SEO can be one of the most daunting elements of online marketing. And if you want your website to be read by many people, you need to be good at online marketing. It's a simple proposition really.
The purists of social media will tell you this and that about organic growth, and relationship building, and puppies rainbows and unicorns. But the reality is that you can yap away in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all day long and get hundreds of people to visit your site. Unfortunately these will be (most likely) the wrong people.
Building a relationship is nice, but it doesn't mean that you'll achieve your goal with that relationship. It is better to attract the right people with whom you want to build a relationship with. Doesn't that make sense?
SEO is about getting the right people to your site, and the right people are those that are uniquely interested in your content, in your story, in what you have to say. SEO is about getting the right kind of traffic to your site, the kind of traffic that converts. You think your friends and family in Facebook will care about your latest product? Maybe. Will they buy it? Not likely.
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But, there are thousands of people that are looking for what you've got. The trick is letting Google know that you have the answer to those people's problems. You have the information to answer their questions. That you are a valuable resource worth of brining up to the front page.
So what's a blogger to do?
You can spend hours in your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools, researching, segmenting and creating goals and whatever else you want. That's good, learn how statistics work, learn how Google indexes your site. That's good, but it's also time consuming, tedious at times, and most often it is not what you want to be doing.
As a blogger, you want to blog. So my advice is to do that. Blog. Blog for you and your audience. Don't worry too much about keywords and keyword density and all that stuff. Instead, write. Write often, write well, but just write.
Then let technology step in for you.
After you've written a few articles or blogposts, you can then take a look at how they're doing. But there's a better way than Google analytics and Google webmaster tools. Well, let me rephrase that, there's a simpler and quicker way. That is HitTail.
How did I find HitTail?
I was hanging out at the masquerade party for Affiliate Summit with John Chow and Syed Balkhi and they kept talking about their long tail. LOL, and not that kind of tail. They were talking about their longtail keywords. It was all SEO talk. And they mentioned a tool called HitTail. So I decided to check it out and it turned out to be one of the best tools ever to come across my radar.
But you don't have to go through this trouble, just go to HitTail.com and check it out.
The Lowdown on HitTail.
HitTail is an analytics tool that you can install on your website. Similar to Google Analytics, or Quantcast or other tracking tools. You install it by adding a small piece of code to your site, or if you have a WordPress based website, like the free ones I build then you can use a plugin. The purpose of HitTail is to show you how people are finding your website. This just makes sense to me. Instead of you trying to guess how people are going to search for you, why don't you just let the facts guide you? Let your content sit out there for a little bit and see what kind of things people are typing into Google and leading them to your website. Then, and only then can you truly optimize your keywords.
HitTail is not a free service, but they have a free trial. After the free trial is over, prices range from 9.95 to 79.95 depending on how many websites and how much traffic there is to be analyzed.
The way HitTail works is that when you install it and it starts collecting information about your site, after a couple days you'll be able to login to HitTail and see exactly what terms people used to find your website. Sounds familiar? Maybe a bit like Google Analytics... But this is way better.
I would say that HitTail embraces the utility paradigm of the Unix philosophy and that's why I like it. Write programs that do one thing and do it well. And that is exactly what they do. There are no convoluted funnels and stats and tracking numbers. There are two statistics. The top ten keywords, and the long tail keywords. Technically they also show you total visits per month, total visits up to date, and forecasted visits for the month, but that's it no complicated segments, etc.
So what are long tail keywords anyway?
Generally when you ask someone what their keyword is, they'll tell you a one or two word keyword. Like "chocolate milk", or coffee mugs. These are regular keywords, and millions of people probably search for that everyday, but guess what? these are super competitive, any one 1-word, or 2-word, even 3-word keyword is most likely a very competitive term. These terms will tend to be dominated by bigger websites with a big operating budget to be on the front page of google.
A better way to start ranking for google is to find the long-tail keywords that relate to those main keywords. For example: organic chocolate milk coupon, or left handed coffee mug. Can you see the difference? Many more people will be searching for the first examples I gave, but the long tail keywords are extremely focused. They're also probably easier to target and try to rank for.
HitTail will tell you that about 70 - 80% of your traffic comes from the long tail keywords searches, so do you think it is worth looking at? Of course it is. It would be nice if you could be on the frontpage of Google for a single term search, like "shoes" but what are the chances that you'll beat Macy's Zappos and Payless shoes anytime soon? Instead, you can beat them at the long tail keywords.
HitTail will help you in two ways. If you write like I suggest, for your audience, then HitTail will show you what keywords your new visitors are typing to find your site. Maybe there's a phrase you use regularly that is attracting new visitors and clicks and you never imagined that this would be the case. So then you know that you should write more articles using that term. Slowly you keep building up the chain to shorter and shorter keywords.
Going back to the shoes example, a natural progression of building your SEO starting with HitTail could be to find that "orthopedic athletic shoes for seniors" is one of your longtail keywords, then as you improve your rankings, you can aim to make "athletic shoes for seniors" the next "shoes for seniors", and then eventually something like "athletic shoes."
This would allow you to eventually rank for both "regular" keywords and also longtail keywords and you could basically dominate your niche.
But you can use it in the opposite direction too.
But the other way that you can use HitTail is in the "negative" way. Perhaps you'll notice that a keyword is being used very often to find you, but in fact it has nothing to do with your content. It could be a phrase you use, or a popular topic, or a popular phrase in a specific community like a country or group of people. But you'll notice that the people coming in for that keyword just don't convert. HitTail will show you the keyword and then you'll have an "aha!" moment and you'll be more conscious not to use that phrase and find the proper keywords instead and use them for your next article. And then of course, you would want to go back and edit those posts or pages that have the attractive, but ineffective keyword.
This last way of using HitTail is how I recommend you look at it at first, when you start blogging. Do not make assumptions, but let the stats and facts tell you what is working and what is not working. When I started using this tool, I was blown away by how many things I'd missed on my own site.
So all this theory is nice, so what?
Well, you can find this information in other tools too, if you know how to use the tools and can manipulate them to do it and if you do it right. But like I said, HitTail is very easy to use. And the best part about it is that it guides you through an actionable process to improve your site. When you see the keywords in the dashboard, you can move the keywords to a "suggestions" section where you can review them in more detail. Once you decide you in fact want to use one of the keywords to help you optimize your site, or your next article, you can move it to your "todo" section. This simple but powerful system allows you to take action and not just look around.
When you come back to your blog to write, you have an action plan and clear list of keywords that you should be focusing on. Now... that's when you focus on keywords and keyword density and synonyms and all that stuff. One cool thing about HitTail that I haven't used yet is that they also have one more service to offer. After you've moved your keyword from "keyword" to suggestion, to "to do", you could actually request the expert SEO writers at HitTail to write an article for you based on that keyword. I like writing myself, but if you need to ramp up your traffic and ranking for a specific keyword, this article writing service could be an excellent tool for you.
Don't let all the mumbo jumbo of the SEO world intimidate you, don't let the so called gurus and SEO experts try to swindle you. Educate yourself on how it all works and you'll be better. Then you can hire someone to help if you need it, but chances are that you don't need them. Try HitTail and see how people are finding you, then you can adjust as needed. The pricing is very decent given the fact this tool saves you time and energy like you wouldn't believe.