Most content marketers will tell you that blogging is a long game. After months and years of regularly posting content, you’ll start seeing those numbers from search engine visitors. As time goes by, these visitors will up your search engine ranking, leading to more visitors, and so on.
But, does it really work like that?
Do you have to wait for months and years to start seeing significant search engine traffic to your posts? Many experts believe that you don’t, and they have evidence to back it up. Experienced content marketers also have winning articles that started gaining massive traffic from day one.
If you have previously published posts filled with popular keywords that received zero traffic for months, this might sound impossible or super-hard to achieve. However, winning the SEO game is a matter of multiple factors – it’s a system; and for it to work you have to pay attention to multiple dimensions of ranking, and not just some of them.
In this guide, we will take a look at all the factors that come into play when it comes to driving traffic to your blog posts. Apply all of them and carefully make tweaks where necessary in your older content and your articles will surely start getting more traction!
Search Volume is Key
Let’s start with the basics. It seems obvious that you should aim to write content that people are interested in. However, there could be a possibility that you’re overestimating just how much users are interested in the topics you want to write about.
Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. Recently, you’ve been dealing with building your Google My Business section and you think: hey, if I dealt with this and had to research about GMB for digital agencies, there’s no doubt that my industry colleagues/competitors are doing the same.
So, you decide to go with a blog post with a primary keyword “Google My Business for agencies”. Surely, that gets thousands of searches per month, right? Well, before you get your expectations up, check the real search volume on Google Keyword Tool or free tools for keyword research such as Ubersuggest.
As you can see, if you hoped for thousands of clicks per month via search engine traffic, you’re gravely mistaken. Even if you manage to grab close to 100% of all searches for this query, which means you have to be ranked first, you will get under 100 clicks per month.
Let’s take another example – say you want to rank your article for the keyword “Google My Business”. Now, this keyword gets around 400,000 searches every month. If your blog post were to grab 0.1% of all search queries for this keyword, you would get 400 monthly visits. The 0.1% also implies that your blog post can be well into the second or third page on Google. Mind you, it’s still very hard to rank on page 2 or 3 for a competitive keyword like this.
Nevertheless, the conclusion is that blog posts built around a keyword with low search volumes are unlikely to bring you traffic from day one. You can either rely on seasonal spikes in searches for that term or accidentally striking gold with a viral search before it’s competitive. In any case, going after keywords with higher search volumes is always a safer investment.
“Choosing whether to go into a competitive market or niche is the same in blogging as in the fashion industry, retail, airlines or any other industry on the face of the Earth. Before going head-first in, look at Porter’s five competition forces: current competition, potential of new entrants, supplier power, customer power and threat of substitutes”, says Diana Adjadj, a blogger and writer at ClassyEssay.
Watch out for SEO Difficulty
When it comes to playing the search engine game, search volume is not the only variable that will determine your success. An equally important factor that will determine how your blog post performs is SEO difficulty, i.e. the level of competition. SEO difficulty is a term that denotes how hard it would be to rank your blog post with a given keyword using organic traffic (non-paid traffic). On Ubersuggest, you can use the keyword tool to observe SEO difficulty for your keywords, just as you would search volumes.
If we look at an example we’ve given above, it can sometimes be better to go for those low-volume keywords if their competition is low as well. In other words, if you grab 90% of clicks for “Google My Business for agencies”, you’ll get 90 clicks monthly. If you try to compete on an extremely competitive keyword such as “Google My Business” and you grab 0.01% of the traffic, you’ll get 40 clicks monthly.
It’s also important to look at the long game in this comparison, as well as the tendency for the SEO difficulty to change. For the first scenario, if you’re ranked high, you will likely sweep most of the clicks and will continue to rank first or high based on this loop. Even when new blog posts enter “the market”, you’ll stay strong in the first place for organic results because you’ve been getting hits from day 1, 90 clicks per month for, let’s say, 2 years: 2160 clicks. When a fresh blog post enters the competition for “Google My Business for agencies”, they are very unlikely to shake up your position.
On the other hand, the SEO difficulty for the latter term is likely to get even higher as time passes by and more blog posts enter the market. If you didn’t achieve a good ranking in the first months and years of your posting, it will get lost in the sea of competition.
