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Traffic Technique 1: Search Engine Optimization

If you’re one of the thousands of bloggers out there who’s trying to generate the right kind of blog traffic, you’ve probably felt a bit bewildered at some point.

I know I have. Some days I’ve sat down at my computer and literally haven’t known where to start in building more traffic to my blogs. It’s easy, too, to fall into the habit of using the same old techniques over and over—not because they’re the best ones for you, but because they’re the ones you know and are comfortable with.

So, starting today, I’d like to take you on a little tour of some of the main traffic generation techniques.

Through the tour I plan to explain a bit about each technique so that if you’ve never really encountered it before, you’ll have a basic grounding in it. Then I’ll get into some of the more specific quirks of that traffic method you may want to take on board as you consider using each technique.

I’m aiming to cover seven topics in this series, which will run once a week, starting today, with the grand-daddy of all traffic sources: search.

Types of search traffic

Searching

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Leonardini

Search is the grand-daddy of traffic—and for good reason.

Firstly, it’s the primary way for bloggers to reach readers who have never heard of us, let alone visited our sites. Search engines “qualify” the traffic they send you, since they’re based on keyword and keyphrase searches that reflect individual users’ specific needs.

Search—and search advertising—can also be a good way to build a perception of authority around your brand: if readers searching at various times for topics within your niche keep seeing your site in the search results, they’re likely to get the idea that your site has a lot of information on that topic. This can make search a good way to stay top-of-mind with visitors who have been to your site a few times, but aren’t loyal readers yet.

Search can also alert existing readers to new material on your site—and to sub-topics that they didn’t already know you covered.

The right kind of search traffic

To attract the right kinds of search traffic, most of us follow a few golden rules:

  1. We avoid black-hat search techniques: we don’t try to scam or trick the search engines.
  2. We get to know the user we’re trying to target through search: by looking at the comments these readers leave on our blog or others, through our analytics, and by using the Google Keyword Tool—among other methods.
  3. We create content around the topics our target users have an interest in: and we incorporate the keywords they’re searching on.
  4. We do what we can to boost our online profiles: through a combination of guest posting, social media, encouraging backlinks to our blogs from other sites, and facilitating sharing and recommendations from others.

So while it seems like search is a technical topic—and I know that makes a lot of bloggers shut down before they even get a chance to look into it more deeply—in a lot of ways, I think on-site search optimization is, in large part, about relationships. The more people who talk about you and link to your blog, share links to your posts, and engage with you in various ways, the more authority you’ll have—and the search engines love authority.

The other thing I feel with search is that it’s all too easy to go overboard trying to optimize your site in a zillion different ways to attract the “perfect” searcher (or search), and to boost your search rankings.

Sites that use these kinds of focused tactics are exactly what Google updates like Panda and Penguin try to push out of the search results. Every update tries to remove “over-optimized” sites, since the search engine obviously wants to present results that legitimately, inherently comply with its algorithms—not those that are manicured and preened to match the algorithms.

The message from those recent Google updates is: don’t try too hard. I honestly believe that if you choose some good keywords and focus your content on those—following the golden rules above—the rest really will pretty much take care of itself.

Choosing keywords

Given the apparently infinite range of keywords searchers use, it’s often at keyword research that bloggers get overwhelmed, throw up their hands, and give in.

The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to focus your efforts on identifying keywords that you can adopt and build content around for the long term.

If you’re prepared to put in the time and energy to ride the cresting wave of a new fad or trend—and take the hit when that wave breaks, or a new trend catches everyone’s attention—that’s fine.

But if you’re simply out to build a strong, lasting brand as an authority in a less time-sensitive niche, look for keywords with:

  • longevity
  • a reasonable number of searches (when compared to similar keywords for your niche)
  • not too much strong competition from others in your space.

While every industry changes and your niche will inevitably evolve, the secret to ranking well in search is, as I mentioned, authority. Authority isn’t just about peer and reader respect. The search engines, of course, also look at the amount of quality content you have around particular keywords. They prefer to see that that content has been built up over time.

The upshot is that you need to be able to commit to some basic niche- and reader-relevant keywords that you can weave through your content, as well as other digital assets like navigation labels, link text, image captions and meta data.

Use your analytics and the Google Keyword Tool to find the keywords people are using to discover the kind of information you want to cover, and that they’re currently using to get to your site. Choose three or four keywords you want to rank well for and can commit to, and go from there.

