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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. Soumya says:

    Excellent indepth information about Seo. I am new to this but it seems very interesting to me. Believe me Darren I am spending hours on your blog already. :-)

  2. Very helpful article. Recently, I have been trying to spend as much time on SEO as I do on writing for my blogs.

    I know this probably sounds like a daft question and I think I already know the answer, but is SEO just as important as writing good quality articles?

    As, I assume without SEO, my work won’t be as easily found through search engines?

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Agamas says:

    Very interesting! Looking forward to the other topics in the series.

  4. Thanks for this post. I am not good in English, but I think this post is surely useful for me. I translate this article to Indonesian. I look forward to read the next technique.