Optimize Your Content for Social Curation

We worry a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I suspect we don’t worry enough about Social Curation Optimization (hereby dubbed SCO). Social curation plays a large role in how people find content on the Web. Google’s Eric Schmidt was recently quoted as saying:

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter also allow users to leverage their social networks to find answers to their questions. Google is therefore competing with all methods available to access information on the Internet, not just other general search engines.

To focus on SEO and neglect SCO would be to neglect a huge source of traffic.

SEO tries to make our content attractive to machines. Machines still don’t think very much like us, so they can be deceived, and sometimes one has to dissemble to them to make them see truly. There is a lot of artifice in SEO.

Hand reaching for apple.

Only quality drives social curation. Image by Juanfraan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

SCO tries to make our content attractive to human beings. Human beings think a lot like us, so they are harder to deceive. They like what they like and they value what they value. The only way to appeal to them is with actual quality. (Your idea of quality may differ from mine, but you will unerringly find what is quality to you, and I what is quality to me.) There is not much artifice in SCO, but a great deal of art and of craft.

The problem with spending time and energy on the artifice of SEO, is that it is time and energy not spent on the art and craft of content, and therefore time not spent on SCO.

SEO can worry about making sure content is easy to find without thinking at all about whether it is useful or entertaining once found. For SCO, the only thing worth worrying about is whether the content is useful or entertaining once found.

The social curation sphere is quite capable of plucking ingenue content from obscurity and making it a star. It is no wonder, then, that search engines use social curation in their weighting of content. SCO is good SEO.

Then there’s this: if your amazing SEO brings lots of people to your site, and they immediately leave because your content sucks, what have you gained? SEO can be complex to understand, and its techniques can be fleeting, as search engines adapt. SCO is simple to understand and eternal in its effect: make content people will like.

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3 Responses to Optimize Your Content for Social Curation

  1. Marcia Riefer Johnston 2013/10/16 at 16:19 #

    Mark,

    SCO. Nice.

    In theory, it’s true that “only quality drives social curation,” but SCO can be artifice-driven, too. I once met the woman whose “daily”—a sort of online newspaper on a certain theme—had run a link to one of my posts. When I thanked her, she confessed that she doesn’t read the content she passes on; if a tweet includes the hashtag #WRITING, in it goes. Maybe this isn’t true curating, but I suspect that she’s not alone in her strategy.

    Recently, another person’s “daily” picked up a tweet that a friend of mine had posted about my book. The tweet quoted from my chapter on hyphens, noting the comical meaning of “fear free dentistry” as opposed to “fear-free dentistry.” The daily that picked up this tweet is all about … dentistry.

  2. Neal Kaplan 2013/10/16 at 16:56 #

    “Maybe this isn’t true curating, but I suspect that she’s not alone in her strategy.”

    Your guess is correct. I’ve have worked with people in product marketing who set up twitter accounts to auto-retweet based on certain rules. It’s easy enough to set up those daily collection pages to do the same thing. It’s amusing when my retweets get caught up in those, instead of the person that wrote the original tweet!

    Immediately before reading Mark’s post, I read this article: http://gigaom.com/2013/10/16/it-looks-like-dark-search-is-now-the-norm-at-google/

    The author is making some guesses, but this part is relevant to Mark’s argument:

    “Besides, one could argue that SEO is soon to be a relic as the field of intelligent search continues to advance. Google and others are betting that consumers care less about keywords than they do about context — that is, finding the content or information they want whether or not it happens to contain exact phrases. I’d bet they’re right.”

  3. Mark Baker 2013/10/16 at 17:26 #

    That’s a good point, Marcia.

    However, I think I would make a distinction (now that you’ve pointed this out!) between social curation and mechanical curation. I would venture to suggest, in fact, that mechanical curation is not really curation at all. It is really a form or mechanical plagiarism. True curation adds value by identifying and assembling good content on a related subject. Mechanical plagiarism is just a craven attempt to attract traffic with little regard to the quality of that traffic.

    Neal, thanks for the pointer to that article (a welcome act of social curation!). I, for one, really applaud the advent of dark search. Feeding search terms to sites did nothing but enable them to bait and switch content. Good riddance to bad rubbish.