As your blog’s authority rises in the eyes of search engines, you’ll be able to rank better for topical, less lasting keywords as well. That’s where your trending of fad keywords come into play.

On dPS, we have a strong ranking for basic keywords that relate to amateur photography, and we’ve established some strong authority (in the eyes of the search engines) around those keywords, and within our niche generally. So when a new lens comes out and we review it, we might rank well for the lens’s name as a keyword, because we’re already ranking strongly for the more basic, or generic niche keywords.

Finally, a strong keyword focus can help you more easily—and intelligently—select keywords for advertising, if that’s a route you decide to go down.

Satisfying searchers

The other side of the freelancing coin is, of course, what happens when those searchers click through form the search engine to your site.

If you’ve done your target audience research well, you should be able to produce content that truly does meet their needs. That’s great—but after they’ve read it, will they simply hit the Back button, or close the tab?

Landing page quality is very important for these searchers, and it’s an ongoing challenge for bloggers. The “landing page” will in many cases be an internal page of your blog, not the home page. We need to optimize our content page layouts so that they keep reader attention, drawing people through to more content that relates to their expressed need.

There’s a basic philosophy that says that the more a reader is compelled to do on your blog—the more they engage with it—the more likely they’ll be to come back. So there’s a common suite of tactics that blog owners use to prompt readers to action, which includes:

  • invitations to make comments, or rate the content
  • calls to action to share the content via social media or email
  • encouragement to comment on the content
  • suggested further reading on the same blog
  • links to more information about the blog
  • invitations to subscribe the blog via email or RSS

Of particular note is social search integration. The more shares you can encourage on individual pieces of content, the better your blog’s search rank will likely be in the long term, and the more visitors it will draw overall—both through search and social media.

What’s your SEO strategy?

As you can see, my approach to social media is pretty straightforward: it’s based on building authority through content and community, not the more common, technical SEO tactics.

But what about you? How would you describe your SEO strategy? What’s given the biggest boost to your search traffic? Share your stories with us in the comments. And look out for next week’s post, when we’ll look at content marketing in detail.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I’ve actually never really spent any effort on search engine optimization, so this was a good post to wake me up and teach me a little bit. It was a very useful post, and well written too. Thanks for the post!

  2. Syed Balkhi says:

    My SEO strategy is to ask what our users want us to write about. Then write that content. I figure if one person wants to know about it, then a lot of others would too. This has worked for me for the past 3 years. We get a good chunk of traffic from Search Engines.

    • Scott Dudley says:

      Syed,

      I am doing exactly the same thing and I think that this is the simplest and most effective SEO strategy that you can have, along with things such as primary keyword phrases and Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.

      If you base your articles around questions that people are asking online, then you know there is a great chance that other people are searching for the same thing. As long as you write a decent post for keywords that don’t have massive competition you should be able to rank highly as well.

      It is all about basing your site around what your readers want, instead of just writing about what you want to write about :)

  3. GjiVan says:

    SEO strategies can not be similar always, it should be changed according to the changes in search engine algorithm. Generally I don’t focus on building backlins or any kind of promotion except bookmarking and sharing in social medias, I focus in creating high value contents for users not search engine. So, it takes a long duration for me to create contents but this tactics is indeed working. Visitors are not more in my site as its only 6 moths old but pages per visit is almost 5 per visitor and bounce rate is less than 30%. I mainly focus on onsite optimization and unique content creation. Hope, this will bring a good result in the long run when my blog will create some authority in search engines!!

  4. Ishan says:

    I do not focus much on keyword research. I just write what readers want and then optimize the posts.

    The best thing to happen to me was signing up for Scribe SEO. The service is quite amazing and has lead to an increase in the traffic!

    • Aryan says:

      Another factor that influences choice of keywords is the geographic distribution of our business. If we offer our services in several countries, we must take into account that words have different meanings depending on the area of the world where we are, although in principle the language used is the same.
      For example, in Spain people call “flip flops” to what is known in Argentina as “flip-flop” and in Paraguay as “slippers”.

    • Howard J says:

      Ishan: What exactly is Scribe SEO? Look forward to finding out whatit is and how to use it for blog/search optimization …

  5. Perry says:

    ‘As you can see, my approach to social media is pretty straightforward: it’s based on building authority through content and community, not the more common, technical SEO tactics.’

    Those are the kinds of sites that Google naturally wants to reward. In the end, Google cares most about its searchers and delivering high quality results to keep their searchers happy.

    If you build a great website with fantastic content, you’ll naturally be rewarded.

