Engaging your readers is one of the less obvious but important factors in SEO. Make your site sticky and not only will people stay for longer during each individual hit, they will hit more often, re-blog and tweet you, like you on Facebook, all those lovely things that white hat SEO can eat up for breakfast lunch and tea.
The thing is that it’s not always that easy to put up content that’s good quality, entropic, entertaining and engaging. You might put up a Facebook page and try to get everyone to come along and like, become friends, tell you wonderful things and your content will start autogenesis with more and more people joining in the conversation.
Never gonna happen.
User contributed content is good, it means less work for you and that there’s a buzz on your site but your comments section can all too often be hijacked by trolls who do nothing but bother genuine readers and drive people away. You end up doing more work combating them than you avoided by garnering the user content you initially encouraged.
To get a community of users together who wont tolerate the trolls and who put up good quality content you need to create a sense of community. Most posters will have been lurking for several weeks before making their first post, they’ve been watching and they know their audience. They need to have had something to graze in that time and that’s where your copy comes in, you need to put in a hell of a lot of work to a website that is strong enough to produce its own chatter.
So, you’re putting in all the work, dictating the style and tone and one or two people have commented on your ideas, how are you going to turn it from a fundamentally unidirectional resource into a multidirectional multileveled conversation?
If you want to include people they have to feel invited, that their contribution is valued, unfortunately trolls are invariably the first to exploit this fact so whenever you’re inviting contribution make sure your editing and admin is tight.
The easiest and least likely to encounter user reticence is a Facebook like or a Digg. Wired’s webmonkey describe adding a like button to your website as “damn easy”; it involves copying about two lines of code.
Vote On It
Putting up a vote encourages people to submit an opinion and if you have a comments box as well then people can discuss the progress of the ballot, say how they voted and why. People think votes should be secret and that’s true enough in elections but when your stating a preference to such earth shattering subjects as Daddy or Chips.
Tweeting and ReTweeting
Six years ago Twitter didn’t exist and five years ago it was seen as an inconsequential programme which simply allowed Tweeters to express their Weltschmertz in 140 characters; now it seems like SEO and internet marketing would suffer without it, not to mention newsrooms and celebrity press agents who rely on it more and more for breaking news.
Reposting and Reblogging
Reusing your content on their own blog shows that the reader is so behind the sentiment that they are happy to put it up on their feed. Most reposters will include your credit and backlinks so that their followers will then get the chance to come back over to your site and start following you too. In any other medium outright plagiarism would be censured, here it is welcomed, provided the original source is credited. It puts your work, your brand, your name out there in front of people.
Comments are the most visually immediate method of allowing your readership to get in touch with you, it’s here that you need to watch for trolling, a registration process often helps ehre as it’s not worth the time to register just to post one or two malicious comments which get deleted anyway. Once comments get lively you’ll see conversations develop where people leave notes directed to other posters
Discussion posts are different from comments in this way; comments appear in chronological order originating from when the original article was written, discussions give equal weight to all discussion participants and can fracture into separate topics. It is possible to reply to individuals involved on particular points. It’s here that you will start to see relationships develop, usually online but sometimes offline. When your community start hanging out together in the real world, that’s when you know your site’s really cooking!
Giving your readership the ability to upload their images and video will always make your site look super crazy rich; since a picture tells a thousand words then allowing user generated content like photos and video will draw readers and commenters in like wasps to honey, and that’s the kind of buzz you want.
The Final Step
If your site is creating such a volume of traffic that you no longer have to control it because you’ve gone beyond simply hosting a website but gone on to create the next Facebook or wordpress then your job is done. Well done, sit back and relax before commencing on your next world dominating venture.