This is why your website isn’t getting any traffic

If you build it, and they can find it, they will come

Content is king, and relying on social media is not a sustainable strategy.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know I’m not big on social media.

Social media marketing is hard. By the time you’ve managed to figure out the algorithm enough to leverage it to your advantage, they go ahead and change it.

It’s even more painful if you tried to take a shortcut and paid for access to some else’s now worthless course on how they managed to hack the system to their advantage.

But the trick to getting bucketloads of free, quality traffic is to reverse engineer your system. Don’t write blog posts and hope that if you get it in front of enough people’s faces, a few will like what they read and bookmark your page.

For a start, it’s exhausting. It can be expensive if you invest in automation software. Those two reasons should be enough to convince you. But the third reason for using social media as your main traffic source is the real crux of the issue:

Someone else is controlling who can see your article.

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest don’t care about the quality of your work until you have a network. Even then, they want you to pay for the luxury of showing your fans your own content.

But unless you already have a lot of fans, you need a middleman to connect your article to its intended audience.

It’s probably of no surprise that the middle man I rely on is search engines.

The main purpose of a search engine is to connect the searcher to the correct answer. There’s no ulterior motive. If you have the best answer, Google wants to show you to people.

So all you really need to do is figure out exactly what your intended audience needs to know and tell them. No tricks, no hacks, no buying backlinks.

And yes, you can fall foul of Google’s infamous algorithm updates, but if you’re providing awesome information, they won’t affect you — they’ll just weed out some of the spammers, and competitors that were using blackhat SEO practices.

I’ve been hit with two major Google updates since my website launched — both increased my traffic significantly, and I didn’t have to do anything to get it.

So, how do we create this awesome content?

First off, you need to do keyword research. I have a whole article on keyword research here:

The most important thing to remember is that humans are putting queries into search engines. Humans. Not machines. Collections of random words, such as ‘tropical aquarium blackwater’ are harder to rank for than ‘how to set up a tropical blackwater aquarium’ because more sites will have those three words — the more specific the search term, the more chance you have to rank for it.

Of course, the trade-off here is that you’ll have search volume, but in the beginning, that’s not really a problem. It’s just a waiting game. The traffic you attract (and it may take months to get onto Google, so be patient) will be high quality. They want to set up a blackwater aquarium. They didn’t chance upon your article on Pinterest and think ‘what the hell is a blackwater aquarium?’

They might click the link, sure, but they’ll likely just take a quick look at your pictures and move on.

That targeted traffic from Google was looking for your expertise. They need help and guidance. They’re more likely to click your affiliate links and actually buy something. In which case, one targeted view is worth 1000 users that spend two seconds on your site.

You can beat more authoritative sites if you look for underserved keywords

Reddit and Quora can be mines of information when it comes to underserved keywords.

Spend a week or so trawling Quora and any relevant subreddits. Make a note of questions being asked over and over again. A lot of people are too lazy to their own research, but sometimes you find a gem.

Google all the questions you find and read the results. Often, a query seems so obvious that higher authority sites skip over it, or give it a one-sentence answer.

If we go back to the blackwater aquarium example, there are loads of avenues to explore — how to do create blackwater on a budget, how to make the colour more intense, what the pH of the water needs to be…all the information is there, but it’s spread out over a dozen articles.

Find those authority websites and expand on their articles. Hell, you could even hit them up for a backlink.

Go back to the beginning

Beginner-friendly articles are fewer and farther between than you might think (you probably already know this if you’ve been on Reddit a while).

A prime example here is the keyword ‘ how to make youtube videos’. Whilst you can find no end of information about YouTube SEO, filming techniques, thumbnail tutorials, there are no walkthroughs of the entire process, from picking a niche to uploading an SEO optimised video.

Try to find one for absolute beginners, and all that comes up is 10-minute videos that mention everything you need but don’t walk you through it.

Sure you can use your iPhone, and you need a tripod, but how far away does it need to be?

Where do I set it up to mature me making those bizarrely-popular coffee-making shots?

