When showing the value of an online community you are building, do not forget about checking the search box. Typical questions about expected outcomes from a community may still center around reach metrics. How many people am I reaching? How many eyeballs am I catching with my messages? The comprehensive answer includes reach (unique visitors, community members, etc.), engagement (i.e., conversations among fans and your brand) and search rankings. And your search listings are related to reach and engagement.
The basic principle of affecting organic search results is strong and relevant content that gets repeated, cited and linked in online conversations. When you build a community page or a fan page, steer your editorial calendar to include bits of newsworthy information that can easily grab and pass along to their networks. When sharing news about a discount, expert tips or a new product launch, your audience expands your digital footprint, brings you more visitors/fans and generate links. The sum of these activities have a positive impact on Google search rankings and your content rises higher and higher as your community expands and chatter grows through tweets, discussions and blog posts.
In fact, Web analyst Brandt Dainow's list of rules for beating Google at SEO includes the following audience behaviors, which help search rankings:
- Fans who like/follow you
- Impressions from social graph fans (i.e., they talk about your brand in social media, including your message points, brand name)
- Impressions from social graph fans with links (i.e., fans are citing your community page and referring traffic)
- Secondary fan connections (i.e., friends who tell friends who then become your fans and/or referrers)
- Other citations (i.e., links, references from people who are not your fans/followers)
- Number of visits, click-throughs
Online conversations increase the value of your community. A bustling online hub means higher visibility and accessibility.