In one of the scam-artist versions of The Fast Track to Internet RichesTM
All I need to do is:
- create a blog rich in high-traffic keywords,
- sprinkle it liberally with Affiliate Marketing Ads and Google AdSense links,
- sit back and watch the money flow in.
This is all fine and dandy, but assume I create a site like that: what value have I added to anything?
Copy that’s written for search engines isn’t actually readable by humans. It’s buzzword rich and information poor, insulting to readers and demeaning to those who produce it, because it requires one to create within a rigid framework that produces inanities. It turns potential poets into hacks.
I hate those assholes
Sure, I can build a personal website that will draw search engine traffic like flies to a hot carcass, but a reeking corpse actually provides more value. Do I really want to associate my good name with vermin no matter what the payoff is? No.
the other problem with writing for search engine optimization
I’m not against deriving an income from one’s skill at writing – that’s exactly what I’ve set out to do – but there’s a reason people don’t respect hacks. Writing for money sucks the soul out of a person, and it’s even worse when writing for money means writing for search engines.
On the other hand, if I pay no attention to site traffic and SEO, how am I going to generate any interest? Who’s going to visit my site or click on the ads? What’s the point if I can’t get some kind of reimbursement for the investment of time and effort that creating and maintaining a website represents? Sure it can sometimes be fun, but I can’t afford to do it well or often if there’s not some financial reward.
So… I’ve established that I want to get paid for writing, but I don’t want to sell out in order to make money. Now what?
how to keep your soul
What else draws traffic besides slavish devotion to seeding web sites with keywords?
Value. Any successful site has to provide something that people want or need. It needs to entertain or educate in some way, preferably both.
No news there. If you were drawn to this site or article, it’s because you have an interest in one of the subjects published here. You already understand that to become “sticky” a site has to provide real value and not just a cloud of keywords disguised as articles.
You were probably hoping I was going to explain how to do it. Well, yes and no.
You see, just like anything else in life, one person’s treasure is another’s trash. A website that tries to be all things to everyone ends up being nothing to anyone. If you write to please your imaginary audience, you’re likely bound for failure.
we’re all a bunch of freaks
It’s pretty much guaranteed that if you’re interested in something, so are a significant portion of the population. When we’re talking about the internet, “significant portion” means a percent of a percent of a percent. If .001% of people out there find your content compelling, you’ve got a hit. The market is so deep and broad that you really don’t need to worry too much about pleasing others, just concentrate on creating something you’re proud of, and somebody is going to like it too.
So start with yourself, what are your interests? What makes you laugh or pisses you off or gets you horny? What do you think is incredibly neat or cool or what-have-you?
(Within limits – if you’re a freak you’re a freak, and your site has to be usable, try reading some of the books I recommend here and using a professional designer if you really get stuck.)
and that’s a good thing
Now what are the characteristics of people with the same likes and dislikes, or with a particular interest of your own that you decide to focus on? That’s your demographic. Those are your customers.
Then you need to just start pumping out articles. Let Google AdSense figure out how to appeal to your readers. Use AdWords or applications like “Traffic Travis” to figure out what keywords you should be using. Don’t go for the high-traffic keywords that everybody and their sister is trying to target, go for the “long tail”, most specific, least popular keywords that accurately pinpoint what you’re all about. Sure, it’s less traffic, but those are the people most likely to want what you’ve got, to buy your products or click your ads or sign up for your newsletter and keep coming back to your site.
specificity both saves and makes you money
You’ll also get higher rankings on those keywords, and be able to buy cheaper advertising.
Don’t take the “pleasing yourself to please others” thing too far. Just like you (probably) brush your teeth, bathe, and comb your hair before going out in public, and wear decent clothes that project the image you’d like to convey, so should your site. I know this is a bit of a joke coming from Mr. “Savage Lullabye”, but try to think of me as the mechanic whose car is always neglected.
Anyhow, key things you’ll want to pay attention to:
site flow and navigation
- can people get to all of your content easily?
- can they bypass your navigation scheme and use a site search instead?
- does it take more than 3 clicks to get anywhere?
You want the answer to be yes to 1 and 2 and no to 3.
- are navigation elements consistent and prominent?
- are “calls to action” (like “buy now”) expressed appropriately? (Depends on your audience and the page they’re on. Try not to scare, offend or annoy people.)
- is the site credible? (Look like what you are. Be distinctive, but appropriate for your audience or industry. Use SSL where expected.)
- does the site address different styles of information intake? (Text is okay, but some people do better with visuals, and some like sound and motion. Going multi-media can expand your audience.)
1, 2, and 3 should be “yes”, and 4 should be considered carefully.
That’s about it! Keep plugging away at it and experimenting, and assuming you’re not some statistical anomaly who’s completely alone on the planet in terms of the memes that inhabit your private noosphere, sooner or later you’ll do fine.