It was a different time then.
And one of the reasons I do not talk much about how I built my following back then is because I got a lot of exposure by being able to rank my website very easily on Google for a handful of competitive keywords.
Today, ranking on Google is much more challenging. Google now favors large brands over smaller websites, so you unless you significantly narrow down your topic, you may find it difficult to get any traffic at all from the #1 search engine.
Watch this video about what Google won’t tell you…
Note: The information in the video is still relevant in 2016 and beyond.
So having said all that, what are you supposed to TODAY if you want to create a successful website with traffic?
I cannot emphasize enough that you should NOT try to focus on a very broad niche like cooking or fitness.
Back in the day you could buy a domain name like AwesomeCookingTips.com, write a bunch of content that targets the phrase “cooking tips”, and within a few weeks you could actually find yourself getting decent traffic from not only that keyword but many other related ones.
Those days are gone!
But hey, don’t get discouraged. You can still get some traffic from Google to help give your site that initial exposure (more on that later), you just cannot rely on the engines solely.
And the first step to getting on Google’s radar is narrowing down your topic — and I mean significantly so you have a very specific kind of person you are targeting.
So instead of creating a generic “cooking tips” website, you could use a program like Long Tail Pro (affiliate link) to research a much smaller, less competitive niche that doesn’t have as many larger brands ranking in the top 10.
In other words, you don’t want to have to compete with The Food Network, eHow, Cooking.com and other large brands that would be difficult to outrank today.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. As Google continues to give preferential treatment to brands, it is getting more difficult to discover a worthwhile niche that doesn’t have a lot of well-branded sites in the top 10.
So instead of going for “cooking tips” you may decide to build a site on meals for children with celiac disease. That’s a TRUE niche.
Nevertheless, that is exactly why you cannot fully rely on Google.
Yes, it’s a good idea to do some research to significantly narrow down your niche, but once you begin getting some traffic from less competitive, long tail keywords (affiliate link), you want to expand into other areas like email marketing, social media and video so you aren’t relying on traffic from one place.
More About Search Engine Rankings (SEO)
Even though it is harder to generate a lot of Google traffic today, you still want to make sure your site is optimized for as much traffic as possible.
Your first step is to narrow down your niche as I mentioned above. The more focused your content is, the easier it will be to rank for various keywords.
Next, choose a WordPress theme that has search engine optimization settings built in (like Genesis themes). And then install the Google XML Sitemap plugin so you can alert Google automatically of all your new content.
If your theme does not have SEO settings, you can install Yoast. This is an all-encompassing SEO plugin that will help you add the necessary tags and keywords to your posts.
SEO Plugins are fine, but you can’t rely on them to rank your site well. (In fact, I no longer use them and explain that here.)
Grab Those Email Addresses Now!
One of my biggest regrets in the early days is ignoring the advice about collecting emails early on.
The reason this is incredibly important is because no matter what happens with Google traffic or social media sites, no one can take away your subscribers. This is traffic that you truly own and have more control over!
So once you do start to get some traffic to your site, you want to hold on to those visitors by obtaining their email address.
Now pay attention to this…
Don’t bombard people with advertisements and sales pitches or you’ll turn them off. Email is a super sensitive medium and people don’t want you filling their inboxes with half-baked content or promotional offers (unless, of course, your have an ecommerce site and that selling expectation is already set.)
You want to keep in touch with them by continually providing value so when you do launch your product, you have someone to market to.
You can also use your email list to promote new content or occasionally promote products/companies you may be affiliated with to build additional income.
My email list is tied to updates here on this blog. So every time I post something new, a snippet/teaser goes out to my subscribers and they must click from the email to read the rest of the post here on this blog.
This is easily setup through AWeber’s (affiliate link) Blog Broadcast feature and it’s a great your readers abreast of your new content.
Now, if you blog more regularly, you may not want to use the Blog Broadcast feature because there IS a such thing as sending “too many emails.”
That’s OK if Blog Broadcast doesn’t fit with your strategy, you can save your email list for your important and exclusive messages/offers.
You don’t HAVE to use AWeber’s Blog Broadcast if you sign up for their service. If you want, you can just send individual mailings that are not tied to your new blog posts.
However you utilize your email list, the idea is you have access to another traffic stream that is not dependent on Google.
Please, please, please don’t ignore the importance of building a list.
Sign up with AWeber here and it will help you manage every single aspect of your email list — from easily creating the sign-up forms, designing your email templates to sending out your messages.
Choose One Social Media Site to Focus On Initially
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the social networks available? Do you ever wonder which one is best? Where should you even start?
The truth is, most people find that they get the majority of their engagement from ONE network or two at the most.
Take a poll of your readers and find out where they like to spend the majority of their time. If there is a clear winner, focus on that platform first then expand to the others.
For example, if you’re starting a wedding site, it makes sense to start with Pinterest. Wedding sites are very visual and a perfect fit for this network. Check out how I use Pinterest for my hair site.
Or maybe you decide to only focus on YouTube. You can actually use clickable annotations inside the video to link to pages on your site. Watch the video below to see how this works…
Choosing one or two networks is a great way to keep from feeling overwhelmed in the beginning.
Don’t Build a Wikipedia-Like Site
Aim higher than writing encyclopedia-like content.
Years ago, this could work. You would just pick a phrase or group of phrases you want to rank for, throw up some mediocre content and in a few weeks or months you’d be pulling in tons of traffic from Google.
Today, Google relies more on your overall Authority to rank websites, so it’s more important than ever to build a site that stands out from the crowd.
Also, people’s attentions spans are incredibly short and they are inundated with content on the Web and social media. So it takes more to get their attention than it did years ago. Learn how to write content that gets people talking!
You can also use video to make your content more interesting. There’s a trend developing where people are creating short, animated videos to improve engagement.
I started doing this myself with a program called Powtoon. You can read about that here and see my videos.
The Bottom Line
As you’re developing your site, ask yourself these questions…
1) Am I doing anything drastically different than my competition so I can stand out?
2) Is my content compelling? Can I use my own personal experiences to prove a point or build a stronger connection with my readers?
3) Is my content believable?
4) Is there a demand for the content I am offering?
5) Can a video make my articles more exciting or easier to understand? How can I use Powtoon to breathe life into my articles?
6) Am I passionate enough about this topic to be transparent, interesting and motivated for years to come?
7) Am I putting my audience’s needs first?
If you want to succeed online, you must develop a strategy to help you stand out from the crowd. Otherwise you’ll get swallowed up in the sea of blog posts, videos and articles.
Just writing mediocre content expecting Google to rank you is not enough anymore. The game has changed! And when you take time in the beginning to plan your strategy, traffic won’t be as big of a challenge.
People will embrace your originality, authenticity and transparency!
Got it? Great! Now make sure you’re on my email list so you don’t miss any of my tips here.
By the way, Website Palace is my domain and hosting reseller site. So if you need to start a website, I’d appreciate your business. Thanks in advance.