How to Launch a New Blog With (Already) High Search Traffic

launching blog with search trafficPhoto by vramak.

After lots of experimentation over the last couple of months, I’ve found a very easy way to kick-start a topic based blog with an immediate influx of search traffic.

This strategy will be useful for anyone starting a blog from scratch, whether you’re creating a blog as a passive sales funnel, or if you eventually want to build up a big following.

The main requirement is that your blog has to cover specific topics, preferably from a how to/advice perspective.

This strategy is almost purely content based and does not rely on inbound links. I don’t enjoy link building and article marketing much, so the extent of my link building for the test blog was to participate in a forum on the topic of the blog and put a link in my signature.

I’ve participated in 2 forums in this way, left a few comments here and there with the blog linked via my username (no links in comments), and that’s it for inbound links I’ve created.

Yet, I was extremely happy with the blog’s first week of traffic, and more than 80% of it was from search:

google analytics search traffic

654 visits and 1,175 page views. A month after that, the traffic increased to 1,303 visits in one week, 87% from search. This strategy is an excellent way to kick-start new blogs, especially in niches where guest-posting is difficult.

In this post I’ll show you exactly how to use this strategy for your own blogs.

The idea

When working to create a blog that gains traffic passively, you need to set up an automatic stream of traffic. Search is the obvious answer, yet I didn’t want to spend hours and hours on directory submissions, forum posts, commenting and article marketing.

I thought that if I could create enough content that targeted long tail search terms within a particular topic, the dribs and drabs of search traffic for each long-tail phrase would snowball into something bigger.

Most of the time when I search for a long-tail search term myself (like ‘is convolvulus poisonous to cats’) I end up on some kind of Q&A site. I often use Google like some kind of oracle, asking questions like ‘how do I’ and ‘where is’ and ‘what is’ and searching for answers.

Based on the huge amounts of traffic these Q&A sites get, I’m confident in saying that I’m not the only person who uses Google like this!

I decided to seed the blog with Q&A style content. I’d target keyword phrases people were using to find answers, and then give them the answer they were looking for.

But how do you know the questions people are asking?

Google Auto Suggest

As you’re typing a search term into the Google search bar, you’re met with a bunch of suggestions for what other people searched for – people who started their query the same way as you’ve done.

Here’s an example of how Auto Suggest looks for a search about kayaking, and then starting to type a word beginning with W:

kayaking google search

I realized that by starting a search term about my topic in the same way someone is likely to begin asking a question, I could get dozens of ideas for content.

Let’s run with the Kayaking example. You could type in:

    • Kayaking how
    • Kayaking why
    • Kayaking when
    • Kayaking where
    • Kayaking what

Here’s what Auto Suggest gave me when I started typing ‘kayaking how’:

kayaking auto suggest

Immediately, I have 10 ideas for articles I could write. To make sure the article is good quality, all I need to do is thoroughly and carefully answer the question asked, or provide the information the searcher is looking for.

This doesn’t mean the article needs to be lengthy, just so long as it provides what the searcher is looking for.

Searchers regularly use this form of search query: ‘topic’ + ‘phrase to search within that topic’. For example, ‘Kayaking how to get in’ really translates to “Within the topic ‘Kayaking’, show me articles about how to get in.”

While this is a very sensible way to search and likely to return a more varied range of potentially relevant results than the phrase ‘how to get into a kayak’, it’s not the way people speak.

If I wanted to know how to get in to a kayak, I would never approach an expert and ask:

“Kayaking how to get in?”

And for this reason, it’s very tough to find content with exact match titles for these terms, even though searchers are using them in droves.

kayaking how to get in search

Yet it’s perfectly reasonable to create content with an exact match title for these kinds of searches, which will help your site punch above its weight in search results.

In this case, all you’d do is use the following title format:

Kayaking: How to Get In

From Google’s perspective this is no different to ‘kayaking how to get in’ as it ignores punctuation, but to the reader this sounds like a perfectly reasonable title.

Using this method it’s easy to publish posts that are exact matches for hundreds of long-tail search terms, many of which may have no prior exact match results. This makes it easy for you to rank highly in search results without hundreds of inbound links.

If you need more topics from Google Auto Suggest, try typing in the name of your topic, a space, and then a letter from the alphabet. You can get topics from all 26 letters.

kayaking suggest

Wrapping up

This method is frighteningly simple, yet it’s also a very powerful way to seed a new blog with a constant stream of valuable search traffic.

