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The SEO Challenge – Driving Traffic Through Search Engine Optimisation
SEO -Search Engine Optimisation – can be a powerful tool when used correctly. It’s a way to drive traffic to a your website, to find new readers, customers, fans and even business that would otherwise never have encountered you.
That traffic, can then lead to sales, advertising, readership growth and eventually, the financial freedom we all crave.
But the world of SEO is a minefield.
Step the wrong way and you can be penalised, step the right way and algorithms change anyway and leave you dead on the ground cursing the day you ever stepped into the world of blogging.
There’s no right way to SEO. Search Engine Algorithms are a well kept secret. If they were in the public domain, everyone would be a master of SEO and everyone would dominate Google. Search Engine Optimisation then, is simply the best guess of a lot of ‘experts’, and it’s always changing, always evolving into something new as our search experience is improved by the overlords at Google.
For anyone just starting out blogging, creating websites and writing content, SEO is absolutely essential.
Everyone will tell you this too, from the oldest bloggers in the game to the most expensive online courses.
It’s sound advice, but it’s not advice that is actually easy, or practical to take on board when you are just starting your blog.
I know this well from experience.
SEO – The First Casualty In My Blogging Career
I started my first website back in 2015- Travel Tramp– and I read all the blogging guides and website building handbooks I could get my hands on.
Everything I read told me to focus on SEO, that SEO would bring me all the traffic in the world.
The thing is though, SEO is complicated.
The basics of it sound easy enough- optimise your website and content for search – but putting it all into practice is another thing altogether. And that’s before you even consider everything else a first time blogger is learning, from WordPress to Social Media Marketing. For me, SEO wasn’t what I got into blogging for, and it soon fell by the wayside. An unfortunate casualty in the search for my blogging fame.
It’s taken a while for me to realise this, but actually, this casualty was more than unfortunate, it was damaging to my website, to my brand. And it was damaging the most important aspect of my blogging career, my potential.
I’ve Hit The Traffic Plateau
After 3 years of blogging, I have hit a real plateau with my first website Travel Tramp. This is a niche travel website, focusing on off the beaten track travel, to obscure and unknown places around the world.
Sounds cool right?
It is cool.
It is a lot of fun to write, and a lot of fun to travel to places that I love. That’s the whole reason I started blogging in the first place. To write what I wanted. And that’s the whole reason why SEO was the first casualty.
I didn’t want to write for the internet.
After three years of writing, my monthly traffic is of course much higher than when I started! But it still seems to have peaked at what is now an average of 11,000 Unique Sessions and 20,000 Page Views per month. It’s a lot of people in fairness. More than I ever imagined would bother to read my stories. But as I scale my blog into a full time business, and want to attract more brands and companies to actually work with to bring more value to the website, I know I need to overcome this plateau.
I need more readers essentially.
And I’m hoping that SEO can help me.
It’s Never Too Late To Try New Tactics
I have learnt a lot in the last few years of blogging. Most of it the hard way. I didn’t listen to the advice I was given on day one by the top bloggers, who had also learnt it the hard way. I didn’t learn about SEO.
There are many reasons for this. SEO isn’t fun. It’s a lot of research, numbers and keywords. That’s not why anyone wants to blog. I ignored it, I thought, if my writing is good enough, people will read it.
Build it, and they will come.
Well, sort of. Build it and they will indeed show up and read a few things. I mean, 11,000 people a month read Travel Tramp. My strategy- or rather, lack of SEO strategy – has worked to an extent.
What I realise now, is that if build it well- and it’s not too late- with a defined strategy, not only will people come and read my website, but they will flock to it. And that’s the next stage I’m aiming for.
Now I will be implementing an SEO strategy on the website, in order to fully utilise my blog, my skills and my new found passion for all things SEO to really make a success of the wild blogging journey I began three years ago.
The Classic Light Bulb Moment
Life, travel and business are all about growth and recognition. By recognition I mean recognising how you can grow, recognising how you can change and importantly recognising what you did well and what you did terribly in the past.
When I look back at my first ever articles I wonder why on earth I wrote them that way. The thing is though, these first articles are probably the most passionate. As I said, I started my blog from a writing standpoint. My experience was in magazine and print writing, where SEO doesn’t matter, but my audience didn’t matter either.
I was just writing for me.
I wrote this way from the beginning, and no one really read anything.
That’s because they could’t find it in the first place.
There’s no point building something that people can’t find. And that is the basic fundamental of SEO. Over three years I slowly began realising this, even if subconsciously. My style began to change, as I found Google Analytics and I began to realise that certain articles brought in more traffic than others. I would write a few ‘How to travel to…’ guides and lots of people would read these. I realised this was all search traffic, and I thought great. I’ll keep writing article like this and I’ll get even more traffic.
Three years on, and this basic strategy has plateaued. In effect, it hasn’t work. And that sounds like an obvious thing to say. But I needed that light bulb moment to realise what was going wrong, and to realise what I could do to change it.
That light bulb moment came when I was writing a long, detailed article that seemed to fulfil every aspect of SEO I’d crudely picked up over the years. This was the first time I’d really focused on SEO in an article, and I ticked all the boxes I could think of. I spent hours on it. It didn’t rank for what I wanted it to rank. It ranked for something, but not what I’d set out to rank for.
That article is about Karjini National Park in Western Australia, click on the link if you’re interested in seeing all my ill fated SEO efforts…
I realised then, that all the perceived success I’d had bringing in traffic with ‘SEO’ was actually complete chance. I had to work smarter if I wanted to take things over the plateau. Chance wasn’t going to cut it at all.
So in desperation I picked up an e-book, which would hopefully have all the answers. It was cheap, and came recommended. Maybe it would help.
I was disappointed to find the e-book was rather short. I had expected thousands of pages of detailed analysis of algorithms. This wasn’t the case. I read on, and within a few pages my entire outlook on SEO and blogging had changed. To be quite honest, the information was mostly a lot of what I did already know, all it did was draw the lines together, and help me to see the bigger picture.
Instead of fumbling around in the dark, I had just turned the light bulb on.
It had taken three years to see this, but I know now that I need a strategy- just like any business does. I never wanted to sacrifice my own writing styles, to sacrifice what I first entered the world of blogging for. That would defeat the object of everything, and that’s why I never really ever took on SEO fully, I believed it went against my natural writing style.
What I now realise, is that in fact there are ways that I can combine SEO with my writing, and implement an SEO strategy and still write what I want.
My SEO Challenge
It’s never too late to implement change, so over the coming year I will be executing my SEO strategy. It’s still in the early stages, but I learned a lot from reading a simple e-book and downloading a few tools.
I’ll be going into more detail over the next few weeks and months, as I post regular updates here on Travel Continuously about my SEO challenge. I’ll be implementing my strategy and will show you the steps I take to do so, and the reasoning behind it. I’ll show you the successes and the failures, and I’ll include stats and figures too to give you a practical method to follow too if you need it. If it works that is. At the very least I’ll be able to show you what to avoid…
I’ve set targets to meet, and the first challenge is to hit 25,000 unique visitors per month. Why this figure? This figure should allow me to apply for membership to Mediavine, an ad publishing organisation that pays a lot better than Google Adsense. This target is in effect over double my current traffic. I’m aiming by the end of this year to hit that target. If not, then I’ll be rethinking my strategy entirely…
You can follow my Weekly SEO Challenge here at Travel Continuously, where hopefully we will discover if the power of SEO really can make a difference to traffic!
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