    However, your site does have a better chance of succeeding overall by implementing basic SEO techniques, such as using an easy to understand Permalink structure, keeping your website organized in a tiered structure so the spiders don’t need to go a dozen pages deep to find your content, making your website easily shareable, having a great user experience etc.

    By adding those things on top of fantastic content (ie building a brand), you multiply your chances for success.

  6. Time differences put my mind in pretzels. I looked at this article just after 12 o’clock noon on 7/11/12 and the posted time stamp says 7/12/12. Thought I would mention the vast reach your blog has to you. Kudos.

    I am 100% behind SEO efforts for any business. Having a site is great but it’s no better than a business card or tri-fold brochure if people can’t find you on their own. SEO gets people to you that don’t know your name, just your services. It’s a great investment that pays for itself and more.

  7. J. Delancy says:

    Honestly, SEO makes my head spin. Thanks Darren for giving us a minimalist approach.

  8. Juicingpedia says:

    It is very similar to what you talked about.

    Over the years I have learned some basic things about SEO and building a quality site.

    1. Never try to cheat any system. (This is lazy and laziness rarely produces results.)

    2. It is worth putting in the extra effort to produce quality content. People know what is good and what is bad. The good stuff will gain traction.

    3. Be patient and diligent. Pick a strategy and stick with it. Just because it is not producing huge results in the first month or even in the second and third does not mean it is going to fail.

    I guess I could go on forever but a good website is one the focuses on the visitors and also naturally works with search engines.

    Thanks for your post.

    SIncerely,

    ~Garret (Juicer @ Juicingpedia)

  9. Rick says:

    Thanks! Always good to get more perspective on this often confusing topic. One other tool that should be mentioned is Google’s Webmaster Tools. This gives alot of good data including number of clicks for specific search terms and relative ranking on Google searches.

    Rick

  10. Amy says:

    Yes! Thanks for sharing. There’s so much more than just writing about something that is interesting to you! It’s tough. I feel like I’ve been blogging forever not even quite a year yet though and others who have started blogging for us are receiving more visits than mine. One thing I think my blog is missing is the visual appeal. I definitely need to add more of that as well.

    • Felix Jonas Adom says:

      I really have so much interest in blogging. But, I don’t have any website to blog for.

      I’d love to join yours, if I were permitted to.

      Thanks for your acceptance.

  11. Jan Bierens says:

    Of course there are ‘all in one SEO’ solutions and people that know ‘everything’ about SEO, but the vast majority of the work you have to by yourself through hard labor.
    I checked my log-files and around 60% of my visitors come to my site using search engines. I run a blog without a fixed subject (niche) so why do they come to my site?
    After a little work searching and using Google Webmaster Tools I score #3 on the keyword ‘fly flap’ in Google Image Search. [alt tag with the image]. Go figure.
    Just a short funny, to keep things a little light in all the SEO weirdness…

  12. Hi Darren,

    Place a strong emphasis on engagement. Smart tip, one which many bloggers miss.

    Who drives search engine searches? People, looking for stuff. Remember this. Engage, connect and grow your network to improve SEO juice, and most of all don’t try too hard, as you note.

    Thanks Darren!

    Ryan

  13. prabhat says:

    hello darren,
    i think this is my first comment on your blog. these are some nice tipr for the newbies like me,who want to grab a huse ammount of traffic and for that we have to work hard on these strategies.
    i am trying to learn more and more about seo and yes i am able to generate good traffic through it
    thanks for this awesome post

  14. Ayaz says:

    Hi Darren! Great advice and certainly choosing the right keyword is really crucial and to get the targeted traffic to your blog through search engines. Thanks for sharing worthy information with us!

  15. I’ve been learning to embrace the inner SEO lover in me lately. I hate to admit I’m rather enjoying it after being anti-google for so long.
    The results are slowly coming in and I can’t wait for the trickle to turn to a flow

  16. GjiVan says:

    Generally, in the whole web, now a days it’s said that google doesn’t give more emphasis to keywords in meta description and meta keywords tag while ranking a page in SERP for that particular keyword. But, still I don’t ignore these onsite SEO strategy and I guess I am getting good results. The most important aspect is targeting more on “over the expectation” value content which solves the searcher problem or query altogether!!

  17. Hi Darren,

    this is probably the best article on SEO I have ever read, not least because I found it quite re-assuring. I shy away from the idea of SEO and prefer to concentrate on writing consistently good content and give as much value as I can to my readers.

