in scrolling Google searches is so far beyond awesome!
    I do freelance work for a company that does SEO, and I'm trying to figure out a way I can bring the best of social media to his platform. I think I'll search for a SMO certification program to compliment my efforts…wonder if Google has that yet…
    Thank you for sharing the awesome info!

  26. uribar1 says:

    Great article, Thank you.
    I recently started following your blog and enjoying every article.
    I would add to your points that the connection between SEO ans SMO is as important as the use of each separately, and the power of the combination is synergy at its best – the effect of the parts working together is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
    Thank again,

  27. Social Media is playing very important role in SEO. The trend of social media increased last year and now social media is on the top in marketing field. Almost every marketer is connected to social media like Facebook and Twitter.

  28. John S says:

    I'm interested to see how that 18% figure rises over the coming year. After not finding what I'm looking for on the major search engines, I have recently begun to use social media sites to look for content.

  29. webyogi says:

    Thought provoking, interesting and observational post. Love the way you define social objects. These are the things that matter to and interest people hooking them into conversations. SMO research could perhaps give further insight into what motivates human behaviour online. Really looking forward to Part 2. Thankyou so much.

  30. colorexpertsbd says:

    Nice posting. It's so much helpful to SEO, SEM & SMM.

  31. Brian thank you for explaining what SMO is, how it works, and why it is important in such eloquent terms. With the way search engines have evolved, not understanding SMO or being able to differentiate it from SEO is equivalent to marketing suicide.

  32. Brosix says:

    I'm really interested in SMO and how it will make a difference in way people design websites (I think it already is).

  33. ericafiller02 says:

    Originally published in the Shutterstock newsletter as a two-part series…Part I / Part II In the last post, I discussed the importance of social objects (images, videos, blog posts, comments, status updates, wall posts, etc.) in a Social Media Optimization campaign.

  34. semexperts says:

    the only problem is that some clients don't really understand what is seo/sem/smo and
    why they should pay a good amount of many for that service.
    they still prefer to use google adwords to rank first.. big mistake.

  35. What social media principles have stood the test of time? Should we reignite a serious dialogue on ethics in social media optimization? …

  36. Maxiosearch says:

    Great advices Brian, thank you!

    I liked your approach to integrate both strategies as a whole complementary system. However, wouldn't this should be planned separately and first of anything, according to your content? So the number one tip here should be to have well structured and clear content (including accurate headlines, titles, keywords and tags). Then going for an SEO plan to put in practice and as content increase, start thinking on the different channels on Social Media where you can deliver your content to better target your audience and drive them to your site.

    This is not a critic to your post, I share all your thoughts!

  37. hi i see this site and there are more tips!

  38. Pravdou je, že v dnešnej dobe sú v centre diania úspešné SMO programy. Cieľom SMO je zvýšiť viditeľnosť na sociálnych sieťach a je to skvelý prostriedok komunikácie s jednotlivcami, ktorí si aktívne hľadajú ďalšie informácie.

  39. seopilot says:

    Прекрасный материал, пойду изучать дальше.

  40. landseo says:

    thank you nice post

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  42. manjusha says:

    I work on SMO strategies for my company. The kind of traffic it generates is enormous, its just that the its a short term boost to the traffic, more concrete staretegies are gameplans are needed to make it beneficial in the long run.

  43. says:

    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing these info to everyone. This gives more clearance to the relationship between social media and SEO.

  44. Reggie says:

    This is right in line with those marketers who wish to distinguish their offerings from the run-of-the-mill, while gathering the simultaneous edge that a customer might have difficulty locating as well for their clientele.

    Good, solid momentum driven concept.

  45. Most of its people do not understand a word of English

  46. jay kumar says:

    please give some seo on page suggestion
    how can work ?

  47. gianna says:

    With the way search engines have evolved, not understanding SMO or being able to differentiate it from SEO is equivalent to marketing suicide,..Also following smo in the same phrase of seo will increase the visitors and make the visitors to stay for a long time on the website,..ecommerce website developer

  48. Sand Infotech says:

    Hey, very informative and interesting. Looks like you put a lot of effort and research into it. Keep up the good work!!

  49. Great Information and post! It is very informative and suggestible for the user of solar energy, May I think it can be beneficial in coming days…

  50. But both feilds are different but the goals are same interaction of customer 

  51. Is SMO the new SEO? Yes, and no. While social media provides
    excellent SEO link building opportunities (particularly since the advent of
    Google +1), there is more to social media than SEO – for example branding,
    customer service etc.

  52. So I guess SMM and SMO is similar like SEO and SEM? SMM is more to paid adv of social media optimization?

  53. I agree with you.Today Social media optimisation is the best way to
    communication between brand and community of consumers.Social media
    optimization is the best platform for online communication.

  54. Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  55. @miraclewebseo says:

    Nowadays, Social Media is most important for every business owner, barbecue today completion is very high for search engine optimization Google update is very dangerous for any non ethical optimization for website, if you have more people in social community then your website or product travel easy way worldwide and get more wastage from search engine

  56. Scott@TheSocialAmmo says:

    Really great article Brian, thank you for sharing such a wealth of information and insights.

  57. somasen says:

    Great Post . Love the way you define social objects. These
    are the things that matter to and interest people hooking them into
    conversations. SMO research could perhaps give further insight into what
    motivates human behaviour online.

  58. Social Media Optimization says:

    Post . Love the way you define social objects. These

    are the things that matter to and interest people hooking them into

    conversations. SMO research could perhaps give further insight into what

    motivates human behaviour online.

  59. Seo Service says:

    post. Love the way you define social objects. These are the things that matter
    to and interest people hooking them into conversations. SMO research could
    perhaps give further insight into what motivates human behaviour online.

  60. Seo service says:

    Nice post. Love the way
    you define social objects. These are the things that matter to and interest
    people hooking them into conversations. SMO research could perhaps give further
    insight into what motivates human behaviour online.

  61. Seo service says:

    Nice post. Love the way
    you define social objects. These are the things that matter to and interest
    people hooking them into conversations. SMO research could perhaps give further
    insight into what motivates human behaviour online.

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