When it comes to driving traffic to your blog, one of the most common mistakes people make is spending too much effort on things that barely move the needle. The entire goal of establishing an effective online presence, after all, is to one day cross the threshold where people find you more often -- ideally far more often -- than you spend time trying to find them.
Social networks, for example, can be a great way to drive traffic to your blog. But they are not the most dominant force out there. Similarly, advertising on social networks can be effective, but only for the length of time you are running them and shelling out cash. It’s yet another machine which, with rare exceptions, does not compound upon its success. This is why the vast majority of top bloggers, even those spending a lot of time promoting themselves on social media, will tell you that social media is not where they get the majority of their traffic from.
An influencer in this space who knows this all too well, Darren Rowse, runs ProBlogger, a website with a huge following that teaches bloggers how to create and grow their blog. I heard him speak to this issue of -- where bloggers get traffic -- on his podcast, so I reached out to him to get more detail.
“Most bloggers that I talk with admit to focusing most of their promotional efforts on social media,” he said. “However, when you dig into where most established bloggers get the majority of their actual traffic, the answer I often hear is from Google. It seems to me that many bloggers are overlooking one of the biggest and most lucrative sources of traffic: search. The lure of viral traffic from social is strong but if bloggers put a little bit of time each day into their search strategy instead, I believe they would be far more successful.”
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is really the only traffic-driving force that has the potential to one day cross the bell-curve and work passively in your favor. The chances of someone stumbling across your social post from a year ago and sharing it with their audience, for example, is highly unlikely. And yet year-old blog posts constantly find their way to the top of search queries and continue to bring in big ticket traffic for websites that understand the value of quality content.
For example, according to a study by Hubspot, “66 percent of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. Similarly, a report by Ascend2 stated, “72 percent of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic.”
Marketing and SEO expert Neil Patel attributes his blog’s 206 percent traffic increase to the art of search engine optimization and the effectiveness of creating valuable content for the web.
So, what are the steps to creating content with an SEO strategy in mind?
1. Start with relevant keywords, and search for the low-hanging fruit.
You need a firm grasp on what people in your industry or niche are searching for in order to create successful content. A few ways you can do this:
- Use Google’s keyword planner, or a tool like Ubersuggest.
- Search keywords on Quora, and look for what questions people are asking.
- Do a few web searches with those related keywords to see who is currently dominating the first two pages of search.
Once you have a sense of what people are searching for surrounding your area of expertise or interest, you can start to cater your content toward the keywords that are not as competitive. For example, ranking on the first page for “social media” is going to be much harder than if you were to try rank for something more targeted like “real estate social media strategy.”
2. Create long-form content for better searchability.
Marketers often talk about how today’s online readers have short attention spans, but I don’t buy this for a minute. Readers don’t hate long form content, they hate bad content. They hate bad content even more when it’s long. If the content is great content, then they want even more of it.
A study by Buzzsumo found that long-form content between 3,000 and 10,000 words ended up performing the best online. In fact, according to the study, “There are 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words than there were content with 2,000+ words.”
What this means is that trying to stand out with short-form content in a world of saturated short-form content is extremely difficult. However, if you come in wielding long-form, keyword specific, valuable content, you are far more likely to rise to the top of the rankings and accumulate more organic search traffic. Just make sure it’s great content people actually want to read.
3. Establish a network of backlinks from other websites.
If understanding the landscape is step one, and creating valuable content is step two, then step three is expanding your reach and having other blogs and websites point to your website via backlinks. According to Hubspot, “Companies that blog have 97 percent more inbound links.”
Here are a few ways you can get websites and content publishers to link back to your content:
- Reach out via email to relevant content publishers in your space or market, and let them know about your content piece. Ask them if it’s a good fit for their audience, and if so, to feel free to share it.
- Create a similar piece of content for another website, and link back to your own content as an added resource or reference.
- Quote or otherwise include relevant content creators in your space in your content, and when you publish it, tag them in your social media posts with the article. Do you think they’ll share it? Of course they will!
The key is to get what you’ve created in front of the right people, whether that’s through email outreach, social media or even good old fashioned networking.
With SEO there’s bad news, and there’s good news. The bad news is that SEO is a long-term strategy, which means you’ll need to do a lot of work for a long time to get consistently great results. The good news is that because it’s a long-term strategy, most of your competitors won’t focus on it, and then you win.
Joshua Steimle is a speaker, writer and CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong.