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Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

Posted By Guest Blogger 3rd of June 2014 General 0 Comments

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:


Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:


I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:


A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggestStart typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”


A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. This post is so helpful, Rand! I will certainly be bookmarking for my own reference and getting it out to my readers. Is there any idea as to why Google doesn’t include actual numbers in its keyword planning tool? I’ve seen other inconsistencies in Google Analytics, but that just seems bizarre.

  2. Interesting post. It makes sense to get things right first time then by the sounds of it instead of going in and tweaking posts that have already gone live. Do the research before on your keywords to go along with the content to make the optimal post. CMS like WordPress make this easy with a lot of third party plugins but ultimately you need to stop and think before pressing the button.

  3. I found this post very helpful. I try to boost my blogs traffic with SEO, and I have been trying to figure out what should I change. Thanks for explaining keyword reasearch part.

  4. I absolutely love this post! Great suggestions that I will put to use. I’m constantly asked about SEO and titles. This is easy to do and works like a charm.

  5. I absolutely LOVE Problogger, but I really wish there were more “Pin Worthy” pics. When I try to share content on Pinterest, I get a weird broken looking icon instead of a featured image.

    I love sharing great content on Pinterest and I know my teaching bloggers would benefit as well.

    Best Wishes,

    • Heather, have you ever tried Share As Image? It’s not as simple as simply pinning a picture from the website, but it does give you the chance to pin the article as a quote–and you can pick the words you quote, attribute the source, choose font/color, etc.

      – Brittany

  6. Great post Stacey! I think this one could be turned into a newsletter and conversation in the community, I know I would follow and listen in…thanks!

  7. This post answers my questions regarding SEO and implementing them in my blog post. Thank you so much! This is really helpful.

  8. this post has everything I.wanted……..now it’s the time for writing blog post…..

  9. This is an awesome post, thanks so much for sharing! I will definitely put these tips into action and start implementing them in my upcoming blog posts.

    Keep up the awesome work!

  10. Love it, Rand! I’ll be going through old posts and optimizing them this week! I like what you said about not optimizing all posts. Great, readable content still matters!

  11. Now THIS is a great post! Thank you times a million for sharing this with the world. We’ll have this post open next time we are writing a post and optimising it for SEO! Huge hugs!

  12. So useful, great post!
    I hope this suggestion can help me to improve my blog’s visitors.

    Few months ago my visitors dropped, I don’t know why?
    Can anybody help me to improve my visits?

  13. Keyword Research and Natural Link building are the two factors that can help you in getting decent search engine traffic for a very long period of time. That’s main reason, why i always try to do keyword research before starting writing article on my blog.

  14. I’ve lost touch with SEO practices but I’m getting back into the swing of blogging after a two-year hiatus. Google analytics keeps so much info with their “np keywords” that I feel like it’s impossible to see what keywords are ranking well. There are some that come up (20+) but the majority get hidden or so it seems.

    The new keyword planner hasn’t been as easy for me to navigate either.

    Maybe I should be focusing on the ones I KNOW I’m hitting?!

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll approach my SEO differently with the posts I’ll be sharing in the future!

  15. Yeah! No one actually wants to see a decline in daily visits. Though, social media can give you a quick start but later on its all about Google. If you are coming up in Google, then you are the real winner ;)

  16. Thanks Rand for this resourceful article.

    I especially liked the way you explained choosing the Heading to attract the eyeballs. Human eyeballs are more important than the eyes of Google :)

  17. Great post! The problem I find with SEO is that it’s really easy to do but usually people don’t put in enough effort. Although there are plenty of guides, they are usually of such a low quality that it’s hard to take them seriously.

    Thanks for rising above the fray!

  18. Wow!
    I have found something useful. I was really confused as how and what title should I chose. Bu the way you described, is so amazing. Very clear and step by step guidance. Thanks Rand.

  19. Thanks rank for this informative blog post. I would rather write lengthy posts, that will generate more long tail keywords. They’re low competitive and more targeted. It’s really paid off.

