Building a Community Online

 approx 67 minute video

Building a Community Online

Nettl Academy SEO Live Event! Session 15

This session is the fifteenth in a new series of live events from Nettl. In this session, the team spend their time talking through building an online community and why it’s an important action for your business?

Getting a community online isn’t all about social media. What should you? Who should be part of your community? Is word of mouth a thing online? In session #15 the team discuss the advantages and disadvantages of social media when looking the SEO microscope. We’ll cover hot topics such as:

  • Online word of mouth – relationships and reviews;
  • Social signals and brand mentions;
  • Creating content people care about;
  • Earning an engaged audience;
  • How to earn authority and links naturally over time

Plus the team were on hand to answer questions. Keep an eye out for more live sessions. If you have questions in the meantime contact your local team and we’ll be delighted to help.

Check out the next video in our SEO webinar series

Today’s session is on building a community online, and this is really relevant to your business. Primarily, we’re going to relate it back to search engine optimisation, because that’s where our expertise lies, but really it’s relevant to anything and it’s relevant if you have a business or any marketing activity you are trying to do. We’ll try and keep it quite generic, but also quite focused on SEO. If you haven’t joined us before SEO is search engine optimisation so it’s about optimising your website to get higher in search results. For example, Google search results and building a community online can help you to do that. 

What we’re going to cover today: how SEO and building a community link in together, improving your local SEO with reviews and relationships – that relates to if you are like a small business and you have a physical location, we would call you sort of local SEO – we’re going to look at social signals and how to increase them – so that’s relating primarily to social media – and we will touch on content there as well. We’re going to go through getting brand mentions and backlinks. I think when people look at SEO, they always think about backlinks, but actually brand mentions are probably just as important nowadays. We’re going to look at some examples of brands that do their community quite well online, so they engage with their followers, they’re doing things that make them have a great community online. 

What does community building have to do with SEO?

What does building a community online have to do with SEO? Essentially it’s to do with the reputation of your company and your business and how successful you are from that perspective. I think you can have the best product in the world and you can have the best service, but if you don’t have a good reputation, or there’s no reason to be able to buy from you in the first place, or continue buying from you, you probably won’t grow the way you want to.

It’s to do with your reputation because if you have a good reputation, I can assure you that you’ll eventually end up ranking well and performing well from an SEO perspective. It’s all about word of mouth. So I know a lot of businesses before we were primarily online, like we are now, a lot of people would have bought as a result of word of mouth and your community online is just your word of mouth, but it’s your online word of mouth rather than your face-to-face word of mouth. There we primarily think about reviews but also community of people. 

So if you have a Facebook account and you post something related to a company that you bought something off or something really negative, because you’ve had a really bad experience, you share that with your own community and then your own community might share it with their community. So what we have to remember is this network of people that are online and how that word of mouth is almost bigger than what it would have been if you were just telling your friend face to face. If I’ve had a negative experience and I share it with my 1000 friends on Facebook, that’s 1000 people that have seen that, not just one person. So that community online is almost more important than face-to-face word of mouth as well. 

Off-site SEO

It’s all about trust, engagement and natural backlinks. So all of these things come into off-site SEO. So when we speak about search engine optimisation, we have on-page SEO, which is what you do on your website – so your titles, your meta-tags and your keywords – then you have technical SEO, which is all the technical stuff on the website, – so the crawl-ability, the site speed, for example – and then you have off-site SEO which relates to anything off your site that suggests to search engines that people trust you. It’s basically all your votes of confidence, it’s all your word of mouth. That’s what building a community online has to do with SEO. 

A lot of these things like engagement and like trust, you might not think they’re direct ranking factors so you might not think that Google looks at these to decide to rank my site but in a lot of ways they do. Even if they’re indirect, they will somehow impact your rankings.

Off-site SEO. To expand what offsite SEO is, it’s anything you do away from your site that helps you rank well in organic search is essentially that people trust and value your website. So it’s the self promotion of your company, although usually you might promote your company offline, if you do have a business, if you work in a restaurant, for example, or if you have a business that people come into as well, you would do it face-to-face, but it’s anything you do online. So if you do have a physical business, I would say, you probably need to split your time between your online promotion and your offline face-to-face promotion, because all of this offsite SEO activity will impact your business from a general perspective. 

Even if you’re not doing SEO at the moment, and you don’t think you will ever do SEO, you probably are doing off-site SEO in some ways, because if you have a social media account and you’re engaging with people on it, you’re talking to people, you’re doing customer service, if you’re getting reviews – all of that is SEO in some way. It’s just not the standard technical SEO that you might think of in terms of editing your website. 

Getting reviews

So firstly, we’re going to talk about reviews. I don’t know if you’ve seen Google have been doing a lot of adverts about reviews and how important they are, so they do impact your rankings. Reviews are a direct ranking factor in many ways. It’s quick and free to get reviews and people trust them. I left a review for a company that I just bought a house from a couple of days ago and I’ve just had a notification to say that 400 people read my review and they’re finding it useful. It’s good to see that and this is why I leave reviews because I work in the industry and I know how important they are, that people do trust them as much as a personal recommendation. 

