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In SEO: Search Engine Optimization Getting Started, author Jill Whalen explains the importance of site rankings and why search engine optimization is necessary for increasing web site traffic. The course covers choosing the best keywords, performing keyword research, augmenting keywords with search-friendly site architecture, creating social media networking strategies, and measuring the success of an SEO campaign.
Participating in the various online communities that you find is a bit of tricky balancing act. While we all want to promote our businesses and websites, you can't or at least shouldn't go into these communities with that goal. In fact, I would suggest that it's better to stay out of them altogether unless you are fully committed to being a good community member. As a forum owner myself for many years, every day I see people coming into our forum for no other reason than to try to gain links or to self promote.
Most good forums can spot this behavior from a mile away and won't allow it. That said, there can be benefits to participating for real in online communities. Just like offline networking can provide you with business connections, so can online networking. I've personally made many business friendships and partnerships by participating in online communities. So, let's look at some of the dos and don'ts of participating in online social media. Most forums and some blogs and other types of social media communities have specific rules or guidelines posted about proper netiquette and use of their service.
In order to register, you are typically supposed to read these. I highly suggest that you do because they're often very strict guidelines when it comes to self-promotion and dropping links in your posts. This is because due to the fact that Google put so much emphasis on links within their ranking formula, online marketers have abused social media communities for their own benefit. The admins of these communities can easily spot those communities spammers and will ban them fairly quickly. For instance, if you're a new member of the community and your first post or two you go in and start telling everyone how great your website or product or service is and especially if you add a link to it, there is a good chance your post will be deleted or worse, ridiculed. Plus your account could be terminated.
While most social media communities allow you to create a profile and/or add a signature that appears next to your name when you post a comment, these days most of them will have what's called a nofollow attribute on any links that you may place there. The nofollow attribute is a signal to Google that the link is not a typical vote for the site, like links that a site owner may place themselves, which means that Google may not give it as much or any rating in terms of link popularity. Google says they don't count these links at all but that's not necessarily the whole truth.
At any way, the takeaway here is that while you may be able to add link and even get people to click through and visit your website, just understand that these links may or may not help your link popularity, which is okay. It's still good marketing. Be sure that you very carefully review what people are already talking about within the social media communities that you join. This will give you a good sense of how you might fit in and start participating. Are they talking about things that you're interested in and knowledgeable about? Are they part of your target market? What's their community culture like? Are they polite to each other or are discussions heated and/or nasty? Neither is necessarily better than the other, but some people aren't cut out to be part of a community that gets nasty.
If you thick skin and don't mind some heated debate, you may be fine but if you don't you may want to stay out of the controversial topics. Post and comments within most social media communities will have many asking questions about the topic at hand. This is where you may be able to start participating. Look for questions that have gone unanswered or have been partially answered and select your knowledgeable muscles by answering them. If you are brand-new to a forum, do be careful of stepping on the well-established members toes.
In other words, don't try to show them up or make them look dumb. But if there is a place you can help, feel free to step in and do so. When you do this, you also want to be 100% sure you've got the right answer. All of your efforts will be for nothing if you go in and start providing wrong or bad advice to people. You can be sure that the other members of the community will let you know this very quickly. If you are not prepared to start answering others' questions yet or even if you are, another way of participating in social media communities is to ask your own questions.
You can do this via existing threads that has some aspect you are unsure about or just feel there could be further discussion, or if the community is such that allows new posts, you can start a new topic with some questions you have on the subject at hand. The caveat here is if you're supposed to be an expert on something, you want to be careful of going in and asking some basic question that someone of your ability should know. But there is nothing wrong with asking advanced questions or just asking for further clarification on other peoples' posts. This is a good way to start to establishing rapport with the other community members.
The bottom line to your participation is to have fun and make some online friends with people who might be interested in what your company offers, or even just to be able to recommend you to others who might be. But you do have to be careful of getting lost in social media. In other words, having too much fun that you participate a little bit too much. It's very easy for social media to be a total time suck and keep you away from other work that you may need to accomplish. Not everyone is comfortable or wants to participate in online communities. If you don't have the time or inclination to be a true participant, then perhaps you can see if there is someone else in your company who is better suited for the task.
There seems to be two kinds of people in the world, those that enjoy communicating with others online and those that don't. Oftentimes, you can even hire an intern who has been participating in social networks for years in their own personal endeavors who will be happy to become part of the community on your behalf if it's not your cup of tea.
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