Tightwad Marketing

How to raise your search engine ranking and traffic: a surprising new method

© John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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I’m sure you’ve read the hype about a new “magic” way to “explode” your website traffic and get top search engine rankings “overnight.” And I hope you know that those quotation marks indicate sarcasm.

I’ll save you the $29 or $97 or whatever those hype gurus are charging. Here’s the Big Magic Secret: develop and promote a relevant blog. That’s it. Period.

When you get through the 60-page e-book (fluffed out with repetition, plugs for other products, and glowing testimonials) that’s the core concept. A blog, properly promoted and related to your line of business.

So, does it work?

Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. These guys may be full of hype, but they’re not lying.

It’s important, though, to understand three key reasons why blogging works to raise a website’s search engine ranking and traffic.

First, a blog is, by nature, regularly updated content. Search engines are attracted to fresh content, because that’s what users are searching for.

Second, your blog content is fed directly into search engines as news. So, you jump to the head of the line every time you update your blog, neatly skipping the whole search engine submission/indexing process.

Third, subscribers automatically receive a blog’s latest content delivered directly to their desktop, bypassing email filters.

Sounds good, right? It does, because the hypemeisters are keeping you in the dark about the top six reasons why blogging may be wrong for your business.

  1. The feed takes a bunch of neatly targeted traffic offline. People can pick up your blog entries without visiting your website and being exposed to your marketing messages.
  2. Most blogging systems make you dependent on another host, server, or software package. Keep in mind that several major blogging services have gone under in the last few years.
  3. Most news feeds now carry advertising, and since the ads are increasingly context-sensitive you may be providing both the bandwagon and the bandwidth for a competitor.
  4. Blogs must be constantly updated, or you fall off the feed. How often will you really be able to blog? And, how much do you really have to say that’s relevant to your business?
  5. There are legal issues related to business blogging that have yet to be settled. In the United States, for instance, commercial communication enjoys significantly less First Amendment (“free speech”) protection than private communication. In addition, you may not enjoy the same protections as a professional journalist under “shield law” either. You may be held accountable for what you say in unexpected ways.
  6. Thanks to the aforementioned hype, there are an estimated 40,000 new blogs every day, many nothing more than spam in blog format. It won’t be long before search engines develop ways to filter those spam blogs out of their results.
So, do I think you shouldn’t blog? Not at all. I’ve had an online journal since 1998, long before blogging was widely known. My own Ad Blog has been going since 2003, and it has definitely played a positive role in attracting business my way.

If you visit my Ad Blog, you’ll see that I dodged the first three issues by building and hosting it directly in my website, using simple HTML, and not putting it on any feeds. You’ll also see that it has been updated frequently.

If you’re up to the task, go for it and stick with it.

But, you might not be a writer. It’s easy for me to dash off a blog entry – for most people it’s a much bigger chore. And remember, blogging is a regular task. That’s why most blogs fizzle out quicker than a New Year’s resolution. And, as soon as you stop updating, your blog falls off the feeds and your inside track turns into a dead end. Which (if you buy the whole blog = traffic argument) means you’ll have invested all that time and energy for nothing.

Ahh, but there’s an easier way: a surprising, low-key, low-maintenance way. The trade-off, though, is time. Not work time – you can probably do everything you need to do in less than an hour, plus a few minutes every few days. That’s much less time than it would take to set up and maintain a blog. No, I mean time in terms of when you’ll start seeing a difference in your search engine rankings. It’ll take a few months for this plan to have an effect.

Let’s go back to the #1 reason why blogging helps increase your website’s search engine ranking and traffic: regularly updated content.

See, it’s not the blogging that does the trick, it’s the regularly updated content. But, regularly updated content doesn’t have to mean a blog!

Here’s the Tightwad Marketing secret short-cut: regularly update your main page. How? By implementing a systematic method of developing and uploading relevant, fresh content. You will not find this method discussed anywhere else; I came up with this technique about ten years ago, and as far as I know, as of early 2014, it’s still a Tightwad Marketing exclusive.

The only catch, is that you must have full access to your website’s files, so you can make frequent changes to your website’s index page.

Here is how to do it. There are two approaches, which you can combine for greater effect.

The first approach is business category-oriented. You write three to five (or more) different first paragraphs for the copy on your home page. Each emphasizes a different aspect of your business. Let’s say you’re a catering company. You could have one paragraph each emphasizing brunches, lunches, dinners, corporate events, and private parties. That’s emphasizing, not focusing entirely on.

