Adapting SEO Strategies for Mastodon and Threads

Success on the Fediverse requires a perspective shift. You are in control of the experience. You are in control of your data. This means that you are responsible for how visible or invisible you are

Adapting SEO Strategies for Mastodon and Threads
Katie Metz // Adriana Lacy Consulting

Between the global pandemic and massive political polarization, the norms surrounding public discourse have been pushed well past their limits. The large institutions and corporations that have long held control over the puppet strings of society have lost the trust of the public and many have begun calling for decentralization of public communication, much in the way that finance is being decentralized. The call for decentralization started in the financial world with the advent of the Blockchain. When the increasingly adversarial state of public conversation led to several high-level personalities, including the President of the United States, being banned from social media platforms, the real movement to decentralize social media began.

What is decentralization?

In a centralized system, a relatively small number of people (usually those with the most power or money) make the important decisions for the mass populus. In contrast, a decentralized system is made up of individual groups of people with each small group having the decision-making power for their group. The small groups then form connections and decide how to work together in a way that is mutually beneficial. 

The push to decentralize everything from the financial system to the government has been on the rise for several years, fuelled by a desire to provide greater freedom and increased privacy and security. In a centralized system like Instagram or Facebook, a single entity stores all of the data and controls the flow of information. This gives the holder of the data an outsized amount of control and power over the use of users' or citizens' data and creates a single point of failure that makes everyone more vulnerable to breach or abuse by bad actors.

A decentralized system relies on what is known as a ‘zero trust’ system, which means that there is no one entity that is trusted with control of the data. Instead, the system is structured as though no aspect is trustworthy. End-to-end encryption, erasure coding, and a complex system of hoops that must be traversed to gain access provides multiple layers of security ensuring that only the user can use their data.

The Federated Universe, or Fediverse for short, is the decentralized environment supporting the growing number of social platforms, communication networks, and information-sharing platforms catering to those seeking better privacy and more control over their online presence.

Welcome to the Fediverse

The Fediverse is essentially an interwoven network of social media platforms, communication services, information and file-sharing sites, forums, and other online communities.

Traditional social sharing platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and others are privately owned, profit-generating businesses controlled by a single owner or group of stakeholders who control all of the data shared through the platform.

In contrast, the Fediverse was created to counter this model and put the individual in control of their sharing. The Fediverse is a federated system of many independently owned servers, sometimes referred to as nodes or instances. Each node can connect with other nodes using a system of shared protocols allowing them to form a voluntary network of individual units. A set of established standards ensures that users on one node can freely communicate with users hosted on another node.

The decentralized structure of the Fediverse has created a vibrant network that is now host to a diverse and growing array of small communities with wide-ranging interests. There is no algorithm pushing conflicting ideologies or groups into one another’s orbit. Associations with other users are purely voluntary and proactive. This means individuals actively seek out like-minded groups with shared interests or look for topics that they have a genuine desire to learn more about.

A broad network of individual servers or nodes offers a wider selection of privacy and security protocols allowing users to choose how they connect and share with the Fediverse. Tech-savvy users who want more privacy and control over their data can create their own node and host others' access to the Fediverse. Those looking for a simple connection can select the access point that suits their privacy and security needs best and gain access in just a few clicks.

The Fediverse’s growing popularity lies in large part in the freedom from censorship and relative reliability compared to traditional social networks and communication options. Because social networks on the Fediverse are voluntary groupings of individual nodes, there is no governing authority with the power to remove or block information or users from participation. Multiple access points also make it more difficult to shut down a particular platform. If one node or access point is shut down, there are hundreds of others located all over the globe that can be used to gain access.

As the Fediverse matures, decentralized social platforms are becoming more mainstream, and users of traditional platforms are beginning to take notice. Mastodon, an X (formerly known as Twitter) alternative, is one of the fastest-growing and best-known platforms in the Fediverse. For business owners, this means that there is an untapped network of potential customers that you could be networking with. But how would marketing and SEO work on a decentralized network?


Mastodon is an open-sourced social network originally built to act as an alternative to X. Rather than posting tweets, Mastodon users send toots. Users can find and follow other users and businesses or organizations. They can favorite toots that they like, and share toots to help expand the reach of other users and messages.

Mastodon shares many similarities to X, but the two are far from identical. It can take a bit of time to adjust to the process of identifying and communicating with different users on different nodes. Unlike the standardized username or handle used on Twitter, Instagram, and other traditional platforms, Mastodon usernames consist of an individual username followed by the name of the server or node they are using to access the platform. The server name is a part of each user's identity. That being said, users can freely switch between servers and redirect handles through new servers. Users will also need to seek out other users and organizations that they would like to follow, as there is no algorithm presenting users with accounts to follow.

