Lee Odden

New Rules for Social Media Optimization

There is an exceptionally interesting meme developing around the idea of social media optimization. It started with Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations and his 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) and this insight:

“The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and vlogs.”

With contributions by Jeremiah Owyang, “Rules of Social Media Optimization and Cameron Olthuis, “Introduction to Social Media Optimization” who offers this take on SMO:

“SMO tactics can drive huge amounts of people to a website and can also determine whether a startup, website or idea will make it or not. It involves driving traffic to a website through new channels because search engines aren’t the only sites that drive big traffic anymore. While it’s not taking over SEO yet, it has the potential to someday soon.”

The ever insightful Loren Baker also gets in on the action and offers up, “Social Media Optimization : 13 Rules of SMO” and his additions: “Don‚Äôt forget your roots, be humble and don‚Äôt be afraid to try new things, stay fresh”.

What I would like to see added is:

14. Develop a SMO strategy – define your objectives and set goals. Be fully aware of what your desired outcome is as a result of performing these tactics. Reputation, sales, influence, credibility, charity, traffic/page views, etc.

15. Choose your SMO tactics wisely. Be cognizant of what actions will influence the desired outcome with the most impact.

According to Hans Peter Brondmo of Plum during the SES San Jose session “Marketing with Social Media“, 1% of those involved with social media are creating content, 10% will enrich that content and 90% will consume it. That’s a lot of influence wielded by content creators and those that reblog and mashup. Think about what you can do to enable content creation as well as the repurposing of that content for what might possibly be the most productive outcome.

16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices. As with good SEO, SMO tactics should become part of your organization’s best practices. Find ways to incorporate SMO tactics at the “template” level of document creation and as part of information distribution. Minor things like encouraging social bookmarks and rewarding incoming links as a standard practice across the organization can go a long way.

Regardless of the media, there is almost always going to be an “organic” and an “advertising” component. Think: SEO and PPC. Consider this session from the recent ad:tech conference in Chicago called “Advertising with Social Media“. It presented some interesting opportunities and challenges for advertisers regarding MySpace, YouTube and other social/consumer generated media. Advertisers recognize the reach of social media, but aren’t quite sure how to take advantage of it.

For reference, here is an aggregated list so far. Maybe we need a wiki for this?

  1. Increase your linkability
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy
  3. Reward inbound links
  4. Help your content travel
  5. Encourage the mashup
  6. Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you
  7. Reward helpful and valuable users
  8. Participate
  9. Know how to target your audience
  10. Create content
  11. Be real
  12. Don’t forget your roots, be humble
  13. Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh
  14. Develop a SMO strategy
  15. Choose your SMO tactics wisely
  16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Lee, thanks for adding to the discussion – these are great thoughts and I have added a link to them on the original post on my blog. I like your idea of starting a wiki around this and will post about it soon to see if we can figure out as a group a better way to aggregating all of these smart thoughts into a single location.

  2. Thanks Rohit. Either a wiki or a Google/Yahoo group would work well I think.

    Similar groups I am involved with is the Social Media Club and the New Media Press Release group that you may be interested in.

  3. I created a homepage for it on the NewPR Wiki – just in case you want to use it:

    (you can create children pages by changing the URL – SocialMediaOptimization.NewPage )

    Lee, you already have the edit password, right? Please feel free to share it with people interested in participating (just please don’t post it on a blog :).

    Rohit – I’ll send you the password in a minute.

    If you decide not to use the page – no problem 🙂 I’ll just delete it.

  4. Constantin, that’s an excellent idea. Yes, I have the pw. Thanks!

  5. Constantin,

    Sounds great – I was actually thinking of adding it there, but unsure about the sensitivity of putting something like this which I would position as more about search marketing than PR into the New PR environment. If you think it fits I think it would be great to have a wiki environment there and I’m looking forward to receiving the password.

  6. Lee, great additions. Wow, this is really taking off, exciting. I’m going to update the blog post to include a link to this article and Loren’s.

    I also think the wiki is a great idea. If possible I’d like to get the password.

  7. Avatar Igor M. (BizMord Blog) says

    SMO your Blog. I can see it now.

    By the way … I am searching for a “blog designer/developer” to just tweak my blog by adding social media plug-ins. No luck. Did a search for Blog designer … nothing good.

    Let’s see … google search “Blog SMO”?

  8. Cameron, thank you. Yes it is exciting, I agree. I will send you the pw via email.

    Igor, if you want quick help with some SMO on your blog, email me and we can take care of it.

  9. Constantin, I added some initial content to the NewPR Wiki and also added the post by Emergence Media. This is a great thread!

  10. Those 16 give one credit if applicable. But don

  11. Hi Lee – sorry for the late request, but I realized there is a typo in my first name at the head of this article and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind fixing it as I’ve seen a few others linking to this article and copying and pasting my name from it … and feel free to delete this comment once you have a chance to update. Thanks!

