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What to do with 10 Hours on Your Blog?

reader-questionsRoss asks – What is more important, working on getting more traffic (digg, links from high traffic sites) or working on search engine optimisation? If you had 10 hours to spend on one or the other which would benefit you more?”

I think both strategies can be important for a blog – depending upon it’s life stage. They’re also really linked…

I’m a big believer in getting good SEO principles into play on a new blog from day one so in the very early days I’d work on some SEO above trying to leverage other site’s traffic. However most blog platforms come with fairly decent SEO these days and most of what I’d do on an SEO front after a few basic tweaks is while I’m writing a post (ie good titles, using keywords well etc.

In terms of leveraging traffic from other sites – a lot of this also happens for me in the writing process. Knowing the type of style and topic of posts that people like to link to is a big part of it. I don’t tend to actively promote many of my posts to other sites these days but instead let my readers do a lot of it.

Not sure if I’ve really answered your question Ross. So I’ll say this:

If it was in the first week of a blog’s life I’d work on the SEO of the blog (things like getting title tags right, looking at how it interlinks internally etc). In fact I’d work on this stuff before the blog was launched – but it probably wouldn’t take 10 hours. Once this stuff is set up it’s not something I generally spend a lot of time on – my focus switches to content creation.

In the coming weeks (and months) I’d work hard on developing key content that is useful, unique and attractive to other sites. I’d also promote some of that key content to other key blogs in the niche I was attempting to break into (keep in mind that in doing this you’re also really working on your SEO as incoming links play a big part in helping your Search Engine ranking). 10 hours a week doing this can really have a powerful impact!

What would you say is the most effective use of 10 hours as a blogger?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Great thoughts!

    I agree that they are really interlinked and one inevitably helps the other.

    But how frequently do you think a blogger should do major updates on SEO. The reason I ask this is because sometimes blogs with long-established PR suddenly lose their rankings even though they have not changed any of their SEO items.

  2. It does change over the life cycle of your blog, but I aim is to be able to spend 80% of your time on writing content.

  3. In the area of getting more traffic I think your better off spending some of that time visiting and commenting on other high traffic sites than continually submitting to sites like Digg. The traffic you get from participating in these other sites will more than likely get you visitors that will actually become part of your community.

  4. If I had 10 more hours, I would definitely be sinking my teeth into writing my content.

  5. I’d install and test all of the plug-ins that you’ve seen used elsewhere. And burn your feed at Feedburner.

  6. The balence has to be found, 10 hours can be very productive if you intermingle research with writing content, but writing content for the entire 10 hours could get a little stale. Personally I find it best to do research and have a ‘fun net surf’ (which are surprisingly similar!) between writing posts.

  7. URL formation, URL formation, URL formation.

    If there was one thing I could do all over again it would be this. This needs to be figured out before you ever post a single page of content. From a SEO perspective, this is such an important piece and overlooked by so many CMS systems out there.

  8. Cut down the time spent doing research, and increase your time writing. There are tools that will help you zero in on exactly the most productive terms to use in your blog headlines to build your natural search traffic most quickly. That way, you can focus on what’s really important–blogging!

    On a related note, for those who haven’t had enough of meeting other bloggers, following Darren’s Meetup here in NYC, feel free to stop by our SEO Super Powers Meetup at the Connors Office tomorrow, starting at 6:30PM. Free drinks. Subject: significance of Ajax to SEO.

  9. Interesting information. I personally spend 75% of my time gathering and creating content. The other 25% on SEO & marketing.

  10. I don’t think you can really separate the two, as “getting more traffic” also has SEO implications. I agree with Darren that SEO should be set up during the initial stages of a blog’s life. In fact, I’d be concerned if I need to spend 10 hours a week solely on SEO… So, the answer to the initial question is that, given the two choices, I’d spend most of my time building more traffic.

  11. 10 hours would be spent tweaking the layout of my site, making sure it makes sense to the end user / reader. Followed by quality content. I wouldn’t be spending a whole lot of time doing SEO or even trying to get onto Digg until the site has steady traffic, a decent RSS subscription base and more then a handful of articles.

    Getting listed on Digg or similar social networking / bookmarking sites is great, but if your whole blog is only a few articles, the reader won’t be bookmarking it, subscribing to an RSS feed or spending much time on other articles.

    Content is king, fresh content is even better.

  12. From the SEO/search engine perspective:

    Keyword research (1 hour). Research what people in my niche are actively looking for, and write content about it.

    If I target non-competitive long tail keywords, I can easily rank for those terms with my content alone (without lots of links). I wrote about this recently at Seomoz.

    From the user perspective:

    Content researching/writing (5 hours). This is the most important part.

    Networking (4 hours). Critical as well. participating in other blogs, with valuable feedback, is one of the best ways to get the right visitors to your blog.

  13. For years I’ve been hearing, and experiencing various situations implying content as king, but I’ve always found new content to be more enticing to read than ever. Fact of the matter is, I believe you have outstanding advisory notices, logic, and data in regards to blogging, and PR communication, and I enjoy reading just about anything you have to write.

  14. 10 hours should be spent on writing for the blog IMO. You’re not going to see much SE traffic in the first few months so you might as well put that on the backburner if you only have a few hours.

