Having Trouble Getting Search Engine Traffic?
Here's What I've Learned About Writing Online
If you’re new to online writing, or even if you’re not, it’s easy to get confused by the various methods people use to increase traffic to their articles or blog posts. In fact, with so much to remember and so many different things to do, it can be overwhelming and paralyzing. That’s how it felt for me when I first approached the possibility of making money by writing online. It was totally different from any other type of writing I’d done up to that point.
However, with my income potential limited to what I could do from home, it was the only avenue open to me. Because of that, I decided to look at online writing as a journey of discovery rather than something I needed to know how to do all at once. My progress would be slow. That was obvious to me. But I hoped it would also make me a smarter writer. Since my goal was to have residual income firmly in place by the time my husband retired, I didn’t feel rushed. I simply took things one step at a time, and learned as I went along.
It’s been four years since I started writing online. I’ve had a few failures and a few successes along the way. Some things have been beyond my control, such as my experience with Panda and Suite 101, but overall, online writing has been good. Overall, it’s been an insightful and transformative experience for me.
If you’re having trouble getting search engine traffic, here are the 6 most important things I’ve learned about increasing article visibility and getting people to read your articles or blog posts.
6. Give Yourself Permission to Write
We all want to be successful. Whether your goal is to make money writing online, improve your self esteem, help others grow or solve a problem, or you just want a platform where you can present your unique message to the world, writing for the web comes with a steep learning curve. With millions of blogs hogging the web’s landscape, the game is crowded, but still not impossible to play. Give yourself the space you need to learn what you need to know.
If you’re new to the online writing world, you’re not likely to hit the ground running, no matter how much you want to. During my first six months at Suite 101, I probably made less than $20 total, but it was my very first online platform. I had no clue what I was doing. I knew nothing about keyword research or targeted traffic. But we learn to write by doing, not by reading and hoping, or waiting for the perfect article idea to surface from the depths of our subconscious minds.
If you’ve been dragging your feet about consistently writing and publishing what you write, don't wait for the New Year to make a resolution to change. Commit or recommit yourself to start writing regularly, but also accept your current limitations. If you wait until you reach some illusionary level of perfection or knowledge, that day will never come. People can’t read your articles if you don’t take the time to write them. Stop judging yourself and get to work writing.
5. Don’t Expect To Always Duplicate Your Success
One of the tips I often hear in various writer forums is to watch your article portfolio. When you see something doing well, write another article on the same topic to duplicate that success. Sometimes, that will work well. There’s no doubt about that. For example, when I wanted to test the topic of dietary Ketosis here at InfoBarrel, I wrote an article on why those following a low-carb diet might experience problems getting into Ketosis. It took off nicely, so I decided to try to duplicate that success by writing a beginner’s guide on the same topic.
That second article is also doing well, as all of my low-carb articles are, but unfortunately, you can’t always depend on that. At Suite 101, my autism and gluten-free articles were my top earners. They received tons of traffic and made me a decent monthly income. Here at InfoBarrel, they haven’t gotten out of the starting gate. In fact, they are flopping around like a fish out of water. What worked well at Suite, isn’t working well here.
What I’ve learned is that taking your articles off another site comes with a high degree of risk. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to replicate the same success. When those articles were first written, they were very unique. The idea of gluten being hidden within fragrances or people reacting to gluten in ways that didn’t include ingestion was new. That wasn’t what many celiac experts believed, and my readers were grateful to know how to solve the problems they were having.
Since those articles were published, many of those topics (and sometimes the original articles themselves) have been plagiarized, scraped, rewritten, and overdone by so many other websites and blogs that the topics are no longer unique. Today, they are just more of the same. That’s how they look to Google, even though I was the originator of those ideas and research.
However, I don’t consider the time I spent revamping those articles and publishing them at InfoBarrel to be a waste. The experience has taught me how to analyze the rest of my Suite articles. Until I published the ones I have so far, I wasn’t able to grab onto the understanding that I have today.
While duplicating your successes at InfoBarrel is entirely possible, as my low-carb articles have taught me, it’s a good idea not to “expect” it to happen. Readership is different here, and crushed expectations can be particularly destructive for a writer if you don’t know what to do with those unrealized ideals. If you’re able to duplicate your success by following the six points in this article, consider it the frosting of your writing life, rather than the cake.
4. Learn How to Craft an Attention-Grabbing Title
The title of your article or blog post is the first impression you make on your potential reader. If it doesn’t catch their attention and entice them to click through to your article, the rest of the words on your page won’t matter. No one will ever see how well you’ve crafted your article or how well you’ve optimized the page. Even epic articles will die on the vine if a reader doesn’t make it past your title.
