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Enhancing timely content with SEO and Social Media

Monday, 16 June 2008 — by

Ever wondered what happens when a well-timed article, good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the effective use of Social Media websites and Social Networks are combined? You can drive some very targeted traffic to your blog…

Content, SEO and Social Media — The Social Loop

Tuesday the 3rd of June 2008 provided all the ingredients for me to perform an experiment, one that was to combine a timely piece of writing with SEO with Social Media and Social Networking.

On the previous Sunday, a new micro-blogging Social Network by the name of Plurk emerged somewhat reluctantly into the light.

I’d been given a heads up by (I believe, though I’m still not sure) web designer and fellow Plurker Heidi Cool some time after Plurk went public, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that I had the time to try it out for myself.

1. Write on time

Almost immediately, I saw the potential of Plurk, its timing being underlined perfectly by the dismal performance of both Twitter and to a lesser extent Pownce. However, seeing the potential and acting were two very different things!

Knowing that others would be moving quickly to fill the informational void, I set aside paying work (this was office time, by the way) and began to draft: “What is Plurk?

I knew that a lot of the people pouring into Plurk would be the curious Twitter crowd, some of which were making lazy / obvious comparisons, dismissing Plurk as just another Twitter clone.

This assumption was and still is totally wrong, so that’s where I needed to focus some of the writing.

Kate immediately started writing down her observations and I added my own. We were both writing into the same page on our Google Docs account, so we could see what we were both doing, while discussing changes via Skype.

2. Compelling content

Before long, I could see that what we’d written was quite naturally breaking into two distinct discussions; what Plurk’s all about and how Plurk relates to Pownce and Twitter. So I made the decision to make the document into two articles, with the more in-depth discussion to follow the explanation.

I’m not 100% happy with my first Plurk article, and I may go back and fill it out a little, but in terms of job fulfillment, the article worked.

I’m a designer as well as a technology writer, so I know how to make something look slick and appealing. Using my web design skills, I took a series of screen grabs of my Plurk profile and added them throughout the article to add some colour and visual interest.

What we ended up with is an professional looking article which people have seen fit to praise quite highly, which is fantastic! But there was more to come and to be done.

3. Optimize for search — SEO & SEM

As well as the timing and the content, the title was also crucial. Because there was tons of initial buzz surround Plurk, I was very sure a lot of people would be visiting Google and typing in: “What is Plurk?”

Additionally, to further optimize the article for the search engines, I added key phrases like: “time line”, “Instant Messaging” and: “micro-blogging” to the alt attributes of each of the images.

In general terms, both people and the search engines like lists, so Kate & I added a list of Plurk pros & cons towards the bottom of the article.

We had two articles written and prepared, with the first being referenced by the second: “Plurk takes on Twitter, Pownce“, again reinforcing the first article with some internal linkage.

Over on Google, I’d hit pay dirt and landed the number one spot for: “What is Plurk?” Since then, I’m also ranking well for key phrases like: “Plurk Twitter Pownce” and: “Plurk versus Pownce” mostly because of the follow-up article.

Because the first article became trusted content, the second had a much easier job of things, since Google’s perception is that the two are the same theme, so they’re linked. During the first few days, certain search queries returned both articles.

That’s since changed as more articles have come into the fore, but the two articles still stand on their own two feet for some diverse search queries.

Having looked at Technorati since, there’s been an increase of about twenty or so back-links from various blogs. However, that’s not the full story; Technorati really only tracks blogs, and only those with their code installed. We actually attracted a lot more back-links.

4. Optimize for Social Media

Because we had a couple of lists, plenty of images and an array of share buttons for the various Social Media websites, we had ourselves an optimized article, ready to go. The blog is already optimized, so there was no need to optimize the article itself.

While the article didn’t get any traction on Digg (ironically because of the timing; Kate wasn’t around to do her thing) we didn’t take off, but the article did OK on StumbleUpon, pulling in just over 700 visits the first day, with several hundred over the next 5 days.

Now, compared to previous successes, that’s not exactly scintillating stuff, but the thing to keep in mind here is that I wanted to make a targeted impression on the curious micro-bloggers and those disillusioned with Twitter.

Once the articles had been submitted to StumbleUpon, Kate & I both voted on them, pushing them into our respective network of friends, giving the articles an additional push.

5. Promoting via Social Media and on Social Networks

So here’s where things got interesting! I had a rash of people adding me as a friend on Plurk from Tuesday towards the end of that week, which was great. I made no exceptions and reciprocated every request. The reason? I was also keen to see how usable Plurk was with lots of friends.

