Rethinking SEO in Online Communities

We all know online communities have become a guiding and influential force in individual decision making, networking and basic day-to-day contact. As these communities grow larger everyday, with younger and older generations jumping on the Internet every second, web-based marketing companies must learn to understand why reaching out to a larger audience (young and old), who’s waiting all in one place, can help produce the long term, effective and successful SEO results their clients are looking for – visitor retention and Internet popularity.

SEO + Forums = Bots Denied

Right. We’ve all been told that SEO has no business being in forums because of Google’s nofollow attribute in those communities. That being said, guess who does have access? Humans, real people, users, facebook lovers, tweeters, website owners, CEO’s, Mom’s….and the point’s made. If you want to help increase the value of your client’s website, in the most organic fashion, then step inside a forum and start chatting. Real people are the ones who are going to make your client popular online – not bots. For example, think about spam bots on twitter, do you retweet their tweets? How about spam in your email, do you forward it to your 10 closest friends? And this is why ‘block user’ was created. No one likes to be blocked.

To help prevent getting a not-so-pleasant online SEO rep (for yourself and your client) you’ve got to do a little mind-set relocation of instant gratification, where your results are as measurable as using a broken broom to sweep up glass, which will only leave holes in the type of results your client is looking for – it’s brand building 101, and it’s going to take more than one month to do. That’s why you should think of forums as the word-of-mouth on the Internet and a great way to create backlinks. It’s real people, interested in a specific niche who use a specific community as there go-to for info. The best part is: thanks to our sharing addiction (brought to by the makers of social media), they will share, share, share and link, link, link any, and all websites they like. Everyone likes a ‘Thumbs Up’.

Forums are Savings Accounts

Think about it this way: forums are your savings account and your client’s website is money. If you put away a certain percentage of money, oh let’s say $100 (links), into your savings account (forum) each month for six months you’ll end up with $600. So, if you plant conversation seeds, and are regularly involved in 10 online communities, with a redirection to your client’s site, for four months, what do you think the estimated amount of external inbound links will be? If you’re willing to put in the effort the ROI could have your client smiling bigger than the Grinch at Christmas.

While that Grinch smile is pretty iconic, it didn’t come without some hard work and patience – two factors in making forum-link-love work for you. Like said, forums are nofollow, and that in itself is discouraging (even more so when you’re looking for instant, measurable results). But a forum isn’t the lottery, it’s that $100 in your savings, and you have be to genuine about wanting to share your client’s information for the good of the community. This isn’t a get pagerank quick scheme, you’ve got to build that internal reputation that will get the users sharing.

Here are two (maybe not so common) things to keep in mind when venturing into the land of forums…

SEO – Where Online Communities Fit In from Paul Biggs on Vimeo.

Keywords and the 80/20 rule

In Paul Brigg’s short video presentation, Where Online Communities Fit In, he points out that about 80% of searches come from 20% your keywords or core keywords. That other 80%? It comes from long tail searchers – real people using their brain to guess and generate search phrases, not keywords the marketing department research. These long tail searches are where you’ll get the top organic links. This is where seeding ideas, creating conversation and reaching out into forums can and will increase your client’s long-term success, and the chances of them renewing their contract. Clients like customers, customers are people, and people like people to actually care.

Saying this, forums can help you discover new trending keywords and/or help you re-purpose existing ones. Taking user generated phrases and content is a best practice for Internet Marketers, and the major trick for saying ahead. So, if you don’t have the resources or commitment for SEO in forums, you can at least use them to find out what words and phrases certain communities are using to describe what you need to be selling.

The Wheel’s Easy to Turn

Strategically it’s pretty simple. These communities already have the system and template setup for you to network with their users, and access copious amounts of high-value websites – It’s really a goldmine for SEO opportunities. And thanks again to the famous makers of social media, we understand how fast and simple it is to sign-up, log in and get going in any online community you want to connect with. You have full access to insider information that can help your client (and company) figure out how to best approach your audience’s mindset and optimize their website. It’s also a great reputation management tool for your client and your business.

In all virtual reality, you’re helping your client build organic relationships with these users, without being penalized, by creating, building and maintaining an original web dialogue. This in turn establishes your client’s online presence in the virtual world by developing greater and longer lasting, beneficial results for their site’s pagerank. And guess what, their pagerank will jump because… (insert drum roll)…those users want to share the content, on their own, not because you directly asked them to. But, in order to turn the wheel the right way and keep on moving, you’ve got to be patient, and offer the community something worth having/sharing.

Rebecca Black or Y U NO Meme?

Consumer behaviour online and offline still relies on the trust of what others are saying and thinking when a product or company is mentioned. And gaining this respect (which is trust) online doesn’t happen over night like a YouTube star on our lunch breaks. But, thanks to the Internet it’s not a flip-the-hour-glass time schedule, but more of a ticking digital clock.

In any case it’s always important to assess your client’s expectations of and for SEO, and their level of understanding (as well as yours) before you take off. Working with their knowledge can help you decide if it’s even worth the time to pursue forum land or not. Do they want to be Rebecca Black or Y U NO Meme? Just a thought.

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