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May 6, 2009
Participating in the Twitter Conversation for Fun and Profit
Today I'll show you how to create your a Twitter strategy that complements your SEO efforts.  The first thing you need to do, however, is understand that what you do with Twitter is not just "all about the links." If you go in with that mentality, you’ll never get out of it what you should.

It’s true that you can gain links via your tweets, but they won't directly count towards your link popularity because they have the "nofollow" link attribute on them.

If Not for Links, Why Bother?

Your goal with Twitter is not to directly gain links, but to be where people are already talking about your industry, participating in the conversation, and making them aware that you and your company exist. It's almost the opposite of SEO. With SEO, you try to make your website as relevant as possible for the words people might be typing into Google and hope they eventually find you there. With Twitter, you have the opportunity to grab their attention before they ever get to Google! They are no longer nameless, faceless searchers, but people looking to other people for advice, recommendations, and help.

How Can You Help?

First, you need to find out where the conversation is happening and who's having it. The secret to this is the
Twitter search engine. Twitter Search opens up a whole new worldbeyond your followers. It's akin to the telephone "party lines" you've seen in old movies, where everyone could hear what everyone else was talking about.

Start searching Twitter for anyone with your main keywords in their Tweets. If they're asking a question that you can answer, go ahead and @reply to them. You can follow them, but you may only want to if their Twitter stream seems to be of real interest to you. Many times people have one particular query or statement about something that relates to what you offer, but their overall Twitter stream may not. That's fine – there's nothing wrong with having a one-time communication with these folks.

Here's a real-life example. One of our recent
SEO Training students owns a companythat designs and manufactures some cool pet beds and pet travel crates. The day before our class I did a Twitter search for "pet travel" or "pet crates" or something along those lines. There was a lot of junk, but one person had mentioned that they needed to buy a dog travel crate. I didn't know this person, they didn't follow me, nor I them. Their Tweet just appeared in the Twitter search. So I @replied to them and simply said, "Have you looked into the cool pet crates from ___?"

Measuring Results

The next day during the class I told the story to the students and we checked to see how many clicks the site had received. It was around 15. (As of today, a few weeks later, there were 20.) So, while I was only talking to one specific person whom I had never engaged with before, others – presumably my own followers or others searching for info on pet crates – saw my Tweet and clicked through.

Did the clicks make any sales? That I don't know, but if I were measuring it for our own site or for a client's site, I would have set up a campaign with Google Analytics that tracked and measured those clicks at a very granular level. That way I would know exactly what time those clicks came in and if they converted.

Now, remember, I only made one Twitter search at one particular moment in time. While 20 clicks is no big deal to many companies, imagine if I had searched for 20 or more relevant phrases and replied to other people who were discussing pet travel options. If just one person each had a Tweet that fit my 20 queries, and I replied to all 20 of them, we might have seen 400 clickthroughs!

The Fine Line Between Work and Play

You will need to invest some time into this for it to work well. You (or someone) will need to "hang out" at Twitter at least a couple of times a day, perhaps a half-hour each time. During that time you can follow additional people who have followed you, look for other people to follow who would be interested in your offerings, and visit other sites of interest that your followers have pointed out to you. Be sure to make comments about others' Tweets that you like. Most of all, be authentic. Show your human side and don't be afraid to just talk about nothing. If you only talk about your products and services, people will get bored with you and lose interest. Say what's on your mind, use humor, and reply to others who are also just chatting for fun. This way, you'll have the best of both Twitter worlds!

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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