Shareability is a hugely popular buzzword in online marketing nowadays. Ever since THAT Google update (I’ll give you a hint – begins with a P, ends with ANDA) the game has well and truly changed and the time has come to shake things up.
If you want to get your brand in front of people and climb to the top of the SERPS, you’re going to need more than just links to get you there. You’re going to need shareable content.
Why do you need shareable content?
Many SEO professionals have come around to this new school of thinking, but just in case you’re still not convinced, I’ll touch on it briefly: In many verticals, links alone are not going to cut it with Google. Their algorithm has become more sophisticated and isn’t likely to be impressed with a quick “backrub” anymore. It’s now a much classier, more sophisticated and complicated beast that requires gentle seduction with social signals.
Sites that have likes, shares and tweets are thriving post-Panda. Just one example: Google + your world means that your results are influenced by what your digital buddies are talking about. I could go on, but I’ll just say this: more social shares means that you are more likely to be found online. Social shares are now big news. Whether they will ever fully replace link signals remains to be seen but there’s no doubt that they’re firmly on Google’s radar.
Why does the online community share stuff anyway?
Sharing is by no means a new concept – even before I had my first computer I was making mix tapes for my friends and hastily passing a torn out pages of ‘Smash Hits’ under the school desk.
However, like pretty much everything else, the internet has galvanized the way we share. It’s a lot easier. It’s a lot faster. The mix tape has been replaced by the Youtube playlist, the note under the desk has been replaced by the status update and we are sharing more stuff, more often.
But why do we do it? Well, research by the New York Times identified some of the reasons that motivate us to share: to provide information to our peers, to project an image of ourselves by identifying the stuff we care about and to feel more involved in the community.
However, it pretty much boils down to this: we share stuff online because we want to build and maintain relationships. No matter how fancy our toys get, deep down we’re just a bunch of apes craving love and affection.
So, Google likes shareable content. Users like shareable content. I doubt any of this is news to you, but wait! There’s more!
How can we get users to share our content?
Knowing that shareable content thrives on the internet is all well and good, but how can we get users to perceive our content as shareable and make the bold move of clicking that +1, Twitter bird or the little blue thumbs up?
Well, by understanding sharing behaviour as outlined above, we can identify the sweet spots our content needs to hit in order to strike those elusive shares.
We’ve already established that users share to maintain relationships – so we should try and aim to get users to connect with each other, and not necessarily us as the content creators. To do that, we first need to offer something of value, i.e. something that is fascinating, funny or controversial (or all three. case in point: Samantha Brick). If you can put something together of real interest, people are more likely to share it with their peers.
Secondly: gain the user’s trust. By sharing content, people are giving their own personal endorsement to the source, so they aren’t going to share anything that isn’t trustworthy or sincere.
There’s a couple of ways you can gain trust. You can create decent, credible content, or you can build yourself a reputation as an authority in your field. This will mean sharing interesting stuff from other cool people in your area, and collating content from a variety of sources. If you’re seen as a good commentator of your niche, then more people are going to turn to you for information and, in turn, pass that information on to others.
It’s also important to keep it simple. Don’t assume that quantity = quality. Acres of text might not always be the best way to get your message across. A lot of the time, a decent image can be just as effective, if not more so. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not try a video?
Finally, appeal to their humour. One of the reasons people share is to project an image of themselves, so if the user identifies with you, they are more likely to share your content.
So what am I trying to say here? The main point I am trying to make is that if you want people to share your content, then you need to start appealing to people, not Google’s algorithm. If you manage to gain those social shares, then the Big G will surely start purring for you too.