Active communities – like online forums – are perhaps not the sexiest thing to talk about these days in terms of SEO. After all, Google wants us to believe that whatever content we create needs to come from us, needs to be unique, and the longer it is the better.
But is it really the case? Is SEO a one blogger’s game? Or maybe we can do something to make our work easier, and give our WordPress sites a boost in an old-school way. Are forums and active user communities back?
Bill’s experience says they are. He has some really cool data to share, along with tutorials on how you can replicate his results and improve your SEO.Karol
Enter Bill Belew
Have you ever asked yourself, “How hard is it to get an army of people to create good content for me at my WordPress site?”
And, “If I could get my followers to do that, would it help me long term with SEO?”
Is it worth the effort for a WordPress site owner to grow a community?
The goal of the series is to answer the question.
I will discuss in this and subsequent posts:
- Understanding how a community built around your WordPress site can improve SEO.
- Step-by-step process for building a community.
- Examining your results, improving, going to the next level.
A new definition of forum
A community is generally understood to be a group of readers, an audience ready and waiting for someone on the “other side” to hit publish.
There can be interaction, but most of the time, the audience is passive. Some 90% of forum members are passive = just lurk, just read. The other 10% of members in the forum will interact.
Generally just 1% of forum members will create something new = hit the publish button. And most new content for forums is read in the email box of the members.
A well trafficked forum sounds like a community to me, by an old name. I use the terms forum and community interchangeably.
Will building a forum/community around your WordPress site improve SEO?
Let’s understand what SEO is to answer this question. First, what it is not anymore, then what it is now.
SEO, Search Engine Optimization is not what it used to be. Not that long ago, SEO was:
- Tweaking the back end of a site
- Getting the headers right
- Adding tags and descriptions
- Counting characters
- Picking keywords
- Finding just the right balance and where to place words on the page/post
- And on and on and on
SEO is not that way anymore. Despite the 200+ different parameters that go into the “ideal” page, there are about 10 things the site owner can do that will give 90% of the desired results.
WordPress themes are pretty much optimized (another word for ideal) out of the box. What needs to be addressed now is getting the front-end right = creating good content. Good content results in organic traffic.
Do content right, and your site’s organic traffic will grow. Organic traffic is proof positive that you are doing search engine optimization correctly. Having a good content strategy is good SEO.
3 questions and answers when launching a site:
- Q1: Can a site get organic traffic by just focusing on content?
- Q2: Does a site owner need to buy traffic at the outset to kickstart growth?
- Q3: Does a site owner need to be active in social networks to really make growth happen?
A: Yes. You can get organic traffic by focusing on content alone.
A: No. You do NOT need to buy traffic to get going.
A: No. You do NOT need to be active in the social networks to make organic growth happen.
Need examples? Following is a screenshot of one site of many case studies I have from a large group of students I taught at an MBA class in Silicon Valley … starting from zero. This site was able to climb out of the sandbox and get organic traffic with nothing but good content. The site was built on a black and white default WordPress template (focused on travel). The results were typical.
Another case study is a student who used her Facebook reach to try and kickstart things. Her topic was nutrition/cooking. She did no better than others in the class. What she did accomplish was to wear out her friends, so other factors could come into the picture.
A new definition of SEO
There are 5 elements to an effective SEO strategy:
- Create a compelling storyline – Content
- Write a lot of good content – Quantity
- Maintain high quality – Quality
- Consistently make updates to the site – Consistency
- Stay the course – Longevity
Taking it from the top:
1st – A compelling storyline has 6 parts.
- Determine your target demographic – break it down as far as possible. Example: Female, single, left-handed, tech industry, managers, 10-20 lbs overweight, in their mid-30s.
- Articulate your market’s desires – get married, stay single, date more, lose weight, gain weight, have a baby, change jobs, improve their appearance.
- List the obstacles your market face – busy, depressed, unmotivated, in a rut, getting married in 3 months, single again.
- Name the solutions for your market – you’re the hero. How does your product, service, offering fix things for them.
- Almost lastly – write out the results your target demographic will see when they work with with you. A better paying job, multiple proposals, weight off, weight on, better self image, new industry.
- Lastly – where you can physically accomplish this for your demographic. Target locations.
2nd – Write the above story in as many variations as you can possibly muster.
Then do it some more. And some more. Tedious? Perhaps. Boring? Perhaps. But only to the writer. Most visitors who come to your site only come to the article that they searched and found because you thought about them.
The searcher will click through to see who else you thought of. Then hit your call-to-action. Getting real people to fulfil your CTA? Not boring. Getting organic traffic to your site via search? That’s good SEO.
Keep in mind that search engines are … what’s the word … stupid. They can’t read. They can only count.
More articles on your site about more situations that your target demographic might be facing will beat less articles on your competitor’s site. If you want people to come to your site, give them more reasons to come, more articles to happen upon via search. It really is that simple.
“I don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity!” Okay, okay! But you don’t have to. Here’s a link to 95 ideas to start generating high-quality content on your site.
3rd – Maintain quality.
Here are 7 essentials for good SEO results:
- Get your titles right.
- Get a good lead into your article that reiterates what you promised in your title.
- Place images properly and give them relevant captions and descriptions.
- Place headers well. Reading the headers is how the reader will decide whether or not they want to hunker down and read the whole article.
- Add internal links to another relevant article within your site to prove focus.
- Add external links to another credible site to establish authority.
- Give so much value that people will want to link to and pass around your article. Not because you asked, but because it’s good enough.
4th – Consistently update your site.
Publish often. Often enough to climb out of the sandbox. And then often enough to stay out or maintain and slowly grow your influence.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote elsewhere that answers the question – Will short articles published regularly do better in search than long deep articles written much less often?
Ask yourself, when was the last time your search query was satisfied in the 300th, 400th, 500th word (or longer!) portion of a post? The answers to search queries come early on, in the first 200 words.
There’s no contest. One, many short posts, far out performed the other, long-form posts, in search. That’s good, make that excellent SEO.
Add a balance of long-form posts to your short-form strategy and you will see even better results!
5th – Stay the course.
Keep posting until your idea catches on. The number one reason why businesses fail is because the business founders give up before the idea catches on. There are lots of reasons that lead to giving up … divorce, no money, supplier bails on you … but the end result is the business owner gave up.
If an idea is good at the beginning, it is worth staying with till it catches on. Don’t give up.
How can a community built around a WordPress site help with SEO?
A community built around your WordPress site provides ALL five elements:
And best of all, your audience does most of the work for you!
A website can/will thrive if there are more people, telling more stories, more often in good form, about the topic of the site.
If the website owner (a big “if”) can build a forum, tribe, community (call it what you want) around the topic of his/her site, the end result will be a more robust site, more engagement and more organic visits from SEARCH = excellent SEO.
How hard is it to get 1000 followers?
I have built a forum – forum.billbelew.com around my WordPress site. The topic is quite narrow – content marketing. Building the forum/community has been a slog.
In the 16 months since the forum was launched, the membership has swelled to well over 1000 people and members from 48 different countries. There have been over 9000 users from 125 countries, 35,000 sessions, 1400 threads and 14,000 posts. That’s a lot of user generated content!
Two questions remain, big as they are:
- What are the steps to building such a community? That’s the topic of the next article.
- What are the organic traffic (SEARCH) and engagement results? That’s the topic of the 3rd article.
More content = more engagement around your WordPress site = better SEO.
Thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments.