I bet by now you have heard the great news: The SEO industry has a new niche social community: Inbound.org
This time it’s not just the SEO industry though. The desired audience (as a pacifist I don’t “target” people) is much broader now. It’s the private side project of two very prominent entrepreneurs everybody knows who has been into SEO for a while, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz and Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot.
As you probably know Hubspot is dealing with much more than just SEO. They call it inbound marketing and it contains many of the disciplines SEOgadget specializes in as well. As of now the new community is populated largely by SEO practicioners it seems. I have participated for more than two months know and it’s apparent. The SEO people outnumber the other marketers. This is OK but it also brings a great responsibility with it.
It’s important to nourish the community first before you use it for “traffic generation” and such.
I’ve seen social news sites, whether niche or not, rise and fall in the past. There were a few reasons for failure. Some of the issues are already visible on Inbound as well. Thus I’d like to show my fellow SEO specialists other ways to approach the nascent niche community.
Always remember that participating in a social news community is a marathon not a sprint.
It doesn’t matter that you get some quick traffic from it once or twice. Also social news is not like social networking. It’s a special kind of social sites. So what are the actual use cases you can and should engage in on Inbound.org? How can you do it?
You already can get around 300 visitors with a popular story on top of Inbound.org – Former search marketing community Sphinn could bring you around 1000 visitors in its hey days. So Inbound.org is already going strong. 300 might not sound much but it’s the movers and shakers who visit Inbound. It’s “quality traffic” in other words. These people are your industry peers and beyond. It’s obvious that you want them to visit your site or blog after all they are already interested in SEO and similar topics. Wait a minute though. Consider the other opportunities. Business people who do not consider themselves to be part of the SEO industry yet should consider them as well.
How to: It’s easy to get traffic on a community like Inbound. Just write something like the “what top SEO experts say about x”, make sure some of the people mentioned are on Inbound and you’re already in. Sharing a submission with you network might help as well. Just one vote other than the submitter’s is enough to appear on the frontpage. Then you have to be just relevant and other people will vote as well. Make sure you submit during daytime both in the US and UK. Otherwise your post might get overlooked.
See also the screenshot from Google Analytics above.
While getting traffic from Inbound.org may be a quick win to go after you don’t have to a social scientist to grasp that there is more to get from a niche community beyond that. I’ve been new to SEO once as well. Then in 2007 I have been new to the international SEO community as well. With sites like Sphinn I was able to build authority within the industry. After Sphinn has been disassembled part by part that opportunity vanished. Of course you could take part in SEO forums discussions or guest post on SEO blogs but a working niche social community is a fast track to recognition in an industry.
How to: Submit great articles from elsewhere first. Make sure only to submit stuff others care about and consider being of high quality. Ideally some regulars will start wondering who you are and start checking out your profile. Ideally they visit your blog then and submit one of your posts. Otherwise people will just remember your avatar and once everybody knows you and trusts you they will vote your won stories from your site as well. There are three URLs that get obviously more attention than others, SEOmoz itself, Distilled which is closely associated with SEOmoz and KISS Metrics. Being the first to submit those means getting more karma points. On the other hand it doesn’t mean your judgement or skill level is high enough to spot the gems.
You won’t get authority by submitting just the stuff that’s obviously popular. That’s not the way such communities work. People may even get angry at you for “stealing” the submission. So make sure you research stories yourself before submitting the usual suspects. Karma does not equal authority. So make sure not only to go after the number of karma points.
One of the key ingredients of a lively community is the debate going on there. This is perhaps the single most important one. Just think about sites like Reddit or Hacker News. Inbound.org is a bit different though. You can only vote up comments, voting down is not possible, only flagging. Flagging is for obvious abuse not just for disagreeing. On other sites the main stream opinion always wins. You might be right but as long as everybody else does not share your background and beliefs you lose. On Inbound.org you join the debate in order to find out what’s best for you and your clients. It’s not just a way to express beliefs and get applause from those who are part of the same demographic as you.
How to: Some postings are fit for debate others are not. A Forbes article on how branding is better than SEO is a great place to start a debate. It’s not important that the article is right or wrong. You share or vote it up to make sure the broad spectrum of opinions gets mentioned. There is truth in every opinion. Otherwise there would be no need to have it and it would die out. The purpose of a good debate is to uncover it and make sure that other people who aren’t as advanced as you are on that subject matter can review and compare them to find out what they deem right or not at the end.
So don’t start a debate on posts everybody has to agree with. Many people comment on such posts saying things like “great post” etc. That’s not debate. That’s redundant. You may get a bit of karma but that’s not a debate. A successful debate is either one where either you can reinforce your knowledge or the others have convinced you that what you knew until now was wrong. That’s why I sometimes upvote both sides of the argument. I don’t care whether I’m right or wrong. The debate in the comment section is completing the post itself. On some blogs critical comments get deleted. A place like Inbound enables the community to really debate issue.
For me the most obvious use case of Inbound.org is to learn. After many years of SEO practice I am advanced when it comes to some aspects of my know-how. Others, like conversion optimization, user experience or entrepreneurship are still new to me though. This seems to be a use cases many SEO practicioners overlook on Inbound. I see lots of SEO articles with known techniques voted up by the dozens while submissions dealing with the other aspects get only a bunch of votes.
A niche community is truly about the niche, even the niche within the niche. So you don’t only need to read half a dozen of link building posts. To me the most intriguing ones are those I have no clue about yet. That’s why I voted up most submissions about Pinterest. It’s not about the hype. It’s about educating yourself and finding out what you don’t know yet.
