"Ask yourself this: do you think Wikipedia ever hired an SEO consultant in order to get its high rankings on Google?" Jeremy Keith
There are of-course many ways to attract people to content (notice I didn't say 'drive traffic'), not least by ensuring it is as well marked-up and relevant as possible (what Jeremy calls 'optimising for people'). But whilst many owners and producers spend an awful lot of time, money and effort focused on optimising their content for Google bots and algorithms, the inherent value that socialised content has for search and referrals through its associated richness of in-bound links, is often forgotten.
Similarly, many owners and producers underestimate the value that socially distributed content (what you might call 'social syndication'), and socially based personalisation, has for getting your content in front of more people.
The real game changer here of-course is Facebook Connect. Facebook now accounts for 1 in every 7 page views in the UK. It may still be second to Google in terms of visits, but it accounts for over twice the share of UK page views (14.5% compared to 5.8%, and, as James has so eloquently pointed out, has a level of user trust and scale that has enabled a richness of data like nothing we've ever seen before).
Earlier this week Gordon posted on how The Huffington Post (which has just surpassed The Washington Post in scale and is now second only to USA Today and the New York Times) has used a wider breadth of content combined with social tools based on Facebook Connect that allow users to personalise as well as comment on and share content easily with Facebook friends, to increase its unique users by 50% year on year. Its worth noting that underneath that headline figure, Facebook referral traffic is up 48% and 15% of all comments on HuffPo now come from Facebook.
Similarly, many owners and producers underestimate the value of a distributed but engaged community in attracting referrals. When it was announced that SamFry (the company that manages Stephen Fry's website) were launching their network of celebrity sites earlier this week, the co-Managing Director Andrew Sampson talked about the huge surges in traffic that come as a direct result of Fry's tweets and blogs. Not surpising perhaps, given that at time writing he has over 885,000 followers on twitter. But Sampson used an example, saying that when Fry had tweeted the URL to his "Poles, Politeness and Politics in the age of Twitter" post earlier this week, the site had received five times the number of daily vistors which typically averages about 1.1m unique users. If every single one of Fry's followers had followed the link, it wouldn't have even doubled the number of visitors. I'm not advocating that Twitter should be used as a glorified RSS feed, but when a piece of content like that spreads, it really spreads. And if it doesn't spread it's dead.