  12. Oh my. Sorry about that Rohit, it’s now fixed.

  13. Hi Lee, Thanks for the comprehensive summary and the SMO strategies. I do think one element that’s missing in this discussion is something that’s important to anything that’s social: Fun. I might be a bit late here but just blogged a possible 17th rule.


  14. Good point Rich. I was thinking the same thing about SEO in general. If you’re not having fun doing it, you’ll never get great at it and you’ll never last.

  15. Avatar Mike Valentine says

    I just did an interview with Dom Vonarburg of AddThis.com bookmark and feed service and linked back to your post here with the comment that you currently rank #1 at Google for “Social Media Optimization.” Congrats on that and I love the great “Social Bookmark Creator” tool, which I just discovered in your other post.

  16. Thanks Mike! I will certainly check that out. Hopefully I’ll see you at the next Pubcon or maybe SES Chicago?

  17. Hi,
    This is amazing post which I ever see…I would like to know more on Social Media Optimization.

  18. Avatar Manoj Tiwari says

    Thanks! Thats great. This will lead to a new direction in SEO and would help us to grow.

  19. One of the above comments mentioned Addthis. The service is OK, but I prefer Socialite because you can set it to post blog articles or websites to multiple social networks automatically instead of just one with addthis.

  20. Hi Lee,

    I have been closely following the SMO posts initiated by Rohit and then the contributons made by you, Jeremiah, Cameron and Loren. After going through all that, I just had two more points to add –

    Would appreciate your opinion on the same.


  21. Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. I have also updated the Wiki post on SMO with the refernces to all the rules.


  22. You can view the page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Media_Optimization – will try to add some more when I get a little more free time.

  23. Avatar Randy Duermyer says

    Probably the most amazing, or fascinating thing about SMO is that it is maturing as a result of social media – by important authorities in the SEO arena, such as Rohit, Lee and others jumping in to offer additional “rules” of the game. And I’m not even sure “maturing” is the right term to use, since it seems to be spreading like wildfire.

    Just like the very media to which the practice is targeted, the actual rules and guidelines for SMO are being created through social media outlets – very interesting, indeed!

  24. Avatar Reema Sarin says

    Very interesting points on Social Meia Optimization. In this day and age of online news and media, the exposure to news is pretty ovewhelming. Hence, please allow to me to add the 19th rule to the existng pack of SMO Rules, which is to Sensationalize the News you want to reach out to your different target audiences and stakeholders, by posting a link to news from your site or client’s site (as the case maybe), to the social media search engine sites.
    We have successfully done this repeatedly to get immediate attention for important company news, by writing an eye catching title to the piece of information and keying in relevant search words in the search engines as well as sending the links out to relevant sites.

    Reema Sarin
    Director Public Relations & marketing
    Lamborghini and Bentley India

  25. Avatar Ramesh Kumar says

    Very Interesting things coming out.
    Great brain storming sessions and 15 rules of
    Social Media Optimization.
    Thanks for the Out put.
    hope Some one start documenting the constructive work.
    Lee Thanks for your contribution im looking for more transparency about best practices in SMO
    The second version of Rule 16.
    Maintaining the balance between SEO SMO

  26. Avatar Meet your friends says

    I agree with you Lee.

    Should balance seo with smo is must.
    Thats what I practice for all my client sites and projects.

  27. Avatar One more SEO Blog says


    I have added something beneath your’s and other authors of these 17 rules. I don’t know whether it fits under the topic. Your’s and other author’s comments are always appreciated.

    I won’t call it 18th rule but would like to add to the rule 11. Social Media is not only about a word straight from horse’s mouth but a word from all those who have experienced the subject which is being discussed. So keep your opinion accompanying your experience from which readers could and most importantly for FREE! If you could offer something more than free, it would work like toppings on ice-cream.

    Need an example for “better than free”? Here you are, allow people to use the information from your site / blog for free and reward them with points for every referral which could be reimbursed by them to avail your product, service etc. Or reward them with something which they could utilize and add value.

    I hope someone could come up with more creative idea than mine. I just want it to give it a kick start!

  28. If you want to get huge relevance traffic then using SEO, SEM and SMO can be the perfect strategy.

    Even if you stop all three campaigns, you will be still getting good traffic.

  29. Here’s a relevant excerpt from an article posted at ojr.org, an online journalism website:

    “Conference panels addressed the intersection of social media with marketing, movies, television, music, and, yes, the news. But as conference panelists expressed enthusiasm over this new era of public conversation, there remained few answers to questions about how news organizations ought to enlist social media to improve journalism… as well as their bottom lines.

    “Follow the audience,” urged Vivian Schiller, vice president and general manager as NYTimes.com. “The more noise there is out there, the more need there will be for authoritative quality journalism.”

    My response as it pertains to this article about SMO, is “follow the journalists.” My own SMO and online PR practices have been in part shaped by the massive info found at destinations such as pynter.org.

    Great post, Lee. I’ll be returning.