    It is for this reason I’ve focused on fine-tuning the design I want to make it easier to consume the content, tried to improve my writing skills, add more personality into my content and offer useful, actionable information wherever possible.

    Rather than anything ‘technical’.

    However one thing I have to admit which it looks like you’re advocating throughout this article, is look at keywords. I don’t for example start with what keywords I’d like to optimize an article for, I just write what I want to write. I did try and do this using the Google adwords keyword tool but found it slowed me down, made me feel a little fake and I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it right – as ‘low competition’ in this tool means more about the competition to buy ads than representing search competition, right?

    I know I should learn more about keyword research and perhaps do more.

    So I’m guessing for better visibility/more authority in Google’s eyes, you’d recommend continuing to focus on content & providing genuine value but still do keyword research for every article, right?

    Also, out of interest, do you go back and tweak (or even completely change) keywords for old articles depending on what the analytics stats tell you?

  18. I have a step by step strategy towards SEO and agree keyword analysis is crucial for writing great content. I write with search engines in mind though a lot of content writers would disagree. Why write without knowing what users are searching on?

  19. JLT Creative says:

    Thanks for sharing – I will happily Tweet this :)

  20. Hi Darren,
    I found out about search engine optimization in REVERSE. I wrote an article that has been stuck in first place on the first page of google for two years now.

    I decoded what I had done and realized it is simply an article I wrote that is presents a review in very clear easy to read format. I have duplicated this concept several times and ended up with other first page google rankings.

    I avoid noting the post here because there is not need for people to know the post just to understand (like you said Darren) that if you focus on keywords and build interesting readable content that is helpful for searchers, it appears in my experience, google likes these articles.

    Simple Steps to SEO do make a Difference

    All the best to all,

    David

  21. arya says:

    I am going to apply for adsense tomorrow.

    My blog has 50 articles
    100 pageviews perday.
    7 month old.

    Do i get approval?

  22. I use the keyword tool to find article ideas, but I don’t really think of what I am doing as SEO. I actually just got my first search visitor yesterday out of nearly 300 visits on my brand new blog.

    I mainly try to answer common questions about Internet marketing and provide basic stats on what is working for me (and what they can do to get the same results) which many people like.

    I like the advice to keep a focus around a main set of keywords that your audience is looking for! That can really help!

    Thanks a bunch!
    -Gabe

  23. Hi, Darren ! Your post is definately a great piece of advice! I’am currently using some SEO strategies, such as searching for the appropriate keywords or using backlinks, but it’s definately difficult to earn a good rank in the searching engines when you are competing with some large and famous websites.(especially when you are new.) So I tried to find another option to boost my traffic and I turned to the social media websites. In fact, this option turned out great for me and proved to be a lot easier from the SEO. Using Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter boosted my traffic levels a lot. I hope I can do better with SEO in the future!
    Thanks a lot Darren!
    John

  24. David Sneen says:

    Obviously my SEO plan is not what it should be. I am living proof that ranking at the top on a very long-tailed keyword is of no use!

    Therefore, your article gave me several nuggets of wisdom that I need to put to use! Thanks, Darren…I am looking forward to weeks 2 through 8!

  25. HiepNguyen says:

    A very useful article and I will learn a lot from this article. I will try my very best SEO for my website to be able to grade.
    I’ll use some SEO strategies, but I still respect to the content of my website and backlinks too.
    Thanks again for useful article.

  26. Sachin says:

    Very good search engine optimization Tips are given. I really like the forth one, which is backlinging and social media Facebook/twitter are must these days.
    Choose one topic and stick to it.

  27. DesignSkew says:

    Though I don’t go with all the points mentioned above but for SEO, we should not mainly focus on Optimization, Google will automatically inherit your blog as soon as you create rhythm of publishing and sharing, again publishing and sharing, you will see Google will love your content while in the process.

    Though if you are running on WordPress, you need to definitely tweak your blog for Better Google Domination, and I wrote a well described article on that.

    http://www.designskew.com/blog/wordpress-hacks-to-improve-seo-ranking/

  28. Kuladip Roy says:

    Thanks Darren, for this great post. I’m a newcomer to this SEO field this article helps me a lot. The keyword analysis is the crucial part in the SEO.

  29. Alice Matter says:

    Darren, great post. If you keep in mind what your ideal readers are going to be interested in and what searches they using. You just need to do the SEO basics receive some level of increased search traffic.

