C’mon and Look at Me! Look at Me!
C’mon and look!
Look at Me!
We’ve all seen it done well, and we’ve all seen it done not so well, and even downright poorly. Now let’s look at applying it to your extant community.
A poorly executed marketing strategy cannot only turn off your preexisting users; it can also get your site marked as a Spammer. And the scarlet S can get your site unceremoniously dumped from Google. And that means, essentially, the equivalent of the death of the site.
Long Story Short: Don’t Spam
In order to effectively market your community, you need to cover three kinds of SEO/Marketing. Those are onsite, offsite and offline. Onsite will be covered later in this series, and that information will not be repeated herein. Plus, it may seem a tad counter-intuitive, but onsite SEO is not that big of a deal.*
Yes, you need good keywords and you need good content. But after that, your optimization and marketing efforts need to move offsite.
Offsite can be (mainly) divided into three areas:
- Directories and Search Engines
- Social Bookmarking and Networking Sites and
Directories and Search Engines
Let’s start with directories and search engines. You must submit your site to Google. However, don’t submit to any other search engines. Why? Because others’ share of the market is virtually nonexistent. Hence this is a waste of your time, and they will likely pick up your site from Google anyway. So don’t use a blasting service. Heavens, no. You don’t need it and it is absolutely not worth it.
Directories are even easier. For general interest sites, you can just skip ’em. Seriously. They’re really not meaningful any more.
It can be best to do well locally and rise to the top of the search engine rankings for specific search terms like, say, Indiana Relationship Forums, than to attempt to break into the top rankings for a more general terms, such as Relationship Forums. Consider directories in other languages, too!
Social Bookmarking and Networking
Social Bookmarking and Networking are different animals. Much like for search engines, there is a huge panoply out there, plus it’s tempting to just blast out information. Don’t. You don’t need to.
Only submit your site (and your blog, if you have one) to the following social bookmarking sites:
Forget the dozens of others unless there is a very specific and perfect match between your site and what they bookmark. Because they are mostly tiny, they can be spam factories and they are generally just not worth your time and effort.
Look at These Social Networks
Social networking implies more interactivity, and not just voting links up or down, perhaps laced with the occasional comment.
While there are international ones (and if you’ve got a perfect match between your content and their focus, then by all means establish a presence thereat), you really only care about the following:
- Facebook – an official fan page helps for any number of reasons. First of all, it can make your site known to friends, family members, business colleagues and any other connections to your site’s currently existing users. And you can use it to post photographs and links directly back to your site. Furthermore, you can use it as a rallying point during both expected (and unexpected) site outages.
- Twitter – even if your users are not, generally, on Twitter, it is still a useful marketing tool. Try feeding in a slice of the site via RSS. Just like with Facebook, this can expand the network of persons who know about your site.
- LinkedIn (if applicable) – if your site is attached to a going concern, then at minimum make sure the company listing on LinkedIn is correct. And make sure all of the company’s employees directly linking their profiles to it. Furthermore, make sure your site’s blog and Twitter stream are configured to feed it updates.
Look at More Social Networks
- Pinterest – demographics tend to skew heavily female and over thirty-five. Got a restaurant? A shoe store? Wedding products or services? A women’s health collective? A feminist bookstore? Go to Pinterest – but only if you’ve got excellent images.
- Got great images but less of a female-centric slant? Consider Instagram instead.
- Tumblr – demographics skew heavily under thirty-five and even under twenty-five. Got a video game? An indie film? Go to Tumblr.
- Snapchat – demographics skew toward teens and tweens? Consider this fast-moving site for everything from soft drinks to acne cream to fashion.
- YouTube – longer form video content is a great way to get a message across.
- TikTok – 100% content-centric. Show this slice of the world what you’re made of.
Backlinking is where you get others to add your site link to their own websites. Back-links help a great deal as Google gives them weight when determining your site’s importance. And that is directly linked to search placement. You always do better when more trusted sites link back to you. Don’t get spammers to link to you.
For your blog, you can add a blogroll of other sites you admire. Just as importantly, post comments on those sites. This provides value to those other people, so they are more likely to spontaneously wish to link back to you. In addition, don’t leave it all to happenstance. Put a link on your site and approach the webmaster of that site and politely ask for a back link.
Some people are happy to oblige. Others are not, so remove their links from your site after a reasonable amount of time. Some may simply think about it, so give them a little time.
And be reasonable, but also be reasonable with yourself. If you’re not getting link backs, try to figure out why. Are your requests too aggressive? Or do you ask people with wholly unrelated sites? Do you, perhaps, have no content (or no meaningful content) for them to associate with? Look at your site with a critical eye before throwing in the towel.
Offline Marketing and Optimization
Offline marketing and optimization means going back to techniques used before – shudder – there even was an Internet. Before computers even existed.
Depending upon your budget and your site’s overall purpose, offline marketing can range from something as simple as business cards or baseball caps or tee shirts with the site’s logo to a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. It can even be completely free. After all, any time you mention your site to someone else, didn’t you just market it?
Look, sitting back and waiting for your site to take off will almost never work. You need to market it, particularly in the beginning. Get your name out there!
*Of course, onsite SEO is vital for a blog like this one. But for a forums site? Er, not quite so much…