You’ve worked damn hard on your blog posts. You’ve spent hours and hours setting up the pictures, editing them in Photoshop, writing them, completing your credits, and then sharing them on social media. Wouldn’t it be nice for people searching for what you write about to also find your stuff?
Sure it would, but I know you don’t want to make a career of this, so I’m going to give the bare-bones on this SEO stuff. And, I’m going to give it to you in levels – so that you can decide what you do, and what you don’t.
“What is this ‘SEO’ you speak of?”
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, which is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid results. “Oh, come on Becky! I only blog for fun, why do I need to know this?”
Well, you don’t. But if you’d like to increase quality traffic through search to your Second Life blog, then knowing the basics of SEO will help. Sharing is caring, guys. Why hide your wonderful content from the world?
The good news about SEO is that it is really not that difficult, and neither should it be. Google wants to help people find your site. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t go through the enormous trouble of trying to index it.
With that said, let’s make it easy for them shall we? If you wanted visitors to find your home, for example, you might want to make sure the shrubs didn’t obscure the address numbers, you might turn the lights on in your front yard when you’re expecting your guests, you might sweep the driveway, you might even hang a sign out front of your house with your family’s name on it. Well, in a weird and simple way, that’s a bit like SEO.
Before we get into SEO specifically, let discuss how search works. If you don’t already know of him, please allow me to introduce you to Mr. Matt Cutts – who works at Google. Matt’s current official title is Head of Google’s Webspam Team, which means he’s in charge of stopping people from ranking higher in Google than they deserve to rank.
Over the years, Matt has become a bit of a spokesperson for Google, especially when it comes to answering questions for the millions of people and businesses that want to rank higher on Google. Think of Matt as Google’s cuddlier version of Torley Linden, without all the neon green and purple.
So Matt, how does search work?
Thanks Matt! Bonus points for adding a cheetah’s top running speed in the comments ;)
Ok, so now we know how search works. Remember when Matt said that Google asks about 200 questions to decide which page to show in its results for any given search query? Well, people working in SEO have made – and continue to make – whole careers out of trying to figure out what those questions are, and trying to answer them.
Apart from the basics in Matt’s video (and a few other snippets they’ve has shared along the way), Google isn’t public about how its search algorithm actually works, because then it would be too easy to game. And Matt wouldn’t like that.
So what are left to do?
We’re left to do the basics with what we know – meaning – writing for humans and optimising our blogs and posts in ways that are honest and help users find what they are looking for.
So with that said, here’s my first checklist:
Who are you and what are you writing about?
Remember when I suggested you find a niche for your blog? Well, if you’ve done that, this step will be a lot easier. If you haven’t, then maybe this little exercise will help you do it.
The first thing you want to do is to brainstorm some keywords and key phrases. For this I suggest you use you use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. No, I’m not suggesting you make ads; but we are going to use Google’s free tools to do some basic keyword research. Follow the steps in the link above. Once you’ve provided Google with some basic details about your “business” (aka your blog), then you’ll see a table appear under keywords.
Isn’t that nifty? Google just tells you what they think your site is about based on a free analysis of your content, and it also gives you the number of monthly searches these terms get in the geographic regions I specified (UK and USA). It’s all a bit generic, so you might need to brainstorm a bit more.
When you’re considering keyword phrases to target, ask yourself:
- “Who am I?”
- “What do I do that is special?”
- “What do I write about”
- “What do I want to write about”
- “What’s my angle on this thing?”
- “What’s my niche?
- “What would someone type into Google if they were searching about what I write about?”
You might want to consider keyword phrases like “sl fashion” or “second life fashion”, etc., to your list. But again, you’ll want to be more specific if you are going to compete for the 880 monthly searches for only that keyword phrase (see below).
The Keyword Planner can sometimes be a bit inaccessible unless you already have a working knowledge of Google Adwords. So, I used my Adwords account to create the list below for you.
I chose the keyword phrases from the blog category list I made for my work with Blogging Second Life. The average monthly searchers are the number of times the exact keyword phrase was searched for in Google (there were likely many more broader searches). Where there is no number means that Google doesn’t have enough data on that keyword phrase to show the number of searches. The competition score relates to the number of advertisers that showed on each keyword relative to all keywords across Google. The suggested bid is what Google suggests you pay if you want to receive a click from the phrase in their Adwords system:
What can you do with this list? There’s a lot more, but that goes beyond the scope of this blog post.
