Why Your Community Search Traffic Is Declining (and how community management is about to change)

April 25, 2016Comments Off on Why Your Community Search Traffic Is Declining (and how community management is about to change)

Your goal used to mean getting as many questions and replies as possible.

The more questions you post, the more long-tail search terms you might hit and the more search traffic you get.

That’s changing.

Google now punishes sites with a lot of thin content (pages without much useful material on them). If 80% of your traffic comes via Google, this presents a concern (if not an imminent threat).

These challenges fall within two buckets as (Distilled’s Dominic Woodman explained in my favourite talk from SPRINT London and in this update here).

Problem 1: Too many similar discussions (and discussions which don’t solve the query)

Problem 2: Automatically generated content pages (member profiles etc…)

Community Managers As A Curator

I think we’re going to see a shift.

This shift is going to be from someone who gets more (questions, replies etc…) to someone tasked with getting better (questions/replies). And that might mean less questions and responses.

In short, the curatorship side of your role is more important than it used to be.

You need fewer discussions that solve the problem.

A few immediate steps here:

  • Merge similar discussions into a single discussion that appears at the top of that category and is prominently linked to throughout the site. If someone posts a similar question, you move it into this discussion. One good discussion now trumps many bad discussions.
  • Create regularly updated resources from the discussions. These should be interlinked (resource links to the discussion, discussion links to the resource). Regularly update the advice. Create resources based upon the top search queries and discussions to your community.
  • Help members optimise their discussions. Either by automatic suggestions or manual tweaking, you need to help members optimise their discussions to clearly explain the question (not everyone will react well).

Then you need to remove and hide the bad stuff.

Dominic uses the great example of Ravelry (a great community).

Ravelry has 4m+ members. Most members don’t complete their profile pages. That’s millions of empty pages.

Yet, each profile page has automatically generated subpages for projects, friends, posts, events, etc…This soon becomes 50m+ empty pages (far more than the total number of discussions in the community).

In addition, many discussions are very short and don’t yield a satisfactory answer. Therefore we need to:

  • Hide automatically generated pages from search results. You can do this in the robots.txt file (ask your technology friend).
  • Remove the bad discussions and weak content. Remove discussions and pages which receive little traffic.
  • Ensure discussions get a satisfactory conclusion. It’s not enough to initiate a discussion and have a debate, you also need a satisfactory conclusion to each discussion. This means manually recruiting the right people to give great answers to each discussion.

I suspect we’re at the beginning of a very seismic shift in our work.

This is a shift with far less emphasis on creating more noise and far more on creating signal. The winners will be the community professionals who get extremely good at generating more signal.

Best to get started now.

P.S. join me for a pure engagement webinar with Salesforce at 1.30pm EDT tomorrow.

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