When the blog at vandelaydesign.com was started about a year ago the primary motivation for the blog was to draw search engine traffic that would hopefully result in more business. Over the past year the search engine traffic has slowly increased and March was a landmark month with over 17,000 visitors arriving from search engines. While a one year-old blog is hardly considered new since there are thousands launching every day, I’ve learned a number of things about search engine traffic and blogging through this experience that I believe can be encouraging to new bloggers that are struggling to draw traffic from search engines.
Here are some tips for new blogs that are looking to increase search engine traffic.
1. Build your blog on a solid SEO framework.
Search Engine Optimization is much more than just building a website in a particular way – it involves a consistent, ongoing effort. However, the work that you do each week or each month to improve the search engine traffic to your blog will be far more effective if the blog is created to be search engine-friendly. Taking the time up front to set up your blog theme correctly will make all of your other work more productive, and once the framework is set up properly you will only need to make minor modifications over time.
2. Be patient.
It takes time for a new blog to earn the respect of Google and other search engines. You won’t launch an SEO-friendly blog and have hundreds or thousands of visitors overnight. Be consistent with your efforts to build a successful blog and be patient as the search engine traffic slowly increases.
3. Build links.
Most bloggers know that in order to increase the amount of traffic they get from search engines they’ll also have to find ways to attract links from other bloggers. Link building is a huge topic in and of itself, so I won’t go into details here. But you need to find a few link building methods that work for you, and use them consistently to improve your impact in the search engines.
4. Add new content regularly.
Adding new content to your blog is important to SEO for a few different reasons. First, it shows the search engines that your site is regularly updated. Second, some Google searches indicate that new content has a temporary priority over old content in the SERPs. Third, the more pages you have on your blog, the more opportunities you will have to be found by searchers. This doesn’t mean that you should publish worthless posts just for SEO purposes, because that is unlikely to work, but it does mean that if you are consistent over a period of time you will have a much larger blog that is easier to be found. This is one of the keys for my increased search engine traffic. I have been posting consistently several times each week, and now about a year later there are a few hundred posts waiting to be found rather than 25 or 50 posts.
5. Promote your blog with social media.
Many of the links that I have built for my blog have come as a result of social media marketing. Again, this is probably not a surprise to most bloggers, but I think a small percentage of bloggers are actively and effectively using this strategy.
6. Pay attention to post titles.
The page title is one of the most significant on-page factors for SEO, and most blog posts will use the post title as the page title. Because of this, you should give some extra thought to the titles that you choose. WordPress users can use the handy All-in-One SEO Pack plugin, which allows you to specify the title of the page so that it doesn’t necessarily have to match the post title. This gives you more freedom to title the post whatever you want and still be able to use an SEO-targeted page title. The title you give your posts will often by used as anchor text by other bloggers that link to you, so it is also important for that reason.
7. Remove duplicate content.
Probably the biggest SEO pitfall for blogs is duplicate content. Category pages and archives are common culprits for creating duplicate content. My suggestion for removing duplicate content is to use a robots.txt file to instruct the search engines to ignore certain types of pages, such as the archives and categories, which will reduce the chances that the individual posts are flagged for duplicate content. Shoemoney has a useful post for WordPress blogs and robots.txt files.
8. Use custom slugs.
One of the more under-used, in my opinion, functions of WordPress is the ability to control the URL of the post. Longer URLs are not as friendly to search engines, so creating a custom slug will allow you to keep the URL as short as possible, plus you can get keywords in your URLs this way.
9. Use Google Webmaster Tools to identify to most productive search phrases.
Webmaster Tools provides users with a report that shows the search phrases that produce your highest results on Google, plus a list of the search phrases that bring the most traffic to your site/blog. If you see certain words and phrases appearing over and over again, you know that you rank well for these phrases. Why not create even more content to target the phrases that already produce results? With this method you may be able to get even more of your posts drawing traffic from search engines.
10. Research keywords.
One aspect of Search Engine Optimization is keyword research to find the right words and phrases to target. With effective research you may be able to find some keywords that can be used in your new posts to draw search engine traffic. Personally, I don’t go overboard with keyword research, but I do occasionally use some free tools online to identify the best words and phrases to use. If you are looking for some effective tools to use, see 30 Keyword Tools to Use for Your Website.
11. Write for people, not for search engines.
This may sound counterproductive, but it is my personal opinion that if you do an effective job of writing useful articles for your readers, your search engine traffic will improve. This of course assumes that your blog is built to be search engine-friendly, and that you are still using other methods listed in this post. I believe that items such as page titles should be created with search engines in mind, but when it comes to the text of the post itself, if you try too hard to attract the attention of search engines the posts really won’t be worthwhile to human readers.