Positive reviews. So if you have good reviews, they can help your local SEO rankings. Even if you have negative reviews and you’re responding to them that can all help as well. Google wants to show people the best results so the more reviews you have, the better. This is opposite to backlinks where we talk about having less backlinks, but higher quality backlinks. It’s not quite the opposite, but it’s the same. The more reviews you have, the better, but also the better the reviews, the better. So you don’t want to have 20,000 negative reviews because that’s not going to work well. But in my personal opinion, there’s no point having five positive reviews because ultimately I don’t always trust that when there’s just five reviews. So if you’ve got a Google My Business page, or you have a website, and you only have a couple of reviews, I’d highly recommend trying to boost those reviews and getting as many as possible, because people are more likely to trust you and buy from you if they can see that you’ve got quite a lot of reviews and that they’re not just from five different people and they’re your friends, for example. 

Users are more likely to click on your website with reviews. You probably see them every time you’re searching for something, you can see the reviews in Google search results often for businesses. It helps with the click through rate and clicking onto a website if you can see that they’ve got reviews and they’ve got those stars there.

Responding to reviews

Responding to reviews. Always respond to reviews, if you don’t respond to reviews, you’re missing a trick. Also you’re missing the opportunity of building your SEO rankings and your visibility – that also relates to negative and positive reviews. 

I’ve got a few tips here on how to respond to reviews. I don’t think you have to take them all away because if you’re already responding to reviews, you might have your own way of doing it and if it’s working really well for you, then that’s fine. Some of these tips might be quite subjective to how you want to respond, whereas others are related to SEO. 

I would always respond to the positive reviews and try to add a bit of a personal touch there. So have a specific template that you always respond to positive reviews with and maybe a specific template that you always respond to negative reviews with, so you don’t have to rewrite it every time. Then you can personalise it slightly with a section where you include their name and then perhaps you include a certain section that responds specifically to what they’ve said in their review. 

I always use keywords in your response. So your keywords are the words that you want to target for your business to appear in search results. So if you are a restaurant owner, a plumber, a seamstress, use that in your reviews or use the name of your product, for example, or the type of production offering. So if it’s like baby clothes or baby toys, you can try and use those sorts of keywords because all of those keywords will help search engines understand what your business offers and they’ll help you rank as well. 

Repeat the product that they mentioned – that is the keyword. So if they’ve mentioned they’ve purchased a product, repeat it in there as well, and you can also suggest additional products that they might want to try. 

I would also say respond quite quickly and if you don’t respond to a review that someone’s left, be it positive or negative for weeks, you’re going to lose that relationship then. Whereas if you respond quite quickly, if it’s a negative review, you can try to get things fixed and not lose the customer, or get them to come back. If it’s a positive review, then it might just make them feel a bit good because they’ll receive a notification to say that you’ve responded to that review and that does build a relationship. You might not think it does, but it definitely does, especially if you have a business where people can keep coming back to you. If you have a business where they’ll buy from you once and then probably never come back, might not be worth your effort but I would definitely say if you want people to be coming back and buying from you again, always be responding to their reviews.

Handling negative reviews

Same tips here but obviously if there is a negative review, you just need to be careful about how you respond, because sometimes these negative reviews that people leave, you might feel is unjustified – and that often is the case. I saw a negative review the other day for a company from someone about a product that I was reviewing to see wherever I would buy and they said, ‘it came in too big a box’ and I was like, ‘that’s not a reason to leave a negative review, it’s nothing to do with the product, it’s just to do with the way it was delivered’. I do think you just need to, you know, acknowledge the feelings of the customer and say thank you for your feedback and for leaving this review. Then if there is anything additional that you want to provide, like an answer as to why that might have been the case then please do. What I see some people do, especially if you’re the business owner, is make sure that you don’t get too personal about it and feel too bad. Sometimes you can get quite defensive so try not to do that because it doesn’t always look good for people that are reading the reviews to see that the business is getting really defensive and is not taking onboard feedback. 

I would just try to respond in a short, sweet and polite way. Provide a little bit of extra detail, but keep it relatively short – don’t go on a little essay about why they had a bad experience. If there are additional things that you want to talk to that person about, then I would suggest taking it offline because it’s not great to have this conversation going on the reviews. You could give them your contact information to get in touch and see if you can be of further assistance, because you may be able to keep them as a customer then. 

The biggest thing with reviews is that people, as soon as they’ve had that bad experience, they’ll go and leave that review straight away because it’s in their head and they’re angry. So you can probably try and fix it by responding quite quickly and sorting it out for them. Whereas if you don’t, then you’re likely to just get the product sent back or lose their service completely. 

People buy from people they trust

People buy from people they trust, it’s all about trust. Do not be untrustworthy in any of your communications or your reviews, do not lie. I would recommend building relationships, it’s difficult and it takes time but I think the reviews and responding to reviews is a great way to do it. It also shows potential customers that you value them and you value their service because each customer is important to you. Whether you’ve got a service and they’re going to be coming back to see you again in your shop or in your restaurant or whether they’re buying products online. Then they’d be more likely to pick you over your competitors. 

If you haven’t already, and you’ve got competitors, I would have a look at what they’re doing. So are they responding to reviews? How are they responding to reviews? How many reviews do they have? So this is a little bit of an audit that you can do on your own business to understand how many and the quality of reviews that you have versus your competitors, and also what they’re doing on social media. So if your competitors are responding to people on social media, they’re responding to comments and engaging with people and you’re not, there could be a little area there where you’re missing a trick. 