If you’re interested, then there are lots of posts and articles that share information on how to do more, starting with this post written by an internet marketer on how to do keyword research. Many specialists recommend sophisticated SEO tools to research, develop and update your keyword lists. Suffice to say, the Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a very useful and free tool you can use to get you started – and probably enough.
One other thing I would caution you about: This is not as simple as only targeting the most searched keyword phrases and hoping for the best. The most searched keywords are very competitive because they are so popular. To compete effectively with popular phrases, you are both going to have to be a super-specialist in that area and create a lot of content about it.
This is why you want to choose some popular phrases, middle of the road phrases, and hyper-specific phrases. This is also why choosing a niche is so important.
If you want engagement (likes, comments, and subscribers), then target narrow and specific keyword phrases. If you want traffic (views and visitors), then target broad and generic keyword phrases. Don’t expect much engagement if you go for traffic, unless there is very little competition in the space.
Level 1: SEO your Second Life Blog
Now that you have your preliminary keyword phrase list, there are a few things you can do with your blog to make it search engine friendly – right out of the gate. When I say blog, by the way, I mean your website (as opposed to an specific blog post; that’s Level 2).
First, you might be wondering if WordPress or Blogger is better for SEO. The good news is that neither is better. It’s your content and markup that matters. There is no evidence to suggest that one’s choice of platform makes any difference to the Google search bots.
Matt, would you back me up here?
A note about platforms: I’m going to mainly talk about WordPress. It’s nothing against those of you who use Blogger (or even TypePad). I write mainly about WordPress because I know it and use it. Further, In this post, I will specifically talk about WordPress.com (the free version most SL bloggers use), as opposed to WordPress.org (the self-hosted version). I’ll be writing a post comparing the different platforms in the future, so watch this space. Much of what I say here will be true for any blogging platform – I’ll just show examples of how to do it on WordPress.com.
Ok, so here is the first SEO checklist for your blog:
1. Optimise your Site Title and Tagline.
WordPress allows you to title your site (site title) and give a brief description (tagline) about what it’s about. Go to your dashboard, navigate to Settings > General. This is what that setting looks like:
What you write here is actually very important as it shows up like this in the code:
Canary Beck | Second Life Blog about online psychology and virtual ethnography
That little snippet above shows up on line 6 of the HTML code on the most important page (the front page) on my website. My site title (“Canary Beck”)will appear in the title tag of every post I write. So yes, Google spiders will take note. I’ve chosen to put my most important keywords there. Note too that they are not the most popular keyword phrases, but they do include some of them.
Most importantly, these key phrases are relevant to what I write about. Again, if you want engagement (as I assume most of us do) go narrow, go specific. Also, remember what Matt said about keyword placement, proximity, density, and synonyms? Your keyword phrases don’t just need to be near the top of near each other, they also have to reliably appear in your content in various semantic forms if the robots are to index you for this content (we’ll get to that in the next checklist).
*On Blogger this setting is under Settings > Title and Settings > Description.
2. Check your Site Visibility settings
Most of the time, WordPress will allow search engines to index your site as a default. But maybe you fiddled with privacy settings at one point or another. I’d be remiss if I didn’t have you check this one detail, because if WordPress is attempting to block your site from indexing, then everything we do from here on in is fruitless. Navigate to Settings > Reading, and make sure your option looks like this:
3. Don’t obscure your name in your Users settings
Some people (not many) will search for your name on Google. The problem is, you don’t often refer to yourself in the third person when writing (as I write this I remember that I did do exactly that in the first paragraph of this post, but let’s just ignore that for the time being). In your dashboard, navigate to Users and check to see that your Name is the same as your avatar name (or the name you are most well-known by). If you want to be creative, use your display name (it’s not that search sensitive because comments tend to be no-follow links) for that. I use Becky.
4. Choose a theme that displays at least 350 words on your front page.
WordPress gives you a lot of free and premium themes to play with.Many are just gorgeous, but not all are ideal for search.