Find the Golden Mean
With everything we’ve said so far, it’s clear that your blog post will have to fit into the golden mean between these two things. An ideal situation would be to find a high search volume keyword with low competition. That’s extremely hard, but it’s possible. It takes a bit of future-orientedness and a touch of genius to nail the easiest way of doing this: predict which keywords will trend in the future and ranking well while the competition is still low.
A good example of this would be the “fidget spinner”, a crazy viral gadget of 2018. Before then, this toy had as many searches online as the next 1990 gadget out there, but in 2017, things started going out of control. It’s not exactly clear what prompted the viral popularity of the fidget spinner, but the fact is that, even in 2020, this search term has hundreds of thousands of monthly searches from all over the world. It’s also crazy competitive because it can be a keyword that’s directly linked to a product page.
Now, imagine if you wrote a blog post about fidget spinners in 2015. It would be super-easy to rank because the competition was low, you’d probably be getting about a hundred clicks per month and then… boom! Still, in the world of content creation and blogging, writing a blog post about fidget spinners in 2015 is the equivalent of buying Microsoft stock in the 80s.
A more realistic way of doing this would simply be to find keywords that have a good volume-to-competition ratio. If you really want viral posts that get traction from the very first day, you have to dig deep into the Keyword Planner or some other tool in order to see stuff no one else has.
A sly way of finding a good ratio for a blog post keyword is to track the biggest industry leaders. Usually, they are the first ones that recognize the potential of a keyword, and they usually have much more research resources than you do. So, just take a look at some of their most recent topics and ask yourself; why are they writing about this, and why now?
Use Online Tools and Services for a Boost
The blogging industry has many dimensions. Next to your competitors, there are also many other stakeholders that work hard to provide tools that will make you more likely to succeed in your blogging business. We have already mentioned Google’s Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest for keyword research and discovery, but there are also services that take care of other issues related to SEO. Here are some of our recommendations:
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
Headlines are incredibly important, both for search engine ranking and the interest you will spark among users who see your post. It’s the very first point of contact between you and your reader, and first impressions matter.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a nifty tool that can help you make sure your headline is optimized to the max. It uses AI and search engine algorithms to determine your chances to rank well. Best of all, you’ll also get a set of recommendations on how to improve your headline.
It can be hard to find reliable, free SEO tools online. It’s either the one or the other, but SmallSEOTools is a collection of completely free and very valuable resources which you can use to check the optimization level of your website or blog post:
Monitor Backlinks is a useful plugin that does exactly what its name says. With the help of this tool, you can find out which bloggers link to your site, which have deleted their backlinks and compare it all in user-friendly analytics. Another cool feature of this plugin is that it sends you a notification every time your competitor gets a strong backlink.
If you’re running your blog on WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is the best and easiest way to make sure all your posts are SEO-friendly and to give them the best chance of ranking well. The tool is free, but there is also a Pro version that gives you access to advanced features, such as detailed analyses, internal link suggestions and much more.
Below every blog post you write, you will get a green, orange or red light, depending on how compliant your blog post is to SEO rules and algorithms. You’ll be notified of every mistake that’s harming your score and you’ll be able to correct it directly in the plugin.
Before you hit that Publish button, you have to make sure that your grammar and spelling are on fleek, because if they’re not, they will harm your SEO, brand and professionalism. You don’t want your readers spotting mistakes and typos in your texts, because that will make it seem like you wrote it in a rush with not so much focus.
Kristin Savage, a freelancer and contributing writer at TrustMyPaper shares her experience “Next to basic grammar and spelling, Grammarly will also give you suggestions on how to improve your text stylistically and make it more easily readable. You can set up the preferences for analysis of your content before you start.”
Winning at search engine rankings and organic traffic is hard, time-consuming and requires endless patience and perseverance. However, you can’t just chalk everything up to luck: there are proven ways of getting traction on your blog posts from day one. You have to approach keyword research and planning strategically.
If you want to run your blog like a business, it can sometimes mean that writing about things that you’re interested in won’t get you all that much traffic (if you’re a beginner or you don’t have a loyal follower base). This truth pill can be hard to swallow, but once you accept it, you can start learning how to spin those things you’re interested in with an SEO-friendly angle that will attract visitors.
The best way to approach your content publishing and creation is to arm yourself with a lot of patience. Even if you don’t get traffic from the very first day, if you chose good keywords, everything is set up well and the content is valuable, you will most likely start receiving traffic at one point.