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I used to talk a lot about SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization".  In fact so much that I figured I'd better be quiet about it.  However the question has come up again and I realized it had left my vernacular.

SEO is that act of getting noticed by search engines.  You can pay thousands of dollars to SEO consultants and they will tweak things and suggest words to use to get noticed.   They'll do more than that but in the end here is how I think about SEO and the things that are easy to do.
  1. Don't try to game the system.  Google's rules for ranking sites change regularly to weed out people who are trying to give themselves an artificially high ranking.  Companies who have made millions of dollars in advertising because Google was sending them people to view their pages.. which carried ads.. and made them money.  Then one day Google realized they were gaming the system (maybe they were publishing the same content on many different web sites) and boom the traffic stops coming.  John Batelle writes about that in his book "Search" which is a good read. 

  2. Fresh content is a good thing.  I have customers who want to re-word old content to maximize everything.  In the end just write lots of fresh relevant content.  Thats why communities are so good for SEO, lots of fresh content.

  3. Get people to link to you.  To a search engine when someone on another site highlights word and links to you (e.g. Enterprise Social Media), the search engine treats that act as if someone is "citing" your work.  When you are "cited" you are being credited as an authority.  Google ranks you higher when others do this.  Bloggers figured that out ages ago and created "blog rolls" which link to all their favorite blogs.  Of course its polite to reciprocate.  :)  Link to my blog please.  Write an article like "Dave Carter knows a lot about Enterprise Social Media" and link to this article.  (I'm serious, stop reading for a second and go do that.. I'll wait)

  4. Make your content easy for the search engines to read.  This is a little techie, but some designers can chop their content up into tables or use little scripts to place content.  Search engines like Google get confused by that, or ignore it altogether. Basically if someone is designing your site you want them to separate content and style.  Then when a search engine comes to read your site, it just ignores the style and reads content only.  Technically they should use XHTML and CSS (Style sheets.  read my post I wrote a few years ago when I got "schooled" on SEO.  There are a tons of other benefits to this like speed and accessibility.
Those are the "big impact" things.  If you are serious about it you can tweak filenames for your content, be more precise about how you use headings etc.  All have impact, but the items above have the most impact and are authentic ways to work that don't game the system.

Here's the cool thing... When you create a community you are facilitating those big things.  In our system profiles and blogs have unique URL's and are generally set up to link back to the main community automatically.  Lots of members = lots of links.  Hopefully they are posting content which means your sites content is growing and changes daily.  Unless the client tells us otherwise, our templates are very easy for search engines to read and we generally use the techniques I outline. 

So, engage your community and get your company noticed

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