As an SEO and web marketer, I learn best by doing. I’ve worked a lot on websites for brick and mortar locations, products, e-commerce, and a host of other common business websites. What I haven’t done a lot of is work on websites that aren’t actually selling a product. So I decided to invest in my passion and create a community site revolving around tattoos. I called it RichmondTattooShops.com. Not especially inventive, and perhaps even a bit spammy, it’s not especially strong branding. In the interest of full disclosure, the first 12 names I came up with were taken. So I just ran with one that worked.
Building a niche community site from scratch without support
Typically, when someone builds a niche community site from scratch, they do it because they have some ins–some sort of close and valuable connections to the community they intend on building upon. I didn’t have that and it posed some really unique problems that resulted in lots of trial and error and a massive amount analysis of other, similar websites.
In analyzing other community sites, particularly websites focused on tattoo culture and art, I saw some pretty consistent elements. One such element was the way the content was broken up. There were landing pages dedicated to single keywords, often focusing on some element of tattoo design and geared toward people looking for tattoo ideas in one fashion or another. Another common element was use of “meanings” pages. These pages would pick a tattoo style, or common symbol used in tattoo art, and would expound on its meaning. Some sites were better than others but very few sites offered in-depth meaning or explained the art in any sort of cultural context. I made a point with my site to do these types of pages better by providing more thorough information. See an example of a tattoo meaning page.
A community site should provide value
This was a little bit of a challenge. What value could I provide without being directly involved in the industry or without practicing the art myself? My first thought was to provide a complete directory of the tattoo shops in Richmond, VA. The last time I went to get a tattoo I did a lot of research and was disappointed in the low quality of tattoo shop websites, the lack of online portfolios, and the general lack of availability of basic information I needed to make my decision. I took it upon myself to gather this info for each tattoo shop and then created a formatted directory.
Building a community from loosely connected parts
The tattoo scene is big in Richmond; pretty much everyone between 18 and 30 have tattoos. There’s no shortage of artists with unique styles too. But it’s one of those things where you have to know the right people to get the info on where the best tattoo shops and artists are. It’s not readily available. Another focal point for my tattoo community site was to create a space that promoted the shops and artists in my city. I created a section for both, News and Artists. I announce artist lineup changes, guest artists, tattoo events such as conventions, and a host of other tattoo related news worth discussing. In the future I’m planning on doing profiles of local Richmond tattoo artists to have on the site as well.
A community site needs social support
I made sure that social media was well incorporated into the site. I also make sure to post to social media any time I update the site and I try very hard to engage in conversation with tattoo and arts related businesses on Facebook and Twitter to build brand recognition and opportunities for content sharing. I also post to Reddit, which is a reliable source of steady, if not low volume, traffic. This approach has been a huge success. One of our more popular posts so far received nearly 400 reshares and likes in less than 24 hours. A very encouraging start.