By using Auto Suggest you can create dozens of exact match articles for long-tail search terms. If 30 articles bring in 5 visits a day, that’s 150 visits a day on autopilot.

And, as your site ages and gets more backlinks, your articles will climb in the search results. Soon that number will be 300, 600, 900…

Now my test site for this method has been around for a bit over two months. During this time, I’ve been adding more and more brief articles that are exact matches for long-tail search terms.

Here’s what traffic looks like over the last week:

last week blog traffic

4,508 visits and 6,713 page views in the last week, 86% from search. The only link building I’ve ever done is a few forum posts and blog comments, probably taking up 1 – 2 hours in the entire lifetime of the site. The site succeeds because I’m providing quality content where Google believes there is none.

This strategy is likely to be of extreme interest to people who start niche blogs for passive income, but it’s also a smart way to kick-start a new blog in a tough niche.

Once you seed the site with Q&A style content and are happy with your initial traffic levels, you can move the Q&A content off your main page by changing date stamps, allowing you to switch over to more traditional styles of blog content.

A final tip: When using an exact match title for a question search term, i.e. ‘Kayaking how do I get in’, you may want to tweak your post title a little bit so it’s clear that your content offers an answer, rather than someone asking the question. You can do so like this: Kayaking: How Do I Get In? [Answer].

From Zero to Hero – Quick Start Guide to Blogging

A while ago I wrote a post called Good to Great – Why Some Blogs Succeed and Others Don’t, now lets look at why some blogs seem to hop on the fast track and attract readership right off the bat.

When I launched this blog in early February this year I naturally noticed other similar bloggers starting around the same time and because I am such a competitive person I kept tabs on some to see how my progress compared.

Pretty quickly I saw more than a few vanish or slow right down as they discovered how much work blogging actually entails. A whole bunch of others did averagely well and are still going well with growing readerships and continuing content, these guys are the norm.

In the final group though are a handful of bloggers who just seem to attract success, in particular and using the metric of subscriber numbers:

The reason I’ll use Philip’s iHelpYouBlog as the case study is that unlike Chris he isn’t already well known (Chris has written books and seems to be known from Performancing.com), and his blog is newer than Matt’s – though NBB is a pretty interesting case study as well.

Also though, I just like Philip’s blog the most and some of his posts like: A Fool-Proof Method To Brainstorm Blogging Ideas, The Complete Blogging Resource List For The Pro-Blogger and most recently 101 Great Posting Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle have really helped me along in my own blogging endeavors.

Actually I would even go so far as to say his blog has been more helpful than the illustrious Problogger – heresy I know!

So here’s why I think that iHelpYouBlog and similar blogs quickly attract readership:

1. A Strong Voice

These blogs always have a strong, personal voice. When I visit iHelpYouBlog (or NBB, ChrisG or more established successful blogs) I know where I am just from the style and tone of the writing.

This is important in the early days as it sets the blog apart. Of course by personal I don’t mean that they discuss their personal lives, rather that they aren’t afraid to share their viewpoint and their opinions.

Also with a blog like iHelpYouBlog there is an opinion that I don’t get elsewhere.

This is particularly important in a blog about blogging because there are *MANY* others out there and at times reading about the same old plugins and the same old tips can get a bit old. I visit iHelpYouBlog because I get insights I won’t get elsewhere.

2. Consistent Quality

No surprise here, but it still needs to be said. There are many blogs in my feedreader that I just skim to check if anything interesting has appeared, then there are a few that I read almost every post because I know that its going to be interesting.

When I first visited iHelpYouBlog I went through the last 15 posts, found that they were all interesting and immediately subscribed. I’m guessing that everyone else did too

3. Take Advantage of the Freight Train when it Comes Along
For a while iHelpYouBlog was building a steadily growing readership, and each week I would see the numbers going up by 10 or 20, but then one day he had a post hit del.icio.us/popular and it jumped by about two hundred.

Is that a lucky break? Not really, with consistent quality its a matter of time before something gets popular and blogs like Philips (and Matt’s with Digg) take advantage of this freight train and capitalize on the attention by writing more quality posts to follow up.

Also they will have done the hard work to get to a point where they *can* get Dugg or Bookmarked.

That is to say, Philip had built a core readership who could make sure that his super post when it arrived already had a good push and some momentum from the regulars to get the word out.

