2 SEO Techniques the Experts Say Will "Make or Break" 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

2 SEO Techniques the Experts Say Will "Make or Break" Your Online Community

In a recent “SEO and Online Communities” webinar, experts Jonathan Allen (Search Engine Watch) and Rich Tehrani (CEO, TMCnet) joined forces to give viewers the latest research and best practices on SEO and Search Marketing tactics companies should implement, and avoid.

Throughout the discussion, Allen and Tehrani highlighted how online communities are growing in popularity as a great SEO-booster, mainly because they are content-driven and offer truly valuable and educational information to site visitors – something the search engines love to see. 

Here are the 2 SEO techniques Allen and Tehrani emphasized during the webinar as “critical practices” online community managers should consider when building and maintaining their sites.

The Top 2 Techniques Are…. 

Surprise surprise: Quality content and clean design (followed closely by social media integration). Now, even though you probably already knew this, what you might not know is how to use these 2 techniques in the best ways. Here's what the experts had to say about that:  

1) Content Matters (When You Know What You’re Talking About)

As Allen and Tehrani pointed out during the webinar, recent search engine algorithm changes have thrown a skewer in some companies’ organic ranking. Why? Because they are cracking down on “black hat” or bad SEO practices, and rewarding the most valuable asset of all: Credible content. This means that companies need to start focusing on their content efforts by creating content that’s both SEO-friendly (keyword-driven, innovative, educational) and generates a response from readers (the more social sharing that happens, the better!) Create content that will generate an interesting response or reaction from your reader, or that poses questions to them, and don’t be afraid to have a little fun!

One webinar attendee asked:  “How does having a knowledge base of industry/technology information impact your search engine results?” It’s simple; of course it helps. The more information you have, the better your search ranking will be as long as the information is organized, and unduplicated. So, choose carefully how you want to present your information and focus on relevance to the reader, like what you’d find in a case study or white paper.

2) Make the Content Shine

A crisp, clean online community design is the perfect partner to credible content. One participant asked which design elements work best, which the speakers responded with “navigation links that make your content easy-to-find is key; Also, a clean and simple design works well, with organized content and dominant calls-to-action (sign up for this newsletter, talk to an expert).” The overall theme? Try not to overrun the page with too many ads or promotional content; the more informative and educational the better.  This is why online communities are so effective in helping boost SEO and position a company as a thought leader; because the intent of the online community is not to promote a brand, but demonstrate that your company has the most cutting-edge, relevant and educational information that consumers crave when making purchasing decisions. That, in turn, turns into trust, and site visitors will come to your community again and again, as long as the site design and content is fresh. Change the ads. Change the content. Change the calls to action- make people wonder what you’re going to do next.

Another design top is to spread out your content on your site, making multi-page communities highly effective. This allows you to create a great experience for the user because the content is organized and easy-to find (case studies on one page, product demonstrations on another, and the latest research reports on another). Think about your users first, and what’s going to matter most to them, and build your site to reflect that understanding.

Link Tip: Even though having multiple pages is great, make sure they are all connected, link back to each other and have consistent keyword-usage. That way they are working as a simultaneous SEO-campaign on your behalf, not to your detriment.

See the Results – Over Time

SEO is not a “quick win”. The most successful campaigns adhere to the adage, “slow and steady wins the race.” Although at TMC we’ve seen some of our online communities rank highly, organically, on search engines in as little as a month, typically it takes around 3-6 months to actual see results.

There are a few contingencies: Obviously the term(s) you are looking to rank for plays a major factor; a long-tail result on the first page where the terms are unpopular could be fairly easy to rank quickly on.

And, of course, it all comes down to content. The more content you put out there, the faster you'll rank. But, don’t think that by just streamlining your links on Twitter will help; Google isn't necessarily picking up links as much from Twitter in its rankings anymore, so be sure to be thoughtful about places you post your content, like relevant forums, groups on LinkedIn, or industry sites.

Connect with Us and Join the Conversation: Do you agree that these are the top SEO practices a company should implement on online communities? What are some of your tips and best practices?

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