Social signals

Now we’re gonna talk about social signals, what they are, and how they relate to the content that you write for your company and your website. Your social signals are basically everything that happens on your social media – on your Facebook, Instagram – if you post something and you get likes, if you get comments, if you’ve got shares, all of those basically culminate into your social signals. Although they don’t directly relate to your SEO ranking, if you have lots of really good social signals, then it does show Google that you have good domain authority. That means that Google is more likely to recommend you to users than if you have no social signals at all. So if you don’t have any social media, get on it now, and if you do, we’re going to talk about how you can use your content to boost engagement within that. 

Social signals behave a bit like a backlink so the more you have, the better your site will rank. It’s not a direct relation, but it will help so there’s no reason to ignore it. 

How to increase social engagement

So how can we increase social signals and increase social engagement? The first thing, the easiest thing, and the most important thing is to make sure that you put your website in your profiles. So in your Facebook profile, Instagram profile, always put your website there so if someone goes to your social site, they can easily get to your website straight away. 

With the posts you make or the content that you put on, you want to use catchy click baity titles. They don’t need to be horribly click-baity, but they do want to grab the user. In a similar vein, we want to make sure that the content that you’re creating is engaging. It drives people to engage with it. It makes people want to talk about it and want to share it and want to tell their friends about it. You want to use calls to actions that ask for engagement. So remember that people generally aren’t going to do anything unless you tell them to do it. So you could write this amazing engaging content with an amazing clickbait title and people would read it and be like, ‘cool!’ and then move on. But if at the end of it, you say, ‘share this with your friends, like, leave a comment, tell me what you think’, it’s more likely that they’re going to actually engage with you in a real way.

The last one is that, on your website itself, you can use plugins to make sharing your content easier. So you’ll have your blog or your article and then you have the Twitter logo, the Facebook logo, the Instagram logo, and the reader can then click on them and it automatically shares it to their social page. So that’s a really good way to get the user to share because it’s so quick. 

Writing engaging headlines

So we’re going to have a quick look at how to write those attention grabbing and clickbaity headlines. Some basic things to remember is to be clear and not clever. There’s no need to try and make it complicated. You don’t need to use puns or wordplay. When you’re reading a headline, all you want to do is you want to know what’s going to be in the copy underneath you. You don’t need to think about it. You want to be like ‘if I click on this, this is the kind of content I’m going to be getting’. Always bear that in mind. 

A good way to grab someone’s attention is to include a benefit or promise. So tell them, ‘you should read this, and this is why’, ‘I will give you this information’, or ‘I will show you stuff that you’ve never seen before’, and try to persuade them that they need to know the information that you’ve got to give them. 

Number three, be unexpected. This isn’t always possible, but it’s always really good to not just say the same thing as everybody else is saying. So if your company is in a sector that is very crowded, and everyone has the same idea, everyone has the same opinion, but you don’t, that’s a really good way to grab attention. 

Number four, the most important one probably, is to make sure that it’s useful for your audience. So if you’re writing content, it could be amazing, it could be wonderful but if your target audience is 35 to 45 year olds and you’re writing amazing content on the newest TikTok trend, it’s just not going to connect. You need to make sure that everything you do is always targeted towards your target audience, because only then will you get the shares and the comments and the social signals that you’re after. 

A really good idea to get some ideas for headlines is to look at magazines because a magazine needs to have super catchy headlines because they need you to pick up the magazine, physically walk over to the shop, and buy it with your hard money. So it’s a really good way, just look at some magazine titles, take those headlines and use exactly the same structure, but just change the words to make it relevant to your business or your company, because they’ve put loads of work into creating the best headlines so you might as well use their work and just make it relevant to you. 

Last one is that odd numbers get more clicks. Here I’m talking about catchy headlines like ‘18 ways to tell your lover you care’, that kind of stuff. It turns out that odd numbers get more clicks, about 20% more clicks than even numbers. We could go into the psychology behind it but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not a huge problem if you want to do even numbers, but if you want to use those numbered headlines, then try and use an odd number if it works for you. 

So let’s have a look at some good ones that I’ve taken off magazines. This first one is, ‘are you still making these common mistakes in English?’ This is good because it’s clear. It’s a question so it’s bringing the audience in. The benefit and promise is clear so I know that I’ll click on this and I’ll find some common mistakes in English that I might be making and then learn how not to make them. The bit at the beginning, ‘are you still doing this’ is making it seem like, ‘oh, I really should read this because it’s embarrassing that I’m still making these kinds of mistakes in English’. 

The second one is ‘there’s a get rich, quick scheme inside your closets’, bringing the audience in and making it personal to them by using ‘your closet’ so that’s really helpful. 

The third one, ‘why the G-spot doesn’t exist’. This is unexpected. It’s going against what most people say so that’s interesting and people are more likely to click on it. A lot of these I’ve taken off Cosmopolitan magazine because they’ve got really good headlines. So if you ever need some inspiration, have a look at the structures that they use. 

The next one, ‘seven secrets to losing belly fat’ – clear benefit and promise and it’s got that odd number there as well. 

The next one ‘13 things I wish I knew before I became a swinger’. That’s got the odd number structure there as well. Using the ‘I wish I knew before’ is really good because it makes you feel like, ‘oh, this would be really useful for me in the future, I don’t want to make the same mistakes as this person has’. Also, the structure is good because people love to hear about people embarrassing themselves. So you’re like, ‘oh, I want to see what happened because they didn’t know whatever happens when you get swinging wrong’. 

