This is not a sponsored review and I will not make any money from it. I just want to promote someone who has helped me immensely.
Today, for all you bloggers and traffic hounds, I’m going to give you a quick peek at SEO as I understand it, and then point you at a tool that I’ve been using to keep this blog organized.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the set of practices that will help your website or blog or blog posts appear way up high in search engine rankings. For instance, if you type in “World’s Strongest Librarian” into Google, this blog should come up as the number one result, because this blog is hightly optimized for that particular phrase. It’s usually not that hard to rank for the title of our blogs when someone searches for it.
Factors that play into rankings
There are a few zillion of them, and anyone who pretends to know them all is probably trying to sell you a crappy ebook. But there are a few reliable signals that just about everyone seems to associate with higher rankings and I have no evidence to dispute them.
- The age of the domain
- The content of the site
- The Pagerank of the pages on the site
- The titles of the posts or articles
- The anchor text that is used to lnik
- And most importantly, the links that point to the site and the anchor text used to link to the page
For instance, according to Google Webmaster tools, there are between 79,000 and 82,000 external links pointing at World’s Strongest Librarian at any given time. That’s everything from people linking to my articles, to Tweets, to comments I have left on other blogs that point back to my own URL, to a couple of University websites and newspapers.
For more search engine traffic, external links seem to be the most important factor. Knowing this, of course, opens up the gates to all sorts of exploiters and spammers.
Before that, however:
Link building SEO and anchor text
Can you guess what text most people use when they link to me? It’s either my name, Josh Hanagarne, or the name of one of my blogs.
If site A links to my site with the words “World’s Strongest Librarian,” that is a vote from site A that tells Google to associate whatever page is linked to (usually my home page) with those keywords.
So let’s say that 100 of you link to me with those words. I’ve probably got a lock forever on that phrase, even if nobody else ever links to me again.
The potential problem with this from a profitability standpoint? There’s nothing profitable about the title of my blog because not that many people search for it. (although that number grows every month).
So how do people rank well with links?
But take something like “fat loss.” Can you imagine how many people every month search for that phrase? Well, there are approximately 30 billion instances of that phrase out there on the web right now. Make that approximately 30 billion and one since I just typed it into this post.
So let’s assume that ranking number one for that term would be profitable. You’d have tons and tons of traffic that you could monetize in a lot of different ways.
Okay, so given what we’ve talked about regarding anchor text and links, how could you possibly rank number one for this?
- You could buy the traffic (a subject for another day)
- You could hope that enough people out there linked to your blog using the term “fat loss” and so you rose to the top of the ranks
- You could manufacture rankings for yourself by creating artificial links
#3 sounds like the most soul-crushing work in existence. Let’s use Ezine articles as an example.
Ezine is an article directory. You can submit articles on any (legal) topic in exchange for two links back to your own site(s). And here’s the key: you get to choose the anchor text for your articles.
In other words, you can generate artificial interest to pages of your choosing if you’re willing to churn out enough articles. But can you guess what the quality of those articles is like?
Soul-killing to write, and especially in the requisite volume for really competitive terms. So what do many people do? They hire someone in the Philippines to vomit up a bunch of crap articles solely for the purpose of linking back to themselves.
Ezine is only one of many, many directories that people use.
So the question I have had is, “Is it possible to rank well and get lots of search traffic without link building?” (artificial link building, I mean).
The answer is yes, you just might not dominate your niche, and this method is not really for the impatient.
Enter Fraser Cain and Keyword Strategy
I met Fraser Cain, webmaster for Universe Today, online. He told me that at the time he got over 60,000 search visitors every day and did no link building. He also has a PR of 8.
I wanted to know how.
I spent the first year of this blog’s life writing whatever I wanted. It resulted in a lot of followers which has been a lot of fun. It also did little to pay my bills.
I had very little search traffic. I’d pick up some really weird long tail phrases, but I just noted these and moved on.
Also, I had set an expectation that I would only write one post a day, so as not to overwhelm subscribers. The problem was that I wanted to write a lot more often than that. I write compulsively and there are times when cranking out a brief article on something that interests me is very good for me. But it’s not always stuff I think subscribers should see.
Fraser suggested a way to write posts and block them from the feeds, so I could feed my urge to write without annoying loyal readers too badly. But he also suggested that this might be a great opportunity to experiment with more search traffic.
I was also in the market for an organizational tool, since the blog had gotten so big and shaggy that I was having trouble forming any sort of a plan. He had built a tool called Keyword Strategy and let me try it out.
I do not get any compensation for this review. I just think it’s a great tool.
How it works
For starters, it has about a zillion features I’m not using yet, so I’m only going to comment on how I am using it.
- You enter your URL into the tool
- It suggests a list of keywords that match your site
- You can also run other site’s URLs through the tool and gather more keywords
- It continues to pull in keywords from other sources so you’re never in danger of running out
- You set up an internal linking plugin Fraser built that connects posts you write to other relevant posts (this, in the long view, substitutes for external link building) so that your site receives links through specific anchors–it’s just that they’re links from your own site in this case
- KS shows the monthly searches for each keyword, how many other people out there are writing about it, your own ranking for the phrase after you write your article, and much, much more, but this post has already ran on too long
How I use it
Posts on my front page–generally the one post a day I write for you loyal knuckleheads–may be loosely keyword based, or they may not.
The posts I write that never appear on the home page or in the RSS feeds–the posts I write just for me and for the search traffic experiment–are highly targeted and meant to be highly useful, as opposed to highly entertaining, although I think I do pretty well with both.
The results so far
Back in August of 2010 I was getting about 400 search visits each day.
Yesterday I had nearly 1200. That traffic comes at this point whether I write or not, which is like having 1200 little ghostwriters that I don’t have to pay. I do not dominate any niche beyond strong librarians, but I get traffic from about 900 different search strings.
I treat most of my blogging like a game, and the game is to make the site bigger, more useful, and more fun, for myself and for anyone else who finds it. This tool gives the game a little bit of structure and is perfectly suited for someone like myself who is in it for the long haul and finds zero appeal in link building.
The tool is also very underpriced and Fraser is obscenely generous with his time and talents.
Please check out Keyword Strategy and watch the free videos if you’re in the market for anything I’ve discussed here today.