How to Get Traffic from Search Engines
If social media marketing is one of the pillars of online business, another is most certainly SEO. SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’ and is the process of creating a website and its content in such a way that Google will rate it highly and bring it up high in the search results for a large number of different searches.
These days, most people who are interested in using a service or buying a product will look for it by searching on Google. If you can come up in those search results, then you can drive tons of traffic to your website. What’s more, that traffic will be even more targeted that your Facebook traffic because they’ll be actively looking for what you’re offering. This means it’s not just the right market but the right time. This is what you call ‘susceptibility’ in marketing and it’s a very powerful factor.
The good news when it comes to SEO is that you can actually do it yourself and that means it’s potentially free. Do some work early on and you can be set up for years to come with a constant stream of traffic and customers.
The bad news though, is that SEO is complicated, fiddly and never guaranteed. That said, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances…
The Basics of SEO
To identify which websites should be brought up for which search terms, Google will apply an algorithm to its indexing of the web. No one knows this algorithm and it’s changing all the time, so there’s no way to guarantee what you’re doing is going to work.
However, we do know a few basics.
For starters, Google will look at the content on a website to work out what it’s about and whether it offers value to the reader. It does this by looking for keywords which it will match to search terms. So if you want to make a start you should identify which specific keywords you want to ‘rank for’ and you should try to incorporate those into your writing in an organic manner.
A while back, people would repeat keywords over and over in their text to get to the top of Google. This was unpleasant for the reader though and Google got wise to it. Instead then, the better strategy is now to repeat the phrase a few times (about 1-2% density throughout your text) but to also include lots of related terms and synonyms. This is what’s now called ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’. You don’t need to know too much about that though – just try to write naturally around the subject and to flex that vocabulary!
Another key factor in deciding a website’s ranking is its ‘inbound links profile’. In other words, Google looks at how many other sites are linking to your site and examines the variety and quality of those links. Not only do links help Google to discover your website in the first place but they are also seen as testimonials – the logic is that if someone is linking to your site, then it must be good!
Paying people to link to you though is against the rules (and you can face serious penalties if you get caught). Instead then, you can use two strategies:
- Guest posting – Which means creating content for other blogs for free, in exchange for a link back to your site.
- Link baiting – which means writing content that is not only excellent quality but also devised in such a way as to encourage people to link to it. Resource articles for instance are good link-bait.
Guest posting should be done in moderation, while link baiting should occur organically. Ironically, the best way to get people to share (and thereby enhance SEO) is to forget that search engines exist and just to write your very best content for the reader.
Finally, it’s also important to think about some technical aspects of your website which will make an impact. Google now requires all websites to be mobile friendly for instance and you’ll be penalized if your site loads too slowly. Using WordPress and a custom theme is a good way to ensure your site runs smoothly and reliably if you aren’t a professional web designer yourself.
Your SEO Strategy Outlined
The secret to success in SEO at the moment is to write lots and to write well. SEO and ‘content marketing’ are almost one and the same at this point, with Google being advanced enough to look at your writing almost like a human would. It’s only going to get smarter with time, so there’s no point trying to trick the system.
What you can do though is to generate lots and lots of content around your chosen topics. The more content you create, the more ‘long-tail keywords’ you’ll hit and the more you’ll enforce the subject matter of your site. Long tail keywords are keywords you rank for unintentionally. When someone types:
‘Why is my rabbit limping and he smells of damp?’
Into Google, Google has to bring something up. Most likely then, this will be a random website that used a lot of those words – even if it’s not an exact match. The website didn’t purposefully rank for that phrase but by having lots of content, you increase the likelihood that vaguely relevant searches will land on your site by chance.
So if an article gets one hit a day like this and you have a thousand articles… then that’s one thousand hits. You see why this matters? The more content you have, the more likely that searches will find you. A lot of bloggers will write only once a week or even a fortnight and then wonder why they’re not growing their traffic. If you want this to be your full-time living, then you need to treat it like a full-time job with full-time hours, it’s that simple!
And quality is just as important. Not only because every time someone sees your content you have an opportunity to get an organic link from them posted to a forum or even on their blog – but also because Google looks at factors like the time people spend reading your page when judging your quality. If you keep putting out high quality work consistently, people will begin to talk about your brand and you’ll start to gain momentum. There are no shortcuts – though of course you can outsource this process if you can find a high quality and reliable writer.
On top of this, you should still keep a few keywords in mind that you will keep returning to. These should form the backbone of your content and will guide your decisions on which articles to write and how to set up your web pages (you can use keywords in your file names and image tags etc.). Again, keep it subtle but make sure it’s there. Look up ‘keyword tools’ to research which phrases related to your niche have the most searches without there being too much competition.
Matt Cutts is a prominent spokesperson for Google and has recently said that too much guest posting is likely to get a website into trouble – just as buying links and submitting to directories fell out of favor a while back. The whole point of Google’s algorithm is to find out what is genuinely high quality and popular and thus the company doesn’t want you to try and game the system by posting links to certain places in high quantities. If you only have links on high quality blogs, then this will look suspicious.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use guest posting though, as this is really the only proactive means you have to get onto websites that have a high ‘PR’ (reputation in the eyes of Google).
Instead then, switch focus from quantity here to quality. Try to find a few really big blogs and then focus all of your efforts on getting a link from them. If you get this right, then a single link can take you to the top of the search engines, it can trigger more likes and shares and it can bring you hundreds of thousands of visitors directly. If you can get a link on the website of a top blogger in your niche, then this can set you up for years to come and transform your profits over night. This is a growth hack known as ‘influencer marketing’ and it’s an incredibly powerful tool.
The route to getting your links on these big sites though might involve starting out with smaller targets. Big sites are likely to ignore you at first, so use sites that are just a little ahead of you to grow your own reputation one bit at a time until you’re ready to go after those few crucial links. Still though, guest post with purpose and don’t just accrue as many low quality links as possible.
Top Tip: Don’t underestimate the importance of real world networking. If you can meet a big blogger in person then you’ll stand a far better chance of making a real impression that might lead to a link.
On top of ‘regular’ SEO, using local SEO is incredibly important if you have a local business. Local SEO essentially means taking your regular keywords and then adding your area to the end of them (‘buy hats Santa Monica’). At the same time, you need to ensure your business is listed with Google including the location.
The great thing about local SEO is it doesn’t involve being a tiny fish in a massive pond (as with regular SEO). Instead, the only people you’ll be competing with will be the few other businesses in the area that are in your industry. This makes it much easier to get to the top of Google and means you aren’t competing with the likes of Amazon. Local SEO is even great for ‘non-local’ businesses. Facebook actually began life as a tool only available to Harvard Students. This meant that by the time it branched out, it had already conquered that small demographic and had a strong start. You can do the same with your ecommerce business: start local and then branch out more and more.
Note: A lot of local traffic comes from mobile, so this makes it even more important to have a mobile friendly website with a responsive design.