About a year ago I decided to start a blog. I didn’t know much about SEO at the time but it turned out to play a huge role in it’s success.

I’d like to share with you a few things I learned along the way that I think are applicable to anyone trying to market a website. Hopefully, by looking at what worked for me and what didn’t, you can save some time and money along the way.

1. Keyword research is king

Keyword Research main picture

When it came time to pick a target audience for my site, my initial reaction was to say “oh thats easy”. I completely underestimated the importance of keyword research.

To give you a brief example, my site is about how to start a home based business, so I figured people people would type things like “how to start a business” or “entrepreneurship” into a search engine to find it, right?

Turns out I was dead wrong. Keywords like “work at home” and “home business” received OVER 10 TIMES the search traffic of a word like “entrepreneurship”. That’s not 50% better or even twice as good. We’re talking 1000% better result just by knowing the right words to target.

If I hadn’t done this research, I could have been focusing all my efforts into the wrong spot, and seen very little result for all that effort.

2. Target the less competitive keywords at first

The second thing I realized was that if I wanted to rank for competitive keywords like “work at home”, it was going to take a long time.

This was my second big lesson: target “2nd tier” keywords first. For my own peace of mind, and just to start seeing some progress along the way, I decided it was worth it to go after a keyword which I could hopefully rank for in a few months, instead of a few years. This turned out to be a great idea, and within several months I was ranking for a slightly less popular keyword that still had lots of traffic: “home based business”.

3. Link out to get links in

link building natural

This third realization didn’t come until I had been blogging for quite some time, and I wish I had discovered it earlier. Everyone is so concerned about getting links to their site, that is seems somewhat counterintuitive to do the opposite: link OUT to other sites. Yet, as with many areas in life, the totally counterintuitive action has the best result. By GIVING out links, a strange thing started to happen. I started to GET more links.

Call it karma or whatever you want, but when I began to link out without asking for anything in return it started to come back. I think you have to be ok with giving away a ton of value for free, and expecting NOTHING in return. Sure, some people will never reciprocate, but if you give out 100 links and only get 10 in return, you still have 10 more links and they have cost you nothing.

4. Connect with real people

When I first started my website, I had the mindset to AUTOMATE everything. This meant scripts to generate emails, and mass distribution of advertising that bordered on spam. The problem with this is that people today have what I call a “finely tuned BS meter”. They can spot this type of thing from a mile away.

Only when I actually started connecting with real human beings by personally responding to comments and (a big one) meeting people IN PERSON, did my subscribers really stick. I started promoting my blog at talks I gave and featuring people in posts on my blog. They started commenting and participating in the site because they could tell there was a real person on the other end.

5. Do guest posts

Finally, probably the most successful method that I used to grow my site’s popularity in the early stages was “guest posts” or guest articles. Basically, I took the time to write a good article for someone else’s site who had far more traffic than my own. This not only had the benefit of driving traffic, but I also got the SEO benefit of the links. When the article was good, this actually worked better than any other method I tried.

Conclusion

In summary…there are no shortcuts when it comes to SEO and building traffic to a website. All I can tell you is to be in it for the long haul.

SEO often reminds of a giant train sitting there on the tracks getting ready to leave. Initially, it barely moves at all. There will be steam pouring out and engines warming up and whistles blowing and NOTHING happens for quite a while. Finally, it starts to move just barely and it seems like a whole lot of effort for nothing. But slowly the train starts to build momentum and moves faster and faster little by little. It’s not until the train is really humming along and NOTHING can stop it that you can see why all the effort was made in the first place.

Be prepared for the same thing in SEO, you may go a YEAR with lots of effort and see very little result. But it all pays off in spades if you can stick with it through the early stages.

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