With all the hype around social media it is easy to overlook the potential of search engines to deliver targeted traffic. Search engines are probably the best source of targeted traffic and, as such, they should not be ignored.
While social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can be very effective in delivering strong bursts of traffic almost instantly, that traffic dwindles over time and generally doesn’t convert very well.
Search engine traffic, on the other hand, has a longer term effect. Also, since search engine users are specifically looking for what you have to offer, search engine traffic has a better conversion rate.
Search Engine Traffic: Shoestring Branding’s Case
Back in 2015 when we launched this site, we relied heavily on social media traffic. Twitter was especially good for us, generating more than 60% of the traffic during our first two months. Search engines represented only 10%.
Today, 3 years later, our site has accumulated visibility and trust. Twitter has decreased in relative importance, while search engine traffic has grown significantly. In the last two months, search engines were responsible for 60% of our traffic (versus 35% for Twitter).
At the same time, we have seen our subscriber numbers grow, giving weght to the theory that search engine traffic converts better.
The Old Days of SEO
Since the early days, search engine quality engineers have offered this simple suggestion: if you want to rank well, just create a useful site with lots of great content. However, manipulating search engine rankings was so easy that webmasters usually chose to focus more on learning the latest SEO tricks than trying to grow organically.
These are some of the things you could do in the past:
- Increase keyword density by repeating your keywords of choice in your page copy.
- Use the same keywords in the link text of every link pointing to your site.
- Get a keyword rich domain, like “keyword1-keyword2-keyword3.com”.
- Exchange links with other people (chances are you’re still receiving spammy email from clueless webmasters offering you to exchange links to “increase Pagerank”).
- Spam blogs by leaving meaningless comments as an excuse to include a link back to your site.
Most of these tricks don’t work
Mechanical SEO Is Out, Sustainable SEO Is In
Search engines have been busy lately working to close all these loopholes. Search engines can now identify and penalize pages that use keywords excessively or develop too many links too fast. Blog comment spam has been out since blog platforms started supporting the no-follow tag.
SEO is not about using tricks
The time has finally come to follow the search engines’ original advice and build a great site that others will want to link to. It’s time to engage in sustainable SEO.
Sustainable SEO: Getting Back to Basics
No matter how you slice it or dice it, there are only two things you need to do to build a successful site:
1. Create and publish great content, and
2. Tell the right people about it.
Assuming that you know how to create great content (after all, you’re interested and passionate about your topic, right?) telling the right people about it should be your next priority.
Getting people to know you and link to you are the basis for sustainable SEO, since search engines use links from established, reputable sites as a proxy for value and trust.
The Number One Tip to Get Links
The best advice I can give you is this: link out liberally. If there are bloggers in your field that you admire and want to get their attention, link to their posts from your site. Use their posts to provide support and context to your posts.
Don’t be afraid to “send your readers to the competition” or “leaking Pagerank”. That is foolish and outdated thinking .
By linking out often, people will start to notice you. Some of them will read your blog, others will become subscribers, and a few of them will become your friends, link to your posts, and support you all the way through. These connections will become your most valuable asset.
Training the Search Engines
Aside from writing good content and reaching out to fellow bloggers, you must train the search engines to know what your site is about. This will help you rank for different queries related to your topic. Some of the things you can do to guide the search engines are:
- Post regularly.
- Link to very good sites related to your subject matter.
- Make your blog posts focused: talk about only one specific subject per post.
- Have a limited (10 or so) group of focused, related categories with descriptive names.
- Include keywords in your page or post titles.
- Link to past posts on your own blog using descriptive anchor text.
- Create a sitemap and link to it from your sidebar.
Grab a Chair: Search Engine Visibility Takes Time
Search engine visibility doesn’t happen overnight. There is evidence that search engines like Google place new sites on a “probation” period before giving them weight in their rankings (in the case of Google, this probation period is known as the Google Sandbox).
During that time, it pays to be patient and to focus on building your site’s content. After a while (usually a few months) search engines will learn to trust your site and your posts will start showing up in the SERPs for a variety of search queries.
Brian Jackson is the former owner of Shoestring Branding, a marketing and branding blog for entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on internet-based tools and strategies. It was recently acquired by BrandBlast.com