The Incredible Power of Search for Online Communities
Why Your User-Generated Content is an SEO Goldmine
Online communities have rapidly positioned themselves as one of the most powerful ways you can build a trusted brand, provide leading customer service and lower costs engaging with your audience.
However, in an age when original content is king and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is hard fought and hard won, online communities provide a plethora of ways to enhance traditional channels and step ahead of your competition. Let’s look at some examples.
The Content Tree
A great analogy to understand the true power of your community and user-generated content is to think your content strategy as a tree. At first, the organisation started as an idea that was planted and from there a solid trunk grew which gave the business a solid foundation, although most (if not all) of the content was from the team.
As an online community is introduced it adds many branches to the top that all have specific and useful content which then develop smaller branches of knowledge and advice. This user-generated content is produced on a daily basis and is endlessly renewed, added to so new branches appear to guide new questions or knowledge hubs.
From an SEO perspective, and as far as the powerhouses like Google and Bing want to see, this is the holy grail of high quality and interactive content. It shows the search engines that your community is incredibly active which, in turn, ensures your online portal is crawled on a regular basis to check the value of your SEO.
Whilst from time to time the search engines tweak their algorithms and ways they assess the value to the end user of search, over time new, fresh and relevant results have proven to be highly coveted and successful.
Consider your content tree strategy as ever evolving and understand that by investing in good community management, growing a highly engaged online community that is being well guided by a community pro will only continue to deliver more and more original, valuable content that boosts SEO.
The Power of Conversational Content
At the very heart of any community is the ability to speak to your audience, and for your audience to speak with peers using familiar conversation markers. Communities encourage a more natural form of dialogue that reflects the way we communicate in the offline world.
Search habits have evolved to the point where it’s now common for users to use complex and complete search strings or a more natural conversation form of search that mirror the conversations and content already happening on your brand platform.
With a little finesse of both long tail keywords and the metadata in the page URL (often automated with some optimisation of the technology behind the scenes), your community can serve up a search result that is a close match the search term.
Another way to think about this is that by reducing the work that the middle man (in this case the search engine) has to do to match a search and an answer, the closer a match and therefore the more priority this type of result is given.
Social Proof and Sharing for Inbound Wins
Online communities offer is the ability for anyone to share a conversation or solution with another network or peers across a multitude of channels in seconds. You may point out that this is true of any content, but social proof is a big differentiator when it comes to trust.
People are often wary online about the motivations of brands when they aren’t familiar with them, and what their advice and content are looking to achieve. Whilst you may have built up a good reputation, having a platform where your own users are able to validate the worth of your services or products, help others and in some cases discover completely unique and previously unconsidered solutions.
Audiences trust brands more when genuine users or “people like me” are engaged and motivated to help others which in many cases provides the social proof that is needed to solve a problem, buy a product or service for the first time or retain customers.
By making it easy to share, users can link to the online community from blogs, other communities and social platforms or even mailing lists which provide completely natural inbound links. Search engines love to see this validation that members are finding the content useful, and place a high value on the worth of users generating this content themselves.
Online communities can be extremely powerful for providing big SEO wins that also add value not just to your brand but to the members you engage with. Carefully nurtured, your content tree can provide a near-endless supply of fresh and useful user-generated content that people trust and link to. Ensure you have a skilled and passionate community manager to help squeeze every drop of worth from your tree’s fruit.