Well truth be told, it’s possibly a tie between Facebook and Google.
But simply put, if your author blog isn’t optimized to get as much traffic from Google as possible, you’re leaving huge amounts of potential unfulfilled. Whether your site is for profit or not, not working to maximize your audience is doing you, your site, and your (potential) visitors, a disservice.
But first of all, let’s consider…
What is the Purpose of Your Author Blog?
Goals of your author blog may include:
- To support sales of your books by communicating with current readers, and helping to attract new ones.
- If you’re a non-fiction author and have built up a website marketing funnel to profit from your readers (offering courses, consulting, services…) then your site is essential for turning a book reader into a customer. Plus, it can attract new customers that haven’t even seen your books!
- Or you may want to have a site just to talk about the process of writing and publishing, whether there’s anyone reading your site or not! Perhaps just to get your ideas out of your head, or as a great way to network and communicate with other authors.
- You may even wish to use your site to build an audience of writers. If you’ve had success with self-publishing, you can use your site to offer them advice, consulting, and services.
But either way, the bigger your audience, the more your site benefits you, and your business.
How to Get Traffic From Google Without Paying
Now, Google of course wants you to pay for advertising. Google makes their search engine as useful and accurate as possibly, but it’s all just a wrapper for the ads they make money from – the ads running across the top and side of the search results.
So Google somewhat reluctantly delivers those organic results (as they’re called). Therefore it’s very important to keep in mind that Google is under no obligation at all to list your site well, if at all.
Remember, they want you to buy ads!
Every time your site appears in the number one spot, or even on the front page, it’s less likely you’ll buy ads. But, Google has to balance that with keeping the organic search results as helpful as possible.
And it’s also worth keeping in mind that Google results are what’s known as a zero-sum game. There’s always results for whatever’s being searched for. So if you’re number one for a while, but at some point Google decides you’re no longer the best fit and banishes you to number 20, the Google results continue quite happily without you, even if your site getting banished to the second or third page devastates your business.
Many a business has been destroyed like this, and it’s largely due to business owners depending far too much on Google for getting visitors and customers, rather than diversifying traffic and customer sources.
What Google Really Wants…
At the simplest level, Google wants to make the experience of using search as positive as possible, for as many people as possible. So what it’s always working on is delivering the best results whatever people happen to search for.
So that’s a question you must ask yourself – is your site the best result? Is that article you’ve just published really the best possible result for someone searching?
Think about that when you’re not getting as much Google traffic as you would like, and your competition is getting listed higher than you. Google wants to deliver quality and relevant results. Is your page, or your site, higher quality and more relevant for that search, compared to all other sites?
So what we’re talking about in this article is SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
SEO includes actions you can take that encourage Google to send you a lot of website visitors, without paying for advertising.
And the simplest way to do that is to provide so much value, that by giving you the number one spot Google is providing accuracy, relevancy, and value to the people searching
So as well as recommending (again and again) that you publish amazing content, this article is a very crash course into some things you can apply to your site to help it get a lot more traffic through Google for the long term.
How to Optimize Blog Posts & Site Pages for Search
First of all, be mindful of keywords. But don’t keep them in mind too much.
If you’re not familiar with exactly what they are, keywords are what people search for online.
For example: cheap car insurance
If you do some research into what people are searching for in your market, it can give you ideas for blog posts and other content. And by naturally (not over-doing it) including those keywords in your content, it may give your site a nudge up the results.
Some keyword research tools to help you understand your market in depth include:
- The Google keyword research tool – you’ll need an AdWords account for this but don’t need to actively keep campaigns running.
- Wordtracker – offering in depth keyword research and analysis since 1998.
- Bing Keyword Research – the keyword research tool from Microsoft’s Bing search engine (yes, Google rules the roost but don’t forget about Bing!)
Now, a single blog post could be relevant for many, many different keywords people could search for, from the very broad (“car insurance” for example) to niche terms, which are also known as long-tail terms (“car insurance for a yellow car with one working brake light”, as a silly example).
Including the main keyword you’re targeting in the title and headline of the page can help, but always keep its use relevant to the content, and if it damages the readability of your content, probably best to leave it out.
You can also make sure you use Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 tags in your content. If you’re not familiar with exactly what these are, WordPress allows you to apply this easily when creating a page or post.
There’s a lot more to keep in mind when optimizing pages and posts on your site, but really the easiest and most efficient way to stay optimized is use tools that do the analysis for you and then make suggestions.
Here’s a few you can start using right now:
- Yoast SEO Plugin – Makes optimizing your WordPress site for the search engines quicker and easier.
- Moz On-Page Grader – An instant audit of your posts and pages, letting you know what you’re doing well, and what needs improvement.
