To be successful at Search Engine Optimization, it’s important that you continually test out new theories and ideas. Before I use new SEO techniques on a client’s website, I always test them on one of my own. To better understand the application of SEO to blogs, I decided to implement the following experiment:
I would create a blog for each American Idol contestant. Using a pseudonym, I would blog each candidate until they got booted off the show.
Once the final 12 candidates were decided, I would step up my posting pace. Since this was an SEO project, I didn’t aim to provide any valuable insights into the candidates…I only planned to “blurb” news articles that mentioned each contestant.
The goal at the end of the project (besides gaining useful knowledge) was to have 1-2 “sustainable” blogs in place while generating massive traffic the week of the final show.
Several weeks into the project, I discovered two things:
The Bo Bice Blog received considerably more traffic and better search engine rankings than the other blogs I had created.
Bo Bice was the first Idol contestant in 4 years that TOTALLY ROCKED. I very much wanted him to win.
So, while keeping my SEO experiment going, I decided to really “blog” about Bo Bice. In doing so, I learned many valuable lessons about creating a successful blog that can generate sustainable traffic, including many repeat visits.
Have a narrow focus: The quickest way to drive traffic to your blog is through excellent search engine rankings. If you blog about many unrelated topics, you won’t rank well for any of your key terms. Even if you don’t know much about SEO, you can still create a blog that will rank well in the search engines. Pick a narrow topic and keep your posts on a topic. Choose a group of keywords relevant to your chosen topic and make sure you feature these terms prominently in your posts.
Build a base of content: Unless you already have a built-in audience, very few people are going to read your early blog posts because they will be extremely hard to find in either the blogosphere or the search engines. So, save your best content for when you’ve already developed a steady stream of web traffic. Blogging newspaper articles is a good way to build up relevant content quickly. All you need to do is subscribe to Google news alerts to get relevant articles featuring your top keywords. As your receive new articles, create a blog entry for each article, excerpt a relevant snippet (making sure to credit the source), and comment on the piece. This might not be interesting to your readers…but the objective here is to reach a point where you can start creating original, unique content that people will actually read because your blog can be easily found. For the more advanced beginners, adding an RSS feed focused on your targeted niche will also be of great value to your blog.
Try to make several posts each week. You’ll be amazed how much content you can build up in a short period of time.
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“Blog and Ping”: There is a reason why news spreads so rapidly through the blogosphere. When you update your blog, depending on your blog host, a “ping” might be sent to one or more blog search engines that track the blogosphere, showing that you’ve made a new post to your blog. People who have subscribed to your blog, or people interested in your blogging topic, can be notified about your post and read it / link to it. An active course of “blogging and pinging” will greatly help build links to your blog and generate more traffic.
Web sites and software exist that will allow you to manually send pings to dozens of known blog search engines. Ping-o-Matic is a website that allows you to ping 18 different blog search engines on demand. I’ve been using RSSSubmit from Dummy Software to submit all feeds to over 70 such services at the push of a button.
“Conventional” Link-Building: To maximize your blog search engine rankings, I strongly recommend building links for your blog just as if it were a website. I did not do this for the Bice blog, and that oversight (probably) came back to bite me.
Google’s “Bourbon” update hit several days before the American Idol final, and this blog was the only “Bourbon” casualty in my entire portfolio…vanishing from Google the Saturday before the final. My intuition (plus other anecdotal evidence) tells me that had I built a foundation of links outside the blogosphere before Bourbon; the blog would not have been hit…of course, I’ll never know. The blog reappeared in Google with its excellent search engine ranking 10 days after the Idol final, depriving me of a tremendous volume of Bo Bice web traffic for the time surrounding the final…Thanks, Google:.)
Linkmarket.net is by far the best link-trading site on the Internet. They now have more than 20,000 sites that are potential link partners. For $24.85 per year, you have unlimited ability to trade links with any site on the network. No matter what your site niche is, you should be able to find hundreds of potential trading partners and generate large numbers of inbound links quickly.
Press Releases: Online press releases are an excellent way to generate notice for your blog. I created a press release announcing the blog’s launch, and once I decided to “actively” blog Bo, I wrote a release each week recapping the show and featuring highlights from the blog. Online press releases can get thousands or even tens of thousands of reads…especially if you are writing on a “hot topic.” Many of the press release readers will become blog visitors.
PRWEB and PRLeap are the two most prominent online press release bureaus. Both allow free submission of releases, and both allow you to pay for better “placement.” Your press releases will also get spidered into the search engines and (sometimes) will end up in Google or Yahoo News as well. I’ve seen my Bo Bice press releases as high as #3 in Google News for a “Bo Bice” search.
Best Idea Yet
When my blog reached a consistent 500 visitors a day, I actively solicit posts from Bo’s fans. Sure, most blogs give readers the ability to post comments…but I thought that if I ran the comments as actual posts, I could create a “buzz” about the blog and generate many repeat visits. I ended up getting 5-15 e-mails every day from Bo’s fans wanting their information to be posted on the blog. So long as the post met my minimum blogging criteria, I ran the submission. Traffic spiked immediately, and the quality of the submissions was generally excellent.
My idea worked strategically because the readers unknowingly submitted content that was SEO’ed for the keywords that were the focus of my blog… “Bo Bice.” I generated large amounts of SEO’ed content by running reader posts that helped generate and maintain my top search engine rankings. And, my “Blog and Ping” strategy ensured that every new post (several per day) was broadcast all over the Internet.
Top Search Engine Rankings Confer “Authority Status”
For most of the duration of American Idol 4, I ranked #2 -4 in Google and #6-15 in Yahoo for “Bo Bice,” and I learned such rankings conferred an enormous amount of “authority” in my chosen subject. A sampling of the e-mails I received included:
After Bo performed “Vehicle” by “The Ides of March” (the first time), an original member of the band e-mailed a message to Bo’s fans through the blog. He even asked me if I knew how to reach Bo…which I didn’t.
A CBS Early Show Producer contacted my blog to promote Bo’s appearance on the show…asking his fans to show up at their New York studios.
What’s more, I received multiple messages from the person running the AOL American Idol fan poll soliciting votes for Bo.
My Bo Bice blog is currently generating sustainable traffic with very little work on my part (barring any unforeseen search engine calamity). As the American Idol Concert tour rolls this summer and Bo gets to work on his first post-Idol album, I expect the traffic to increase.
One doesn’t need to be an SEO ace to be able to create a blog that can generate a large number of visitors. Whether you wish to blog for business lead generation, ad revenue, or personal reasons, if you follow the techniques described above, you can create and sustain a well-trafficked blog by following the techniques listed above.