The last one is a really classic one, ‘the ultimate guide’. So ‘the ultimate guide to anything’, it’s a really useful one because it shows that you’re going to have a really comprehensive piece of content here. Always make sure, with all of these, that if you make a benefit, if you promise something, you have to deliver it. Otherwise people will click on your site and click off straight away. So if you write content with the headline, ‘the ultimate guide to’, and then the content itself is 150/300 words, then that’s not an ultimate guide and people are going to click off and they’re not going to find that content engaging, and they’re not going to find it useful so they won’t share it. Always make sure that the headline is really important, but it needs to be backed up by great content. 

I’m not going to chat too much about these. I’ve taken these off the internet, I think this is Buzzfeed. They have lots of headlines that follow the structure that we just talked about. 

Writing engaging content

Let’s briefly have a look at how you could make your content interesting so that when people click on your headline, they read your content, they love it, they share it, they comment on it. 

So the first one is be original. The problem with the internet is that there’s so many blogs and so much content, it’s so hard to be original. But the one thing that you can do is make it about you. No one else has had the same experience that you’ve had, even if you’re selling very similar products to someone else. So talk about issues that you had, talk about how you learn certain things, and that will automatically make something original, make it different to anything else on the internet. 

The second one is making it actionable. So if you’ve got content that needs to be a call to action in there. People won’t do what you want them to do, unless you specifically tell them to do it. So why have you written this content? Do you want them to go to buy your product afterwards? Do you want them to share it with their friends? Make sure that that’s clear and that there is a very easy way for them to do it. So give them a URL or a link, or one of those social plugins that we talked about earlier? 

Know your audience. It’s the same as we were talking about with the headlines, it has to be relevant to the people you’re targeting. Otherwise there’s no point in putting in all that effort to create great content, if it’s targeted to the wrong person. 

Another good way to make your content engaging and to make it a bit more original is to tell a story with it because if you have a piece of content that offers all the facts – my product is good because of A, B and C – people are more likely to forget it. But if you incite this emotional response, people remember emotions more than they remember facts. So weave it into a story, tell me about a character who had all these issues and conflicts, and then suddenly this product came in and helped them fix these conflicts. Bring in characters, conflict, and resolution, and people are much more likely to remember it, take them on that story. 

Visuals are really great. Never just upload a big block of text because it might put people off. You could just get copyright free images off the internet, or you can use bullet points, infographics, videos – lots of different ways to do that and also make sure that you cut up your content, use subtitles to cut up your content as well. That’s also part of prioritizing readability. I’m not getting into the nitty gritty here, but generally think that you’re writing for a reading age of around 11 years old. Most of the people who will read your content will have a much higher reading age, but they’re probably putting the kettle on or they’re commuting to work, or they’re doing lots of different things at the same time. So make it clear and easy to read. Don’t use words that don’t use really complicated words. Don’t use really long sentences, keep everything short, simple, and to the point. 

The last one, is what can you offer that your competitors won’t. So look at the content that your competitors are writing and think about how you can make it better. What can you do? Are they offering, I don’t know, some pictures? What are they offering and can you do this better? Can you offer a white paper? Can you offer some downloadable content? Can you offer a link to a useful video channel? You want to give yourself the edge on your competitors by giving something just a little bit better. 

Part of having a great community, you need to have great content. There’s no point not having the right content because you could have a community but they’re probably not going to follow you or be interested in your website and products if you don’t have good content. 

Brand mentions

Now I’m just going to go through a bit about getting brand mentions and backlinks, because that will help you build up your online community as well. A brand mention is essentially anyone that mentions your company online. So your company, your business, or your products, for example. So a brand mention isn’t necessarily a backlink, someone could mention you but they won’t necessarily provide a backlink to your website, they won’t actually link to your website. But brand mentions are becoming more important because they help search engines understand and link everything up online. So even if there isn’t a backlink, yes, it would be great to try and turn that brand mention into a backlink but if that is not possible, you should still track brand mentions because they are definitely beneficial. 

A few ways to get brand mentions. Increasing your social media presence so it’d be posting on social media with those headlines that make people click through to your website, sharing your content. Don’t create content on your website and not share it. If you’re writing blogs, get a little calendar together and post them regularly on your social media pages. 

Engage with your community

Engage with your community and your customers. So if someone comments positively or negatively, or just generally comments on your post, on social media, then write back to them, say thank you, or just have a bit of banter, have a bit of a communication with them, encourage reviews. Don’t sway away from getting reviews. I see a lot of companies switch off reviews on Facebook, for example, because they’re too scared to get a review because it could be negative. But ultimately, I would say, if you’re getting a lot of negative reviews, there’s probably something you need to look at in the overall business. Any clients that come to us for SEO, one of the first things we look at is their reviews and if they’ve got a lot of negative reviews, we’ll probably say to them, ‘look we can do everything we can to help your website and we’ll do everything, we’ll optimise it but these reviews are probably going to hold you back’ and they will hold them back. This is why I would always focus on getting those reviews and encourage them. You can even give incentives to get reviews, just to try and push them a little bit like discounts or money off.

Create linkable and unique content

Create linkable and unique content or assets. By that, I mean, the content that you’re creating, don’t just create content that everyone else carries. It must have some sort of value. It must be useful. There must be a reason for people to mention it and share it with their friends. So if it’s a how to guide or if it’s something downloadable, for example. So like a PDF, I see a lot of those like weekly food planners that people get are downloadable and you can use or a downloadable budget, for example. So depending on what your business is, there is probably something you can create that people would find useful and people would want to use. Try to think of something, it can be quite hard depending on the niche you’re in and it may be that it’s already been created. I used to work for a company that was in the funeral sector, and there were a lot of queries online around planning, paying for your funeral, playing your songs, how to write an order of service, order of service templates and things like that. So you could probably create some sort of template that could be used or something that people could download and use and it would be linkable and they would want to talk about it or share it with people. 

