Monday, 21 July 2014

What Is Hashtag Engine Optimization?

What is a Hashtag?

The Oxford English Dictionary has recently added ‘hashtag’ and defines it as “a phrase or word preceded by a hash symbol that identifies content related to a particular topic”. And if you are into networking sites likes Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest, I’m sure you come across dozens of hashtags every day. From this, a clear assumption can be made about the popularity of hashtags; but this is not because they are cool but because they serve a certain purpose magnificently.

In short, a hashtag is a metadata that allows people to search and find related topics on social networking sites. Just like Search Engine Optimization or SEO helps to increase organic exposure in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), hashtags hold the power to drive traffic to a website from the social networking sites.

What is Hashtag Engine Optimization?

Hashtag Engine Optimization or HEO is a relatively new marketing strategy. Unlike SEO which focuses on gaining higher rankings in the SERPs, HEO is all about finding trending hashtags, creating relevant content around them, using the hashtags effectively to get a wider exposure in social media channels, and bringing heavy traffic into a website or landing page.

There are 2 obvious reasons why should start doing HEO right now:

  •      HEO is in its infancy, with lesser amount of competition
  •     More immediate results as compared to other marketing strategies
Let’s take for instance that you have a company that offers social media marketing services. If you find that one of your related keywords is now a trending hashtag, then you can start creating a blog post around it. Publish it on your website and share it on your social networking channels. And this is where the power of hashtags will come into play. While you are sharing the content, integrate that hashtag into the status line or tweet. As soon as you hit the button, your post will automatically become a member of the group of content that contains the hashtag. And as your hashtag is one of the trending ones, just imagine the number of people searching for it and stumbling upon your content.

SEO versus HEO: Keywords versus Hashtags

As I was thinking about the similarities and differences between SEO and HEO, I couldn’t help but wonder: which, between these two, is a better option? After a thorough research, I was successful at coming to a definite conclusion. I’m stating my findings in the following points, but I would appreciate your inputs too.

In Terms of Use

Those of you who are aware of the basics of SEO would know how a keyword is used in content creation. The theme of a blog post, for instance, should be related to the keyword. Other than this, the keyword should also be placed correctly in the heading and page title. If all these things are in proper order, search engines would find it easier to return the right results.

On the other hand, you can use any hashtag you want; just keep in mind that the hashtags you use are relevant to your website. If there are too much positive responses under a relevant hashtag, then you can also use it to speak your mind and sneak in some negative remarks. What’s the maximum that can happen? Getting insulted online by some people, right? At least, it’s better than getting slapped by a search engine penalty for not following the rules.

In Terms of Time

According to the basics of content marketing, you create a unique, keyword-rich and interesting blog post. Then you publish it on the Web and wait for the search engines to index it and push it up the SERPs. But guess what! No one can either give an exact idea how long the search engines will take to index it or guarantee that it will get great rankings in the SERPs. SEO, in general, is quite a time-consuming process.

On the other hand, HEO results can be tracked in a span of hours. A hashtag spreads like a wildfire, and maybe that’s why the term “trending” is so often associated with it. And the results obtained from using hashtags are instantaneous and can be easily measured too. However, hashtags are prone to changes with changes in opinions. Keywords are strong and everlasting, and they do not change so easily.

In Terms of Visibility

Keywords are great when it comes to prolonged online visibility. As I pointed out earlier, they are strong and unwavering, and getting a good ranking using a keyword will bring steady traffic into a website for a long time.

On the other hand, hashtags give a loud voice to everyone and therefore, deal with “the present and the popular”. However, the traffic from a hashtag slowly dies down when people lose interest on the topic. Unlike keywords, absolutely anyone can create a hashtag… irrespective of whether they have a website or not. While both keywords and hashtags are great in gaining exposure, a keyword is more like a burning torch while a hashtag is like a firework.

How to start HEO?

Let me warn you, hashtag research is no walk in the park. In fact, it is as serious as a keyword research. You need to devote a lot of time in churning out the best possible hashtags for yourselves. And if in doubt, you can always look up to reputed HEO service providers. One such HEO firm I’ve found pretty interesting is TagCandy. It not only offers trending hashtag data, but also produces device, geo and gender analysis, thus helping clients get more specific results.

What are your thoughts on Hashtag Engine Optimization? Would you try using it? What do you think about its future? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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