  15. @ Hamlet: I don’t really agree with your first hour. If you are blogging for the sole purpose of hopping on whatever keyword is hot right now, no blog will survive the long term. Additionally, it will more then likely come off as fake. I read 40+ blogs daily and there are few that have good content but no heart. By this I mean, you can tell that the content was written just to grab a digg headline or just to show up in search engines. Good content will last forever and people will always want to read it.

    I’d say if its your first 10 hours of a blog, focus on the subject / topic that is your blog. Keywording will come much later when you are trying to get specific visitors to your site.

  16. Between those two I would choose the third: splitting those ten hours in chunks of two during five days and spend them on other blogs commenting, talking, making connections and making presence.

    Sometimes (in most of the niches, actually) it is too hard to get on the first pages of search engines in short period of time. Sometimes it is almost impossible no matter how hard you try.
    Getting noticed on digg and similar sites can bring you traffic but bounce rate of those visits is too high. It is much wiser (at least, that is my case) to make a nice little community that will keep comments going and blog alive and interesting. Also, that can give a picture in which way to develop blog further….

  17. Mmm… So how would you spend time trying to get links from Social Bookmark sites?

  18. @Mike: Thanks for disagreeing. That is the best part of being humans.
    Let me first state that I agree with your piece about Digg. Writing content just to get diggs is not a great long term strategy. Also, long tail keywords are not the hot ones. They are exactly the opposite, niche untapped keywords.

    Now, let me ask you this. People use the search engines to find answers. If I do keyword research to find out what problems I can solve, and write posts addressing those problems, aren’t I helping users and helping my blog get the reach it needs to be useful in the first place?

    I have to say that search engines are hard to ignore nowadays.

  19. I’d spend 7 hours writing at least 5 long, well researched posts, and a few shorter posts, and i’d set them to be published one a day for the next few days. Regularity is everything but it’s easier to write a few posts at once than a post every day.

    I’d spend 2 hours commenting on other blogs and adding relevant blogs to my blogroll.

    The last hour would be spent on trying out anti-spam plugins, and a thorough look at whatever tool i haven’t got to grips with yet (Google Analytics, your website stats, feedburner etc).

  20. I find it interesting that Ross counts them as two different issues. Assuming that he is with any of the popular blogs the built in templates are easy to set up for SEO and once it’s done you don’t need to focus on it (url name, directories, title tags, etc).

    Links from high traffic sites are the key factor behind getting ranked and building your search engine rankings – getting links is not separate from working on the search engines – they are one in the same.

    Good luck!

  21. In the beginning I would also spend 2 to 3 hours optimizing the template/theme for SEO. When writing content for better SEO it’s important to structure it meaningfully. For example if you have your blog’s name appear on each page in h1 tags, use h2 tags for the content title and h3 and lower for headings within the content. Don’t overuse bold or italic tags, use meaningful anchor texts for links and use relevant tags/categories for categorization.
    The above is something that doesn’t effect the style of writing. When writing I don’t think about keywords. I want my readers to easily understand me. So I avoid long and comlplex syntactic structures and try to make paragraphs not too long. I do proof read my texts.
    I think keepings these aspects in mind and most importantly writing about something I am really interested in is the best way to attract readers and get links from other sites.

  22. There are some great responses here, it’s interesting to see everyones perspective.

    Evan, I see getting links from a highly trafficked social site different from building links from relevant industry sites and I guess that is the distinction. You’re right – wordpress is pretty good out of the box for SEO.

    It makes sense that you all say content is king, with a bit of marketing thrown into the mix. Thanks.

  23. My two cents on SEO…. I overhauled my WP blog several months ago and definitely saw an increase in traffic in the weeks following. WP is good out of the box (as has been noted). My problem was lack of focus and poor category names. I deleted poor performing / off topic posts, republished the good articles and then recategorized everything with better categories. So, sometimes a little effort on the SEO can take you a long way but as Darren said most of it reduces to good categories, keywords, titles, etc.

  24. I have just created my blogs on wordpress and mine are hosted by them so I guess that my options in terms of both money making and SEO etc are extremely limited. Would looking at keywords still be as important for me if I am looking to increase my readership? also (if I may be cheeky) do you have any tips on new bloggers that just want to increase hit/readers rather than making money (as i assume that with a wordpress hosted account i would be unable to do this anyway).

  25. I agree with your post. This go around I attempted to get the majority of my SEO work out of the way before launch and let the chips fall where they may. If I had 10 full hours I would much rather focus on writing quality content.

  26. I like to do research in my spare time. That could mean reading other people’s blogs, reading fitness news sites (my blog is about fitness) or going offline to read a book about fitness.

    Don’t underestimate offline time. Everyone who blogs seems to think blog work is all online but I’ve found that blogging also requires time away from the PC. Last week I spend a couple of extra hours at the gym talking to people about their workout habits. Gave me some great ideas and information about common workout mistakes for a series of articles I’m writing this week.


  27. Have you ever been self employed? As a former independent computer consultant, I spent 50% of my time doing the actual consulting work, and the other 50% marketing, sales and promoting myself. And collecting the bills, too! Same with sucessful blogging, you have to spend half your time getting yuor blog know and the other half writing good quality content with value!

  28. Creating informative content, searching for useful plugins for the blog and promoting on forums. That’s what I would do if I have 10 hours of free time.

  29. Darre, great answer…
    She needs to use SEF url on her blog .. That is so important.
    Using social bookmarking sites is also part of our SEO tasks.. (Not spamming them).

  30. Thank you for these really good tips. Can’t wait to get back to working on the blog!

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