Do something people will talk about

Do something that people will talk about. So often you want coverage in, if you’re in Bristol or Spain, you want coverage in the Bristol Post, or you want coverage on a big news site, for example. You want people to talk about you, but if you’re not doing anything worth talking about people won’t talk about it. So try and do something positive that’s worth talking about. So whether that’s like charity work or getting involved in events, for example, that you’re doing. If you’re doing a really big sale or really big discount that is actually interesting. All you need to do is do something worth talking about, and people will talk about it. 

If you try to do something and you reach out to a lot of sites, which I’ve done previously, Aad they say, ‘nah, this isn’t interesting’, then it’s probably not worth talking about. So to have a think about what it is.


Backlinks, so everyone’s favourite topic. I think people focus on backlinks too much, and they’re not as important today as they used to be. Just because search engines, from an SEO perspective, understand how people can manipulate backlinks. You can buy backlinks, there’s a lot you can do to manipulate backlinks. Backlinks aren’t as important anymore as they used to be, but they are from a trust perspective and they still provide some value. So it definitely still look at them and still try to get backlinks naturally but then don’t think about, ‘oh, I need five backlinks a month’ or something. They should come in naturally from the work that you are doing and from you doing things that are worth talking about and having great content.

Backlinks are hard. The best way to get them is probably to get them naturally. So for you to be shared. By naturally, I don’t mean you’re going to create a website and you’re going to put some blogs up and they’re just going to come because that is probably unlikely. I mean, sharing your content on your website, sharing your content on social media, sharing it with people, asking people to share it and anything you can do to get it out there because backlinks will come through you doing that work, not necessarily going out and buying the backlink, for example, but it does require time and effort and it just requires a bit of investment on your part. But it’s no investment that you shouldn’t be doing anyway, as part of managing your business. If you do have a small business, or if you’re working on someone’s web site for them. 

Tips to get backlinks


A couple of tips here to get backlinks, obviously build that community online, you could be on some relevant forum sites, for example. I don’t know if anyone uses things like Yahoo, Reddit, Quora, these all different forum sites where people ask questions and these questions are quite insightful actually, because you can go on there and you can type in like a topic and can see the questions people are asking related to your topic, and you could sign up to an account on that and respond to them and then provide a link back to your website and that will drive traffic and have that link there as well. So I’d recommend doing that. Obviously you don’t want to get too much because you only want to have a set number of websites that you have to manage and forums and things like that, it could get a little bit out of hand. 

Google alerts

Have a look at Google alerts. We always go on about free tools but Google alerts is a really useful free tool. What that allows you to do is type the name of your company, or type anything, and ask Google to alert you every time, via email, that it’s mentioned. The issue with that is if you have a business name that is very similar to loads of other things, you might get a lot of alerts. If you have a very specific business name or specific product, it’s definitely quite useful to see when people are talking about you. Obviously you can find people mentioning your brand and try to ask them for a backlink. Like the reviews, I would try and put together a standard email that you send to people once they’ve mentioned your company to say, ‘you’ve mentioned my company, that’s really great. Thank you so much for the support. I really appreciate it. If you wouldn’t mind, could you just link to my website as well? Here it is’ and play that card and just ask. You might not always get success, but if it’s coming directly from you, usually people will be quite happy to do it. They won’t be happy to do it if it comes from some sort of agency like ourselves where asking backlinks every day consistently. If it comes from a small business, it will ideally be a lot more successful. 

Skyscraper content

Skyscraper content technique. The easiest content technique that you can do to create blogs and articles for your website is to find the top pieces of content relevant to your business and your keywords and create something way better. So whatever you see that ranks well, or that is a good piece of content, similar to what you want to create, make sure you’re creating it better. So if it’s 2000 words, make yours 2000 words but much better, or make it 2,500 words and much more in depth. Don’t look at a piece of content and say, ‘okay, this piece of content answers these few questions. It’s 1000 words. I’m going to write a 500 word article on it and just cut it down and copy it and then change it slightly’ because you’re not going to perform well from that. You’re not going to get backlinks if your content is no better than anyone else’s and if it’s actually worse. 

Try different formats

Try different formats for content. With the listicles, it’s best to have odd numbers – so seven instead of eight ways. The best content formats that are likely to get links are ‘how tos’. So, if you’re a mum, for example, ‘how to breastfeed’ or ‘how to do change a nappy’, for example. Those ‘how to’ type content get a lot of backlinks and do really well. So do the listicles – ‘the nine ways’ – infographics, videos, if you could do any research yourself, and ‘the ultimate guides’ do really well as well. So these are the types of content that are more likely to get backlinks. If you’re creating a lot of other pieces of content, like recipes, they don’t really get that many backlinks, they’re really competitive. Try to focus on the types of content that will get backlinks, you can just Google it – ‘which types of content get the most amount of backlinks – and you’ll find the answer and then you can start creating your content and trying to get those links. 

