This Tax Season- Audit Your Online Community

Anna Ritchie : Community Maven
Anna Ritchie
Marketing & communications practitioner, and product manager for TMCnet. Focus on content marketing and social media with a specialty in Online Community-building for businesses. Follow @Connectincloud and @apritchie
| Expertise and Advice on Successful Online Communities

This Tax Season- Audit Your Online Community

Only in 2011 can you attend a Publisher’s Conference and find sessions focused on SEO and Social Networking. But, as magazine and book companies – like most others across all industries – start moving their content to the cloud, naturally it would be relevant to discuss ways to optimize that content and the company’s presence online. Still, I was surprised at the recent Publishing Business Conference and Expo in New York to find the “Advanced SEO for Magazine Publishers: Maximize the Success of Your Program” session full to the brim with participants, and even more pleasantly surprised to learn the level of SEO understanding magazine and book publishers had who attended this session.

Led by Adam Sherk of Define Media Group, the session covered a few SEO tips I found relevant for not only company websites, but Online Communities as well. Here are a few highlights:

Site Auditing

Site auditing should be standard practice for website and Online Community owners, and what I would argue to be one of the top things you should invest in if you don’t have the resources in-house to manage it (interestingly, for the large session size, almost no participants had dedicated SEO experts managing their company website for them). Auditing means that you’re looking at your content, design, click performance, keyword visibility and action items to ensure that every single piece is optimized and that the site is fresh and engaging (see “Keeping Content Fresh” for some tips on maintaining fresh content). This is even more important if you have an Online Community, as the purpose of these sites is to promote exactly that – Community – and without new, interesting content, readers won’t feel compelled to return to your site or discuss and share the content on your site, negatively affecting your SEO.

Site Triage

After your audit comes decision-making time. What are you going to improve on your site? Few companies have the time or resources to completely overhaul a Community once the potential flaws or gaps are identified, so Sherk presented a three-category “triage” system where companies should determine what their highest, medium and lowest priority “Action Items” are. What’s High Priority? Problems with your redirects, duplicate content, error reports and URL structure are a few examples. Things like internal linking, SEO style guides, image optimization and social might take a “Medium” level of urgency, and so on. Every company is unique, though, and we often find that since every Online Community sponsor has different objectives for their site, they have different priorities during a site enhancement as well. We encourage anyone who manages an Online Community to think through the site’s original objectives in the audit process to make sure they are being met, but also be flexible to incorporate changes based on new company directions or initiatives.  

Making Content a Priority

Sherk concluded the session with a subject I feel very passionate about: Content should be a top priority on your website and Online Community. We’ve written about this subject numerous times, so I won’t duplicate myself too much here (For articles on optimizing content, read “I have the Content…now what?” or “The Need for Quality Content is Clear”) but I strongly feel that without a strong CMS and high-quality SEO-friendly content, that no matter how much time and effort you put into an Online Community, chances are that it won’t be as successful as it can be. Things like duplicate content, dead links, overly salesy-language or unstructured-content can be detrimental to an Online Community. And once the content is up, audit and track and measure and audit again. Always be looking to make improvements, incorporate new ideas and refresh the site to keep visitors coming back for more.

“End Scene”

Sherk spoke of the need for “Good Exits” on a site. This is a great concept for Online Communities; make sure the reader leaves the site with something valuable or interesting that will make them want to come back again. A “thank you for visiting” pop-up, perhaps?  Coupon? Really solid research? The possibilities are vast.

Tell us what you think. Performed site triage? Have a Community that works well? Know a great example of a “Good Exit”? Let us know!

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To learn more about maintaining content on an Online Community, join us for our upcoming educational Webinar “Using Credible Content to Promote Thought Leadership and Drive Sales

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