  30. Avatar Website Advertiser says

    One of the things people tend to forget is that most of these social media sites have internal advertising campaigns. There is a good list of most of the big social media networks and their internal advertising campaigns here.

    I think in large part creating viral marketing involves having a big existing presence in social media. You can’t expect users to link to something just because they think it is good and then expect all of their friends to link out and so forth. Although that might seem logical, how many other places on the internet are we actually seeing this (people used to say the same thing about SEO). Most successful Social MEdia Marketing campaigns I have seen strated with a fanbase to have a large initial seed for spreading links.

    For future reference, there is a wiki on this subject.

  31. Bookmarkify is an excellent new social media plugin for WordPress. It supports over 50 social bookmarking sites and is very customizable.

  32. I think 14) and 15) are a little repetitive. Essentially it comes down to “Strategize and Execute intelligently with your goals in mind” – this can also be applied to any marketing method, not just social media.

    I agree wholeheartedly with 16). Incorporating SMO in all web processes is so important. Whether it be SEO or SMO, applying band-aid solutions to existing content after the fact can create headaches, not to mention is an ineffective management of time and resources. I’m sure being a fellow SEO you’ve seen your share of sites where you thought, “If only they had applied this *before* creating the content…”

    Thanks for the informative post, Lee.


  1. Anonymous says:

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  5. […] There’s a lively dicussion going on about social media optimization and you can see the current list of rules on Lee Odden’s blog […]

  6. Personal Blog and Travel Around the World : Blog : In The News: Rules of Social Media Optimization says:

    […] I started reading an article on Rohit Bhargava’s Influential Interactive Marketing site about changing our approach to SEO, so that it works better with Social Networks. The original post has since been added to, and the finally summary of the 16 rules can be found on the Online Marketing Blog website. For me, this is very interesting as we were discussing at work the influence these networks will be having in the future, especially as they can really help to build brand awareness and loyalty, and as sites like Wikipedia start to lose their influence within search engines as their algorithms are updated and PageRanks recalculated. […]

  7. marc pentermann.de » Blog Archive » SMO - SPAM in der Social Search? says:

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  8. […] With all the buzz about social media optimization the past week, I thought it would be timely for us to present two updated tools for encouraging the sharing of and linking to content as well as distribution. These are concepts that are fundamental to the notion of social media optimization or SMO. […]

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    […] This original rules have been created by Rohit Bhargava (1 to 5), Jeremiah Owyang (6 and 7), Cameron Olthuis (8, 9, 10, and 11), Loren Baker (12 and 13), Lee Odden (14, 15 and 16). Posted by Oliver Wagner Filed in Strategies […]

  11. Serie: 16 Tipps der Social Media Optimization | nanoblogs[.de] says:

    […] Quellen: 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) Rules of Social Media Optimization Introduction to Social Media Optimization Social Media Optimization : 13 Rules of SMO New Rules for Social Media Optimization […]

  12. […] 2. Offering Too Many Service Options We’ve been sticking to Search Engine Optimization, Blog Marketing and Online PR for the past few years and it’s working great! PPC, web design and usability are typically outsourced to partners or simply referred. While it’s important to keep abreast of trends and tactics, strategy should be consistent. It’s just the execution that changes as consumer use of the internet changes. Example: SEO and SMO. […]

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  15. […] Some bloggers have been calling SMO (social media optimization) the next level of SEO, or SEO 2.0. SEO has grown out of it’s mainly technical roots and become more of a creative discipline. There will always be technical issues to solve though, since web sites and servers are technical things. It’s the creative and multi channel aspects of “pull marketing” that are defining the future of SEO. […]

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    […] Lee Odden has added Rules 14, 15 and 16 […]

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  28. » SMO - Social Media Optimisation and SEO Search Engine Traffic, SEM and MFA says:

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  30. […] New Rules for Social Media Optimization […]

  31. […] 1. Prepare To Be Banned If used correctly social media can bring in great traffic to websites. Techcrunch noted that many startups receive a good portion of the traffic from StumbleUpon alone, and one entrepreneur even confirmed that the social browsing tool is responsible for 15% of his site’s traffic. Losing that kind of flow to your site can be seriously damaging. Social media sites have no problem with banning members who look suspicious. […]

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  37. […] Reading Top Rank Blog we see a list of 16 or so items that are called ’social media optimization’  but this is exactly where we have the debate.   These are normal traditional SEO tactics,  hence why some of us at Yooter (I stress some) don’t believe in the concept of rebranding an old process a new name.  But the process is still an old process. […]

  38. […] New Rules for Social Media Optimization 14. Develop a SMO strategy 15. Choose your SMO tactics wisely 16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices […]

  39. Social Media Optimization and You: Networking to Grow Your Online Business says:

    […] These 5 rules gradually expanded into 17 rules, with the help of notable bloggers like Lee Odden, Cameron Olthuis and Loren Baker and Jeremiah Owyang. […]

  40. […] Lee Odden has added Rules 14, 15 and 16 […]

  41. What are Social Media Marketing and Social Media Optimisation? says:

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