  30. Leo Ling says:

    Personally I think getting the right niche keyword is the most important step in SEO. With the right keyword in your domain name, articles post or in your website, it can bring many free traffic to you without doing much driving traffic techniques. So it is best to take some time to find the best and niche as possible keywords to have a easier road for SEO in the future.

    Thanks Darren for providing such a great article post that taught about SEO. Learn few new things in your article especially I’m having problem with satisfying my reader. :)

    Leo Ling

  31. Bharath Ram says:

    Once again a great article Darren. I am concerned, though, with the new Google updates that legitimate sites will never have a chance to come in front no matter what they do. Its just a case of rich getting richer, and poor getting poorer. Sorry, but it is my belief.

  32. Technikant says:

    This will be my first attempt with SEO….will apply these tweaks and let you know… :) Thanks Darren

  33. Meka says:

    seo is amazing but i believe its becoming more and more unsafe to depend on it alone
    every now and then google turns the table, comes up with new rules and changes the search engine world
    i think we should depend on other sources as well as search engines

  34. Lorna says:

    Thank you for such a helpful post Darren, I’m going to spend the afternoon thinking keywords on google!

  35. Renjiv says:

    @Meka,

    You are absolutely right..SEO is all good but at the same time we should also focus on getting social media traffic which will basically help us in building a brand much faster compared to search traffic..

    • Betfree247 says:

      I’m no expert, but I’d imagine that having a few different ways of bringing in visitors – ie SEO, Social Media, etc – is surely the best way for various reasons, not least because of the tinkering by G as Meka eluded too.

      Being reliant on one source would be very risky in my view. Trying to find and implement the other methods is another challenge in itself though, as I certainly haven’t found too many.

  36. this blog help me to achieved my next blog written thanks

  37. Peter says:

    I have read a lot of blogs with tips how to boost rank at search engines. I start a blog before 1 month: different topics, all posts have included one keyword with 1 000 to 10 000 searches with low competition, but still dont have traffic from big G.
    When I will start receiving some traffic from search engines?

    Take a look of my blog:

    top 5 – http://www.top5ives.com/

    Thanks

  38. pradeepf says:

    I am too learning about SEO,just was going through seomoz tutorial.Found this article and got more help.

  39. BlogoDream says:

    i usually use social media to get my readers, but i think it’s not perfect. thanks to share this valuable article..

  40. Tracey says:

    It’s true with traffic it’s very overwhelming. I guess we’re always looking for the next best thing, the easy way to do things.

    I find that I’m good about posting articles and building quality content, but then I find some other strategy, and I kind of start doing that.

    When I return to traffic building that I know works, I see results, but it’s never ending. Especially with my keyword “creative writing,” it’s a competitive market.

    If I don’t produce links, after a month my stats drop big time….anyway I guess it’s a never ending battle. Not only do you need to produce quality content, you always need to be building links.

  41. Very simple but effective techniques to be applied. Thanks Darren.

  42. My company will be using a lot of these techniques with our SEO practices.

  43. dami says:

    i will surely try this methods, thinks for the post

  44. Betfree247 says:

    As an amateur blogger (at least that’s how I would describe myself), I find not just the article, but a lot of the comments very helpful. It just goes to show that there is far more to this business than just writing great blog posts, SEO is clearly an art in itself. I’ve still plenty to learn, that’s for sure…

  45. JC says:

    Thanks for the techniques, seems common sense often prevails, especially when you focus on your readers.

  46. Meka says:

    thank you for the tips
    lately after the recent search engine updates i started to believe more in social media and in other traffic generation methods. nowadays i believe that search engine traffic is not as safe as it used to be

  47. Robert Steve says:

    Hi Darren,
    Usuallly you tips are always benefecial but i got this one as a killing technique. I used keyword research analysis as mention in this post got success in getting some serp rankings

  48. Yeah I like this and coming posts too. Since I’d love to hear this topic from a big Guy. I’m writing posts not by keyword research. I used to write what. I know. Waiting for coming posts. Thanks
    -Shyam

  49. Raj Dhawan says:

    Great article on SEO and search…while SEO may seem understandable or easy to engineers, it is confusing and mind-boggling to lay people, who often don’t even realize how important search is, and how search affects everything that you do and much of what happens to you. Without trying to preach to the priest, I just wanted to say thank you for a great article, and to add me to your mailing list !

  50. Thanks Darren. I always love what you write. It was search an amazing article on search engine optimization. So much to learn. Thanks a lot