Keywords And Blog Traffic

Keywords and blog traffic

I’ve written on using keywords to drive traffic to your blog, and I certainly use the strategies advised by the tens of thousands of articles you can find on the subject, all parroting the same things that the handful of big, authority sites do. And in many cases they’re repeating Google press releases and updates, rather than citing any independent scientific studies.

Some sites do – cite scientific studies undertaken in keyword usage and produce fresh and original studies themselves (using what little Google data is available in many cases), but to be honest, the results and what they say, are more an exercise in academia than anything useful that can be practically applied to your blog. One study I read was all about the code used in your blog. Not the content, the backend code that is the blogging platform – like that’s something your typical blogger is tweaking or has any control over at all!

One report report I read over at Moz I think it was, showed that the ‘experts’ prediction on how well an article would rate on Google was as accurate as a flip of a coin. A bold article from Moz, since they’re all about how to do just that! Or at least improve your chances of ranking higher.

The problem for everyone – coding experts, marketeers and statisticians – is that Google is just not telling how its algorithm works, so they’re all left to unwind what they see in observation, and try and backward engineer a theory, or best guess in other words, of what they think is happening.

Nothing wrong in that, it’s the basis our understanding of the world is built on, and I’m glad these folks are on it. There are some very smart people looking at it after all.

Problem is that whilst there’s a lot of consensus of what is best practice, the finer tuning of it all to get the ranking you want, is sort of “black magic” i.e. your guess is as good as the experts. SEO, and its high priests, is a subject Michel de Montaigne would’ve had a ball with.

Now, I’m not saying to disregard everything you’ve read on the subject because of the uncertainty: I sure as heck don’t. But oft times I feel like I’m applying a SEO tactic as much out of superstition as proven effectiveness.

In fact much of the historical wisdom re SEO has been debunked. What with the many updates to the Google algorithm over the years, much of the prescribed advice is outdated and Google’s categorically said it has no bearing… but we all still do it. Like, we won’t walk under a ladder or break a mirror; just in case.

And “just in case” is a lot of what we’re operating off of with SEO and keyword advice.

SEO Observation Vs Theory

I’ve implemented all the tactics and seen zilch off low competition, high ranking keyword terms. In the few cases I’ve actually stumbled across those terms that is, that also aligned with my intended content.

One such term, I remember thinking I’d hit the proverbial goldmine for unearthing, that the blog I was going to use it on would see a significant increase in traffic, and clean up…!

That article still lingers at the bottom of my Google Analytics, read a fraction of the times of articles with low ranking, high competition keywords. Just the reverse of what I was told to expect in other words.

My highest read, and most clicked upon articles from organic searches, are articles with probably the worst keywords I could have picked going by what the keyword tools were telling me; the competition to get ranked was just too high.

I didn’t avoid the keywords though, as I knew the subjects of the articles I was writing on were massively searched. While I expected to be drowned out in the sea of search results, that never happened. Or mostly never happened.

Many times I found my pieces appearing anywhere between page two and five. Maybe not position one on page one, but decent placings nonetheless and better than I was led to believe would happen.

So what to do?

So, I don’t avoid posting on certain topics and the keywords associated with them for fear of wasting my time. Mainly because I’ve no clue how these articles are going to place, and I wouldn’t have written my most popular posts if I’d followed the line of perceived wisdom.

It’s not just keywords that determine how a post is ranked. There’s other factors such as site authority, engagement, links etc. And you should take “etc” to mean “and other stuff I’m not aware of or what Google’s doing.”

All that said, I’m still going to follow best practices re SEO, still going to research my keywords, but as to what happens… as the saying goes, you just have to let the chips fall where they may.

And keep on writing.

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