4. They Get Around

Somehow popular blogs just seem to pop up in different places, I notice this with all three of the blogs that I mentioned, that I’ll be somewhere completely unrelated and the person will have a link back to them, they will have posted a comment, there is an interview of them and so on.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, and I know it happens probably the most with Matt from NBB, but somehow these guys just get around, get noticed, make friends with other bloggers and promote themselves

So there’s my analysis of why these guys seem to make it so quickly while others take a lot longer. What do you think sets them apart?

Thinking Outside the Blog

Most internet users have a good idea of what a blog looks like. In fact most blogs look pretty similar when you get down to it.

Sure they come in different packages – certainly WordPress themes abound – but strip away a little of the cosmetics and it is usually the same face underneath.

Today NorthxEast is changing to a new look and new format and while it isn’t entirely revolutionary, it is a little different.

In reinventing this site I got to thinking about how blogs are changing and lines blurring.

And so it seems fitting that the first article should be about how we as professional bloggers can think outside the blog.

A New Medium

Game changing innovations are few and far between. They are usually simple concepts to describe but when they arrive it takes time to fully realize their importance and impact. Television was a game-changer, mobile phones were a game-changer, and blogging is also one.

What sounds so simple – it is just chronological posting after all – has had a profound effect on the internet. And as with most game-changing innovations, blogging is evolving far beyond the purposes originally intended.

Consider email which is another major innovation, but one that is relatively mature. When people first began using email, I doubt anyone quite realized how it would be used in the future.

From webmail to mail on your blackberry to service notifications to Nigerian scammers. The implications of email have only become apparent with time.

As it was with email, so it is with blogging. What seems simple, quickly evolves into new formats, new uses and takes new meaning in people’s lives.

Where the first blogs were simple online journals, now blogs are used by companies, media, professional bloggers, entertainment and of course still millions of not-so-simple online journals. If we’ve already come this far, where are we going next?

Trend Watching

Well for the most part blogs will always be blogs. After all think of television and you realize that while a huge plasma screen TV showing cable is wildly different to a black and white box from the 50s, the two are still conceptually the same.

In my opinion, there are three major trends already occurring that will continue to evolve blogging:

  • Audiences will broaden
    Most mainstreamers are only just starting to get blogs. For many, blogs and RSS feeds are still things they are only vaguely aware of. The current audience pool while vast is still limited.As audiences broaden, the most popular topics will shift from being tech oriented to more conventionally popular topics. To see what I mean, visit a news agency and see how many gadget and technology company magazines there are. Now look at all the other topics, are those being represented well in blogging?
  • Blogs will find new uses and variations
    We already have vlogs, podcasts, miniblogs, twitter and more. The concept of blogging has extended to use in media sites like Time.com for example, it has been used effectively as a marketing tool, has been made to fit internal corporate dialogue, has been moulded to build affiliate marketing businesses on and used in a myriad other permutations.
  • Traditional Blogs will become increasingly more sophisticated
    When you think about it blogs are already looking a lot more sophisticated than they used to. You only need to look at a list of WordPress plugins to see the innovative types of functionality they now possess, from relating posts to tracked feeds to myBlogLog communities.There are two key forces driving this increasing sophistication. On the one hand that blogs are increasingly seen as a viable source of income naturally pushes bloggers to improve to survive. And on the other many of the currently popular blog genres are over saturated, which then drives bloggers to find ways to set themselves apart.

While all three trends are hugely important in predicting where blogging will go in the future, it is the third trend of increasing sophistication that I want to discuss.

As bloggers search for ways to set themselves apart and to provide sites that are better than their competition, we are forced to think differently, to think outside the blog.

A Blog Apart

Setting a blog apart comes down to many factors. Writing style, writing quality, post frequency, post length, blog branding and blog marketing are typically some of them. But there are other factors that we tend to overlook.

Let me ask you some questions. Why do all blogs run down the page? Why do blogs only ever consist of one stream of content?

Why are all blogs controlled by a central blogger? Why do all blogs consist of column based designs? In essence, why do all blogs look and feel like blogs?

The obvious answer is that blogs look like blogs because that’s exactly what they are. Whatchu talkin bout Willis?

And then there’s the technology. The reason blogging is so popular is the facility of creating a blog from scratch mostly involves using off-the-shelf products.

But should we really be bound by these constraints?

Not everyone thinks so. In fact blogs are increasingly blurring the lines of blogging and general online publishing.

Consider sites like UXMagazine, Performancing and MetaFilter, are these sites still considered blogs?

