A Moz.com study this summer found that social signals are Google’s second-highest ranking factor. Bottom line: The more people share your content, the higher Google ranks it in search results.
So, how do you optimize your content to encourage people to share it? Fortunately, plenty of Web experts have tackled the question of how to get people to share your content. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll summarize their key points here.
Put Social-Sharing Buttons on Your Blog
This is basic user experience management: The moment somebody thinks “wow, I have to tell people about this,” there should be a button on your website helping them make that happen.
If you have a WordPress blog, you can choose from a bunch of sharing-button plugins. Don’t settle for the first one you find — not all will integrate well with your website’s theme and design. Try a few and work your way through their customization settings.
Further reading: 7 Ways to Optimize Content for Social Sharing | Hubspot.com.
Add an Awesome Image to Each Blog Post
This is a huge challenge in a time when most are content to grab a shot off a stock photo site. Still, it’s considered settled law among Web experts that almost any relevant image will improve readers’ perception of the piece and encourage them to share it.
Budget to hire a professional photographer to capture the essence of your content — people will be much more apt to share an original piece. Graphics that visualize statistics are gold, as are illustrations to walk people through processes in how-to-pieces.
If you do settle for a stock image, set some time aside to find one that’s really original. Some sites will tell you how many times the image has been downloaded; go for ones that have not been widely published already, if possible.
Further reading: How to Optimize Your Blog Content for Social Media | Maximize Social Business.
Craft a Catchy Headline
An attention-grabbing headline taps answers the questions your target readers want to know. It touches on their grandest hopes and darkest fears.
Even if you’re sick to death of “7 Great Ways to Do X” headlines, you shouldn’t rule them out: People love lists because they promise something quantifiable — the reader knows the exact dose of the information she’s about to consume, which makes it more tempting to take a nibble.
Further reading: 5 Secrets of the Best Headline Ever Written | Reputation Capital Media Services
HOW TO: Optimize Your Content for Social Discovery | Mashable.com
Add Powerful Meta Data
You can tap your inner geek with content meta data — tags, headlines and descriptions that are tailored to specific social media platforms.
For instance, adding Facebook’s OpenGraph tags to your content allows you to instruct Facebook exactly how to format type, headlines and images when people add your content to their Facebook feeds. If you’ve ever tried to share an article on Facebook and found that nothing but a stream of text or a URL string flowed into the sharing interface — and decided not to share because of it — you know exactly why this is so important.
Adding this data to your content is a non-trivial technical chore. You’ll have to format your CMS to allow for each social media platform, and you’ll have to train all your users on how to use the fields. One option to consider: Add social optimization features only for specific platforms you want to target. If most of your fans hang out on Twitter, then optimize for them.
Further reading: 18 Meta Tags Every Webpage Should Have in 2013 | Iacquire.com
Social Media Optimization (SMO) Is The New SEO | Knowem.com
Time Publication for Maximum Impact
If you finish that perfect blog post at 2 a.m. and feel you simply must publish it immediately, resist the urge. Instead, schedule the post to appear when more people are using and sharing on social media.
You can find a wealth of advice online about the best time to post, but you already have the best data in hand: your website’s analytics data. Every website will have slightly different times of day depending on the user base and the kind of content you post. Some sites’ users log in at lunch time and while other sites will get the most traffic after dinner.
Further reading: When Is the Best Time to Post on Facebook? | Social Media Today