When was the last time you had to join a new group? Maybe you started a new job or school. Maybe you joined a club or church. If you are anything like me, the process of getting to know people probably went something like this:
You showed up and talked with a small number of people at first – the boss, a greeter, the person sitting next to you. You talked about common interests and started the process of getting to know more about each other. At the same time, you started to listen to what the people around you were talking about. You gravitated toward the people you found interesting and eventually found an opportunity to contribute to the group conversations.
As people got to know more about you, they began to see the unique insights, experiences, and skills you had to offer and started to come to you with questions. Eventually, people started to refer others to you because they thought you could help them.
Over time you became an established part of the group with a history of involvement and a level of respect earned by the quality of that involvement.
This is a very common path to establishing yourself in a community. It is also an excellent process to model for generating website traffic on the Internet. The Internet is really just a great big community and you have to establish yourself there just like anywhere else.
So, How Do You Establish Yourself On The Internet?
The short answer – Join the Conversation! Seek out the places and people who are talking about things that interest you. Over time you will learn who the trusted voices are and discover where they hang out. When you feel like you have something to say that will add to the discussion, make comments. Blogs, user forums, and newsgroups are designed to encourage this. When you add value to the conversation, people will want to know more about you and what else you have to say.
Make sure people can find you. Whenever allowed, include a link back to your website or blog so that people can find you. Then, make sure you have good stuff waiting for them when they do.
Impress people with the quality of your comments and they will come find you. Impress them with what they find and they will bookmark your site or feed. Eventually, they will start recommending you to others.
Before you know it, a community will develop around your conversations.
How Powerful Is This Approach?
I will give you one quick example to show you the power of joining the conversation. On June 20, 2006 (3 days ago as I’m writing this) I left a short comment on an interesting article at Brad Isaac’s website. The article is called Work for Yourself First. I felt that my experiences with the subject were relevant and that others might find them interesting. Read the article and see what I had to say in response (it’s also a great article – so read it for that reason too!)
I was a little surprised today when I checked my site’s traffic stats and discovered that 21 people had already visited by following the link to homepage that is included in the comment. They came from all around the world. That is more traffic referrals than from any other single source over the same 3 days. And, these visitors also spent more time exploring my site and reading my articles than most others.
The same thing happens when you include trackback links to relevant articles in your own blog posts. An exerpt from your article will show up as a comment attached to the article you are referencing. This comment will link back to your blog entry. As you add to the conversation the community grows around it. It is powerful stuff.
Don’t Pee in the Pool
Before you run out and start flooding the Internet with comments, remember that your reputation is at stake.
Do not post scores of ‘me too’ comments, or worse, irrelevant comments intended only to get a link back to your site (this heinous practice is called comment spamming. Many website resources have been created whose sole task is weeding this junk out and throwing it away.) You will not get traffic to your site if you are known as a ‘comment spammer.’ What you are likely to get are piles of angry comments on your own site from people who are upset about what you are doing.
Another downside to comment spam is that it fills the Internet with so much garbage that nobody wants to wade through it to find the good stuff. The people who create good content must spend their time taking out the trash and are not generating new content.
Once somebody pees in the pool, nobody wants to go swimming and somebody has to clean it up!
Go Out and Join the Conversation
Go, be sociable. Talk to others and add your insights to the conversation. Build your reputation on the Internet and before long, people will come looking for you. The traffic you get will not be subject to the whims of any search engine’s latest algorithms, and the visitors you get will be more likely to become regulars.
The Go-To Guy