Tweaking Your Content for the Social Web

That’s a great article, with several really good insights, most notably that search traffic has both a higher bounce rate and a lower “time spent on your site” — because people who search are usually looking for an answer to a specific question.

Browse and search are different mindsets

But as people spend more time on social sites, they’re spending more time browsing rather than searching. They might see an update from you in their Facebook feed. They might see your tweet in their TweetDeck dashboard. Your article might be linked on somebody’s blog.

In a way, these kinds of mentions and updates are a cross between traditional TV ads and product placement in TV shows in that your audience was thinking about something else until it saw your update. Now it’s thinking about you, your update needs to be great:

  • a snappy headline (short, promising)
  • a quality photo (clear and interesting at small sizes)
  • and, in the end, great shareable content

Browse and search are different mindsets, with different desired outcomes, but this a shift rather than a wholesale switch. As social media filtered down to the masses (from the domain of influencers and webnerds) it opened a new channel — but the old channels are still there, just like video didn’t kill the radio star. You still need to keep search/Google in mind.

The good news is that Mashable’s recommendations are good practice for Google, Social Media and the overall usability of your website:

  • check Google Analytics to see what’s actually being clicked and ditch nav/links that aren’t generating sticky in-site traffic
  • ditch your tag clouds
  • reduce visual clutter
  • provide a smaller number of clearer paths

The general idea is that, rather than offering multiple paths to everything in your site, you offer one or two clear paths through your content. It’s the difference between dragging your friend to 50 fast food joints and shoving burgers down their foodpipe with a plunger — and giving them a choice between two Michelin restaurants. Rather than cramming, you’re guiding.

What Mashable Doesn’t Mention

1) The thing to remember about social media is that it’s social. It’s not stuffing tri-fold brochures in somebody’s mailbox; it’s interaction. It’s not top-down; it’s back-and-forth. It’s not formal; it’s casual. Make it easy for people to comment on your content — then reply to their comments.

2) The next thing you need to think about is optimizing the content delivery for mobile. Visit your site on a smart phone. How crummy an experience is it?

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