How much footage should I take? It’s taking three hours to upload, is that normal? Can I write the description box whilst it’s uploading? When do I make a thumbnail?

People want to be spoon-fed, and they want pictures to show them a) what every stage should look like and b) what’s gone wrong if it doesn’t look like that, and how to fix it.

These long, extremely informative articles are Google GOLD. And there are waaaaay fewer of them than there should be.

Not only that, but it’s also pretty simple to find the top ranking article, write your own version, and add value — troubleshooting guides, stories about how it’s gone wrong for you in the past, details of people that can help.

Try to remember back to when you were a beginner in whatever your niche was. Were there any times you thought ‘is this right?’? Did something have a weird smell that turned out to be normal (or not)? How did you fix it?

Including this information make you seem authoritative, obviously. Great. But it reminds your readers that you’re a human. You were just like them, and you now know what you’re doing. That makes everything seem more achievable, and like they have someone there to hold their hand.

In the beginning, you can even offer them your email address — if they get stuck, they can email you and you can help.

Your audience will like you, they will trust you, and they will tell other people about you.

So, why isn’t your blog getting any traffic?

In a nutshell, you’re not writing content that people are looking for. At least, you’re not writing unique, quality content that people are looking for.

Take a good hard look at the articles you’ve written. Assess them for the following criteria:

  • Will a human person be looking for this information?
  • Will my article answer their query more fully than any other article?
  • Can a newbie to my niche find all the information they need on my website? Thinking like this is a great way to develop your content strategy. Ideally, you want your users to find everything they need on your site.
  • Is my article an identikit copy of all those affiliate-driven blog posts out there? See: how to start a blog, how to make money from home, how to become a freelance writer, how to save for an emergency fund, how to lose weight quickly etc etc etc.
  • If these super competitive posts are necessary, you needs to provide unique, valuable content and have your more rankable content link to it. It’ll take an age to rank on its own.

The hardest thing to get rid of is the content you wanted to write. All of those ‘my *insert niche here* journey’ posts are a waste of time until you’ve built up a large following.

That being said, your journey is what makes you unique. Tease little bits in your articles — make your readers interested in you through articles that are useful to them.

This is especially important if you’re documenting your journey to something. In general ‘Caroline’s weight loss journey’ is of no interest to Google. If I were doing a weight loss blog, I’d be searching for search terms I could rank, such as ‘how to lose weight on a gluten-free vegan diet’ or ‘how to feel full on a gluten-free vegan weight loss plan’.

My story would add a bit of human interest that might hold people’s interest a bit longer than a more authoritative weight loss website that has loads of pictures of half-naked models. A few unflattering pictures of me eating 10 hash brown will speak to a weight-loss audience in a way that a hundred pictures of Gigi Hadid never will.

If you build it, they will come

I promise. You don’t need to spend hours a week on Pinterest to get traffic.

It’s not easy. Some posts may flop. One of my articles stood firm at 2 views for nearly a year, before the traffic came flooding in. Keyword research is a skill.

For me, it’s a bit like watering plants. In the beginning, I totally relied on implementing the strategies I’d learned from other people, and didn’t deviate from them.

But after a while, I began to trust my gut. The moisture metre is saying that I need to water, but I know it’s good for another week. The SERP is dominated by big names in home decor, but I think I can write a better article, and get it to rank.

You will need to be patient. I didn’t see decent traffic until month 9. Luckily this is all I’ve ever wanted to do, so giving up was hardly an option.

For me, building websites is the best way for writers to make money. We can write about a niche (or niches or our choice) and learn valuable skills on the way.

I’ve done a bit of freelance writing, but it’s not in my nature to hustle, and I don’t like having to rely on other people to pay me. I’ve learned skills I never dreamed of. I can build a website and get it online with a logo, header and maybe even a post or two, in an afternoon.

Er, it’s just taken the best part of a decade.

Writer, blogger. Rabbit parent to one. Plant parent to many. Occasional runner, jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.

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