Today’s bloggers face a number of challenges if they want to succeed and stand out from the crowd. For one thing, you’re competing with more than 160 million blogs and that number continues to grow.
Of course, not all of those are active blogs and not all are your competition. Still, it gives you an idea of how many people you are competing with to gain the reader’s attention and to get traffic to your website.
Not only that, but within your niche industry, you are likely competing with some people who are very internet savvy. Either they are experts on SEO or they hire experts to help take their blogs to the top in search engine ranking. If you want to succeed, you are going to have to do a lot more than just work hard.
You are going to have to work hard and work smart.
Using the Right Tools and Strategy
Utilizing the right tools and applying the right strategy is vital. At WHSR, we focused on several strategies in 2015 and managed to double our traffic to our website; while maintaining site bounce rate and pages per session in 12 months’ time.
Keep in mind that even as you start to pull in extra traffic, you want your bounce rate and pages per session to stay the same. This shows that you’ve pulled in the right audience for your website. These are going to be the people who are most interested in your content rather than just bodies bouncing onto and off of your blog.
Here are the three strategies we used, and will continue using, to grow our site – which you can use to improve yours as well.
Strategy # 1: Continuous Improvement in On-Page SEO
Better search engine rankings equal more traffic and revenue. It really is as simple as that.
Although sites no longer live by search engine rankings, it is still important to rank in the top results if you have any chance at all of reaching people searching for the topics you cover on your blog.
While research and improving off-page factors such as obtaining links naturally are important, the on-page SEO is something that cannot be taken lightly. And when I talk about on-page SEO, I mean much more than a simple tweak of the headlines and title tags.
We need to understand, or more accurately, to guesstimate how Google works in modern days. Google is constantly changing its algorithm to improve how it tracks not only the volume of content or particular keywords, but the quality of the content provided.
In fact, Google looks at so many factors today, and they change so often, that you are better off improving the quality of your content above all else. Of course, some things are still of vital importance, such as an expert opinion, beautiful photos, quality writing, and using the right keywords. However, they are small pixels in a larger picture that make up your Google ranking.
1-a: Improve Site CTR in SERP
As mentioned above, Google is constantly changing their algorithms to meet new demands. Over the years, there have always been a number of rumors about how Google might change its algorithm and add weight to the user experience as search engine ranking factors.
Some of these rumors are proven true via experiments. For example, according to Rand Fishkin experiments, we now know that CTR does affect site rankings.
Fishken studied Google’s patents and figured out what Google ascertains from user behavior. He found that there were three elements that would likely impact your rankings, including queries that associate a brand name with a generic phrase. Click through rates matter a tremendous amount. Long verses, short clicks or clicking through and then immediately returning to the search page because the page they went to didn’t offer what they wanted.
The easiest thing to start with is CTR. You can improve your site rankings by improving your site’s CTR at the search result page level.
Getting It Done
Here’s one way you can tackle this issue:
- Go to Google Search Console (previously G Webmaster Tools)
- Search Traffic > Search Analytics >
- Check “Clicks”, “CTR”, “Position”, select “Pages”; and generate a list of 100 queries with CTR & Position data
- Export the data and open the file in Excel
- Compare each page’s CTR with the average value of your top 100 pages.
- Look at pages with low CTR and fine tune on-page factors (such as title tag and description).
- Win! 🙂
1-b: Improve Site Engagement
Here are two more metrics that I believe are (or will be) key ranking factors at Google:
- Site bounce rate
- Time on page
Why are these key factors that play into your ranking? Here’s how Google might understand the situation: The longer a searcher stays on your site, the more relevant (or useful) Google believes your site is. Google’s job (at least on the surface) is to provide the most relevant and useful answers to users’ searches. That means that if Google believes your site is useful to the user, then they will rank your site higher in results for that search phrase.
While I can’t find any case studies or experiments to prove this theory, I have focused on improving these factors at my site and the theory is simply common sense. After all, lower bounce rate and higher time on page means a better user experience. If you put your users’ first, you’ll always come out ahead.