I’m glad to report that Plurk handles lots of friends just fine. Also, I’m equally glad to report that when I posted my article onto Plurk, there was an eager stream of visitors from various members of Plurk and their friends.

And because the back-links are from their profile pages, you get to see exactly who’s time line the visits are coming from, which is fantastic.

Plurk has some very neat little options, such as being able to add anchor text to URLs. So by pasting / typing in your URL, adding a space and then typing your anchor text in between parenthesis, Plurk auto-generates a clickable text link. This proved very useful, since people are far more likely to click a readable text link than just a link.

The added bonus was being able to track these visits live using Clicky, the real time web analytics service. This meant we could respond to articles linking to us very quickly, which typically involves Kate alerting me, me going out and writing a comment of thanks and if we felt their article was adding real value, we would then promote it on StumbleUpon, del.icio.us et cetera.

So with this steady stream of people coming to my blog, the timing couldn’t have been better since most of these people would have been ad hoc Plurk evangelists, who would have then forwarded the link to my article on to their friends.

Meanwhile, the article landed on the official Plurk press page, further adding to the credibility, which I then posted again onto Plurk, reinforcing the perceived authority of the article, driving yet more traffic in.

I also posted the link to my Plurk articles onto Facebook, Twitter and Pownce, where I have a modest network of friends. And with my standing on Mixx increasing, I submitted my article there, too.

The knock-on effect of being one of the first to get an illustrated guide to Plurk out there meant that those people wanting to suggest Plurk to friends, or find something for themselves were really only going to find my article.

Interestingly, for a time, the Mixx submission ranked second behind the article itself on Google, which meant that anyone choosing to go elsewhere were ultimately being directed back to my article.

Conclusion

In total, since Tuesday the 3rd to today, Monday the 16th, the two articles have had just over 1,130 page views. Over 400 of those visits came from Plurk itself, as well as Pownce, Facebook and Twitter — the exact locations I was hoping for.

As I stated previously, the figures aren’t spectacular, but the spread of traffic sources is strong, with a wide range of back-links from various places, including several authority websites and blogs.

Additionally, because of the high ranking of the my two articles, I’ll continue to enjoy a steady, mostly reliable stream of traffic for some time to come, much like I do with my: “Just what is technology?” article.

As an exercise in combining a well-timed article with good SEO, strong Social Media know-how and our thriving Social Network, we managed to make good use of the Social Loop:

  1. Content production.
  2. Content promotion.
  3. Social Media, Social Networking and search.

It’s a simple enough plan of action, but it does rely on a number of things:

The net benefits were an increase in comments, greater exposure, lots of back-links, more subscribers and many more friends, some of which have been reinforced by befriending them on other Social Networks and Social Media websites.

What we achieved here is repeatable; we can do much the same thing again and again, proving that SEO and Social Media are mutually compatible and not exclusive of each other…

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Kyle James → Tuesday, 17 June 2008 @ 0:03 BDT

Nice study Wayne! LOL, Funny thing is I was totally right in the middle of all that (I know I blogged about it and stumbled the post), so it’s double powerful now that I can look back and see the trust and presence you were building for long term success on that search term. Very nice job indeed and thanks for sharing the steps to “close the loop”.

Heidi Cool → Tuesday, 17 June 2008 @ 5:10 BDT

Wayne,
Thanks for the link! The timing was great on this thing. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to write about Plurk that first day, but even writing about it a week later, and not being quite as proactive with the marketing, it has still gotten over 1,000 direct page views and 39 Diggs. While that may not be a lot in the grand scheme, I get Stumbled more often than Dugg, so for my site that is a big number.

I’ve also been thinking about timing on a micro level. For instance, if I finish a blog entry late Sunday night I usually don’t post it on Pownce, Facebook, Plurk etc. until Monday at lunch. My thought is that it is more likely to be seen then when you folks in Europe are ending the day, the U.S. East Coasters are eating lunch and the U.S. West coasters are starting their day. I’ve not been able to fully quantify this theory but I have seen things posted on weekends get lost in the mix by Monday. Is the timing of your promotion within the day a factor you consider as well?

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 17 June 2008 @ 13:46 BDT

Hi Kyle, I can see how it might seem different, looking back to when we were all in the middle of the release of Plurk.

Trust is an amazingly powerful attribute for anything on the web. We have to praise the search engineers for making the intangible tangible.

Heidi, there is indeed a right and a wrong time to post new articles, which Kate & I have been perfecting…

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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