Increasing traffic to our website and/or blog can be a full-time job. But it doesn't have to be. If you understand a few simple principles before implementing Search Engine Marketing (SEM), you'll save time and build a strong and steady stream of traffic to your website.
First, it's important to know how search engines like Google rank you and measure traffic online.
Page Rank: Google Page Rank, or GPR, is a number (between 1-10) that Google assigns to a website to indicate importance. The higher the page rank, the more important the site is. Sites like MSNBC have a high page rank, often 9 or 10. Niche sites are lower. Our site is between a 4 and 5. If you're targeting sites for incoming links, make sure their GPR is high enough to matter. Not sure what it should be? Google your keyword and identify sites in your market. The top 5 to 10 sites will tell you what page rank you should seek.
Google's System: Google ranks websites using two methods: Relevance and authority. Relevance means relevance to the search. Authority is different and critical if you want more traffic for your website.
Authority is how important Google determines your site is and depends not just on the content of your site, but the types of sites that link to you. If your site has 1,000 incoming links from sites with low GPR, you won't get much authority from Google. Conversely, if you want incoming links you should pursue higher targeted sites and get fewer of them. When I started blogging for Huffington Post, which has a GPR of 8, I found that our GPR 4/5 site benefited from the inbound link the column provided.
Since the majority of us search through Google, understanding the intricacies of this massive search engine is vital to getting better results. Let's look at some smart SEO tactics for getting website traffic:
- Social content: Have something "social" on your site, whether it's a blog, forum or even social networking. The easiest and best of these is a blog.
- Update often: Always provide fresh content. This helps your rank. What's the best way to add fresh content to your site? A blog is often the quickest means.
- Social media tools: Learn how to effectively use sites like Facebook and Twitter. To expert SEO people, they are considered "feeder sites," meaning they can feed a lot of traffic to your website. My recommendation: use your Fan Page to promote your work and leave the profile for your personal life.
- Keywords: The term "keywords" often conjures up the idea that hours of research are involved to find the perfect keywords for your site. Even if you can only invest an hour, it's well worth it. The quickest way to determine the right keywords for your site is via Google's keyword tool: http://www.googlekeywordtool.com. You'll want to plug in your topic and see how people search on it. The keywords they use are valuable to you.
- Ranking for a particular keyword: Many of us want to rank higher for a particular keyword or phrase. Here's a little-known SEO secret for better ranking: after you determine what keywords you want to rank for, use them in your URL, YouTube channel if you have one, as your Facebook Page name and even for your Twitter account. It's likely the search term you want to rank for won't be available in any of these properties so you'll have to be creative. Here's what we did: Back in August 2010 I had our website redesigned. I wanted to rank for Book Marketing. The results for our site were OK, but often we would show up on Page two of Google. I bought the URL bookmarketingAME.com because bookmarketing.com wasn't available. Why bookmarketingame.com? Whatever you tack onto the end of your keyword URL doesn't matter and AME are the initials of my company. Using your name or some other branding at the end of the URL is fine, what matters is the first word or words. When I did that (and I renamed our Facebook Page and YouTube channel too, but not my Twitter account because so many people associate me with @bookgal) I found that within three months, our site went from Page two to Page one of Google, often sitting in the #3 position. Did it help with traffic? You bet it did.
- Words on your website: Once you've identified keywords, use them on your site. Make sure they are on your home page specifically because that's the page Google sees and shows in searches.
- Video: If you're not shy, a great speaker and have an interesting story to tell or great tips for your audience, consider getting a YouTube channel. It's a fantastic way to drive traffic to your site.
- Page titles: Page titles are the words that show up in the top frame of your browser, above the search bar. Most of us forget to give our page titles a name and when Google reads them, it sees things like "home page," which is the least descriptive phrase you can use. Use your keywords in your page titles and be sure to title each page of your site.
- Blog commenting: This is a powerful tool that we've been using for years. Few realize the benefits blog commenting can bring to a site. Identify the top 5 to 10 blogs in your market and follow them. When there's a post you like or something you want to say, post a comment. When you sign into the blog you should include your URL, this is an incoming link from that blog to your site, which will help you with your ranking, authority, and traffic.
- Identify your competition: If you want incoming links, see who's linking to your competition. How do you search for incoming links? Pop the following into your Google search box: linkdomain:www.website.com.
- Own your blog: Whether you have just a blog, or the blog is part of your website, you need to own it. That means your blog is hosted where your site is hosted. Instead of a domain name that reads: www.wordpress.nameofblog.com it says: www.yoursite.com/blog. You should do this because the benefits to your site from an active blog are enormous. If your blog is sitting on a Wordpress site, only Wordpress benefits from your hard work. You want the ranking and incoming links that a blog can provide.
- Blog frequently: I recommend a minimum of twice weekly. Your blogs don't have to be long; in fact, some of my blogs are no more than fifty words.
- Share and share alike: If you don't have sharing widgets on your site (Upload to Facebook, Tweet This!, etc.) then have your designer add it to the site asap. Most blogging software includes these widgets.
- Get social: To generate a lot of traffic we syndicate our blog to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Running feeds is easy. I ran my Twitter feed through SocialOomph.com and then linked it to Facebook. When I blog, it automatically feeds the post through Twitter and then Twitter feeds it to Facebook. Am I worried about too much duplicate content? Not really. I think people enter your message through different doors. The people who find you on Twitter may not be the same people who Like your page on Facebook.
- Use Anchor Text: This is the hyperlinked text that you click on to follow a link. Most people use words like "click here" or other nebulous terms. If used correctly, anchor text can really increase your site traffic. First, anchor text should be descriptive as opposed to "page link" or something general. I recommend that you use your keywords. Where should you use anchor text? Anywhere. You can use it on your blog linking to other content on your site or someone else's. You can use it on other blogs linking to your site (this is preferred).
- Write good headlines: People judge a blog post by its headline, and when you're subscribed to a lot of blog feeds (as I am) you know that readers will pick and choose the blogs they read based on the titles. Don't make readers guess your topic, be specific and be benefit-driven.
- Time tip: I try to post by 7am EST (8am at the latest). Studies have shown that people have more time to read blogs and emails before 9am EST so complete all your posts by then.
- Bookmark your posts: Tag each of your blog posts with your keywords on social networking sites. You must create accounts for each of these first. Consider: digg.com, del.icio.us, yahoo.com, blinklist.com, spurl.com, reddit.com, furl.com, and stumbledupon.com.
- Analyze traffic: Google Analytics is the easiest to learn, manage and install. Monitor this data a few times a month to see where your traffic is coming from and whether your work to attract people to your site results in unique visitors.
- Picture this: Bring traffic to your blog with photos and images; people searching online for those images may be directed to your site.
One thing to remember: Nothing happens overnight, especially online. Some of the best and most solid traffic is built slowly over time. This doesn't mean that you won't see a spike, and in some cases even double or triple your current numbers, but solid ranking and searchability take time.
How soon should you begin? Got a book idea? Start now. You'll be glad you did.
Follow Penny C. Sansevieri on Twitter: