This is a guest post by Janet Aronica, Head of Marketing for Shareaholic, who creates those social media buttons you see on lots and lots of blogs to help publishers get more shares on their content. For more social media tips like these, read Shareaholic’s blog or follow them on Twitter.
If Chubbies are the new jorts, social sharing is the new link-building. It’s a Panda world and we’re just blogging in it, so that means social authority matters more to Google than garbage content. (Huzzah!)
The more Facebook shares and Google +1′s you get, the more relevant your content is in the eyes of Google. Your rankings will reflect this change to increase organic traffic for the keywords that matter to you in the long term. Not to mention, more shares mean more eyeballs and referral traffic in the short term. All in all, this social sharing stuff is something you should take seriously.
How can you make your content as shareable as possible? Here are 5 things to consider.
1. Think Before You Blog: What Makes Readers Share?
People share content for a variety of reasons. The NYTimes Consumer Insight published a study exploring why people share content online. They found that people share for a number of reasons, including:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
- To define themselves to others
- To grow and nourish relationships
- For self-fulfillment
- To market causes or brands
Less specifically, I’ve found that essentially, people share things that pull at their heart strings. People love nostalgia. Buzzfeed is a solid example of this. People simply share useful things too. They share things that speak to their pain points or answer their questions. I learn something every day at the SEOmoz blog, so I’m happy to share that content.
So when you’re planning your editorial calendar, are you planning reasons to share into your content ideas? If not, you should be.
2. Make the Most Of Your Headline
Your blog headline could be the most important part of your blog post because it’s your first impression. What makes a great headline? It’s similar to writing a great subject line for email marketing. Think about the 4 “U’s” that Copyblogger teaches us about great subject lines and headlines:
- Useful: Why is the blog post valuable?
- Ultra-specific: What can I expect to learn from the blog post?
- Unique: Why is this blog post compelling and unique?
- Urgent: Why should I read this NOW?
Consider all four of these qualities in every headline that you write.
3. Make it Visual
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard of Pinterest, and you’ve probably heard that it’s a smash hit when driving traffic to websites. To leverage this, you can make extra “Pin-able” content that is visual in nature. In addition, think about using visuals to promote content on your own channels. In April 2012 at Shareaholic, we tested promoting content on our Facebook page with a photo and a link versus just sharing the link. Posts with a photo got 56% more engagement (clicks) than those with just the link! But in order to do this effectively, you’ve got to consider what visuals will go along with your social media promotion as you are creating the content itself.
4. Optimize Your Content for Shareability
Once you’ve wired your content for shareability from a strategic standpoint, you want to optimize a couple of technical aspects to make sure that they are in tip-top shape for your readers and sharers.
First, you need to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a social share.
If you don’t pre-set these components, it could come out looking more like… Or, in the case of Twitter…
If you don’t customize these key areas, you’re not creating a seamless sharing experience for your reader. They could just choose not to share your content, and then you’ll miss out on the traffic and engagement from that social share.
So what’s the solution? First, focus on fixing the page title and meta description. WordPress bloggers can install the All-in-One SEO plugin so that these components are in one easy-to-find place.
- Page Title – This is your headline that preceeds your link when a reader clicks a social sharing button. It’s also what is crawled by search engines. This needs to be keyword-rich for Google, descriptive and catchy for humans, and concise for Twitter. Choose your page title wisely.
- Meta Description – This is your brief description of your content that shows up under your page title and link for social shares on Facebook, Linkedin and Google +. It also shows up in search engine results. Optimize this description with keywords, but avoid over-stuffing the area with too many keywords to the point where the sentence doesn’t flow. That just looks shady.
Next, ensure that your featured image is set so that a properly formatted one pops up on Linkedin, Facebook and Google + shares.
If you’re a WordPress blogger, do this in the Add Media panel. When you upload an image for your post, select Use as featured image, and that will pull this image up as the default image for social shares of this content.
These customizations work really well for Linkedin, Facebook and Google +, but Twitter is a beast all its own because of its 140 character restriction. You could go over your character limit with a bad page title, or end up awkwardly referring to a default Twitter handle or hashtag if you don’t tailor the sharing buttons to your website. A lot of your potential problems can be solved by altering the plugin settings on your social media buttons as many social media buttons offer customizations like which URL shortener you use as well as exactly how the Tweets themselves look when content is shared. Here is an example of the settings in Shareaholic’s plugin panel.
Make sure you customize this area in your sharing plugin!
5. Have Something Waiting For New Readers
Congrats! You created a piece of highly shareable content. Maybe it’s because of a giveaway, maybe it’s because you leveraged a meme just right. Either way, it’s going viral, and you have improved the technical aspects of your blog and you’re getting more and more shares because of it. But what’s next? Well, you don’t want these new readers to just “hit it and quit it” – you want them to become regulars, and eventually, loyal sharers. Include calls to action to subscribe to new future posts. Link to previous content in your posts to keep readers engaged in your blog. Seek out plugins that help readers discover your most popular posts. Thrill them once with your initial shareable content, but keep them coming back for more.
How do you make your blog shareable? Let us know in the comments!