Lee Odden

How Community Building Boosts SEO

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

community seo A while back I had a Twitter discussion with a few smart Minnesota based marketers, @cbensen, @albertmaruggi and @bestbuyCMO about the importance of customer service and community building that turned to a variety of ancillary benefits. Connie mentioned that community building is a long term investment that continues to pay dividends. Albert pointed out that SEO & community building can be 2 separate tactics with SEO having nothing to do with community. Barry wanted more of an explanation, which motivated this long overdue post.

An increasing number community managers have become visible within social media sites like Twitter, on blogs and Facebook from various sized companies. We’ve even interviewed people with those types of responsibilities from Dell and Comcast.  I’ve been thinking about how the content creation and outreach efforts of a community manager can also be of benefit to an organization’s search engine optimization efforts. 

My opinion is that it would actually take extra effort to make community building work and not realize the positive effects for SEO.  Many search engine optimization consultants that engage social media channels have noticed how their efforts resulted in community building effects.  Building up profiles on various social media sites and participating in communities to share and promote content attract links, but it also builds trust.  

It makes perfect sense for off page SEO efforts to involve community building but as @TysonFoods mentioned recently, the best person to work in that capacity is a someone within the company, not an agency. That is a topic for another post though.

Community building with SEO effects in mind isn’t so different than Public Relations or Interactive Marketing with SEO in mind. Content + links = better search visibility. That’s simplifying things a bit, but you can get more search engine optimization basics here.

Community building with SEO benefits typically involves:

  • Monitoring brand terms as well as keywords important to the organization using a social media monitoring tool
  • Create content and interaction destinations: blogs, social profiles
  • Content with unique urls can be linked to
  • Content that is optimized with keywords and proper IA is good for search engines and good for users
  • Content that is relevant and useful will attract links from those empowered to publish (bloggers, blog commenters, forums, consumer reviews, consumer generated content such as images, video, audio)

Social media monitoring is keyword based as is SEO.  Socia media monitoring counts links and SEO builds links.  Encouraging or “energizing” evangelists of a brand also builds content ala CGM and attracts links.  Some of those links go directly to the evangelists’ own content and some will go to the brand itself. Search engines discover and follow these links and when factoring in context and keywords used, will use that information when sorting documents in search results. ie, Content + links = better search visibility.

My question for community managers is, are you leveraging any SEO keyword research and insight to assist word choice when building profiles, creating content and outreach online?  I would not suggest any kind of overt keyword usage that wouldn’t otherwise make sense, but becoming better informed about keywords in a search context can add to the bottom line results of your efforts. And in this economy, who doesn’t want to show more value for their efforts?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Lee – Most of our clients at Professional Blog Service come in thinking SEO. Somewhere they hear that blogging works for getting better ranks on Google. Then a funny thing happens:

    After about one-three weeks the light goes on and they realize that social media can be much bigger than SEO for their business. After that the game changes to a full on social media blitz – and the SEO benefits – they don’t go away.

  2. Avatar Vishal Agrahari says

    I have found so many Social media sites which are not helpful to your site for SEO.They give nofollow to your links. Ya, but for sure we can use social media to bring traffic to the site. But quality of content can give you genuine traffic.

    Can anybody tell me here what’s the age of social media when its going to die? hehehe

  3. Hi, Lee – I think what you said here is a good summation: “Community building with SEO effects in mind isn

  4. Nice post, Lee. In my opinion a really successful community site doesn’t have to do a lot of keyword targeting or content steering. Virtually all of the traffic (eventually) will be long tail. What’s really needed is to put the site architecture in place so that the content is SE-friendly, and let the community do the rest. Sure, setting up categories, topics, etc. for important keywords can help, but in the long run the traffic from these terms will be a small fraction of the overall long-tail flow. Once the site architecture is in place, most of the effort should go into strengthening the community vs. chasing traffic.

    Done right, SEO and community work in concert. The community thrives from an influx of new readers/members, and which in turn creates the potential for still more traffic.


  5. Hey Mike, a social media blitz sounds scary. 🙂

  6. Lee – What is scary is that most people are still thinking the web works like it did four years ago. YouTube, Facebook and other social sites get sooooo much traffic that you just can’t ignore them any longer.

  7. Vishal, it’s true that many social media sites nofollow outbound links, but not all. However, the SEO value isn’t from the social media sites per se, those are simply the promotion channels through which to reach influential bloggers and journalists who link in a SEO friendly way.

    I think social media will give way to the social web as a term, but the idea of being social isn’t going to die anytime soon.