For one thing, your users will come to trust you and will return again and again, giving you organic traffic over time.
Getting It Done
Here’s what I have done constantly, and you can do on your blog to improve search engine ranking and the overall quality of your site –
Find under-performing content on your blog (in terms of bounce rate and time on page) and optimize each page separately.
- Go to Google Analytics and Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
- Make show rows = 50
- Download the list and compare each page bounce rate and Avg Time on Page.
- Determine how you can improve the metrics on the under-performing pages.
Strategy #2 – Facebook
I’m sure you already know this, but Facebook is too big to be ignored. There are more than 1.5 billion users on Facebook, and advertisers spent $17.08 billion on Facebook in 2015. One big reason for this lies in the ability to hone in the ads to your specific target audience by narrowing down which users see your ad.
Facebook, however, is only a good option for brands and bloggers if you truly understand it deeply enough to spend time on optimization.
How? How do you leverage the power of Facebook for your own blog?
- Keep track of new features (which Facebook is releasing them on an almost weekly basis) – be the first to use new ad formats – Instagram video ads, DPA carousel ads, local awareness ads, Canvas ads, etc.
- Use an ad tool for automatic A/B testing to cut down on ad costs and improve ad efficiency. I use Adespresso to run all my ads on Facebook. It helps to create and track hundreds of ad sets in one campaign easily.
- Smart cross-selling or cross promotions – even if you don’t own a product, you can still apply the idea of cross-selling to keep your existing visitors. When someone visits a page from your blog, you can automatically cross-promote your other relevant content to them using the retargeting feature. For example, if one was looking at your “how to create a photography blog”, you can follow-up and promote your list of “must see WordPress plugins for photo blogs” on Facebook.
- Create a community on Facebook. Facebook allows you to further brand your social media presence by creating a brand Facebook page. Use this page to interact with customers, offer insightful tips, give away special offers, and push news out to your loyal followers.
- Utilize Facebook’s advanced tracking tools to study how well your ads are performing, what your cost per click is, and see whether you need to make changes.
There is no need to wait until a campaign is over to make changes. You can pause ads, change them, and make on-the-fly fixes to get the most leverage out of your advertising.
Strategy # 3 – Load Your Blog Faster
Today’s average online consumer is impatient. Loading time does impact how browsers view your site and whether they will stay and whether they will return. According to an infographic at KissMetrics, “loading time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment.”
Recently, we did a case study on server speed and how it can truly impact a business’s bottom line. We compared the online retailing efforts of Walmart and Target, looking at server response time and how it affected sales. The results? Speed matters. Even a fraction of a second can make a difference in sales conversions.
When I first used a CDN on my site, the bounce rate plunge and conversion rate (in terms of sales and subscriptions) shot up by more than 30% almost instantly.
The moral of the story? Don’t underestimate the importance of your site’s loading speed. In addition to the two examples above, studies have proven time and time again that speed kills on the Internet. Slow site loading time kills your business, that is.
Imagine that your blog is a vehicle. You don’t want to build a smart car, but a Ferrari. The faster your site loads, the better.
A Number of Ways You Can Speed Up Your Website Today:
- Make use of Google PageSpeed tools – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/
- Make sure that you are using a good host – speed matters. Do speed tests and compare your site speed with others using tools like Bitcatcha.
- Check your code closely – remove HTML comments, CDATA sections and clear empty elements to decrease page sizes.
- Combine CSS and scripts to make fewer HTTP requests.
- Optimize your images
- Enable gzip compression
- Get a CDN service if the majority of your visitors are coming from a different continent from your host
Running a blog is a challenging prospect. The online world is forever changing and Google’s algorithms change from year to year. The only way to stay on top of things is to continue to study predictions, to test your site against Google’s ranking, and to put out the absolute best content you possibly can. With a little hard work and a lot of forethought, you can keep your blog successful and growing over time.
Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets and hacking growth online. You can read some of his best posts on Blogging with WHSR.