It’s not that I don’t love social media, I do. It’s just I use the likes of Twitter and Facebook for catching up with the news, or friends, and I don’t like being flogged stuff while I’m there.
On Facebook especially, you can’t move for people trying to sell you courses about leveraging Pinterest, growing your email list or *finally* starting that blog.
I’ve written for dozens of blogs over the years, and getting traffic to them was always the bit I hated the most. Endless hours setting up schedulers to drip-feed Pinterest, devising not-fake-sounding tweets to schedule out over Twitter, and, worst of all, joining comment-for-comment groups on Facebook.
I knew vaguely what SEO was, and I thought I was doing it right. I was looking up relevant keywords, putting them into my copy diligently, and then making sure my Yoast plugin was giving me the green light.
So I started a new blog.
New domain and everything, so I had no authority whatsoever.
I wrote a load of posts, using a different technique for finding keywords. Admittedly my other method had been basically guesswork.
A couple of months passed — nothing. Absolutely not unusual for new blogs, but still. We all hope we’ll be the next big thing, don’t we?
But then the views began creeping up — definitely creeping, rather than skyrocketing, but more and more each week.
So what did I do?
I trawled Q&A websites like Quora to see what questions people were asking about my topic.
Then I googled them to see if they’d been answered well by an authoritative site — if they had, I moved on.
If they’d been answered, but I thought I could write a better post, I’d write one. If they’d been answered, but not by an authoritative site (i.e. by Quora or Reddit users), then I’d write the post.
Another way to generate blog topics is to start writing a question and let Google autofill the answers — that way you know that it’s got decent search volume — then I looked at the search results again.
It’s a great way to rank quickly and get a bit of authority — I already rank no. 1 on Google for one of my keywords — even if it’s not a keyword with a massive amount of traffic. it still builds trust and authority with search engines.
I Wrote long posts
This is just a way to make Google rank you over existing articles. If there are loads of ‘top 10s’ in your keyword, write a ‘top 50’ article. It seems simple, but it works.
1000 words used to be a good number to aim for to get ranked well, but now Google is looking more at around 3000 for an in-depth article.
Those three thousand words have to stay on topic though, otherwise, the crawlers will leave as soon as they detect that the information isn't relevant anymore.
Made sure my site was user-friendly
I don’t plan on applying to an ad network until my views are significantly higher than they are now.
Google Adsense would only make me a couple of quid, and since it can detract from user experience, it’s just not worth it at the moment.
I also made sure my site was loading as quickly as possible — my theme is bog-standard and I have limited plugins. Simple!
I still use Yoast (I actually can’t remember why, but I think maybe because it does auto-redirects and sitemaps) but I ignore the green lights on the SEO.
Google is intelligent enough to know if what you’re saying is on-topic without repeating the same phrases.
However, readability is paramount for user experience. Make sure your posts are properly formatted and not all your sentences are a million words long.
This is especially important for mobile usability — if you have a six sentence paragraph that’ll just be a wall of text on a mobile.
I tend to ignore the prompt that tells me I have 3 consecutive sentences beginning with the same word. If it reads badly when I check it through, I’ll make changes.
Created Pinterest pins
I created one branded Pinterest image in Canva and added it to every post, just changing the text. I added them to a my-blog-specific board and then to each of the relevant boards and then…left them.
I love Pinterest and use it as a ‘normal’ user, rather than a blogger (apart from those initial pins), and I do get a bit of traffic from it, despite not using it ‘properly’.
I’ve noticed that the traffic I get is of a higher quality than the Pinterest traffic I get from my other account (which I use Tailwind for), in that users stay on the page for longer than ten seconds.
Things I didn’t do
Anything about backlinks
Backlinks can be valuable for SEO, but too time-consuming to get if you want quality ones. I’m not wasting time guest posting for other people until I have over a hundred posts on my own blog.
Usually for a blog, I’d write a few pieces of content, publish them, and then write a few more but then schedule them out. I was always reading how readers liked to know when you were going to post, and the importance of sticking to a routine.
That’s fair enough, but I didn’t have any readers. Let's not put the cart before the horse, eh?
So now as soon as I write a piece, I publish. If I write two pieces in a day, I publish both. The only people waiting to read my site are Google’s crawlers.
How’s it going?
It’s going really well, though it sounds a bit pathetic. I’m currently at over 300 pageviews (from search engines), three months in — my bounce rate is 80% which is high BUT I’m choosing to believe that my posts are answering their question so then they can leave satisfied. Users are spending about 4 minutes on my site.
Anything I’d do differently?
Yeh, not waste my time and money on scheduling social media. Oh, and I wouldn't have been so worried that it didn’t work and would have written more content earlier.
I have actually been using Instagram for this blog, but I’m not actually leveraging Instagram to promote my blog. I’m a crap photographer so Instagram used to be my most stress-inducing platform, but not anymore.
The niche this blog is in (house plants) isn’t too concerned about beautiful photos (although there are some incredible pictures), it’s all about the plants.
So when I post a badly composed, badly lit photo of my Sansevieria pup, it still gets tonnes of likes. It really hit home that you can’t force social media to work for you — you have to use it in a way that excites you to really make an impact. And — excuse the cliche — not care about followers.
If you like the community, you’ll naturally post more so you won’t need a scheduler.
To wrap up
I really hope this can help someone struggling with SEO.
Just remember that Google wants to show its the user the best answer to the question posed, so as long as you write a great answer (or better, find a question no one’s answered that well) Google will rank you.