  20. Yeah! No one actually wants to see a decline in daily visits. Though, social media can give you a quick start but later on its all about Google. If you are coming up in Google, then you are the real winner ;)

  21. I think SEO becomes quite simple when you do the following:

    1. Do the keyword research
    2. Get in the head of people who search for it, and ask what they actually want
    3. Provide the solution or answer to that problem
    4. Write for humans and let the keyword density happen naturally

    The latter become more and more powerful. Google is very intelligent in 2014, and when I look in Google analytic, I see that many keyword phrases that brought visitors to my content, not even once appear in my content word-by-word.

  22. Thanks Rand for this cool piece of information. I have shared it on my Facebook page. Clearly 5 mins of SEO before hitting the Publish button has helped me alot.

  23. Thank you very much Randi for sharing this informative piece with all of us. Keyword research is so important and you hit some very good points in this post

    Have a great day!!

  24. Now I just recognized my mistakes when publishing every posts.. We often go ahead for finding out traffic, but don’t wonder why they had been made? Thanks again..

  25. This is great advice for bloggers. So many people avoid doing SEO because they think it means something bad, but by thinking of SEO for just a few minutes before hitting publish you can accomplish so much more.

  26. That is the reason why SEO Can never be dead. Every small or big business needs visits and that too relevant and if they will not do seo they will never be able to get the traffic they deserve.

  27. Thanks Dear Rand!
    You have shared awesome post and it will help for my educational blog. And i have applied social tricks which are provided by you, and after applied i got good results.. :) Hope so i will increase the domain authority of My Blog.

  28. Another wonderful post from this blog. I found the link through Google+ (Rand shared it) and I loved the post. I probably know now what my blogs have been missing lately.

  29. Great insights!!

    But somehow I always feel that searching for keywords and then writing your posts is so artificial. You always tends to write for search engines rather than human and that does effect the quality of articles.

    May be it’s only me, but I prefer to write whats in my head.

    • You said it bro, instead of keywords it should be your objective as in why do you blog.
      Rest these tricks are out there being told 100 times from early 2010 in different forms and ways :)
      Keep doing what you are doing.

  30. As ever, a brilliant piece from Rand, worth sharing !

  31. Great advice thanks, these are definitely some practices I have been using of late myself too. I have also been in the habit of then building links to my articles after this too.

  32. This was more of a case-study. Totally in-depth and good research done behind that article. Kudos!

  33. Social gives that instant boost but SEO will always be king in blog promotion.Very well explained here !

  34. Rand,
    Great piece. When I first began blogging, immediately upon walking down the Mayflower gangplank (it only seems that long ago), the first real traffic came as I realized the importance of SEO. I’d been blogging for over a year at that point. This was nearly a decade ago, but I followed the steps you lay out here.

    The traffic influx was virtually instantaneous. More people discovered my posts, and all was good. Fast forward 7 years. I’d like to think my posts are better, but can’t recollect the last time I followed all the steps you discuss here. Sure, I use WP SEO plugins, and probably turn out better keyword optimized optimized posts than before. The foundational research, on the other hand, has gone missing.

    I haven’t even done the most basic steps of measuring relative searches and competition. Why? I can’t answer that, really. In fact, until I read this, I hadn’t realized that I’d forgotten the basics.

    Landing on the top of Google, even for competitive keywords, used to be simple. You’d follow the steps you discuss above. I also used the simple number of allintitle results to measure competition. Then, I’d write a compelling, informative post with a couple of links to research supporting it. Typically, I eschewed the quick hitters. Most posts totaled well over 1,000 words, with the norm being closer to 2K.

    My posts rarely strayed far from page 1 for my targeted keywords; often in the top three, and not for the esoteric. Most of my posts were on personal finance, and I had the fortune to snag number one Google slots for phrases as “discount stock brokerage”, “debt free”. and “how to increase diesel fuel mileage”.

    What happened?

    Things changed. Google’s algorithm changes like the wind, and the old formula of good info backed by in-depth subject research, preceded by basic keyword research, and a smattering of on-page SEO was no longer enough. Even ratcheting up the on-page SEO was no longer any guarantee of success. Position 10 on page 10 seemed just as likely as the top 3.

    After a while, I just drifted away from SEO research altogether. I still do the easy, on-page stuff. After all, “plugging” in the correct phrases in all-in one or Yoast is so damn easy. You can even follow it up with some social media love.