I’ll break those hypothetical paragraphs down further. Here’s a rough first sentence: “Welcome to Elite Catering, serving fine food throughout the Rockford area.” It’s basically the name of your business, business category, and geographical region. Write a few variations of this sentence for use with other first paragraphs. (“Elite Catering serves fine food throughout the Rockford and Tri-County area,” “Elite Catering is one of Rockford’s finest caterers,” etc.)

The next two or three sentences talk about one business category: “Call on us when you need a catered buffet brunch. Six scrumptious menus to choose from, from festive to elegant, with beverage service options available. Click on our Brunch Page for full details.” You’ll write one of these blurbs for each business category.

The last sentence mentions the other products or services: “In addition to brunches, we also serve delicious lunches and dinners, and provide complete catering services for private parties or corporate events.”

See how that works? The first and last sentences stay similar, but the entire middle changes completely.

TIP: you also can vary content based on seasonal business. Our hypothetical caterer, for instance, could also have a paragraph or two related to, say, holiday party services.

Important: note that these various paragraphs should have substantially different content. You can’t say the same thing in different ways; you must say different things in different ways. Duplicate content filters are good enough now to tell that “the quick fox jumped over the lazy brown dog” and “the dozing terrier, which had brown fur, was jumped over by a fast-moving fox” are basically the same. As long as you’re taking the time and effort, you’d might as well do it right.

Once you have your various first-paragraph copy blocks, rotate them in on your homepage, using a different one every few days or so.

What happens? Well, when the search engine indexing spider comes along, it’ll find your new content. The next time it visits, it finds substantially different, updated content. Hmm, the spider thinks (and no, search engine spiders don’t think; they’re just mathematical algorithms, which is why this technique works), to keep track of this website, I should visit it more often. And it does. And the more often the spider crawls your website, the more frequently it finds updated content. Does it compare what it finds today with what it found five crawls ago, so it can catch on to what you’re doing? That day will come, but it’s not here yet.

Key action item: just like blogging, you have to do this manually. Building a JavaScript that rotates content automatically won’t have any effect. However, once you have your swappable copy blocks written, this method takes much less time than blogging. Instead of having to think up and write a fresh new blog entry every day or so, you simply make these pre-written copy changes in a regular rotation.

In a few months, you’ll have “trained” the search engine spiders to visit your site more frequently. So, if your website has other relevant, indexable content, you’ll start creeping up in the rankings and getting more traffic. Any new content you add will get indexed quicker. And, because your website is indexed more-frequently, you can get more bounce from any time-limited promotional specials you offer on your website. And that brings us to the second approach.

The second approach is promotional. Have a rotating deal of the week or deal of the month. Again, write the copy for several deals, and cut-and-paste each into your main page in a regular rotation.

You can combine this with the first approach and generate a lot of content updates very easily. For example, if you develop five lead-in paragraphs and three promotional specials, right there you have 15 different updates, all just a cut-and-paste away. Depending on how often you update your main page, it could be months before the exact same content combination appears.

Key concept: this tactic works by simplifying the creation and regular changing of relevant website content. Your homepage copy is always on-message. But, it’s different every time the search engine looks at it.

This tactic also has the unique benefit of boosting search engine spider visits, not to some off-site blog page, but directly to your main homepage. Wow!

Does this method work? I tested it on an old website of mine that had fallen far down in Google rankings because I hadn’t touched it in over a year. First, I searched for it in Google using five different desirable keyword phrases, and found the website ranked somewhere between page 7 and page who-knows-where (I got tired of looking after page 20-something). Then, I rotated the copy in the first paragraph on the home page every few days. Within six weeks the website could be found on the first page of Google’s search results for three out of the five keyword phrases, and on the second page of results for the remaining two. Then, I stopped making the changes, and about two and a half months later the website started to sink in the search results. Other search engines will vary, and this was a one-shot test with one website. But I’d say it worked pretty well. And, you can test it for yourself.

Does this tactic work as well as relevant, regular, well-promoted blogging in terms of search engine ranking or traffic? No. It doesn’t take advantage of a news feed, the other big reason why blogs work so well at attracting both ranking and traffic. And, it doesn’t give you the benefit of a second online presence that can be promoted independently. But, even if it works half as well as blogging (and I’d say it works better than half as well), it does so with about 2% of the effort. That leaves you free to build and promote a business instead of a blog. Maximum results with minimum effort: that’s how to achieve Tightwad Marketing!
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