These differences may take some getting used to, but once users have adapted to the Mastodon structure and protocols they are rewarded with a rich and vibrant social experience.


For those who are looking for an alternative to X but aren't quite ready for the decentralized Mastodon experience, Threads offers a viable alternative.

Threads is Meta’s version of the microblogging platform. It operates much like X, with users posting small posts of commentary in response to other Threads or as stand-alone statements on a particular topic. These individual posts build on each other to form longer threads of conversation, discussion, and debate on the original topic. 

Content creation for text-based platforms

Both Mastodon and X can be used by individuals and businesses to spread their message, share ideas and build community. The text-based style makes it a bit trickier to grab attention. You can’t rely on evocative imagery to grab views, so marketers must focus on building solid communities, and developing a reputation that makes other users want to read your content. This also means that your content needs to be on point every time. Text-based communication can be incredibly powerful if you are willing to put the effort into providing valuable information on interesting topics or adding to the discussion on hot subjects. The key to successful text-based marketing lies in relationship building. Your content should be designed to spark a discussion with your audience rather than bombarding them with information. 

Decentralized marketing challenges

The decentralized Fediverse has been around long enough now to gain a substantial foothold and present a viable alternative to the status quo. However, it is not without its downsides, and there are some significant challenges that will need to be managed for the Fediverse to continue to grow into a mainstream solution.

Natural re-centralization

Building a decentralized system was not so difficult, but keeping it decentralized has proven to be a bit harder. Normal human behavior and market forces have resulted in a natural re-centralization of the decentralized networks. There are technically hundreds of servers and nodes to choose from when accessing the Fediverse, but users tend to favor a small group of servers. This means that much like the centralized traditional systems, the majority of the data and information is stored on a relatively small group of servers.

The decentralized system still offers freedom from control. Even if users are congregating on just a few servers, they still have the option to choose other access points so they have not sacrificed control by following the crowd. The issue lies in the reliability and security weaknesses presented by this re-centralization trend. With just a few servers hosting the bulk of a platform's users, a single point of failure could have a devastating impact. 

Community building challenges

Building an active and engaged community of like-minded users is at the core of any social media platform experience. The decentralized structure can make it far more difficult to find your tribe. For businesses, it makes it challenging to target your efforts to a particular audience or gauge the sentiment or interest of the public. These challenges limit the usefulness of these networks to some degree.

Centralized social media platforms use an algorithmic system to determine a user’s likely interests and social preferences. The algorithm then supplies the user with a steady stream of recommendations that help them discover new content, people connected to those ideas and subjects that they find interesting. 

Decentralized social platforms like Mastodon do not have this automatic recommendation system because determining your interests and your social circle requires a fairly significant compromise of user’s privacy.

This particular issue is one of the most vexing challenges hindering the growth of decentralized social platforms like Mastodon. Recommendations are likely needed if platforms hope to attract and keep a large enough user base to compete with centralized networks, but decentralized platforms will need to devise a solution that protects user privacy while facilitating introductions and discovery.

SEO in a decentralized environment

The challenges discussed in the previous section present even larger hurdles for businesses looking to market their services or products to users on decentralized networks. How do you create effective messaging or find an interested audience on Mastodon? How does SEO work when there are no search engines or algorithms?

These challenges are not as insurmountable as they seem. There are a plethora of options, even in a decentralized environment. Success on the Fediverse requires a perspective shift. You are in control of the experience. You are in control of your data. This means that you are responsible for how visible or invisible you are. 

Search engines will be able to find your content, but you may need to provide a roadmap via backlinks. Mastodon content is visible to search engines as long as it is not specifically blocked. The challenge comes from the fact that multiple different servers and domains make it difficult to classify, which is likely to mean that may not rank well initially and won’t be discovered easily.

This is where the perspective shift comes in. You are going to need to take the reins and meet the search engines halfway by bringing your content to them. Essentially, rather than waiting for web crawlers to (hopefully) find their way to your Mastodon thread, instead create a traditional website or blog and link to your Mastodon content from there. If you don't want to create a website, you can also link back to your Mastodon content from other content posted to a centralized platform.

With a little ingenuity and effort, you can tap into a whole new audience for your business or brand. As an added bonus, your posts are doing double duty, helping to spread the word about your brand and draw more users to the Fediverse, growing your audience in two locations.

Welcome to the decentralized future!

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