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Even before the start of COVID-19, marketing departments in the US and around the world were dealing with shrinking budgets. Marketers had to find new ways to solve problems without spending more money.
This pattern doesn’t seem to be improving as we approach the end of 2022 and look ahead to 2023. Inflation is raging, economists are sounding the alarms of an impending recession, and marketing budgets are shrinking more rapidly than before. Once again, if you’re a marketer, you’ll have to make more out of less, stretching your limited dollars to work miracle after miracle for your company.
Luckily, there are strategies you can implement to make your limited marketing dollars work smarter instead of harder. One of those strategies is to build a brand community. Granted, it may not be the first thing you think of when trying to stretch a marketing budget. After all, what does building a community of existing customers have to do with acquiring new ones?
Most of us are well-versed in the classic arguments for building a community: deflecting volume away from the contact center, creating more customer engagement, and developing better innovation programs.
But there’s another key reason to invest in a brand community that relates directly to marketing: SEO. Yep, building a community is a highly effective way to bolster your search engine optimization and build better brand awareness. In this post, we’re going to cover why active brand communities and good SEO go hand-in-hand.
Community SEO is a game of push and pull. You need good SEO to attract new users into your community, and you need active users in your community to maintain good SEO. But this doesn’t mean it’s a catch-22; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The inherent properties of a branded community directly contribute to better SEO. A big part of the reason for this is that user-generated content (UGC) — the heart of any community — has a much higher SEO value than brand-generated content.
There are four main reasons for this:
Community members typically use more relatable, human language than marketers, and search engines often prioritize natural-sounding language.
Users create more content than a team of marketers ever could — and the more high-quality content you can host on your website, the better. Even better, you don’t have to pay users to generate content; they’re happy to do it for free!
UGC from a community is easy to syndicate, which means it can help generate traffic not just to the community itself, but to other channels where your brand has a presence.
In the age of ubiquitous user reviews, search engines and consumers alike typically see UGC as more trustworthy than brand-generated content. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust suggestions from their personal network.
These advantages translate into real bottom-line results that help keep a marketing budget afloat.
More organic search traffic leads to more users on your site, which leads to more conversions and sales. Building a brand community promotes authentic customer engagement, plays into every aspect of your digital strategy, and helps attract the organic traffic your brand is working to gain.
One report found that across all industries, people who look at UGC are 161% more likely to convert than those who don’t. With those kinds of numbers, you can’t afford not to have UGC as part of your SEO strategy.
The bottom line here is that digital communities don’t differ from in-person communities as much as you might think. In either instance, a community is a group of humans connecting on a shared interest or problem. What’s even better is when highly engaged users in a digital community recommend products, generate buzz around new releases, and act as validation for the brand. Leveraging these users through gamification can lead to deeper loyalty, higher customer lifetime value (CLV), and ultimately more revenue.
Community SEO is a two-way street: UGC in the community bolsters SEO metrics just as much as solid search traffic contributes to the health of the community. A community’s success often depends largely on user traffic — and when that traffic comes from the web, SEO is crucial. In fact, the average Khoros-powered community gets 70% of its traffic from organic search.
One great example of this comes from Intuit’s community. Intuit, the financial tech company behind Quickbooks, saw a 169% increase in community traffic and a 41% increase in engagement for solutions over just one year as a result of increased efforts toward their online communities.
F5, a technology company specializing in enterprise application security and delivery, originally built their community back in 2004, but decided to expand it into a robust, modern community in 2019. One of their main goals with this community rebuild was to bolster SEO metrics, which is part of what led them to choose Khoros as a community partner.
Together with Khoros Professional Services, F5 rebuilt their community to encourage both engagement and UGC. They added a Suggestions feature to encourage members to submit innovative ideas; this helps with product development and makes customers feel that the brand cares about their contributions. They also added an Events feature to host large events directly in the community. Most importantly for SEO purposes, F5 hosts forums and articles where members can directly contribute to conversations. They often syndicate community content into product offerings.
One of the most important differences between the old F5 community and the new one is load times. On the old community, page load times were so high that it was almost impossible for SEO crawlers to engage. Immediately after launching with Khoros, F5’s load time averages decreased from seven and a half seconds to under three seconds, which immediately improved their SEO ranking, increasing natural search visits by 36%.
For the full story of how F5’s community has succeeded, check out their case study.
Back in 2021, PowerSchool won our Best in Class: Community award. They built their community with the goal of creating connections across all members of the educational ecosystem. Teachers, admins, and students use the community to post original content, search for common questions, and create discussion threads about important topics in their circles. This thriving ecosystem allowed PowerSchool community members to drive both community growth and SEO improvement. The results are truly amazing:
Over 70,000 new community members added in 2021
Over 50% YoY growth in member logins
40% YoY growth in posts
2.4 million unique visitors (14% YoY growth) in 2021
12.2 million page views (14% YoY growth) in 2021
88,000 solution views (47% YoY growth) in 2021
Of course, both hard work and partnership with Khoros contributed to these incredible results. But leveraging UGC to bolster PowerSchool’s SEO strategy was one of the most important pillars of their community implementation. Currently, organic Google search is the main way users find answers within the PowerSchool community, whether those answers came from UGC or PowerSchool itself. This success story proves that investing in your community boosts SEO.
Click here to read the full report.