Examples of great online communities

Innocent Smoothies

I’m going to go through a couple of companies now that have a great community online and why they have a good community. The first one is Innocent drinks. If you like smoothies, you’ll probably know of Innocent, they do it really well and they’re a really great company to follow. If you do want to build up your social media presence in your community online, I definitely recommend having a look at Innocent. They have really nice social media profiles. Their cover header, then the little bit of description that they have at the top. They’re always changing it, but they’re always really linked up between the social media accounts and also relevant to what’s on their website. So I’d have a look at Innocent. 

Then another thing that Innocent do really well is they give customers an insight into the business. So they’re always sharing things from their head office, for example, and what they’re doing and what their employees are doing. That helps build trust with your customers. So if you do have a business and you have a few different people that work for you, or even just yourself, why not take photos of what you’re doing – share the background, share the office, share the warehouse, for example – anything you’re doing behind the scenes, share it because it will help build trust that you’re a real business. Sometimes people don’t want to buy from a company that they don’t really know if they’re real so the biggest thing you can do to make yourself look real is to be sharing stuff with real people. 

They also build really good relationships with their followers. They respond probably too much so I don’t think everyone can always do this, but they get a lot of comments. I can’t imagine how many people they have on their social media team, but they respond to everything and, for example, someone said here, ‘I love your company and I love your marketing, it never fails to make me laugh and your products are great’ and Innocent has responded saying, ‘cheers, Tate, it’s no coincidence your name rhymes with great’. They just build that rapport with people and it’s really nice. So have a look at what they’re doing, they are really great and they always get coverage and they always get backlinks and mentions because of what they do on social media. So if you were to Google now, ‘Innocent social media’, you’d probably find a lot of companies talking about how good Innocent are at social media. Then they’re getting that coverage because they’ve built up that community. 


Injecting personality. We’ve got an example here – this is actually very topical now cause Piers Morgan has just left Good Morning Britain because of the whole palava with Meghan and Harry – but Piers Morgan commented something on Greggs. Greggs posted ‘vegan sausage roll, the wait is over’ – this was in January 2019 – and Piers Morgan replied saying ‘nobody was waiting for a vegan sausage, you PC ravaged clowns’ and then Greggs replied saying, ‘oh, hello, Piers, we’ve been expecting you’. So although that was a really negative comment from Piers Morgan, who obviously has a massive following, Greggs decided to make a joke of it and actually respond and you can see that 135,000 people have liked Greggs’ response and 19,000 people have commented on it. So it just shows that injecting a bit of personality in what you’re doing actually can give you quite good results. Even if it’s a little bit of a negative thing that has come up. 

Also, example here, that was in January 2019 that this post went out and then in January 2019 there was a massive search interest for vegan sausage rolls. So actually because of Greggs launching their vegan sausage rolls and then that whole social media thing with Piers Morgan, there was a huge spike in interest in that product area. So it’s not even people searching for the brand, it’s people searching for that product. 

We’ve got an example here as well of organic search visibility. So if you search for vegan sausage rolls, now Greggs appears at the top – not the top position because there’s a few recipes there – but they are the only company that have a vegan sausage roll result showing and they don’t even optimiSe their website. I’m not saying the social media or the communities of reason it’s doing really well, because there’ll be loads of things, but it’s just worth noting. 

They’ve also got the ‘people also asked’ questions, specifically related to Greggs vegan sausage rolls. So my point here is actually about what you’re doing on social media and the personality you’re injecting and how you engage with people can feed back into SEO results. So whether that’s more visibility in search results, more people searching for your brand, for example. So I’m sure if I put Greggs in here in January, there might’ve been a big search for Greggs as well. So it’s just showing that the more you do, the more people will search for you and the more brand searches – the more people that search for your company name in Google – the more that helps your SEO because Google understands that people are actually looking for you.


Another nice example here as well. I don’t know if anyone saw this but Weetabix actually put a post out putting baked beans on the Weetabix and they said, ‘why should bread have all the fun when there’s Weetabix?’ This had a massive response, if you have a look at the engagement here, loads of retweets, loads of quote tweets, there was actually a load of different companies responding. So every single brand basically got involved in this conversation and it was really funny and it went viral. I’m not saying here that I’m expecting anyone to be posting viral things, sometimes it can go wrong. I think there was a company the other day on international women’s day posted that women should still be in the kitchen or something and that was really bad for them. So sometimes you just need to be careful about what you are posting. If you are trying to engage with people and you’re trying to do something a little bit different, just really think about it first, because there are situations where it does go wrong.

It’s worth seeing what these companies are doing and it can give you an idea. I follow a lot of them just because it’s useful. We’ve got an example here of how, when Weetabix did this in February 2021, there was a big search interest for Weetabix. So it just shows that if you do something that does really well, you’re likely to see more interest in your company or product. 

A caveat for smaller businesses

One thing I want to caveat all of this with, in terms of looking at those brands, is the brands I’ve just showed you aren’t very salesy on their social media. I would recommend you do be a bit salesy just because if you’ve got a product or you need people to come to a business, or you need people to come to your website for whatever reason, and you don’t talk about your company or your products at all, you might not get that. So it’s worth bearing in mind that Weetabix, Greggs, and Innocent Smoothies do not sell their products on their website. So actually they have brand awareness as their metrics on social media. So they probably have figures that they need to improve and their success measures will be, ‘have more people searched for Weetabix’, ‘have more people search for Greggs’, ‘how many people were talking about us?’, ‘how many likes and comments are we getting?’ but for your businesses do you care how many likes and comments you’re getting if no one’s buying from you? Probably not. So I would say it’s a balance don’t post every single day about buying your product. Have a balance of probably 50/50 of nice engaging posts, posting your content, and then also posting offers and links to products and things like that as well. So I definitely recommend doing both and not just fully going the way Innocent Smoothies have gone, because that would be too far and then you wouldn’t actually have anyone buying your products or going onto a website, for example. 

