When I started paying attention to search engine optimization (actually, when I bought an e-book I'll tell you about at the end of the post), my blog No Meat Athlete was getting around 30 search visits per day. As you can see from the Google Analytics graph above, I went from 29 search visits on June 6th to 285 search visits on August 19th. That's a 983% increase in two and a half months, folks. [Update: About a year after I bought the book, No Meat Athlete gets over 1200 search visits per day.]
With about 1.75 pageviews per visit, my paying attention to SEO now results in about 500 pageviews each day. And this number assume that the people who find me via search never come back, when of course, many do return. If your site is bigger (i.e., you have more posts for people to search for), using some basic SEO might mean even more for you.
Without a doubt, I'd cite SEO as the number one reason for my success as a blogger. I think of it as "automatic traffic." It comes even on days when I don't write a new post, comment on a bunch of other blogs, or go crazy promoting on the social media sites.
Convinced? I hope so. Here are the three best things you can do to start increasing your search traffic, now.
1. Write about topics that people are searching for, and use the keywords they're searching with.
The first part of this one should be obvious. Nobody's using Google to find out what you ate for lunch. That said, even if most of your post is about what you had for lunch, you still might be able to pull in some searches if you include a recipe or other information people are looking for. But lists, how-to's, and posts with useful information ("homerun posts") are far more likely to generate search traffic.
Once you've decided on a topic for your post, use Google's free keyword tool to find out how many people per month are actually searching for it, the exact phrases (called keywords) they're using in their searches, and other keyword ideas to try. The keyword tool also gives you an Advertiser Competition gauge so you can get an idea of how many other people are already targeting this keyword. (Technically this measures how many people are running paid ads under these keywords, but as a rough estimate, it works.)
So for example, when I see that "running boston marathon" got 1000 searches last month with an average amount of competition, and "qualify boston marathon" got 3600 searches with much less competition, this tells me that "qualify boston marathon" is the better keyword to focus on, as long as the post is actually about qualifying, and not just running.
2. Make your title tags, description tags, and content keyword-rich.
Rich, that is, with the keywords you chose in #1. And when I say "title tags," I'm not talking about the post titles that you see as part of the content, like "Turn Your Posts Into Google Magnets" Instead, I'm talking about the title that appears in at the very top of the browser window, the one that search engines pay the most attention to; for this post, the title tag is "Blog SEO."
WordPress automatically makes the title tag the same as your post title. You don't want this. You want your readers to keep seeing the clever post titles you're (a little bit) famous for, but search engines to see the keyword-rich text that people are often typing into Google.
The WordPress plugin All-In-One SEO Pack is great for this. (SEO plugins are the main reason I think everyone should have a self-hosted WordPress blog. If you're on Blogger or your WordPress is not self-hosted, I don't know if it's possible to set the title and description tags. You might need to decide between "clever" and "Google-friendly" when you write your titles.)
The plugin is pretty self-explanatory; you'll have new options at the bottom of your "Edit Post" page, for Title, Description, and Keywords. This is where you should fill in your Google-friendly title.
In the Description blank, type a short, non-spammy description of your post. Try to include strong keywords but write so that someone seeing the description will want to click your link. People will be reading the Description, not just search engines.
The Keywords blank is not nearly as important as the others, but you may as well fill in a few anyway.
Generally, within your content, the more you can work in the keywords in your headings, subheadings, and especially the first few sentences of your post, the better. Don't go crazy with it though. Too much and Google will get the idea that you're trying too hard. What's worse, your writing will suffer. Remember to write first for real people.
All of these tags can be changed if what you choose the first time around doesn't seem to be working. But remember, not all of your posts will rank highly in search engines, no matter what you try.
Finally, though I've described this on a post-by-post level, you can and should set the Title and Description tags for your blog front page as well. And again, you should base these on what you have determined to be strong keywords. All of this blog-level info can be set on the main options page of All-In-One SEO Pack.
3. Interlink your posts, and write short, strong anchor text.
Having your posts link to related posts that you've written will not only allow interested readers to find out more, it will also help your search engine rankings. Not as much as external links, of course, but the advantage you have when you link to your own posts is that you can decide what to use as the text for the link (called "anchor text").
For example, if I want to link back to my post about getting yourself a real domain name, writing "See my post about getting your own domain name here" is much better than choosing only the word "here" as the anchor text. And it's better than linking the entire phrase "my post about getting your own domain name," because you want a high percentage of the anchor-text words to be keywords.
You can take these tips and start seeing more search traffic tomorrow. But there's so much more you can do. If you want to hear about it, read on, but I must tell you, I'm worried it's going to sound like a sales pitch because I love this e-book so much. The link is an affiliate link (remember those from the last post?), so I'll get a commission if you buy it. If you're not interested in that, just stop now and get to work implementing the stuff I've showed you!
Nearly everything I've learned about SEO has come from a single e-book I bought, WordPress SEO Secrets by Michael Martine. I entirely credit this book (and the effort I put forth in implementing all the strategies) for the incredible search engine results I've gotten. I'm even writing a testimonial for Michael!
Michael's book does much more than give a few tips. It really helped me understand how the whole search engine process works, which has made a big difference in the way I think about blogging and writing posts. There are tons of tips like what I've given here, and there's also more technical stuff about exactly what settings to use on your SEO plugins, stuff that I don't even care to understand. (But I'm glad Michael does!)
Alright, that's all for now! More SEO tips to come in future posts. I can't wait to hear how this stuff works for you.