SEO of your community

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Search Engine Optimization refers to the series of techniques that are used to ensure that content matches people’s queries on search engines. An effective SEO strategy allows a website to appear in the first page(s) of the SERPs (search engine results pages), which contains the websites visited by the vast majority of people using Google, Bing or Yahoo. Improving the SEO value of your community ensures that its ranking on SERPs is higher for key topics. A higher rank in the SERPs means that users who may have ended up in your competitor’s community end up in yours. Communities publish large quantities of content on a daily basis. This large content volume explains why most of their traffic is the result of organic searches. The better this content matches people’s search queries, the more successful a community will be, in terms of its SERPs rankings.

Improving the SEO value of your community ensures that its ranking on SERPs is higher for key topics. A higher rank in the SERPs means that users who may have ended up in your competitor’s community end up in yours.Ensuring a high SEO value for your community follows this process:
  • It begins by optimizing your basic SEO settings, namely Meta titles and Meta descriptions.
  • It continues by identifying and evaluating the most relevant topics/themes in your community through tools like Google Adword’s keyword planner
  • In order to avoid highly competed keywords, focus on long tail keywords that are relevant to your vertical and/or audience
  • After you have selected your keyword groups and ideas you must optimize the community’s content through a smart use keywords in combination of HTML tags (H1, H2, H3) and stylings (bold, italic, underlined)
  • Use backlinks to your community in your social media, blogs and websites
Additional recommendations to ensure that your community is SEO proof are:
  • If your company has an SEO manager, get him involved and preferably make him the lead of content optimization in your community
  • If your company uses third party content creators, require them to SEO proof their content
  • Keep track of your community’s rankings in SERPs, especially against close competitors and adjust your strategy accordingly
Want to read the whole whitepaper in your own time? Download the pfd here.

SEO Community Setting

When launching a community there are certain easy-to-spot elements that will have direct impact on SERPs.

This section goes over each of these elements, describing their effect and the ways they should be configured for an online community—a detailed list of the technical configurations in the inSided platform appears in our whitepaper Community SEO: Technical Reference.

Meta tags in a community have a multiplier effect on the SEO power of your content.

A webpage has usually a single meta title and a single meta description. In a community every forum can have a unique meta title. This means that a community with 10 forums has already as many meta titles as a 10 page website. If, next to this, you notice that each topic page can be also accessed as a unique web page, this means that in a community you can have as many meta title as you have topics.

Community meta tags

Meta title

They are used on SERPs to display preview snippets for a given page, and are important both for SEO and social sharing purposes (see example below). The title element of a community home page (or forum page) should be an accurate and concise description about each page's content. Meta titles create value in three specific areas: content relevancy, browsing, and in SERP rankings. To optimize meta titles keywords should be used. The term forum in English is currently an important keyword for communities, because it tells something to the Google bots about the content that can be found in them: it tells them that content generated by multiple users can be found. From a user’s point of view it is also the best way for them to align their expectations with the content they will find.

Meta title at a topic level: like with forum or community home pages, topic pages also have a meta title, when they appear in SERPs.

Optimizing topic titles, to include keywords and exclude misspelled words, is the best way to ensure that the content is properly grasped and matched to search queries in search engines. Next to this. meta titles should not exceed 50-60 characters.

Meta description

While they don’t have a direct effect on search engine rankings, they still play an important role in getting users to click-through your community from the SERPs. Meta descriptions are an opportunity to promote their content to searchers, letting them know exactly whether the given page contains the information they're looking for (see figure below).The meta description should, for this reason, use keywords smartly, creating a compelling description that a searcher will want to click. To optimize a meta description you must pay attention to two factors:
  1. Maintain relevance and uniqueness between each page’s meta description.
  2. Keep an eye on the length, making sure that the meta description has between 150-160 characters.

Keywords and search queries

One of the things that matters a lot to search engine bots is determining how a website’s content relates to search queries. The way they do this is by identifying the website's keywords. Three things are important to know about keywords:
  1. Bots use HTML tags or ‘bbcodes’ to rank what content is more important in each webpage: headings (h1, h2, h3), bold and italic text, and anchor text (text linked to another webpage or website).
  2. Keywords are not necessarily single words: this means that your site can combine different terms and even sentences that match search queries.
  3. Not all keywords are created equal: choosing generic keywords, which may have the highest search volumes is not always the best way for your website to rank in the first page of the SERPs. Using keywords made out of several words and making sure that they are not used by everyone in your vertical is a good way to ensure that you choose the right keywords (see the section ‘Using the right keywords’).
Imagine you have a blog about cats. People interested in the content of your blog will probably not simply go to Google, write 'Cats' on the search bar and click search. people who are interested in cats may search, among others:
  • Nutritients in cat food
  • Can cats eat vegetables?
  • Cat veterinary in Amsterdam
  • Funny videos of cats wearing hats
  • Cat toys that resemble a leather couch
The list of searches can indeed be very big, but the point from this example is to illustrate that using single terms as keywords is not the best way to understand search intent.

Want to read a whitepaper which dives a bit deeper into the technical details of SEO in your own time? Download it here.

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