Granted, search results generally place a heavy weight on the particular words you use in your title. Search engine optimization guidelines (SEO) often tell you to place your major keyword as close to the beginning as possible, but packing your title with keywords and keyword phrases you believe people are searching for isn’t the answer. A stuffed title will look stuffed, and won’t have the same appeal as one that:
- mirrors the reader’s questions
- makes a promise to solve a problem
- ignites the reader’s curiosity
- or gives them an offer they can’t resist
If you’re interested in learning about catchy titles, an interesting exercise is to scroll to the bottom of the page here at InfoBarrel, and go into the archives. The year and month you choose doesn’t matter. Just pick one. What you’ll see is a long listing of the articles that were posted on that particular day and month. Scroll down through the article titles slowly, reading each one, and see how many actually entice you to click on them.
When you see a title that grabs you, write it down. That way, you can study it later to learn why it was effective. Although we each will be inclined to click on different titles, depending upon our current interests, the object of the exercise is to learn what gives a title that irresistible pull. Try to walk away from an enticing title without clicking on it. Can you do it? When I did this exercise myself, I went back to the titles that grabbed me. I couldn’t completely walk away from them.
While you need your most important keyword phrase somewhere in your title, so that search engines will understand what your article is about, the most important aspect of your title is reader appeal.
3. Use the Same Language Your Readers Use
When we’re new to the world of online writing, most of us run for Google’s Keyword Tool, and begin regurgitating the long-tail keywords and keyword phrases it spits out for us. That’s what I did when I first started writing online. I thought there was something magical about the phrases that Google claimed people were searching for. If you don’t know what the Google Keyword Tool is, or how to use it, the following video walks you through the steps that will help you find low competition keywords.
How to Use the Google Keyword Tool
After several months of writing on the web and failing miserably, I finally started to catch on to the fact that keywords weren’t what Google told me they were. The order of the words wasn't important. In fact, if you used the keywords exactly as they appear in the above tool, your writing will probably be stiff and unnatural. What I came to understand was that keywords are the language my readers are using. They are the words that people actually type into a search engine to try to find the information you’re offering.
That took quite a while for me to wrap my brain around, because people in the Suite 101 writer’s forum were so focused on writing articles with a commercial bent that most of them were missing this important aspect of writing for the web. It was never talked about. I just stumbled onto the concept myself.
At the time, I was the Feature Writer for Suite’s autism section, so I was spending several hours per week visiting autism forums around the Internet. What I quickly noticed there was that the terms “sensory issues” and “sensory processing disorder” kept coming up again, and again. It was an important topic to the parents of autistic children. It was something they cared about.
Since experimentation is part of my personal nature, and my writing at Suite wasn’t doing well up to that point, I decided to do something different. I totally ignored Google’s tool and the prevailing advice in the forums to avoid using general search terms at all costs, and crafted a title I knew that many autism parents would type into a search engine.
At first glance, the title looked like something that would quickly become buried in Google’s search results. I had placed “Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder” at the beginning of my title – a much overdone topic – and then the specific keyword, “Vestibular System,” at the end. Throughout the article, I also consistently used the term “sensory issues” because I knew it was a popular way of describing this disorder.
I was breaking all of the SEO rules that I was currently aware of. Yet, the title turned out to be a complete success! Why? Because I’d put myself into the shoes of my readers and asked what was extremely important to them. I was also able to successfully duplicate that result the following Christmas when I penned an article about how to choose gifts for autistic children.
That holiday article received a link from a parent of an autistic child on a major website. They had written an article about various gifts that would be appropriate for autistic children, and linked to my article at the end of theirs. Because of that one link, my traffic soared. So don’t ignore the importance of how your readers think and feel.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Social Interaction
Social interaction isn’t just about Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. While those things do carry weight when it comes to driving more traffic to your articles, it’s also about participating in forums, writing emails to connect with important figures in your niche, or making insightful, well-thought-out comments on the blog posts and articles of others.
In Google’s world, who you know and who links to you matters more than most people realize, but that doesn’t mean you need to run around linking to yourself from low-quality link farms, or leaving shallow comments on blogs or articles in order to link back to yourself from your comments. Those types of practices are now frowned upon by Google, and can get you penalized or even de-indexed. I read a comment yesterday morning by someone who had spent the last several years driving traffic to his blog this way. Since the last Penguin update, his blog has tanked.
However, a strong comment that pertains to the actual topic of the blog post or article can do wonders for getting you noticed, both by the person that wrote the article or blog post, as well as readers who take the time to read all of the posted comments. Since your name carries a link to the website or article of your choice, you don’t have to leave a spammy link when commenting on blogs. All you have to do is comment with the name you use here at InfoBarrel. For IB comments, your name will link to your profile, so whether you’re a writer or a reader, people can still discover who you are.
However, if you happen to pick up a link from someone who has thousands of readers, such as my holiday autism article did, some of their traffic will trickle down to you. When I first started my low-carb blog, no one was reading my posts, but I continued to write them anyway. After a little bit of social connection, using a link to my blog in my low-carb forum signatures, and receiving several high-quality links from those with a strong low-carb presence, my low-carb blog now does very well. But all of that didn’t happen overnight. It was very slow in coming.
