Do you track the conversations about your business meandering through the Internet? You should. They are not only opportunities to connect with your customers and potential customers, but these conversations can act as link bait. The ultimate form of link bait – outside of a viral piece of content – is certainly the engaging and informative content of your website itself, but conversations don’t need to be 500 page novels. Conversations online can be as short as 140 characters (as they are on Twitter) or as long as the longest tail in the form of a blog comment. The entire Internet is a conversation. Figuring out where people are talking about your business and engaging these users, by both listening and providing information when necessary can lead to improved customer relationships, increased brand awareness, and can serve as link bait to improve your search rankings and keep you in front of the competition that still thinks their online presence isn’t that important. So, how might you find these conversations?
Here’s a brief list of the communication coffee shops you should be visiting regularly:
I must admit that the gap between the time I opened my Twitter account and when I actually became a part of the community stretched months, and it wasn’t because I was too busy clipping my finger nails. Twitter does provide value. Twitter provides instantaneous information about anything and everything. Whopper Virgins? Check. Recent news?Check. Conversations about your company? Check. Head to http://search.twitter.com, type in your product or your company name, say hello and start the conversation.
Blogs are perhaps the ultimate conversation conduits of the Internet. They allow users to write exhaustively about life, love, lemmings and your product. Also, you can leave a linkwhich will help drive traffic and, if the link is not “nofollow,” help increase the link juice flowing to your page. Head to Technorati and, again, search for your product or company name and engage your constituents (and add a link)!
Forums and Message Boards
BoardReader allows users to perform searches for specific posts and forums about your product or company as well as providing a topic profile for your search. Searching forums and messages boards allows you to find communities of users that are highly relevant to your business and can be an ongoing source of interaction for business and link juice.Blogs, unless they are targeted at your product, can be less qualified in terms of an ongoing relationship than forums or message boards, but they can still provide link juice via incoming non-nofollow links.
Okay, so this isn’t a website that allows you to find conversations per se, but using Google Analytics can help you find conversations about your product or company that have already taken place (in addition to its somewhat important task of tracking visitors, goal conversions and other metrics for any SEO campaign worth a dime). While scanning thereferrer traffic for a client recently, I noticed a decent amount of traffic referred to their website from bbc.co.uk. “Interesting,” I thought. I headed to Google and typed in “’www.Client’sURLHere.com’ site:bbc.co.uk” and…Voila! Someone had linked to the client’s website on the forums tucked inside the BBC website. Sure, the conversation had already taken place, but it was a naturally occurring (followed) link from a powerful domain (PR 9) which made the forums worth monitoring.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but merely a starting point. I’m sure some will notice that I have not included Google Alerts. It’s certainly a good tracking utility, but it might not provide the sort of granular conversation tracking you are looking for, particularly when it comes to forums and messages boards (not to mention the need to diversify your sources). In the end, people are talking about you and your product all over the World Wide Web. User engagement is the name of the game. You can increase your brand awareness and improve your rankings through links and your sales through direct contact.
Listen, learn and enjoy the link love!