SEO is Important, But Community-Building is Key

by / Saturday, 07 July 2012 / Published in Search Engine Optimization

This is part two of last week’s post, Google Shopping is Coming –Are You Ready for the Change? In it, I wrapped up by pointing out that all the search engine algorithm changes are not going to stop – if anything, they’ll only get more aggressive as technology evolves.

That said, I concluded that the single best way to create a self-sustaining, in-it-for-the-long-haul site is to use SEO techniques in conjunction with community-building exercises.

That’s the secret.

It’s not fancy, and it’s not some “turbo search-engine blaster ninja assassinator” software – but it’s foolproof. And it works. Community-building is every bit as vital to your online success as any keyword research you do. And you should do your SEO stuff too – that’s pivotal. However, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus solely on the community component.

The following is an outline of my five steps (which you can call my “top-secret jet-propelled blastmaster plan for traffic domination” if it makes you feel more at home) for leveraging the power of community to build an authority site from scratch. It may not be sexy, but it works.
Step #1 – Make Sure You Know Your Niche

This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. Confession time: When I first started my own blog a few months ago, I was well aware of the importance of choosing a specific niche. I thought my blog was solidly in the personal finance niche at first, and so I began networking with other personal finance bloggers.

After the flurry of interest and comments on my blog spurred by my initial contact with the community, I noticed that my traffic numbers were still struggling even after a couple more months of consistent posting. Then, upon further analysis, I realized that my blog was shaping up as a weird mashup of a few different niches – personal finance, work-at-home mom interests, freelance writing, and Internet marketing.

What was I thinking?! All of those topics are their own complete niches with their own separate audiences, and finding my place in such separate spheres with one blog is quite tough at best and downright impossible at worst. I’m currently working to restructure my blog to focus on just one niche, but the moral of the story for you is this: Please pick a well-defined niche before you write anything or even begin to think about theme shopping. Then, you must stick to the topic you’ve selected. It may seem fun to start a blog on many different topics to “see where it leads,” but the chances are mighty slim that it will be a monetary success. When you define your niche from the get-go and laser focus in on your target audience, it will make the rest of the steps that much easier and your community that much quicker to build.
Step #2 – Post Every Day

Bottom line: If you want to build a site or blog, you must post. A lot. Like every day. You don’t have to post feature-length wonders every 24 hours by any stretch, but you must be consistent. Don’t post drivel or rely on guest posts to do your work for you. Your readers want to hear your voice and your views – it’s your job to give them exactly what they’re visiting for or they simply won’t return. So make it a priority to post quality content every day.

You should also strive to make your posts or articles as informative and witty as possible. Try to find a unique angle if you’re tackling a heavily-discussed topic. You want to present a new spin on information as opposed to simply regurgitating the same articles that your readers can easily hunt down elsewhere. For more tips on how to do this, check out What Most Webmasters Don’t Know About Their Failing Website Content.

You should also strive to pepper your site with pillar articles. To understand what this entails, I always go back to this excerpt from an post:

In order to make sure I have enough pillar articles on my own blog, I try to write at least one a week, and then I write my regular posts daily.
#3 – Make Connections

If you’ve successfully identified your niche and started posting quality content at regular intervals, then you’re ready to get the word out about your site. You should first figure out who the core members of your group are – and, trust me, every niche has its diehards. It’s just up to you to unearth them.

There are many ways to dig up the people in your niche. All it takes is identifying one of the key players, and the comments section of that person’s site or blog will typically be full of comments from the others – complete with a handy list of links back to their sites.

To find a key player in your niche, start with a simple Internet search. Simply type the primary keyword for your niche followed by the word “blog” or “forum” into the search bar. When you do this, you’ll be presented with a list of the heavy-hitters in your niche, so get your investigation on and start a breadcrumb trail for yourself.

This part of the plan should be a process. You may want to check out Twitter conversations and other social factors to get a feel for the way the people in your niche interact with one another. Spend a good deal of time observing, and then when you feel comfortable, start jumping in and commenting on as many blogs as possible only after you’ve determined which sites or blogs are the most relevant for your comments.
#4 – Give Shout-Outs

Once you’ve established your presence in your niche, it’s time to kick that exposure up a notch. Try weekly roundup posts or articles in which you highlight ten or more of the best posts from other sites in your niche with links back to their corresponding sites. Continue this every single week, and you will slowly begin to see people returning the favor. And those people may have a much bigger audience and far more reach than you, so this step is vital.

You should also work at least one guest post a week into your schedule. Once you’ve garnered a rep with your peers, begin approaching them one by one and offering to write guest posts for their sites. The farther you spread your site’s name, the more targeted traffic will begin to flow in.
#5 – Stay Organized and Consistent

Organization is the name of the game when it comes to community-building. Why? Because the Internet can be a huge time suck, and if you don’t go in with a plan of attack, you may never come out alive. I stick to a list of daily tasks that I must complete so I have a clear focus when I’m online.

I like to use a large wall calendar, but you could use an app in your phone or any other organizational aid to help you out with this one. Schedule your daily posts (including one pillar post per week), your weekly guest post, and ten comments on other blogs each day. This should get you started. Over time, you will begin to see your readership grow and your traffic skyrocket. The secret? Organization and Consistency.