Since so many Second Life bloggers love to share big and juicy images, this can be a bit of a minefield for some. One of the issues is the lack of text on many photo-oriented themes. While design aesthetic is another subject entirely, if you have a quick look at most of the more highly trafficked SL blogs, you’ll notice they include at least 350 words of text on their front pages. A theme like Twenty Fifteen:
Will probably be easier to index out of the box than a theme like this:
- Google spiders read text, not images. And navigation and post titles just won’t cut it. Pages with 250 to 350 words will outperform those with less. If you show full posts – then that’s great. Even if you show excerpts only, then 10 posts with 25-35 words in each excerpt will do the trick.
- Themes that include ‘about’ text on their front pages give you room to write some relevant keyword phrase content.
- The more images on your page, the slower your Page Speed and Google does include this in its ranking factors. You can really gain speed improvements by optimising your images before upload, but how many of us do that really? I’ll write a whole post about image management down the road, so I’ll get into it then.
5. Get your own domain name
Subdomains, like yourname.wordpress.com and yourname.blogspot.com are treated like unique domain names by Google, but they’ll not be as extensible and legitimate as having your own domain name.
Having your own domain name isn’t major issue if you will always intend to keep your site on a sub-domain on a freely hosted platform like WordPress or Google. If you have even an inkling that you might one day want your own domain name (for ease of use, for vanity, for branding, for untold riches, etc.), then you’ll want to settle on a domain that both meets best practice and that you like and get it as soon as possible.
I got my custom domain with my WordPress Premium Plan but I would have bought my own domain anyway. Why did I buy canarybeck.com for my WordPress.com site?
- It’s worth the relatively cheap fee to register a domain name ($5 to $10/year)
- I will soon be moving to a self-hosted platform (WordPress.org) so I will need my own domain in the future anyway
- My plans include using my name as a head keyword phrase, so it makes sense to call my site by my name
- I’ve vain (but honest!)
Why now? First, people are going to link to your site – giving it search equity (trust). Google takes note of this, and considers it with your domain history with giving you PageRank. All things being equal, a site with the exact same content that will have a greater rank if it has links coming into it and a long history. So if you think you’re ever going to do it, do it now.
Here is an interesting comparison made with SEOMoz Open Site Explorer that measures two sites run my friend Huckleberry Hax. I am using this as an example, because he very recently migrated his site to WordPress from Blogger.
So what is Huck to do? His old site is getting all the love. Well, as I advised him, he needs to create redirects from his old site to his new site as soon as possible if he wants to not confuse Google with duplicate content (which it typically uses as a reason to down rank the second instance of the content to prevent copied content from ranking), give his referred visitors somewhere up to date to go, and build equity in his new domain.
If he had his own domain though, none of this would have been a problem (assuming the post and page slugs remained the same – which is easy to do).
It’s not too late. But the more content and history you have with a domain name that is not actually yours, the more of a challenge everything will be in the future should you ever want to move your hosting arrangement.
Simple stuff, I know. But it’s amazing how simple things can trip us up sometimes. If you want to be a bit of a search wizard, add your free blog to Google Webmaster Tools to get deeper insight into the queries that led people to find your site. I don’t consult it often for my blog, but it can sometimes answer questions that other tools cannot.
Level 1 SEO Review
As a review, follow these steps to get make your blog SEO friendly:
- Put together a keyword phrase list
- Optimise your Site Title and Tagline
- Check your Site Visibility settings
- Don’t obscure your name in your Users settings
- Choose an SEO friendly theme
- Get your own domain name
- Bonus: For extra SEO-geekiness points, register your site on Google Webmaster tools
Level 2: SEO your Second Life Blog Posts
Ok, you’re doing great. I know it can all seem a bit of heavy going when it’s all new, but this next part is just as important so you’ll want to pay attention. On that note, you’ve bookmarked this post for later reference right? You’d better do that while you remember. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Welcome back! So let’s get you acquainted with the 2nd checklist: SEOing your blog posts.
1. Write naturally and about one topic at a time
Before you start writing, choose a primary keyword phrase – or topic from your list that you want to write your post about.
Having one idea in mind makes your post easier to write, easier to optimise, and easier to link to. It also makes it easier to write more often – which is very important for both your subscribers and for search.
