displaymediaIf you’re working in online marketing in any way, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’re probably at least marginally familiar with search engine optimization, or SEO. You know that using white hat SEO techniques is a great way to help your content to be found online, and that gray hat and especially black hat techniques can land you in trouble with Google.

SEO specialists spend a lot of time figuring out the best ways to keep the Panda and the Penguin happy (if that sounds ridiculous, you’ve been out of SEO for too long), and get their content ranking high in the SERPs and found by more people. More people means more leads means more sales means more money. It’s understandable. And as long as they’re using strictly white hat techniques to accomplish this, they’re fine.

But GSO… well, that’s about to add another crucial layer to an SEO specialist’s job.

What is GSO?

Facebook announced Graph Search in mid-January (2013). Following from that, GSO stands for Graph Search Optimization. Not quite the same as SEO, since SEO optimizes for web queries and GSO optimizes for Facebook.

But important? You bet.

Graph Search will allow users to ask a question and get answers based on the things their friends like. They can also choose to search for answers based on popularity and not necessarily just from their friends.

So for example, if you’re visiting Philadelphia and you want to grab some dinner, you could search Facebook: “What restaurants do my friends like in Philadelphia?” and you could see what comes already recommended from people you know and trust.

You could also search for something like “Italian restaurants in Philadelphia” and get results based on business pages with the most likes.

Looking for a place to get some work done instead? Search “Coffee shops that bloggers like in Philadelphia” to find out where fellow bloggers like to hang out and do work. Public information from people who list “blogger” as a career will be sourced for your results.

So you can understand why, as this feature begins to roll out to users, businesses would want to make sure that their pages are well-’Liked’ and maintained properly. This is where GSO comes into play. Because this tool is so new, however, the scope of what it really means to optimize your page for Graph Search will almost certainly change shape as we see what kind of impact Graph Search has. We expect that it will change the way people search – social search, as opposed to web search – but we don’t yet know its limitations.

While you can certainly do things to encourage ‘Likes’ on your Facebook business page (things that, by the way, do not include buying those ‘Likes’ – bad idea!), maintenance on your page is going to be a bit more concrete.

Some tips for GSO maintenance:

  • Make sure your profile is completely filled out to include your hours, location, and a succinct but accurate description of your product or services.
  • Have a profile picture that represents your company (even if you are a solopreneur) – a logo works well and is typically recognizable.
  • Make sure that your cover photo represents your company but falls within Facebook’s guidelines.
  • Update your page regularly! Try all kinds of updates and see what resonates most with your audience. Mix it up. Share links and videos in addition to text-based updates. Try some memes if you think it suits your business. The important thing to remember is that a page that is regularly updated stays top-of-mind (useful for when someone asks one of your Likers for a brand or business opinion).
  • Be engaging. The more you provide your audience with interesting and exciting content on your Facebook page, the more likely they are to share, engage, and interact with it. This is important because of that viral factor. If they take some kind of action on your public updates, it goes into their friends’ news feeds, meaning your visibility is increased. It might pique the interest of someone new who sees a friend’s action, and you could score a new Like.
  • Interact. Like and reply to comments. Answer messages sent to your business page. This helps to humanize your brand, which is appealing to those who currently like your page, and welcoming to newcomers.

Some advice on obtaining ‘Likes’

Now, more than ever, business owners are going to be concerned about the visibility of their pages. The more ‘Likes’ you have, the more likely it is that you’ll be turning up in search results. So not only do you have to think about how to optimize your page, you also need to think about ‘Likes’ as well. When you’ve gotten your GSO maintenance down to a science and you know how it’s going to align with your target audience and market, you’ll almost certainly be looking at how to improve ‘Likes.’

The first thing I have to iterate here is that purchasing your ‘Likes’ is shady. Plus, if you’re loading up on fake accounts that don’t have any real friends, who’s going to be finding you in search results there? Because it’s not going to be friends of your followers.

Instead, work to increase your visibility. If advertising is something you’ve always been interested in, maybe now’s the time to give it a go. If the money isn’t there or it’s not something that interests you for your purposes, then there are a few other routes you can take.

Word of mouth is a good one. When you work hard to keep your page updated with content that’s tailored specifically to your audience, you’re onto something. When your audience feels like their needs are being met and you’re seeing a lot of activity on your posts, you can bet people will start talking about it elsewhere too. Favorable opinions pique curiosity and soon others will be coming to check you out as well. But remember, in order for that to be effective, you’ve got to really focus on…

Content! This is another instance where content marketing can really be beneficial to you. Give people valuable content that helps them in some way. They are almost sure to try to find out more about you and what else you’re offering on your other channels.

Visibility is a sometimes small, but always important, detail. Make sure you’ve got icons on your website and links in your biographies and other social profiles that let people know where they can find you across various social channels. Because Facebook is one of the “big guys” when it comes to social media, if they’re seeking to connect with you on one of those channels, there’s a very good chance that will be the one.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As Graph Search is rolled out and we start to learn firsthand what we can and can’t do with it, we’ll have a better understanding of how we can optimize for it.

Have you started thinking about Graph Search Optimization? What ideas have you had? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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