How to: The front page is already dominated by good old SEO topics and the publications associated with SEOmoz. Look deeper than just the top posts on the front page. Most importantly visit the categories. They are hidden under the archives link at the bottom. Or you can click the category each post is categorized in to find more resources on that topic. Do nut just look for the popular posts there, check out those you know less about.
Ideally only “true” posting get popular on social media but we all know that they don’t. Search for [seo] on Topsy and you see that some of the most popular posts about SEO on Twitter are rants and jokes, not the resources. SEO is dead all over again every year, at least twice. The good thing about a niche social site is that you can dispel myths like that without having to share the post in question again and thus making it even more popular. Repeating myths doesn’t make them go away. So the next time someone sells crap advice on social media make sure to submit it to Inbound.org – not because you agree with it but because you want experts to speak out about it.
How to: Submit it and share the Inbound URL instead of the original one on Twitter etc. Make sure to comment below to express your disagreement with the post.
Mingle with Industry Top Dogs
I’ve noted above already that Rand Fishkin and Dharmesh Shah are behind the project. Danny Sullivan also is an avid user. The others may not be as prominent but most of them are influencers and publishers. In short, these people are linkerati.
By providing quality resources these people may notice you, even follow you on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook to get more of your curated wisdom or intriguing writings. I have followed many people on Google+ where I am mostly active recently just because they are on Inbound.org- One reason for this was that someone has created a Google circle with the top 50 Inbound users and shared it. I have also manually added other users to my circles.
I may be not as influential as those mentioned above but like many other bloggers and curators who are active on Inbound, the likes of
are looking all the time for the next person to link to or even interview.
How to: Just look at what Jon Cooper does. This is an amazing kid. He’s not even half as old as I am but he rocks the SEO industry already. He does on Inbound as well. I bet I am not the only one to vote his stories up again and again. Looking at this kid I always think they teach SEO, social media and blogging in school nowadays. How else can you be so savvy at such an early age? He indeed performs so well that it seemed to me at first that Point Blank SEO, his site is run by a company with dozens of employees.
Jon doesn’t submit his won blog all the time. The others do. They probably know from Twitter and other channels. Point Blank SEO is one of the most popular sites on Inbound. He even managed to interview Rand Fishkin himself.
Find your Tribe
While admiring your industry icons is a thing many people do it won’t pay your bills in the long run. What you need is to socialize with your peers and find your tribe. This is a strategy you can follow even in case you just want to get hired by an SEO agency. Whatever your goals are you have to focus on your peers and band together. Other bloggers or social media users who share the same interests but do not yet have celebrity status can support you in the future. It’s a give and take but not just barter as in exchanging links. I have been sharing links by other people for years and most of the people you share links of notice sooner or later unless they already have hundreds of others that do so.
How to: Do not just focus on SEOmoz and Search Engine Land when sharing links. There is at least one story each day you might want to share from those but when you do you risk to omit the dark horses. Check out blogs via RSS you like to read but where the bloggers aren’t the household names yet. Not everybody wants to be popular.
Some people are perfectly fine with being important in their area or niche. These people are often not even competing with you for attention. Submit their stuff and they may submit your stuff next time. In case they don’t , no problem, you like them anyways and their writings are good enough by itself to be submitted. Don’t just submit to endear yourself to somebody. After a while those who you support will become your friends naturally. Some of the people I have “met” on Sphinn five years ago are still my most ardent supporters.
Expand Your Social Circle
While searching for your tribe you will find lots of new like-minded people on Inbound you share a lot of interests with. These may not become your best friends but I already could gain lots of insights from them. Especially those who weren’t on your radar yet are often an enrichment of your daily dose of inspiration. Fresh voices and unexpected views are always great for creativity. Next time you create flagship content the things they have contributed might inspire you the most.
How to: Do not just heck out submission from the people you know already. In contrast focus on those you haven’t seen yet elsewhere. Just think about it. Do you always order the same drink at a bar? Why not try something new. It’s about opening your mind to more influences. Expanding your social circle is easily done on a social news site that focuses on one set of topics. The choice is limited and thus easier.
Get Peer Review
One of the things I missed most about Sphinn was the peer review. Everything can get popular on social networking sites like Facebook or Google+. Google+ even pushes sexist jokes itself. A niche community is for peer review though. People won’t only clap their hands and say “thank you great posts” like bot commenters on blogs. When they want to add something, question your assumptions or dismiss your opinions altogether. It’s always great. It might feel bad at first when everybody disagrees with you or just a few. I had people accusing me of trolling just because I pointed out a mistake in their strategy.
Next time you will remember your mistake and improve your strategy though. You will remember what the others said any you will try to add it your strategy. You will look out an do not repeat the mistake again. You won’t blog about it. People might not even tell you on your blog. They just will think that the blog is low quality and not come back. On a niche social news site like Inbound you can get free peer review by experts. Sometimes it’s worth much more than the simple upvote. Getting feedback from your peer, being it appreciation or criticism can have a positive long term impact on your career. I’ve learned a lot this way in the past.
How to: Why you or someone else submits your story just listen and do not accuse critical commentators of “not understanding” you and your post. Do not just repeat your points over and over. Listen and adapt. Update your posting. Do more research. Admit your mistakes. This is just plain old common sense but many people are too proud to do so and consider negative feedback to be some kind of attack.
These use cases are not just for SEO specialists.
Entpreneurs of all kinds can submit their case studies of SEO failure and success and get traffic and feedback in the best case.
I’ve seen posts on how business get popular on Pinterest on Inboud or how going after social media sites was more successful than SEO. You are welcome to post them.
Also you will surely find even more ways to contribute and profit from Inbound.org – It’s the place to be for all those who want to succeed on the Web using legitimate techniques, whether it’s SEO or inbound marketing. Give it a try and tell my what you think in the comment section.