If you came here to get a hot new method for improving your position in the Google search results, I’m afraid you will probably be disappointed. There are several “experts” trying to sell us on the idea that you can game the system, but it just isn’t true. Much like a new trading strategy in the financial markets, by the time you get in on the act it’s already tapped out. The only way to win the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game is to either innovate or to not play at all.
If you have the skills, time, intelligence, and resources to pursue the innovation strategy, I wish you luck. For 99% of bloggers this is an impossible task. There are established firms working day and night to come up with new methods, and just as many people at the search firms working hard to weed them out. Even if you do have some success, it will likely be short-lived as the search algorithms are improved to stop you doing that thing you did. Over time, the house always wins.
“But everyone else is doing it!!!” – No, they aren’t. Good sites don’t need to do shady things like set up link farms, pay for Twitter followers, or use misleading URL redirects. Good sites win in the long run because they are GOOD. People don’t return when they land on a page with hundreds of ads and a list of keywords. When this happens they say “Ahh, you got me” then close the page.
Here is what you should be doing:
Please, please, please, learn how to write properly. Unless your audience has a very specific web dialect like LOLCat, you are going to turn people off with your spelling and grammatical errors. Your message gets lost in the gibberish. Read news sites or (*gasp*) books to get an idea of what good writing looks like. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just clear and non-distracting. Picking up a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style couldn’t hurt either.
Secondly, make your site pretty! We all know what a default blog template looks like by now, and it shows a lack of effort. Get your own URL. Make a logo or hire someone to do it for you. Buy a custom template or change the settings on your own. Add some images to break up your miles of text. People don’t have to read your blog, and they won’t if it looks generic, plain, or lazy.
One of the worst things you can do is pick a topic from Google Trends because it is “hot”. You likely won’t know anything about it, you won’t care, and someone else has already beaten you to it. After your tenth article on the health benefits of Mangosteens, your boredom and contempt will be pretty obvious. Write about something YOU like, there are people out there that like the same things.
If you enjoy the topic enough you won’t need any readers, which is good because you won’t have any to start with. I wouldn’t even tell my friends about the site until the third post, because nobody wants to see a “Hello World” message. Let it grow by itself for a while until you are comfortable posting quality updates on a regular basis. Then start worrying about marketing it more widely (more on this later).
If people can’t figure out or find something on your site, they will go elsewhere… that also applies to the search engines. Label things clearly in the URL, the title, and the text of each page. Have an “About” page so people can understand what is going on. Reading your blog might be harder to follow than Lost if they haven’t seen it from the beginning. Put some navigation links and a search box for the people that need it. These are simple things that make using your site much easier and more pleasant for everyone.
“BUT I ALREADY DO ALL OF THESE THINGS!!!” – Good for you. Now you are ready to start marketing.
When people talk about SEO, what they often really mean is marketing. Marketing is NOT ADVERTISING. Marketing is putting the right product in front of the right consumers. SEO is a very narrow version of this that relies entirely on search engines. If you think a little about your product, then there are many other strategies that are much more effective for you and your site.
- Will your friends and family be interested? – put links to new posts on your social networks.
- Is there something similar to your content already out there? – start reading those pages, comment, make friends with the authors, and link to them from your site. If they link back to you, you both benefit.
- Put social bookmarking buttons on your site! – If people like it, let them say so!
- Look for the places that people will look for you. – Blog directories, like Technorati, are where people like to browse for new things to read. You should be in there for them to discover.
- Submit content OUTSIDE your site. – Guest blog for other people, or submit an article to an aggregator like BoingBoing.org. You get exposure and they get content. Everyone wins.
All of this is pretty common sense stuff, but people don’t often listen to common sense. If you want to lose weight, you need to diet and exercise. If you want to build traffic, you need quality content and marketing. Go write something of value and stop searching for shortcuts.
Colin Ward has a philosophy degree from Tulane, an electrical engineering degree from the University of Houston, and an MBA from the University of Texas. Learn more about him at MonetizingColin.com.