    It delivers exactly the results in your pretty little graph. A quick hit, than banished to obscurity for all time; that’s the dominant pattern. Even re-sharing down the road only rekindles the bump for the briefest instant.

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m ready to jump back on the bandwagon again, and .do what it takes. Will it work? Only time (and G) will tell…..

  35. the first thing to do after post is its meta content editing and social sharing these two things made my site high ranked…..

  36. Ya, But I thinking in a long run writing for audience is more important than writing for Search Engine. Create a Good content which people want is the key in the long run i guess

  37. You always post such insightful and actionable content Darren. I originally learned of your skills from Pat Flynn, and I’m glad that I did.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  38. Vow what a wonderful topic. If someone has to blog seriously he must not forget the importance of SEO
    No doubt just writing for search engines is not good but for just writing for people online is just like you print your post instead of publishing online.
    So to make people read we must get our post noticed by search engines and for this we must follow all basic rules of SEO to make our post go vial. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post.

  39. Breaking it down like this was really helpful to me. I’m curious how you feel about keeping your url the same as your post title (if your post title does not have keyword exactly as listed in keyword planner tool). For example, with this post, if my post title was the same as yours, I’d make the url /how-to-seo-your-blog or whatever keyword I was using. Which way is better for SEO? Having them not match or at least having the url as the keyword?

  40. Damn, that was an awesome article. SEO is the heart of every article, new articles gets views but it is the evergreen articles that will help boost the sites earnings in the long run.

    Keyword suggestions are the best, now I am using it more often to gather more search results from the very own Google.

    The best work always goes beforehand, after the article is published there is very little to no hope. Thanks for sharing, I found this on kingged.

  41. Google’s autosuggest is a great idea and a lot easier to use than the keyword planner tool. Thanks for the article.

  42. I was wondering, for bloggers who are beginners, unless they make use of some SEO plugins (in the case of WordPress only) don’t you think, trying to take these much number of SEO factors can severely dampen the writing freedom? I am talking about new bloggers only, because estimates suggest that hundreds of thousand of new blogs spring up every month in the internet.

  43. And also, I would like to ask one thing. One of my friend argued that Blogspot blogs have better search engine visibility for the same content as compared to their WordPress counter parts, considering that Google owns Blogspot. I could not find any solid proof for this claim. What is your opinion on it? I mean, if we think on it from Google’s perspective, don’t you think Google will somehow consider to self endorse their Blogspot service in search results.

  44. Great post, very helpful. What about the “meta description”? Is it not so relevant for SEO or to optimize a post? Thank you

  45. That’s the problem for every blogger. A blogger always want to publish his post as soon as possible and be relaxed. But a better quality post comes when you sit not just to publish a post but to write a post.

  46. SarahBDanks says: 06/05/2014 at 2:41 am

    Finally…FINALLY!!! I’ve been using Google Autocorrect as part of my keyword research for quite a while now and every time I mention it to any other SEO, they looked at me like I was CRAZY.

    So thank you for validating a method I think is very beneficial!!

    Great post overall — little things like “maybe I should write 3 titles and choose the best one” are great tips.

    Thanks again :)

  47. I am extremely impressed with the view point. Thanks for sharing such useful information in your blog.

  48. I like the focus on Google and it also worries me. The promise of social media is that perhaps we don’t have to live and die by out Google rankings. While I like Google it worries me that so many of us are the the mercy of one very powerful company.
    I would much more prefer traffic to come from many more sources.
    I hope that traffic one day becomes like investing. No more than 3% of your investments should be in one particular stock. The same way I would hope that no more than 3% of our traffic would come from one source.

  49. This is a informative blog.You made a few great Idea for Keyword ranking.Even,You details that “How can I increase our page ranking without SEO” .As far as I think that you r post will be helpful for our site.I mind that you add many important post for us.I await your next Blog.
    Thanks a lot for publishing your great Blog.

    Munmun Nishi :)

  50. thank for posting this useful article that very helpful for reader . I am regular reader of your articles that you place in this blogs. SEO blogpost publication is very important for your sites. keep posting for readers………..

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