The case against SEO - why social marketing is better for small communities

hari

Tazmanian
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Jan 2, 2006
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hari submitted a new Article:

The case against SEO - why social marketing is better for small communities

I've seen a lot of people emphasize the importance of Search Engine Optimization here at The Admin Zone. In fact, a lot of newbies seem keen on getting advice on how to improve search ranking for particular search terms to get to the #1 position on google or other search engines. I often wonder what benefit SE Optimization has on community participation rates. Note: I'm talking about community participation rate and not raw web stats - hits, visits or the increase in visibility of your website on search engines.

The Quality of SE Traffic

The biggest problem is the assumption that SEO means

More hits -> More visits -> More traffic -> More registrations -> Participation -> Community growth

The chain is somewhat flawed. The first three items in this chain are fine and are directly related to one other. More hits does imply more unique visitors and more traffic. But from there to "more registrations" is a big leap of faith. And from "more registrations" to "community growth" is a bigger leap of faith.

I've analysed my own web stats over a period of time and see that I get traffic from search engines, but do you know the actual percentage of SE traffic driven to my site? Average of a mere 5-7% of the total traffic. And 90+ % of that SE traffic is from google (the rest of the search engines being a mere 10% or less). Put that into perspective and you will understand what a waste of time it is to SEO your site when your community is still new and not as yet established.

Again, how much of this traffic has actually resulted in new registrations? Very negligible. This is because you have to analyze the mindset of people using google or yahoo and stumbling upon your site. People searching for info on the web typically jump from site to site on the results page. The quantity of time they spend on your site is actually less than 30 seconds. This is what I call "low-grade" traffic. You get more hits from search engines, but you get almost no benefit by being ranked high apart from raw stats. From my own stats, I see that 50% or more visitors spend less than 30 seconds online.

So what does this tell me?
  1. Being ranked higher in Search Engines has a very low correlation to actual community growth or participation.
  2. 90% of SE traffic is driven from google. Forget the other search engines.
  3. SE traffic is quite negligible compared to direct traffic.
  4. Getting higher ranks for specific terms has almost no...
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shaon

Where is the God?
Joined
Jul 30, 2005
Messages
477
Creating a niche through social marketing is a much better idea.........Competing against the sheer strength of numbers of larger forums is silly and counterproductive.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, Hari :) You have been writing some quality articles for the members and it's greatly appreciated.:wow:
 

ArcticFlood

Participant
Joined
Sep 17, 2005
Messages
82
I agree with this fully :). My site, though small, is a perfect example. I think we've had 1 person register and post due to a search engine, and we haven't established a topic good enough to do SEO. Yet, I've found that when I am more active on the sites that my members come from, registration and activity picks up.
 

Transverse Styles

Participant
Joined
Jul 5, 2004
Messages
64
Word of mouth drives a lot of traffic.

Everything I buy online is from word of mouth. or, if there are testimonials, that helps too.

As for communities, definitely a link from another site. Most of the searches on Yahoo! I do are for research topics.
 

NICOCLUBcom

Nissan / Infiniti guru
Joined
Feb 11, 2006
Messages
809
Hari, well-said! Great advice for upstart communities (and some good lessons for those of us who have already attained "Big-Board" status...

I disagree somewhat with the advice to "forget the other search engines", but that's a minor quibble. :)
 

fasherman

Participant
Joined
Jun 3, 2006
Messages
74
I don't think this is so much a case against SEO so much as to frame it in the proper perspective. SEO drives traffic to the website and traffic is always good, especially combined with some type of revenue generating advertising. More clicks to your site still lead to more clicks from your site via advertising, even if it doesn't translate to more registrations.

And that is the big take-away. Traffic via search engines doesn't mean registration. Something more needs to be done.

A one-prong marketing plan is always doomed to failure. One has to have a multiple marketing methods in place to build user traffic and something unique to convert visitors to registrations.

SEO should not be ignored, but neither should it be singularly relied upon.
 

hari

Tazmanian
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Messages
5,653
Fasherman the point I was making was that for a small community with less content SEO won't help much simply because you don't have much to "optimize". Natural organic SEO can be achieved by working on more content rather than using techniques to improve your PR.

Trying various methods of SEO early on is not really a big help and follows the Law of diminishing returns.
 

Jane

Aspirant
Joined
Apr 8, 2006
Messages
44
Hari
You have stated very well my thoughts. It is very hard to be patient when starting up a community, especially one that is very specific.

Thanks
Jane
 

fasherman

Participant
Joined
Jun 3, 2006
Messages
74
harishankar said:
Fasherman the point I was making was that for a small community with less content SEO won't help much simply because you don't have much to "optimize". Natural organic SEO can be achieved by working on more content rather than using techniques to improve your PR.

Trying various methods of SEO early on is not really a big help and follows the Law of diminishing returns.
I agree with the conclusion that it is not an effective marketing tool in the beginning phases, but since it does pay dividents later on and will require design changes that often seem disruptive to an existing community, its best to consider it as part of the initial development process - but keep it in perspective. You're doing it initially because its the best time to do something that will be important further down the road, not because it will be of immediate value.
 

pacman1

Neophyte
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
4
I agree to u some what , but i can say that ur view point is totally applicable for commnities and forum but not that much applicable on business websites that sell products .
 
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