Penguins, Pandas, unnatural link warnings, site dropping from search results… What’s next? White bears or perhaps Platypus update?
I’m talking about the recent Google updates of course. These animal based names sound funny but it it’s not funny once you see your search engine traffic dropping badly. It wasn’t funny for most webmasters who got hit this April. Some webmasters and pro bloggers literally lost their entire business.
But don’t blame Google.
They do what they believe is best (for their own business). And they’ll keep doing it. And you can’t stop it. It’s pointless to be mad at them.
There Is Something Better You Can Do
Everyone works so hard to get search engine traffic. And what do they do with it after that? Many just hope the user will click on an ad or read an article and buy something from the affiliate links in it. This is a hit and miss business – in order to stay profitable, you have to get search engine visitors all the time. And only few of these visitors convert because they feel no engagement with your blog. This is a poor business model that relies on Google, Yahoo and Bing. And when you lose rankings, you lose the business. Bummer!
Here’s what you should do instead – work harder on retaining your visitors. Work to make them come back again and again to your site, and why not even spread the word out to their friends. The first and most important requirement to make this work is to have amazing content. And I mean not just text – think videos, charts, tables, graphs, tools, interactive content, products…
And after that? Here’s what:
1. Build Subscribers
Instead of trying to get $0.10 from a click on Adsense ad, try to get your visitor subscribe for your blog. Don’t place ads in your best content. Leave ads for other pages or sidebars. Your best content should have only two purposes:
- To impress the user and let them like your blog
- To have them subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feed
So, have your best posts focus only on this. You may lose some bucks of advertising or affiliate revenue but you’ll gain a subscriber. The value of a subscriber over time is much higher than the value of the one-time visitor.
2. Build Social Network Following
Try to get people like your page on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Once followed you in a social network, these people are yours until they unfollow you (which hopefully won’t happen much). Such readers will not only come back to your site when you share interesting stuff, but they will often also like, share, and retweet your links to their friends.
Do this in addition or instead of subscriber list building. Some niches work better in social networks, while the readers in some niches aren’t socially active and prefer to get email or RSS. So apply these techniques carefully considering your niche. If you are unsure, test it and see where subscription rates and returning visitors are higher.
3. Run Quizzes, Surveys and Tests
Do assessments, quizzes, surveys, give out badges. People like showing how they are good in something, or how they achieved something. Moreover, if you regularly publish knowledge tests related to your site, people will come back to learn and improve their results. Badges are often shared with friends on social networks. It’s easy to publish such tests with WordPress and plugins like Watu PRO.
This is not an easy stuff. A lot of bloggers publish naive 5 question quizzes and wonder why no one cares to take them. You need to be creative and create really interesting, preferably long, and original quizzes. Certificates of badges shouldn’t be super easy to obtain.
If you want to publish assessments, make sure your readers have some stimulus to participate. This works excellent on educational sites but will work on blogs too, as long as they have incentive.
Finally just a simple survey can make users feel important. And if you run some surveys regularly, here’s a reason for your visitors to come back – to follow the results of the last survey, and to take the next one.
4. Encourage Contribution
People like to contribute to sites that allow them to. What could these contributions be?
- Comments are the simplest form of contribution. Make sure to allow comments and encourage discussion. People often come back to a site and remember it because of a discussion they participated in, or just to see if someone liked / responded to their comment.
- Guest posts. Yes, many will do it for links. But even then this is free content for your site. And most guest bloggers promote their guest posts in social networks too.
- Pictures and videos. A picture of your cute baby, video of your wedding, pictures of your garden – people like to share such things, so make it easy to upload. Of course this depends on your niche. It doesn’t make much sense to accept baby pictures in finance blog.
- Code snippets, recipes, tips, anything that lets people show their expertise and doesn’t require much effort to post. This also depends on your niche.
- Community news. You should be careful about getting spammed here as community news would usually include links to other sites.
Don’t forget the social element. Make sure users can comment, like, give ratings or stars etc to others contributions. This builds a community and keeps people come back to your blog.
5. Encourage Sharing
I don’t mean just to put one of these “share this” widgets under your posts. You should have them of course. But you should also remind users to share your best stuff. Don’t be shy about this – just go ahead and ask them. And remember, users share stuff because of one or more of the following:
- It makes them look smart
- It makes them look cool, modern, and hip
- It makes them look cool original and different
- It makes them look good, compassionate, socially responsible
- The stuff is just too sexy not to be shared
Different users have different motives so if your content combines more than one of the above it has better chances to be shared. Again, don’t be shy to ask.
Use these techniques to build long-term following and you will not need to worry that much about the next Google update. Instead of building links, build traffic and followers. Then even if you lose all the search engine rankings you’ll still be in the game.
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