Brief summary

What we’ve covered is the importance of reputation and reviews. They are super important, if you’re not getting them, I know it can feel like a bit of effort, but you just go and ask everyone for review or send out a link to a website and say, ‘I would really appreciate a review’. I did an online escape room yesterday and the last thing they sent us was a link to TripAdvisor to say, ‘please leave a review’. So just do that at the end, once someone’s bought your product, or send them a follow-up email, anything you can do to get reviewed. 

Social signals are really important and they will help your SEO visibility, not necessarily straight away, not a direct ranking factor so if you do have other stuff on your website that you need to fix, from a search engine optimisation perspective, I’d probably say do that first, or do them both at the same time. Start all your social media activity and start sharing your content, doing all of that, but also make sure your website is in a good place first. We’ve given you some tips to get brand mentions and backlinks. There are lots of ways to do it, you don’t need to be an SEO professional or a marketing professional to be able to get brand mentions or backlinks, you just need to be able to promote your website and promote your business and you’ll naturally get them. 

We’ve given some examples of brands that have a great community but obviously my final point there was, don’t go too far in that, make sure you’re talking about your products as well as being engaging and fun and injecting personality into social media because ultimately whatever you do online, whatever you do to build your community online, it always needs to link back to the end goals of the business and the end goals will be to make money. So all of this, somehow, needs to help make you money. 


Removing negative things off Wikipedia

What about when people put up negative stuff on Wikipedia and it refuses to remove it? Yes, unfortunately that is a bit annoying and as a company you can’t impact Wikipedia too much. So I have made changes to business Wikipedia pages I’ve worked for before but it can’t be promoting your business. It has to be quite generic things and Wikipedia like a range of sources so there isn’t always much you can do about that. The biggest thing that you can do to push down negative stuff online is to do more positive stuff. 

So if you’ve got some negative reviews and they show up when someone searches for your business, then the biggest thing you could do to push them down is to get more positive reviews. So get more positive reviews, get positive stories. So if there’s a real negative story about your business showing up really high, it’s probably showing up high because people are finding it useful because they’re reading it and thinking ‘I’m not going to buy from them’. Whereas if you can try and get some more positive stories, that is how you’ll remove those negative ones. 

Removing negative reviews from Google

How can you get an unfair, negative review removed? You can contact Google but they very rarely remove negative reviews. There are some platforms that you can get negative reviews removed from, you can request to have them removed, but I wouldn’t spend too much time on that. I know it can be really annoying when the review is unfair and unjustified, but if you can try to reply to the review in a polite, understanding way, and maybe even explain why it’s unjustified – not too defensively – then try to get more positive reviews. So if you see a really negative review come up from yesterday, for example, what I would be doing if I were you today, be contacting loads of customers saying ‘please leave reviews’ because then that negative one will just go further and further down the list and people will forget about it. It is really annoying but unfortunately there isn’t a lot you can do about it. 

What is a backlink?

What is a backlink? A backlink is a link to your website from another website so that is another website has linked to your website from their website, basically. If you imagine your website in the middle, it’s like a spiderweb is loads of things coming into your website and they’re links coming in. 

Does Google penalise you for asking for backlinks?

I thought you shouldn’t directly ask people for backlinks and Google penalises you for doing so? You can ask people for backlinks. There’s no reason why you can’t ask people. Google will penalise you if they can see that you’re clearly paying for backlinks and that you’re manipulating the link profile. So if you are naturally asking someone for a backlink for a reason – so they’ve already talked about your website or you have a really great piece of content and they’re relevant to your website – then there’s no reason why you can’t ask them for a link. Try to not approach it in a way of, ‘I really want to help my SEO, please give me a backlink’, try to approach it in a way of, ‘I’m a really small business and it would really help me and really support me if you could link to my website’. Don’t even make them think that you know what SEO is, just make them think you want more customers and that’s probably the best way of asking. Google won’t penalise you. Google doesn’t know that you’ve asked for backlinks. Google can see certain things, so certain manipulative practices. Anything that you think you’re doing that might be a bit manipulative, then I’d worry about it. But if there’s a simple reason for a site to link to you and they’re relevant to your business then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t link to you. 

Don’t ask a gambling website to link it to your finance website – completely wrong, completely irrelevant. Don’t ask for a link from porn website, not going to help the quality of your site. Just think about it from an initiative perspective of, ‘is this website relevant?, ‘is it going to also have people similar to my audience?’ 

Best data analytics and SEO courses

What’s the best data analytics and SEO courses if people wanted to pursue further? Google has lots of free resources so I’d have a look at Google. I’d have a look at AHREFS, they have a free course. Moz, they have free courses. So it depends if you want to look at some of the basics or if you want to go into a bit more detail. Perhaps Google’s beginner’s courses to SEO. There’s loads. 

It depends if you learn best through video – so listening to someone like me, or if that makes you fall asleep. Or whether you learn best from reading and things. So it really depends on your learning style, but there are a lot of options out there. 