In addition, controversy can also serve to increase the amount of traffic you receive. Since my low-carb blog doesn’t follow the party line, but helps those with unique metabolic issues to find alternative ways to make their low-carb diet work for them, I sometimes find myself the focus of angry blog posts or ridicule. If that happens to you, ignore the urge to defend yourself. I didn’t quite understand that when I first published a piece at Suite 101 on the Dr. Andrew Wakefield vs. Brian Deer controversy regarding mercury in vaccines a couple of years ago.
But I started to understand the principle and benefits better after I published a review at my weight-maintenance blog about my experience with Nutritional Ketosis (a high-fat, low-carb diet). That’s when a lot of primal and paleo people first found me, and began to comment on that blog. Later on, they migrated over to my low-carb blog after someone published a link to that controversial blog post. From there, I received another link from a nutritionist that I was following.
When controversy rages, look at what’s happening in its true light. Yes, you’ll get some angry comments from people who want to defend whomever they believe you’ve wronged. Go ahead and delete them, if necessary. But you’ll also pick up new readers and loads of traffic from those that will cheer for you and return later on to read your new posts and articles.
That doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with you. Many people like to debate strong issues and see an opposing view as stimulating. Whether your readers are cheering or debating with you, these are the people you’re looking for. So, just continue doing and being who you are, because that’s what’s going to increase your following naturally.
1. Do Something Different – Find the Cracks and Fill Them
The key to increasing your visibility in the search engines is to do something different from what other writers and bloggers are doing. It’s about finding a topic, subtopic, niche, or personal angle of interpretation that people will want to read and share with their family and friends. In the above autism example, there wasn’t a lot of information online about the vestibular system or the proprioceptive system for parents with autistic children when I first published those two articles. For that reason, they gave me tons of visibility within the autism community.
Before I knew it, my autism articles were making money. They were being shared on Facebook, over and over again. They were being followed by parents who didn’t have the time or energy to do the depth of research I was doing for themselves. I quickly learned that if you wanted to increase your traffic naturally, all you had to do was write on a topic that people are interested in, but it also had to be a topic that wasn’t overdone already.
Since my first two articles were so successful, I completed the series by writing an article on each of our seven different sensory systems (most people believe we only have five), but many of them didn’t do as well as the first two articles did, because most of the others were far more common. The only exception to that was an article on touch sensitivity.
With the autism success to drive me forward, I tried the same thing at my low-carb blog. I wrote on a topic that people following a low-carb diet are obsessed with: the state of Ketosis. Rather than addressing the basic facts, as my ketosis beginner’s guide does, I decided to fine tune the topic to fit a question that comes up over and over again in every single low-carb forum I’ve ever visited: How to get back into Ketosis faster once you’ve cheated on your diet.
The blog post took off in exactly the same way as the autism articles had, so I tried the idea again with my gluten-free blog. This time, I used a simple recipe for gluten-free oatmeal bread. I had noticed that although the Google Keyword Tool said hundreds of people were searching for that recipe on the web, I couldn’t find a single gluten-free blog that had published a recipe for it. Not one! In response to that hole, I created a recipe for gluten-free oatmeal bread myself.
Just like my prior experiences, the blog post has received thousands of page views since it was published. More views than any other gluten-free post I’d made. Why? Because I had discovered a crack in the massive online information highway, and filled it with something I knew how to do.
Now, these successes came without a lot of social media to back them up. I do Tweet each post or article I write. Sometimes, I’ll post my articles and blog posts at Facebook and/or Google+ if they are relevant to my audiences at those social arenas. But the main key I had discovered was to write something that Google had no choice but to send me traffic for – because there wasn’t anyone else to send the searcher to.
In the wake of Panda and Penguin, being different is one of the most important keys to increasing your visibility and article’s traffic.
Give Your Readers What No One Else Can
If you’re looking for ways to increase your article’s visibility and traffic, it’s always best to use smart techniques rather than shady practices. In the four years that I’ve been writing online, the rules have changed drastically, and I expect them to continue to evolve as time goes on. Although there are additional tricks you can use, such as writing an article series to keep people coming back for the next installment or giving away free stuff, readers have to care about what you’re writing or they won’t come back.
Most authors are obsessed with their own ideas and viewpoint. They give the needs or beliefs of their readers little thought or value. To gain a following you have to be credible and know what you’re talking about, but you also have to provide your readers with exactly what they’re looking for. The days when offering up nothing more to your readers than general knowledge are long gone. You won’t make money that way, and the people who do find you won’t come back.
Today, in Google’s mind, it’s all about relevancy. Their ultimate goal is to check out every corner of the Internet, so they can find the most important web pages that will give readers what they want. If you take the time to give your readers something that no one else can give them, you’ll have traffic, visibility, and plenty of reader interaction to keep you busy and making money for a very long time.