- SEMrush Site Audit Tool – Automatically helps you find issues hurting your traffic generation.
But a recurring theme I’ll cover here, and really what determines the success or not of your site as regards SEO is making your content and your site so valuable that people want to link to and socially share your site.
Plus, great content means people want to spend a lot of time on your site, which is another thing Google takes into consideration.
All these “signals” your site gives out (links, shares, time on site…etc.) help Google determine how valuable your site is, and this then pushes it up the results.
Optimizing Your Entire Site for Search Traffic
At the simplest level, the better the experience the user has on your site, the more Google rewards you. There’s an awful lot of factors Google takes into consideration, and here’s a few site-side issues to keep in mind and fix to the best of your ability:
For user experience, for your own benefit, and also for the search engines, you really want to ensure there’s no broken links on your site, whether when linking from one page to another, or to external sites.
Thankfully you don’t need to check this by hand! There’s tools that can help you automatically check for broken links including:
- Xenu Link Sleuth – Windows based software that very quickly checks every link on your site and gives you a report.
- Broken Link Checker – This is one of many WordPress plugins that help you to find and fix broken links. More are listed here.
- Link Checker from W3C – This free tool comes from the consortium that works to create web standards that the rest of us use every day!
What’s also becoming more and more important for your visitors, and for Google, is the speed of your site.
If your site is slow and takes a long time to load, not only does it annoy your visitors making them less likely to actually spend time on your site, but also Google measures this and takes this into consideration when calculating where to place your site in the results.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to talk you through how to speed up your site since that subject can get very technical, very quickly.
Here’s a few resources to get you started, but due to the technical nature of the subject, you may need to hire someone to help you implement this:
- Pingdom Website Speed Test
- How We Optimized List25 Performance by 256%
- 10 Ways to Speed Up Your Website
- How to Find the Best CDN Service for Your Website
Which Pages Should, and Should Not, be Indexed?
You also want to make sure you keep certain information out of the search engines. Again, this can get quite technical so you may need to get help with this. And tools like Yoast SEO (linked above) can make it easier.
For example, let’s say you have lots of pages with very similar text. This may then be considered “duplicate or low quality content” by Google, and that’s one thing Google really doesn’t like.
Does Your Site Work Well on All Screens?
You especially want to make sure your site is fully responsive.
Responsive means that whatever screen size the person is viewing your site on, whether it’s a laptop, desktop, tablet, or mobile, your site looks good.
Many WordPress themes are fully responsive so if you’re using WordPress this problem may be solved for you already. But if you’re not using WordPress, or aren’t sure at all about this process, again you may need to hire some help to help you resolve this.
A quick way to check whether your site is responsive is to simply re-size your browser window and see what happens. There’s also sites that give you an idea of how your site will look on different devices:
- MobileTest.me – See how your site looks on phones and tablets
- iPadPeek.com – iPad simulator for your website
- BrowserStack – Test your site on dozens, even hundreds of different devices easily
Growing Links and Shares in a way Google Approves Of
It used to be that several hundred low quality links (blog comment spam, for example) pointing to your site was all it took to get your site into the top ten for valuable searches. However, those days are long gone. And the search engine results are much better for it!
That said, links still matter, but they have to come about naturally rather than being paid for, or spammed. And social shares matter too – how many times people share your content online.
But again, fantastic content and deserving to be in the number one spot will often get you there!
So create fantastic content, and promote it. Since then, the more people who know about your content, the more it will naturally get linked to and shared. Because if you’ve written the world’s best blog post but no one knows about it, then no one’s going to share it or link to it! So you may need to start the process yourself initially by promoting your content.
This is a lot easier if you already have readers or an email list, but if you’re starting from scratch, well, building traffic takes lots of hard work, until your site takes on a life of its own.
SEO is now Content Marketing
One way to think about all this is – SEO has really become what’s known as content marketing. Marketing your site through great content, in other words.
And getting the process under way of promoting your content and attracting more links and shares is what’s known as content amplification. Taking your “quiet” content and “raising its volume” (visibility) in your market.
And often, simply seeing which sites are linking to your competition, and seeing which type of content (from your competition) gets shared the most, can give you lots of ideas for both your content creation and amplification process. Tools like Moz and ahrefs can give you a lot of invaluable ideas.
The Real Secret to Getting Search Traffic in 2016, and Beyond
Yet again, I come back to the basic truth of how to get more traffic than you could ever want through the search engines – don’t think about SEO, think about creating and promoting your incredible content, to help it reach its audience.
So this involves:
- Regularly creating incredible content.
- Optimizing it for the search engines, without overdoing this process.
- Promoting it (amplification).
And at the simplest level, that’s all it takes to get hundreds, even many thousands of visitors to your site a day.