  8. Love this one Graeme, “there

  9. Roger, I do agree with you and I would emphasize that keyword research for search as well as social media monitoring of keywords for buzz can provide short and long term SEO benefits. There’s a tremendous opportunity to capture new audiences via opportunistic content creation that also happens to be search engine friendly.

  10. Mike, what I meant by “scary” of course is that the word blitz and social media used together sound like what a lot of marketers do. Blitz the hell out of social media sites with traditional SEO and media, rather than listen, contribute and promote.

    I completely agree that there is a latency in understanding by company marketers and some agencies of where/how consumers are discovering content online. Search is just a slice and the social web offers a substantial opportunity as well. Combining both is the one two punch.

  11. working on a few of these for my current company. now is the time to get down and dirty with all this news of the down turn 🙂


  12. Avatar Jon Barilone says

    Vishal, Lee’s already answered your question pretty well (SEO is way more than just link juice) but here is a link I’ve always found helpful: http://www.squidoo.com/dofollow. It’s a fairly accurate Squidoo Lens that lists some of the most popular Social Media websites that are dofollow.

    And, remember, think of your social media networks as communities instead of audiences!

  13. Two things:

    1. Social media push vs. pull

    So, are most people looking at social media as a way to =gather= information vs. =push= marketing messages? I’m very interested in the former. It doesn’t benefit me directly, but I could see it working well for my clients. Is anybody offering this to clients — doing search/analysis of social media for product feedback?

    2. Making blogs work

    Meanwhile, I’ve been using my own foray into blogging in a different way. I don’t necessarily worry about SEO, because I don’t get many clients that way. I capture ideas that will a. be useful to my clients or b. relate to sales and relationship-building obstacles I face and then send the links to my prospects as conversation starters.

    I work for a design/branding firm, so my use of all these tools is maybe a different perspective.

    Thanks for the great ideas.

  14. Eric, I think savvy marketers are looking at social media for both data capture and insight as well as channels of communication. Push/Pull.

    I’m sure there are companies offering social media data analysis for product feedback. You can use many of the top tier social media monitoring tools for that kind of research too.

  15. yes.. Social Media marketing is booming market for current trends. It derived lot of traffic. It is important factor when we do SEO process.

  16. Great article, it’s verry important for me. I am new blogger and I want to boost my web traffic. I am following some social networking to promote my web. Thank.

  17. In my point of view, social media community is just like a stage, where all can communicate to each other. it’s the need of today and invention of tomorrow.

  18. It seems SEO is less effective than building a social media community for long term traffic.

  19. We used to call it organic optimization. And social media is just that…organic.

    Try to add sturctured SEO (key words etc) and people can see right through that. People can sense when a comment is from the heart.


  20. Jeff, I love your comment.

    Since about 1996 I’ve been watching, amazed, at the power of communities to subvert BS in the growth of the web.

    It’s sad but not suprising the ways in which marketers (and I am one) have tried to co-opt the organic to serve commercial opportunities.

    It’s equally suprising and positive how the “organic” nature of human interaction has subverted all their attempts.

    Every new online development, from social networking to the better parts of what’s called “Web 2.0” has been asserted by people, especially the technical community.

    We the people persist in finding ways to interact and state our beliefs regardless of how marketers try to exploit these efforts for their own gain.

    The secret to integrating all that is great about human community with business opportunity is, as you said, for marketing to have heart. This starts with really listening to what consumers want and not sticking fiercely to an internal product marketing agenda.

    Social media will force marketers to get real. I myself welcome the process of transformation.


  21. an excellent article with information that I will need to digest at a later date; thanks.

  22. Thanks for the list of Social Search Engines Lee, with social search being a big component of Search Engine rankings it’s important to keep track of what’s going on with your sites and competitors on the Social Web.

  23. Avatar abdal malik says

    according to you, which is better? thank’s

    • It depends on your purpose. If you want to rely on the opinions on content from your own network, then Delver or OneRiot are best. If you want to search multiple social media sites at the same time, then try whostalkin or samepoint.

  24. I am just starting in the blogging community and learning new things as I go. One thing is that I do have a lot of links in my content. I have not figured out how to put them under the links on my website yet.

    I use alot of social media websites it is the esiest way.

  25. Hello,

    I saw this recently:

    1. person builds their own community usingsocial media.
    2. Person challenges or sets competition for individuals in the community to get the word out about the community. E.g., generate traffic to the community, SEO for Google first page etc.

    It’s a win-win of combined efforts of more than one person (in this case hundreds of people) to boost SEO for the community therefore seo for the community increases and people benefit from sthe combined efforts of seo.

    Just my 2 cents,
    Ryan Price


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