When my daughter turned two, the only people that showed up to eat birthday cake at the party were immediate family members - mom, dad and her big brother, Adam. Why? Because we didn't send out invitations or put any effort into getting guests to show up.
While this may be perfectly fine for a family event or a toddler that doesn't know the difference, who wants to put time and effort into a business blog if readers aren't showing up? Over 80% of blogs stagnate with no traffic and few readers but, like Jillian's birthday party, the problem often lies with how people are invited to participate.
Simply having one doesn't make it generate results.
What are the most effective ways to get blog posts read?
- Sharing on social media
- Using an email list to distribute new posts
- Google or Facebook advertising to drive awareness
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Using ALL of these options is ideal, but if you can only chose one, then SEO gets my vote every time.
If you have a few hours to invest, here are THREE WAYS to transform your WordPress blog (or website) into a search-friendly traffic generator. All of them are free, other than the time you'll invest.
1. Install a good SEO plug-in. My favorite free SEO solution is WordPress SEO by Yoast, which makes it easy as red light, yellow light, green light. Pretty obvious, right? But keep in mind that installing it isn't helpful in and of itself - and many bloggers stop at this first step. Its real power lies in understanding how to use it correctly andchoosing the right keywords.
2. Do keyword research. Head over to the Google Keyword Popularity Tool and invest some time in keyword research to better understand which keywords drive the most traffic. The trick with keywords is to never assume you know which ones are best; ALWAYS do research to ensure you are using popular keywords that best suit your product, service and/or blog topic.
If you use localized keywords for your SEO efforts - such as "az life coach" or "life coach in phoenix" instead of just "life coach," you are much more likely to rank well - with the added benefit of landing more targeted readers. This is especially important if you are a local business.
I recommend creating a free account on AdWords (or log-in to your account, if you have one), then search for the keywords you think are most likely to be searched. Adding your city and state will give you local search results to review, plus some great ideas for blog posts that fit what people are looking for. Using the keywords you put in, Google will bring up a list of keywords actually searched the previous month. I prefer to export them to Excel, get rid of unnecessary columns, rank them from most to least popular, then save the document for easy reference later.
3. Choose one keyword, then include it in your post permalink, title and first sentence. If you have WordPress set to name the page URL as your post name (settings> permalinks> post name), this will automatically put the keyword in your post URL - also called the permalink. This is an essential component for SEO success.
Then, simply use the default text for the "SEO title" field at the bottom of the page (which is your title plus the name of your blog), and copy the first sentence of the post into the "Meta Description" field. If good writing dictates NOT using the keyword in the first sentence (which happens often but is not optimal), then paste in the first blog sentence that DOES have the keyword in it, or write one that uses the keyword and describes the post in a way that people will want to read it. Put the keyword in the "Meta Keywords" field, then you are all done.
SEO magic happens when you identify one keyword to focus on, then put it in the trifecta of permalink, page title and page description.
Make sure that keyword is included in the body of post a few times, as relevant and appropriate, hit publish and you are good to go. While there are other steps and tactics that help boost SEO, that's fodder for another article!
One last note - be sure and offer MULTIPLE WAYS for readers to subscribe. If you can't convert them to subscribers via email or RSS and/or they aren't seeing your new posts show up on social e, odds are good they won't think to return to your site. Your SEO may bring them to your blog the first time, but it may not bring them back.
(Want more detail on mastering Yoast and SEO? Head over to the Yoast Definitive Guide to Better Ranking.)