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Upon first glance, social media optimization (SMO) seems similar to the more widely-known search engine optimization (SEO). Both types of optimization are web-based, and both endeavor to increase Internet traffic and overall publicity. The chief difference is in social media optimization’s specific usage of social media tools in its efforts for increased online activity.
SEO is, in reality, a large part of SMO. A website that has been optimized using SMO principles will contain extensive SEO content. Search engine optimized content incorporates specific, highly searched words and phrases. These "keywords" appear in written content with finely-tuned regularity designed to increase page-views.
It is important for an SEO page to contain just enough keywords. Too few keywords and the page will not rank highly when popular phrases are searched on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. Too many keywords, and the search engines will disregard the page altogether as spam. A good keyword density is typically about 3%.
Social media optimization includes important SEO keywords, but it also envelops a number of other practices for site optimization. Most notably, SMO gains increased site traffic by using social media tools alongside SEO best practices. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Wordpress, and LinkedIn, is any online media that encourages active user dialogue, photo exchanges, or link sharing.
Social media platforms provide an online mechanism for users to socialize in a purely virtual world. True social media is composed of user-generated content (UGC). A website that has been optimized with SMO will promote itself with engaging social commentary on UGC websites. Additionally, a social media optimization site will also have its own pages dedicated to UGC.
In other words, a SMO website actively engages in the so-called "online community" of UGC. The site’s administrators post commentary on numerous external websites, inviting users to link back to the SMO site for further details. SMO site staff also respond to comments on their own sites, providing photos, videos, and other social materials whenever relevant.
SMO websites, according to experts, must have excellent "linkability." In other words, there should be enough fresh content on a site for users to justify linking to the site for repeated visits. The website should also be easy to tag and bookmark, with helpful on-site buttons designed to make the process simpler. SMO sites also encourage inbound links by offering link-backs, hidden "Easter egg" content, or other rewards for users who link to the site.
Social media optimized sites also do well to feature downloadable text, audio, or video files that are easy for users to share. Such files help content travel across the Web for increased visibility. Downloadable files are also vital for UGC, encouraging highly visible "mashups" of a site’s content. A mashup is an Internet site that combines information from multiple pages in a shorter, comprehensive format.