The best platform for a website

What’s the best platform for a website? WordPress is probably the easiest and the most flexible, because a lot more people know how to use WordPress. WordPress is always developing. There’s always new plugins. Shopify is quite good if you’re selling products online. I would say they’re probably the two best from my perspective. There’s different reasons but I would probably try to learn WordPress, if you can. There’s lots of different options on WordPress to mean that you don’t have to do anything too complicated. If you can set it up or get someone to set it up for you and say, ‘I just want to update the content on there’, you should be able to do that. 

How to get reviews

How do you recommend a small creative business get and implement reviews? We work in SEO, we ask customers for reviews all the time to help, so you can definitely ask for reviews. There is something you can type into Google, if you type Google review generator, you can go onto this page and it creates a really short link that people can follow to leave a review for you. So if you’ve got a list of customers, for your small creative business, can you email them all and ask for a review and ask if they can do it. Or if you’re speaking to them, could you say, ‘please, could you leave a review?’ Can you offer some sort of discount for them to leave a review on one of your services, for example? Any company can go review, you might just need to think about your own creative ways to get that review. Like for an SEO company, we could offer a free audit for review – a free additional audit and free session, for example. So I could say, ‘you’re not allowed to come to any more of these webinars until you leave a review, once you’ve left a review, we’ll let you come in’. So you can do things like that, there’s lots of options. 

How to engage with potential customers on socials

If someone likes a photo on Instagram of a new service truck for the fleet, for example, do you then invite them to like and follow your page? Absolutely. Yeah. Follow them. So if you see someone’s liked something on your profile, go and follow them and then like stuff on their profile, for example. Also if you’ve got people following you and, or you know that they buy from you and they engage with you, can you look at their followers and start following them? You can’t build up from nowhere so I wouldn’t start with a social media profile with zero followers and then just keep posting content. I would start by following people that you think might be relevant or might like your business. 

Resources for non-commercial communities

Do you know of any resources for building non-commercial online communities? E.g. support groups or campaigns? No, I don’t. Email and we’ll have a look, but there probably are lots of resources out there for building an online community. So whatever the industry that you’re in, I would search that industry and then search forum sites or something like that. Search for anything. Or on Instagram, for example, if you could hashtag it – so if there’s a certain niche that you’re in, you could hashtag that niche and try and find people that are also sort of hashtagging it, for example. 

Putting reviews on your homepage

Can you put customer reviews on your homepage? Yes, you can put customer reviews on your homepage. I would put them wherever you can on your website. If you’ve got reviews, show them. So obviously there’s a testimonial and then there’s a review, I think both are beneficial but if you’re working with a website, like Google reviews or Trustpilot or FIFO, people trust these websites because they’re independent of you and you can’t necessarily manipulate it as much. You can a little bit because if you pay Trustpilot a bit of money they’ll enable you to respond to reviews better and things like that. But, I’d put reviews wherever you can. Never too many reviews. If you offer different products and different services try to get reviews for each of them. 

Revamp an old site without affecting your search ranking

Any tips on revamping an old out of date website, we have the top ranking and we’re worried of making changes that could affect this? Yeah, you definitely should be wary of it but if it’s quite out of date and you’re just updating the design of the website and just making it look better, you don’t need to worry about that. Whereas if you’re changing the content on the website – so you’re taking words out, removing pages – you probably just need to review what you’re doing. So I definitely recommend doing a bit of an audit or checking with someone first checking with someone that knows SEO. The worst thing you can do is just go and delete loads of pages without knowing whether those pages hold any authority or deleting loads of content off your site and content that is making you rank well, because you’re obviously ranking well for a reason. So just be wary of that. 

Does SEO work just as well on Shopify and WordPress?

Does SEO work equally well on Shopify and WordPress websites? Yes. The only thing I don’t like about Shopify is their URL structure. So when you have a URL – the thing that you type into the top of the search bar – they have ‘page’ and ‘category’ or something in the URL structure, which is a bit annoying and you can’t really remove that. So that’s a bit annoying on Shopify but it’s not a reason not to use it. 

What reviews will Google accept?

Will Google accept my reviews from a wedding site? Google would accept any reviews pretty much, as long as they comply with their guidelines. So, I would assume so. I don’t think you even have to prove you’re a customer with Google reviews, you just have to tick something to say that you are a customer, for example. 

Resources for non-profit communities

Any resources for building a non-profit community? I don’t know of any resources but I would Google it. So I would Google, ‘not-for-profit building an online community’ or have a look at other non-profit companies such as charities or things like that that do it really well and see what they’re doing. Obviously it’s always good to look at competitors and even if you’re a nonprofit company, you will have a competitor. So if you’re a cancer research charity, there will be another cancer research charity that you can have a look at what they’re doing. So there’s loads you can do. I would also Google examples of campaigns. So there’s lots of awards out there for social media campaigns and social media communities. Google awards categories, they’ll find the companies that are doing really well. 

Can you link Shopify reviews to Google?

Can you link Shopify reviews to Google? I’m not sure if you can do that, but you can link Google reviews to Shopify. You can usually link any reviews to your website and there’s always a way that you can integrate a review with a website. So, if you’re not sure how to do it, please just ask. But if the reviews are specifically on Shopify, you can’t put them all onto Google. 

Will Google My Business accept third party reviews?

Will Google My Business accept reviews I send from third parties? Yes, they’ll pretty much accept any review. Obviously, you can’t leave a review for yourself, but I’m not sure how they would know that so I can’t see why they wouldn’t accept a review. Most reviews are accepted. If you have a look at Google’s review policy, you can probably find out why it wouldn’t be accepted, and try to avoid anything that goes against their policy.