On a Practical Level

Of course a blog doesn’t have to be huge to differentiate. There are many ways that we can break out of the blogging norm, here are a few:

  • Breakout Design
    Using a slightly unconventional design is a great way to change things up. In this redesign of NxE we’ve used an index page that lists posts simply by title while highlighting the newest with an image and excerpt. It isn’t mind-blowing innovation, but it is different.
  • Multiple Feed Streams
    It’s not hard to bend a platform like WordPress to produce two or more concurrent blog streams. Simply using categories and a few adjustments on presentation code can let you show a ‘main’ blog as well as a secondary stream – for example an ‘in brief’ blog.
  • Audience Participation
    It involves more admin work, but adding a public blog/news breaks right out into community blogging. See an example on Stylegala. How do you do it? With some WordPress cleverness you can create an invisible post and use its comments to create a stream that has an approval queue (the comment approval queue) and with styling looks nothing like a comment sequence.

Those are some thoughts I’ve had, but with a little thought and a little ingenuity, your next blog could easily break out and tread a whole different path.

7 Deceptively Hard Blogging Tasks

As a delightfully faddy sort of thing to be doing, blogging attracts waves and waves of newbies to its folds, all looking to get a blog started and for it to rise to success.

Today I reflected on some of the tasks involved in blogging that have turned out to be a lot harder than I had expected.

1. Making Money

The well known blogger Steve Pavlina once wrote in his must-read post on blogging:

Can you make a decent income online?

Yes, absolutely. At the very least, a high five-figure annual income is certainly an attainable goal for an individual working full-time from home …

Can most people do it?

No, they can?t. I hope it doesn?t shock you to see a personal development web site use the dreaded C-word. But I happen to agree with those who say that 99% of people who try to generate serious income from their blogs will fail.

What makes this such a deceptively hard task is that the success stories of blogging have very loud megaphones and can leave you thinking your road to riches is just waiting to be trod.

Unfortunately that road happens to go up and down some pretty big hills and monetizing any blog, let alone a brand new one can be a challenging task.

Sure anyone can make a few bucks with Adsense. But making a decent, healthy income is no mean feat.

Fortunately there are plenty of people ready to help you, my two favorites are probably Maki’s aptly named DoshDosh and JohnChow’s less imaginatively titled JohnChow.com

2. Making Lists

Perhaps you are familiar with the blogSmashingMagazine, if not suffice to say that if you looked up giant linkbait lists in the dictionary, the Smashing logo would be right there next to it.

Here is a sample of their articles – rather aptly about linkbait. Whenever SmashingMagazine so much as coughs it makes it to the Digg homepage, Delicious popular and generates hoards of comments and linkbacks.

This has led to some criticism of the site for not producing original content and simply copy+pasting other people’s hard work.

Here is where the deceptively difficult bit comes in. If you have ever actually tried to make one of those gigantic resource lists you will no doubt have some appreciation for just how time-consuming, mind-numbing and painful it can be.

Now try doing that every two-three days AND keep coming up with winning formulas.

Yes making huge lists IS great linkbait, and the reason it remains so is because it’s too much of a damn pain-in-the-ass for the majority of us to actually do.

So when someone like Smashing comes along and hands you a giant list of bookmarks on a platter, you know what you feel like doing?

You Digg/Delicious/Vote for it in whatever way you can to show your appreciation for someone else lugging that giant burden!

3. Getting Dugg

We all know about the Digg-Effect and the torrents of traffic that follow a frontpager. When you peruse the front page of Digg on any given day you could be forgiven for thinking “I could have done that”, but alas it is much harder than it looks.

Many times have I tried and only on a few occasions have I succeeded – mostly with formulaic pieces designed for digg.

Getting dugg seems to take a special combination of luck, cleverness and skill. Either that or having an inside story on Kevin Rose!

4. Getting a Readership

When I started blogging I assumed that all I would need to do was start posting and the readers would start arriving…magically…from somewhere…like the magical world of readers. What actually happened was well not a whole lot.

You see it turns out that to get a readership takes an awful lot of work. Not only do you have to write great content, you have to market it, interact with other people, publicize your blog, format your blog and do a host of other things to get your blog to the point where a readership can grow organically.

5. Breaking into a Niche

Sometimes one chances on an untapped niche, when that happens then strap yourself in and just keep blogging.

But for most blogs it is a struggle to get noticed in your niche. There are usually existing players with existing readerships and probably a whole lot more experience. So how do you break in?

It all comes down to time, hard work and finding an angle to differentiate on. If you can’t differentiate, there probably isn’t much point to your blog.

