SEO 101

Community from Scratch: Building Online Brand – Increasing SEO Value

User-generated content, viral marketing, online word of mouth, third-party endorsement — all buzz terms that any digital marketer wants to be able to excel at using, turning out for the positive for bosses, boards, colleagues, and even friends. Everyone, I mean everyone in the marketing game can use more tips and “how to’s”, and to that end here are a few more.

community Community from Scratch: Building Online Brand   Increasing SEO Value

The marketing player that manages to get all these online communicative balls rolling, stardom and awards naturally wait. However, accolades and awards are not that easy to come by, that is until a sort of mastery is attained. The question is; “How do you get that very obstinate object to start moving?”

At Savoo, this question was asked of us around 18 months ago. “How do we get a whole bunch of bloggers to like and talk about us when they have never heard of us before?” “Your challenge”, a big U.S. boss said in the American drawl, “is to have a community of bloggers who want to work with Savoo, and who want to tell others about how working with Savoo is great fun.” Cue the sweats, a fake smile, and a few sleepless nights.

Why did the decision maker want us to take this strategic approach to external communications? Well, all of the above suggested reasons, but also because we believe this is a long-term SEO play. The more friends we have out there providing us with links and social media mentions, the more chance there is of Google trusting and respecting our site, seeing us as a genuine ‘brand’. This is true at least in theory, and so far “seemingly” in results.

Eighteen months on, we now sit here with a community of 30 excellent bloggers, whom we call, DealPros (because they all know where to get a deal). Some of these, we have taken some to New York for a conference; we have provided them with PR opportunities to expose their blogs and products for review, and even hosted our own event in a nice hotel. This aspect is just common sense reciprocity, but there’s more.

We have also gained over the course, and I will admit that we made some mistakes along the way, a passionate community that is growing all the time. In fact, we have had to stop ‘recruiting’ because we felt we wanted to maintain a level of service to the existing community first, before expanding further. This took some time, blood (I cut myself putting a stand up at an event), sweat, and almost tears, to achieve (which is one reason why I wanted to pass along some tips).

Without further eloquence, here are 10 key tips that should help your efforts:

1) Choose Your Niche

Look at your analytics and see who uses your site. Then, you can best come up with a specific group of bloggers to target. There’s no point in going for a fashion blogger when you are a DIY site.

2) Think Like a Salesman, Not a PR Person

PR people can get too wrapped up in ‘key messages’ and copying and pasting boring press releases. Imagine you are talking to your blogger in a pub and not across a board room table.

3) Consider “What Do They Want to Drink?”

Well, not exactly, but what do they like in their life? What do they write about? What’s important to them? Have they written about something that relates to your product in the last few weeks? A pint of Stout person needs a different approach to a white wine spritzer person.

4) Be a Horse for All Courses

Just because one person drinks Guinness and one person Sauvignon Blanc, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be relevant to them. Find a generic proposition that can be the foundations for your specific sales angles. In our case, everyone loves saving money, whether a mom of five or a single fashionista.

5) Remember That It’s the Giving That Counts

Bloggers nowadays get as many emails as journalists, so make sure you remember that you have to be able to give THEM something.  They were not put on this cyber planet to provide you with coverage, links, reviews, etc.  And don’t offer their best of enemies the same deal, as it totally dilutes the offer and will leave a nasty taste in their mouth.

6) If You’re Gonna Go Big, Go Early

Make a statement of intent. Show the cyber world that you mean business, and you are here for the duration. Pick a couple of top targets and do something for them that will just nudge that ball a bit.

7) Don’t Forget: Once You Have Engaged with Some Bloggers, You Need to Engage Again and Again

They will soon think you are a flash in the pan, unless you go back to them with something bigger and even better within weeks. It’s obvious, but use Twitter to monitor what they are saying and you can even set up a Skype room where members of the community can chat amongst themselves to discuss shared interests. You can always use competitions to keep the super users coming back for more.

8) We Are Family: Host an Event Where You Invite Your Family Together

It might be once a year and you may be dreading it, but like your own family, when you are together, there is a nice warm glow to things. Well, most families anyway. Remember these guys work, too, so the chances they can come to an event with a week’s notice is unlikely.

9) Remember “This is Not Free”

You need to pledge some money to the success of  this program. The event costs money; the sponsoring of them to go to events costs money; the travel costs money. This is part of your marketing strategy, and you should budget accordingly. It’s cost effective, but it does costs and you need to invest. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

10) Remember Timing is Crucial

Once you understand your community, you should understand how they live their lives. Moms are busy with kids in August; Christmas is stressful for everyone, and in the New Year we all need something to look forward to. Talk to them like people. Ask what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. The chances are they will tell you.

There are loads of other tips, but I’ll let you find them out as you start your journey. But hopefully, some of these are slightly different from the usual blogger engagement tactics you hear from PR folk at agencies. If you follow these guidelines, I am confident you should be able to generate good quality links, word of mouth, and brand advocate—all of which will please those at Google in the long run.

One final piece of advice here.  Ideally, you want to value your community so much that you have their mobile numbers. That way, you can text any or all of  them to ask for help with coverage at a given moment, instance of need, etc.

Image credit: Community via © N-Media-Images – Fotolia.com

 Community from Scratch: Building Online Brand   Increasing SEO Value
Ed Fleming is the Head of PR and Partnerships at Savoo.co.uk , a leading deal and comparison shopping site in the United Kingdom.

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9 thoughts on “Community from Scratch: Building Online Brand – Increasing SEO Value

  1. Nice article but im not a believer in being able to build a successful community for all niches. For example I have a client who sells toilets. Not fancy quirky toilets just bog standard toilets. We have tried building a community around the home improvement niches but feel this is too broad but there jusy arnt enough people interested in toilets. Ha ha nice post anyway and agee it can be applied to many niches just not all.

  2. Excellent post. I quiet agree with your points about building a strong community about your niche. I have personally tried this out for one of my websites and it certainly works. You need to figure out your community quickly and think Big.

  3. The community area of savoo is deadhttp://www.savoo.co.uk/community/index.html, just a hand full of threads in 18 months. Really impressive, well worth taking people to america.

  4. Great article and I took away many great points and quite timely too as I am prepping for a new project myself and will need to utilize all of the best tips to grow a community movement quickly. I took special note of #10, very good advice and that alone seems to create several content pieces in my mind.

    Actually I wanted to comment on the funny of #2 which says to not listen to PR speak. You are Head of PR and Partnerships at Savoo so I thought that was funny. Nevertheless eloquence was there and it was a pleasurable read which also had content.

    The project is in development at the moment, site is ‘under construction’ on the back end and content production and strategics are a work in progress but I am only one man and very interested in working with others.

  5. Thanks ED. I think it does depend entirely on the Niche. One of my clients is a social magazine/blog with very good content, it is easy to hook up and engage a community. Like Mark, I also have a client that sells toilet seats…This is where it becomes a massive challenge that requires some creativity.

  6. Thanks for the tips.
    I shall implement most of the above as we know that SEO does not stop at the website these days. Trying to compete with the ever growing large corporations budgets wont work.