Friday, June 14, 2013

The Hashtag: A Key SEO Strategy

Facebook announced this week that user hashtags would soon be both clickable and searchable, making posts more widely discoverable across the social network. Beyond the implications this change has for Facebook privacy--or, if you prefer, publicity--the move might also influence the public's opinion of search engine optimization, or SEO. Once regulated to Twitter and Instragram, the hashtag has now gone viral, and more and more users are understanding how to use keywords--a key SEO strategy.

By studying how people use keywords to attract attention on social media networks, one can learn a basic SEO principle: relevant keywords can attract people to you, your product, or your service. Marking your relevant keyword with a hashtag is the easiest way to attract attention on Twitter and Instragram. For SEO, of course, the use of relevant keywords can attract attention to your website.

Many popular Twitter and Instragram users practice SEO without even knowing it. A Twitter or Instragram hashtag is basically the simplest form of search engine optimization. By using a hashtag like "Instababy," for example, on Instragram, you enable other users to more easily discover your pictures of your baby.

An Instragram of Stepman PC's Seth Pollins with his #Instababy, Ella

As Wikipedia notes, the hashtag gained prominence on Twitter during the last Iranian elections:

"Internationally, the hashtag became a practice of writing style for Twitter posts during the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, as both English and Persian-language hashtags became useful for Twitter users inside and outside of Iran."

Today, Twitter is overrun with hashtags, and the sheer quantity can teach us another lesson about SEO: relevant keywords are crucial, but quality content is truly the most important aspect of optimization.

Just like the spammers who abuse Twitter with excessive hashtags, certain "Black Hat" SEO specialists have practiced "keyword stuffing," where keywords are excessively loaded into a site’s content. To maximize relevancy, a seedy developer might also apply alternative text to every image on a website with a similar set of keywords. This practice is unethical, and ineffective. A sophisticated search engine, like Google, can easily identify keyword stuffing techniques

A high-quality Twitter or Instragram user, or a "White Hat" SEO professional,  never uses keyword stuffing. The best of the best always realize that well-written, thoughtful, and relevant content is the best optimization strategy. If you would like to learn more about Black Hat and White Hat SEO professionals as well as a few SEO tips and tricks, please read "Search Engine Optimization 101."

If you are a business owner who currently uses hashtags to promote your business on social media networks, you are practicing SEO. If you have a website, then, you should be applying similar website optimization techniques to your own content. Of course, to truly attain the benefits of organic website optimization, you could contact a quality SEO company, like Stepmans PC. But if you're not convinced of the power of website optimization just yet, follow the hashtags. You might just learn a little bit more about SEO.