I was delighted to hear that Yahoo is determined to reinvigorate Yahoo Answers.
After years of stagnation Yahoo Answers is undergoing a complete overhaul with CEO Marissa Mayer ordering a total service revamp.
In comes Answers Mobile allowing users to ask and answer questions on the go with its simple navigation and clean design.
The Q&A will be opened while users can update personal content activity streams, personalise their homepage, add photos and videos, and more.
Knowledge is power
Why am I so excited? Because it’s great to see such a large company investing in such a worthwhile community service that expands people’s knowledge and empowers content creators.
Why? For the same reason that Wikipedia gets a lot of search prominence. These sites provide engaging, honest and thoughtful answers to often-asked questions with the community chipping in with further comments and details to expand.
In short these sites offer high-quality, targeted, community-centric content.
Expanding the help engine model
Such sites are attracting the affectionate moniker of ‘help engines’ as people turn to them looking for information that they feel a search engine can’t provide.
So much so that even larger companies are implicating the help engine model to their sites and services.
Barclays, for instance, offers business customers banking with them access to an online service called Barclays Connector – an online Q&A community where people can ask questions relevant to users’ expertise in a similar vein to Quora.
Similarly RBS Group has created bizcrowd which acts as a directory but also offers a Q&A service for people that have questions that need answering and aren’t sure where to go.
But what are the benefits?
I often write about how important it is to engage people over social networks, answer questions and represent their brand in the best light possible at all times.
And the help engine philosophy sits in line with a broader social media one. LinkedIn, for instance – so many people have discovered the benefits of signing up to groups and holding regular discussions with their peers and expanding their own personal profile.
But it’s a lot harder to hold such broad social discussions on Twitter or Facebook. The volume of noise also makes it harder to pinpoint answers to certain questions, increasing the social value of Answers, Quora and the like.
Engagement is the key. Sign up to these services and answer questions where you can really let your knowledge of a certain subject shine.
This can also help you on your way to becoming an industry influencer and driving traffic back to your site – especially if your answers are valuable enough to be shared amongst others.
The appeal of help engines isn’t the radical design of the sites. The appeal lies solely on the strength of the community and the information it provides to others.
If you’re careful and consistent then you can also share pages of your website in certain questions to drive traffic back to your site so long as it’s relevant to the answer you’re providing.
The search advantages of help engines
If a page on your site for example has something of real value to the answer you’re providing then share it, by all means. Just be sure to expand on the link to provide something of real value to the person asking the question and anyone that will stumble across it.
Just like Google and Wikipedia crave citations and sources when creating content, so you yourself can expand your own answers with links back to your site, blog or otherwise.
It’s the perfect way to share your content and get word of your brand out to people in a post-Penguin and Panda world. More importantly, it shows the ethical, approachable side of yourself and your brand to a wider, more targeted community.
Any and every question is asked on these sites so it’s worth carving out a niche in your area of expertise and showing your face (as it where) on a regular basis to give your opinion and answer questions.
Using help engines for clients and traffic
Business owners – especially smaller brands that are just starting out – need as much help as possible and will always have a question to ask.
So Barclays and RBS are building a community based on the help engine philosophy where other business owners can answer that question, introduce themselves and hopefully build a relationship away from the forum.
That method can also be used on Answers, Quora, Ask and other help engines. Look for business-style questions or bubbles of industry-related thought you can impart your expertise onto.
Offer the answer in a friendly, positive fashion. Crucially, give as much information as possible. Give a short answer first, then expand on it giving your reasons why and providing citations from around the web. Mix it up with personal experiences and industry trends.
Be an advisor. Keep in touch with people and become their number one source of information. Offer your services via email or other – build the relationship, get to know them and become a professional acquaintance.
Posting regularly on help engines and becoming a trusted source will help boost traffic, show another side of your brand’s personality and attract the right types of traffic to your site.
Like social media though, you’ll only get out of it as much as you put into it. I’m certain though that the new Yahoo Answers will be a huge indicator of where SEO and brand engagement is headed over the next few years.
To find out more about help engines, influencer marketing and how to attract more traffic with social interaction contact Webpresence today!