Part 1: Blog Traffic Basics
When I started this blog just over two years ago one of the objectives was to share some of the useful things that I learn about the business of writing. Since I have been freelancing I have been able to spend time researching a number of interesting topics but a large percentage of my paid writing work is about internet marketing. In the course of the research that I do to stay on top of the latest changes to Google’s search algorithm and Facebook’s newest analytical tool I have discovered some basic principles that can have your blog shooting up the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Many of my readers are also bloggers (you know who you are) and one thing that we all have in common is that we hope that someone is reading our stuff. After all, it takes a lot of time to research and write a good blog post and we all hope that someone other than mum is actually reading it. Fortunately blog software usually comes loaded with statistics that we can use to assure ourselves that we aren’t blogging to an empty house. At the same time it is easy to look at the number of visitors as it ticks along steadily and wonder how you could increase those numbers.
Professional bloggers (5% of all bloggers derive their primary income from blogging1) know how to drive traffic to their websites because they know where that traffic comes from. For most bloggers the main sources of new visitors will be one of two general sources; social media sites like Twitter and Facebook or one of the search engines.
Search Engines and Social Media Links
Social media statistics are mind boggling and the amount of traffic that is generated by Facebook’s 800 million+ users is a great potential source of new visitors for most bloggers. Social media is a dominant force online and the number of people using it has grown by 600% in the past 5 years with 61% of internet users visiting social network sites regularly2. Even only a couple of years ago it was good enough to just keep a blog, write interesting content, engage the visitors that left comments and let nature take its course and your blog would grow organically. The blogging game has changed as Web 2.0 has come to be the dominant form of internet and being noticed in the immensity of this new cyberspace became more difficult as billions of new voices joined the conversation online. This development has made the creation of a parallel brand page for your blog on Facebook a necessity for any serious blogger in 2012.
In a way blogging and social media, both different applications of Web 2.0, are complimentary to one another. Social
media is driven by off site content as a significant means of contributing to its own content. People go onto Facebook and post links to interesting websites and images that they find while they are surfing the web. This works because if someone likes something it is likely that their friends will like it too and it makes Facebook an excellent social platform. Professional bloggers use this to promote their blogs and build their subscriber base by posting the RSS feed from their blog into their status update on Facebook and by Tweeting about the great blog post that they just published.
Social media, with all of its glamour and incessant chatter, is only the second best potential source of internet traffic for your blog. Most websites derive two thirds of their new traffic from the search engines and with 91% of internet users regularly using search engines2 it is vital to have a good position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for the topics that your blog is about. Google is the giant in the search engine world with 83% of all search engine traffic2 and so it is most productive to look at how Google determines your page’s place in its SERPs because it is most likely where your new visitors are going to find your blog.
Search engines are really just large indexes of all of the websites that they have found on the internet. In order to index the pages the search engines send out programs that jump from website to website examining them and cataloguing their contents called crawlers or spiderbots. When the crawler arrives at a web page it uses a complex algorithm to examine the content so that it can index it in its proper place in the SERPs. The way that it does this is to examine several key components of the web page including links, keywords, images and other content to judge how valuable and fresh the information in order to calculate its ranking. The search engines are constantly updating their search algorithms so to some degree the target is always moving but there are some basic principal that you can use to make sure that the spiderbots judge the great content on your blog fairly. Creating content that is tailored for the crawlers is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and every blogger does it to some degree even if it is mostly unconscious.
Next Part 2: Basic Principles that Will Optimize Your Blog for the Crawlers
1. The State of the Blogosphere 2011, Higgins, Technorati Media http://www.slideshare.net/crbrook/state-of-the-blogosphere-2011
2. Search Engine Use 2012, Kristen Purcell, Johanna Brenner, Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Search-Engine-Use-2012/Summary-of-findings.aspx