For this post, I wanted to write ‘an easy guide to SEO’. In the fashion category, you might consider the following topics:
- My favourite Second Life dresses for summer
- Mixing SL elegant handbags with casual looks
- Why I’m too sexy for SL vintage lingerie
- This week’s best Second Life fashion deals
- ’90s fashions are back in SL mens apparel
- Summer style predictions in Second Life fashion
On that note, don’t worry about writing content that people are searching for. That is not what this is about. Instead, write about what you know and what interests you. Write it for human ears. Write it well; yes, Google cares about spelling and grammar. Write at least 350 words per post (more on this later).
The more closely your post is related to the keyword phrase on which you’ve focused, the more likely the post will be ranked by Google for that keyword phrase. The goal is to write a full post of content centered around one keyword phrase.
2. Write regularly (between 1 to 5 times per week)
Whether you write once a day, twice a week, or once a week, producing regular content is essential. Why? Search engines favour fresh (written) content and will ignore websites and blogs that haven’t published for a while (e.g. weeks).
They assume new content is more up to date and more likely to help users find what they seek through search engines. Search engine traffic is important for your blog because it exposes you to new visitors. Equally important, writing regularly trains your readers to expect to see something from you on a regular basis – engendering loyalty and reliability.
3. Write at between 250 and 350 words per post
One of the main reasons search engines ignore your posts is because you aren’t writing enough content per post. How much is enough? Most search engine optimisers say 250 to 350 words per post is enough. There is also credible evidence that suggests that super-long posts (around 5000 words) like this one tend to be linked to highly – and therefore ranked highly.
For all you fashion and photography bloggers out there: A post featuring an image, a title, and credits will rarely amount to that much in the eyes of search engine spiders, so they will tend to not index them highly. If you want to be found, you can’t afford to lose on search traffic.
4. Write descriptive post titles
When writing the title for the content, follow these basic guidelines:
- The title length should not exceed 72 characters. This will make sure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.
- The title should include at least 4 words.
- Include the keyword phrase in the title. This will increase the relevancy of your content for that keyword phrase. In addition, the title usually becomes the headline for the result on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page), and including the keyword will increase the likelihood of a click-through. This is good, because there is evidence to suggest that relative click-through on a SERP also helps improve your rankings.
- Include a Primary Keyword toward the beginning of your Title to increase the relevancy of the keyword within the search engines’ indexes.
As an example, the title of this post is “The Second Life Blogger’s Quick and Easy Guide to SEO” which is 10 words and 53 characters. It has two keyword phrases “Second Life Blogger” and “Easy Guide to SEO”.
This is how the title of this post appears in the code:
5. Write descriptive, short and easy to read post slugs
Typically, your post slugs (the component of the post’s URL that follows your domain name and the date of your posts) are automatically generated by WordPress when it uses your Post Title to construct it. Hence the slug of this post would be:
That’s good. If I titled my post with a one word title (like so many bloggers do), it might look like this:
That’s not so good. Still, my slug could be simpler:
That’s more likely to be searched, so I’ll go with that. You can change it here:
*I’m not sure if Blogger lets you edit post slugs (I couldn’t find the setting) UPDATE: Blogger will allow you to adjust your slugs in an option referred to as ‘Permalinks’
6. Give special consideration to your first paragraph or write a post excerpt
The description will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result. In WordPress, your excerpt also show up in Reader listings and in emails to subscribers. It will also act as thedescription for the post − only seen on the SERP. When writing the description for the content, follow these basic guidelines:
- The description length should not exceed 165 characters. This will make sure the full description is visible in a search result.
- Include the keyword phrase in the description. This will increase the relevancy of your content for that keyword phrase.
- Include a Primary Keyword toward the beginning of your Description to increase the relevancy of the keyword within the search engines’ indexes.
This description of this post is “How to SEO your Second Life blog. Search Engine Optimisation affects your traffic. This post will help you get more traffic to your SL blog.”. It’s 25 words and 140 characters. It also has several keywords: “SEO”, “Second Life blog”, “Search Engine Optimisation” and “SL Blog”. This description won’t be read by Google robots per se, but they will certainly be seen by people who find this post in search engine results. These terms will also be bolded in the SERP if they are searched for, increasing the likelihood of click-through. Therefore, it serves me to be as descriptive as possible.
As an example, this is how the title of this post appears in the code:
I can’t show you an image of a SERP result for this post yet (not until Google indexes it), so in the meantime, I’ll show you one from my last post on this blog:
In the above case, I didn’t use an excerpt, and for that reason the description isn’t as compelling as it could be. Now that this post is indexed, I’ll add that SERP citation below to show a comparison.