6. Posting Regularly

When you first start a blog posting regularly is not so difficult. You’re new to the game, excited about posting and have plenty of ideas.

As time goes by – and this is particularly true if you have not taken a giant leap and committed to full-time blogging – some of this enthusiasm can wane and posting regularly and on schedule can become more labour than it used to be.

The secret to getting past it? Just push through. It’s like exercise, you just need to keep going because soon it becomes habitual and blogging gets easier.

7. Not Giving Up

It’s been said many times before, but I’ll say it again. Blogging is a long distance race. If you can just not give up you will find you pass many of your early competitors. Blogs dies by the bucketloads so just by surviving you will outdo most.

Unfortunately there is a reason many blogs die, in fact it’s in the title of this post. Because at the end of the day, blogging itself can be deceptively hard.

Luckily it’s also the best job in the world. So the way I see it is that if blogging wasn’t a little bit hard, if it wasn’t a bit taxing, if there weren’t some challenges, then perhaps everyone would do it and I wouldn’t get to have so much fun telling people I am a blogger!

A Holiday Wish-List for Bloggers

Every blogger would love to wake up on Christmas morning to find a few gifts under their tree.

Whether you go with WordPress, Typepad, or something in between, this holiday might provide an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important to your blog.

Whether you blog for financial reasons or just for fun, everyone wants one thing out of their work- more!

We all want more success, notoriety, and a following that tunes out the competition and zeroes in on you and your message.

Two things are important to remember in generating your wishlist: results that depend on you and those that rely on readership and other blogs.

This is an important distinction to make because some writers get in the habit of blaming external forces for getting in the way of their success (”that darn Technorati ranking is holding me back!”).

At the end of the day, blogging depends on persistence, creativity, focus and a good set of habits to generate content.

Here are some items to include on your holiday wishlist:

10 reliable guest posters

A solid guest post is like gold as it connects her/his constituency with your own, adding up to a whole lot of folks who will want to read your blog.

Guest posters are trusted allies that can help you in a pinch when your creativity dries up or provide needed resources when you most need it. A guest poster can also lend a new perspective that might broaden the readership of your blog.

I have come to rely on HD Biz Blog’s Stephen Smith as a good source of tech-related content and Lisa Hendey (Productivity at Home) as a source for family-related posts.

20 comments per day

Many of us post comments as a way to increase our own presence in the blogosphere but honest and reasonable comenters are important for us as well.

Good comments give us energy and momentum. A genuine comment is helpful to let you know that “you’re not alone” and that someone is indeed listening.

To get 20 quality comments per day…not a bad holiday gift for the new year!

30% jump in Technorati authority rating

Yes, this is an ambitious gift item and you might fall short but any jump in Technorati ranking is a good thing.

All bloggers ought to desire a “Top 100″ ranking, something which has become the crown jewel of blogging life. While the Technorati gods do not always smile when they ought to due to an occasional case of getting stuck, it’s still a valuable piece of feedback.

40 daily followers of your Tumblr log

Tumblr is one of the best kept secrets that more bloggers should use. It gives the blogger a chance to tag items of interest and further his/her own professional development.

It also gives readership a window into what you’re thinking about and interested in. To gain 40 quality readers each day is to increase investment in your mission.

As an example, if your work focuses on Mac-related technology, a Tumblr log might give you a way to keep your blog free of “too many links” and at the same time, show your readers what you’re looking keeping tabs on.

I like how Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has listed his Tumblr log in the links section of his site. Simple, clean and effective.

50% traffic increase

While this won’t happen overnight, a steady diet of posting and networking might indeed produce a 50% increase in traffic. This is rarely possible if all that you do is provide content but there are other things that you can do.

Providing guest posts on other blogs, using print media, and generating e-books are all ways that generate traffic.

100 daily Adsense clicks that produce income

Too many small blogs use Adsense in vain. Without some serious traffic, ad clicks can be a very, very slow path to income.

On the other hand, the marriage of well-placed ads and an increase in traffic can add up to some serious dough.

Many people find that experimenting with ad placement and design style are the best strategies for generating income.

1000 new RSS subscribers each week

What blogger wouldn’t want a readership that increases visibly each week? With explosive growth comes the responsibility of providing top-flight content and the privilege of facilitating a community of readers.

Using forums, polls and prizes all provide results but there is no substitute for a genuinely fresh and authoritative blogger. In a culture that values expertise, an excellent blogger becomes a voice for the people.