How your community can help SEO (and vice versa)

I recently contributed to the discussion on the community manager forum e-mint on ways to make money from your community, and still keep your members happy. Today I was contacted by Peter Belden at Extole with a way which I’d tried myself when I worked at after the impact of Google’s search algorithm changes. Namely using user generated content to improve your site’s search rankings, and thus your ability for people to find you and shop if you have a store. So without further ado, here are their 3 big tips:

There are three tips that marketers should keep in mind when launching C2C social marketing programs to help impact and improve their SERP:

1. Engage your customers wherever they are: Customers engage with brands across their websites, social networks, purchase and post-purchase environments, in-store and more. The most effective way to drive participation in a C2C program is to promote it across channels; via your corporate website, email blasts, and on social networks to drive the highest awareness, participation, and amplification rate.
By giving consumers the option to decide where they want to engage, you will drive higher participation and foster more creation and sharing of stories.

2. Make sharing easy: Make it easy for customers to share stories about your brand, products, and services with their friends. Include relevant sharing options (email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).

3. Increase participation through incentives: Give customer advocates a compelling reason to share with their friends. This could be an internal offer (free goods, discounts, or loyalty points), gift cards, or charitable donations. Make sure there is an incentive for their friends to make sharing more attractive. With relevant and appropriate incentives, marketers will see more sharing from their advocates, which will produce more social signals that can be picked up by the search engines.

The Bottom Line – Cultivating Consumer-Generated Content About Your Brand Is a Must

By implementing C2C social marketing programs, brands can cultivate advocate sharing of stories with their friends and social communities. These stories will be amplified across the social web and pulled into search engine algorithms, which improves brands’ SERP. With the ongoing updates to search engine algorithms, consumers have increasingly more power over brands’ SERP, making one thing abundantly clear for marketers—harnessing the power of customers advocates to create stories about brands, products, and services is not a nice-to-have, it’s an increasingly critical element of brands’ marketing strategies.

I just ferreted out a community marketing plan I wrote for back in 2011 where I tried to sketch out a strategy to use community-driven SEO to drive revenue and fund incentives to attract more members. Have a read of how I tried to implement that strategy, or simply drop me a line if you want to know more in detail of how I can help your community:

How members attract members via SEO!

How members attract members via SEO!

Thanks to a re-tweet from Blaise Grimes-Viort I recall an aspect of this SEO community optimisation I suggested to the software guys at the time, which was to allow the community administrator to ‘tag’ reviews and guides with SEO friendly keywords. That way we could legitmately add value by making useful content more visible to customers via search engines. And we could use free tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool and discussion with our head of SEO in light of business priorities, where to focus our efforts, not to mention where there are opportunities not spotted by competitors which make it easier to rank more highly for keywords. Hey, I even sat in a workshop with Google where they flagged up such opportunities for under-used keywords to attract people.

I don’t mean editing people’s text content to make it more SEO-friendly, which is hardly going to make community members more amenable to making contributions! Rather tweaking your software platform to allow for ‘tags’ to be added, much as WordPress does for this post. You could even auto-generate a set of suggested relevant tags for the community member to choose from, the way you approach it is up to you. But it does take some research, and it’s worth working with your head of SEO, or SEO consultant to get the right. For example in using WordPress tags for SEO I would heed this advice from wpbegineer:

Often people mistake tags to be like meta keywords for your blogs. This is the main reason why they try to add as many tags as possible. Tags are NOT meta keywords for your blog. At least not by default. Popular plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast allows you to use your tag values to be in the meta keywords template. But if you don’t have these plugins configured to do that, then your tags DO NOT work like meta keywords.


Driving SEO revenue from user generated content

It’s great to come across a slide-share on the valuable topic of generating SEO revenue from your user generated content, as that’s certainly a topic I worked on at post-Google Panda to try and raise our ranking. What has used to be called social media optimization (SMO) has now migrated to the more specific term ‘social SEO’ in an era when reviews and guides are increasingly core to e-commerce success, and when getting full SEO value from them post-Panda can make a measurable dollar difference.

A top 40 comparison HD TV product guide enabled for SEO purposes on UK

There my approach was to research four or five keywords, based on a combination of share of voice (SOV) and keyword competition, using Google Adwords tool as the now defunct Google Wonder Wheel tool. I then employed Gemma and Tim at The Copywriting People to write guide text for a trial 40 comparison product guides using those chosen keywords, taking the choice of products from our most popular products for the month of May. What I have heard since then (thanks to this webinar with the founder of Trackur, from Hubspot: 23:00 mins) as a tactic to improve backlinks from top blogs is to use a social tracking tool based on keywords you are focusing on, and spotting when top bloggers are writing on a relevant subject. Then reaching out to them to see if they’d review your product, or leave a comment on that blog piece with a link back to your content without making the content too ‘spammy’. You can try this out with Alterian’s free SM2 tool for example.

To measure the effect I recorded the ranking of the products on UK and DealTime UK at the outset. Then with the aim of returning 6 weeks later to record the results.

For comparison check out the slideshare in question below from PowerReviews, which details how to self-assess your own ugc value for SEO – based on the estimate that 60% of US e-commerce sites which carry reviews don’t get full SEO value from them.

It may also worth checking out the Smart SEO tool launch by Bazaarvoice earlier this year. Clearly there’s a real demand for such a product/service in the marketplace, the trick as always is to match a method which fits your budget and delivers to your ‘social commerce‘ objectives.