Blogging is not for traffic
I think the most widespread myth or misconception in SEO today isn’t a technical one. It’s the mindless default action of instantly thinking that the easy way to gain links or traffic is to add a blog.
Let’s make this really clear: Blogging is not done for the purpose of attracting new visitors or more traffic. Done right, it will eventually lead to links and traffic, but only as a side effect of what it is really for.
Blogging is to build rapport and repute.
A blog can be used exceptionally effectively to engage with an existing audience to demonstrate your expertise, your rapport with the needs and mindset of the reader, and ultimately, to build and showcase your reputation. It is that reputation you build that will lead, eventually to more engagement, more visits, and of course, more links.
As John Doherty of GetCredo wrote: “
I started blogging seven years ago, much to my partner-at-the-time’s dismay. I wrote for MONTHS and YEARS before it really did anything for me”.
Blogging for anything but the readers you already have, is a long-term strategy. It builds that rapport with the visitors you already get almost instantly, one hopes. If your posts, over time, continue to achieve and demonstrate your rapport with visitors, that will build in them a reputation for your being in-tune, someone they connect with… someone who understands their views.
At that point, they’ll more often start to cite you, link to your posts, as a supportive world-view. It takes the reputation, because without that, people are far warier about associating their own views with someone who merely agreed with them one time. What if your other views are wildly different? What if your next post utterly goes against their views, right after they’d cited you?
So, in general, it is reputation that gains links, far more consistently and reliably, than isolated posts.
There’s a good reason that I’m talking specifically about links at this point, when we’d begun talking about traffic. It’s because links themselves are the ways that search engines most commonly determine ‘repute’.
You see, adding more content to a site, should obviously increase the number of potential keyword combinations that will match at least something on your site. But, unless the content you add gains links, in proportion to the amount of extra links it’s adding to your own site, then all those extra pages are simply spreading out your site’s overall ‘authority’ or ‘reputation’ across more pages. Effectively, every time you add a page to a site without it attracting extra links, you are diluting the reputation of all other pages by that fraction.
Instead of those new pages working to add extra rankings for more and more phrases and searches, they might be lowering the position of the pages that were already ranking for good ones because the overall fraction of reputation for each page is reduced.
Why does this myth continue to spread?
There are two main reasons that the myth continues.
The first is that people with the largest social media following (based, of course, on repute) may get a lot of traffic every time they announce they’ve posted a new article. Social media shares and visits drive a few thousand fast visits for them every time they post.
The second is that people who have virtually no ability or skill in SEO at all may be getting their only success in the form of these social media shares, and the tiny ranking boost that fresh content gets to counter-balance the fact that the freshest content has had the least time in which to gain links.
Way back, in around 2003, Google’s results almost entirely favoured the older, more linked to content over almost anything else. That meant that it was very difficult for hot news and the most recent updates to rise to the top. So, Google created a ‘freshness’ boost, which gave brand new content a period of time in which it was given a counter-balance, like giving it an imaginary, honorary citation value that would decay swiftly over time. If the news was genuinely hot and useful, it would gain links quickly while boosted, negating the decay effect, and remain on the top. While most content would get its brief boost and rapidly run out of its “15 minutes of fame” effect.
However, for some people, that brief period of Freshness Boost is the most significant boost in rankings their content ever gets, and thus is a major proportion of their traffic (rather than the almost negligible effect it should be for any site not all about news headlines).
Unfortunately, those two very specific groups are significant. The first have large social media followings, and are usually described as ‘influential’. And the second group, those who simply don’t know any SEO, are very, very numerous.
Okay, but in the long-term, Blogging is for Traffic, right?
Again, and still, only indirectly.
You see, the largest effect on traffic won’t be all the thousands of extra long-tail search phrases you build up over hundreds of posts (although that will happen). At least, not if you do it right.
The biggest effect is in the huge increase to reputation, and thus to brand recognition and brand association. People won’t just be more likely to see you in obscure search phrases (which they don’t make very often). They’ll be more likely to remember your brand, and the positive associations of rapport and repute they associate with it when it shows up in other searches. You’ll get a significantly higher click rate on searches where you do appear. And better still, you’ll have a much better chance of being the preferred option when compared to rivals in those searches.
You’ll have a significant rise in the volumes of people arriving at the site directly, or from entering your brand terms into search (the searches you least have to worry about losing to competitors).
Compared to those benefits, the benefits of the uplift to reputation and brand, and the massive uptick in conversions from those, the extra volume of long-tail search is virtually meaningless in its insignificance.
Blogging is not for traffic.
Its far, far more important than that.