Monday, December 05, 2011

Musings on SEO

Pretty much every blogger I know puts at least some thought into Search Engine Optimization.

A few really obsess over it, constantly refining their posting habits to maximize Google results on chosen keywords and so forth.

Others (cough -- The Other McCain -- cough) just have fun with it.

Of the two strategies, I think Stacy's results speak for themselves. He's creeping up on 9 million hits and clocking another million every few months these days. I don't know what his ad revenues look like, but if he's not making money it's not for lack of traffic.

I've done some basic SEO on this blog, read and applied a practical guide to SEO, and even gamed the system a bit. The first two things helped. The third seems to knock down a hit or two a day on a recurring basis for me, but nothing to write home about.

For most bloggers, I think there are two basic truths and one foolproof SEO technique to keep in mind.

Basic Truth #1: You're not Glenn Reynolds and you're probably never going to be. Unless you intend to make blogging a full-time paying job (and good luck with that, and perhaps even then), every minute you spend tearing your hair out over how to get mortgage brokers and Viagra stores to advertise on your blog is a minute you're not doing the one thing most likely to bring traffic to (and therefore attract advertisers to) your blog. That one thing is (drum roll, please) ... writing your blog.

Basic Truth #2: Keyword crunching is a losing game. There are bazillions of bloggers (and other web predators) out there spending all day trying to get to the top of Google for "if your erection lasts more than four hours" and "re-finance your split-level money pit."

Foolproof SEO technique: Again ... write your damn blog. Apart from some basic formatting considerations, that's all you really need to worry about.

When I blog frequently, my traffic increases. Duh.

When I stop blogging frequently, my traffic decreases. Again, duh.

But when I blog frequently for awhile and then stop blogging frequently, my traffic doesn't decrease to its former level. For the third time ... duh.

My new blogging has created new search engine entries. Some of those search engine entries rank highly enough to produce a hit or three a day. If I've blogged regularly for a couple of months and take a break, my new "inactive traffic level" settles down to more visits per day than it did the last time around.

The posts that really perform for me aren't the posts I wrote with SEO in mind. My top performing draws from Google, Bing and Yahoo at the moment are the various posts I've written about Android tablets, apps and ebooks (10-20 hits per day), and the old standby: Junkies trying to find out how to get high without borking their livers (5-10 hits per day). Coming in third is people trying to find out what libertarians think about corporations (1-5 hits per day).

That's not big traffic. But it's regular traffic that just keeps coming, day in and day out, and probably will forever. And every time I go on a blogging binge and my "current traffic" takes a big jump, that "permanent traffic stream" grows a little too.

I'm not telling you not to look for clever turns of phrase that will jump you up in search results. Clever turns of phrase are a good idea whether they push you to the top at Google or not.

But when you only have a minute or five minutes to spend on your blog, spend that minute or five minutes writing and posting instead of looking for winning keywords.

Think of it this way: It's like the difference between smoking crack three times a day for three weeks or running three miles a day for three weeks. One of those activities arguably feels better at the time, but the other one rewards both in the moment and in the future.

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