As you can see, my excerpt fits perfectly within Google’s result on the Search Engine Result Page.
7. Use narrow and specific keywords and their synonyms in your content
Most SEOs recommend a keyword density of 5.5%. I wouldn’t worry too much about that unless you’re really working it.
They also suggest you
- bold the first occurrence of your primary keyword phrase
- use the keyword in bullets if you can
- use them in headings (H1, H2, and H3)
- include a hyperlink for every 120 words of body content
- include a hyperlink at the beginning of the body to show prominence
- link to content that is relevant to relevant to the keyword, preferably to another page in your website (not the home)
This might all seem a bit much for some. Do what you can. The above is best practice – the devil is in the details.
8. Alt tag and file title your images
Google image search is a useful way to get more visits to your blog. But wait! Didn’t I say Google robots doesn’t read images? It doesn’t, but they do read alt tags and filenames. If you’re writing a post that includes images (and all of your posts should include at least one image to increase click-through on email and Reader), then take the extra few seconds to write a descriptive file name and alt tag.
*Blogger lets you do this when you right-click the image and choose image properties
9.Tag and categorise your posts judiciously
WordPress says that Google doesn’t rely on tags and categories to index your site, but I’ve noticed that certain searches (for my name for example) do bring up tag pages on other people’s posts do show up in SERPs, like this:
For this reason, I tag all my guest posts with my name, and am always happy to see other bloggers use my name as a tag. On my own blog, I use tags to organise specifically and use categories to organise broadly (e.g. navigation).
One thing to keep in mind is not to overstuff your post with tags and categories. In fact, using too many categories and tags – more than fifteen in total – will cause WordPress to block your post from Reader Topic pages. Instead of overstuffing, choose specific tags that are most relevant to what the post is about. For example, “blond SL hair” is better than “hair”.
*Blogger calls these “Labels”.
10. Link out
Linking out to other people’s blogs isn’t just friendly, it’s also smart. Don’t think of it as losing a visitor, think of it as being a resource. When do I choose to link out? I link out to
- share more information or a resource that might be helpful to my reader
- credit someone else’s work, contribution, or idea
- share someone else’s supporting, opposing or alternate view
What happens when I link out?
- I pass on link equity
- My post becomes a resource to because it’s so resourceful
- People see me as a sharer, and sharers get shared (by getting linked back)
- Google (allegedly) gives me equity points! This one is a bit dubious, but if it results in getting back links, then I’m very confident that is helpful.
Level 2 Blog Post SEO Review
As a review, follow these steps to get make your blog posts SEO friendly:
- Write naturally and about one topic at a time
- Write regularly between 1 to 5 times per week
- Write at between 250 and 350 words per post
- Write descriptive post titles
- Write descriptive, short and easy to read post slugs
- Give special consideration to your first paragraph or write a post excerpt
- Use narrow and specific keywords and their synonyms in your content
- Alt tag and file title your images
- Tag and categorise your posts judiciously
- Link out
A few things to avoid
- Feeds – they duplicate your content which draws away your search juice – nasty, nasty feeds. I don’t use any unless they only excerpt my post and link back.
- Starting new sites and importing your content without redirecting, hiding or deleting the previous website with all your old content. Google will think you are plagiarising yourself, and will ‘penalise’ you accordingly.
- Stuffing your post or site with irrelevant keyword phrases. Yes, packing your post with sex-related keywords only makes you get ignored faster.
- Spending too much time SEOing your post or site when you should be writing. In some ways, SEO can make us lose sight of what this is all about. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, but it isn’t as important as awesomesauce content.
And there you have it! Wow. You stuck with me till the end. How impressive! So what next? Well, the good news is that what I’ve written above is pretty much the nuts and bolts of what you need to know to SEO your blog and your blog posts. I know it seems like a lot but I wanted to put it all on one page so it’d be easier to refer to. If you feel it’s all a bit overwhelming, then take it one step at a time.
I don’t tick off every box for every post I write, and I don’t expect you will either. There are many things I could do better. In a way, writing this post has been a good reminder for me too. Hmm, maybe I should save these lists and put them somewhere I can easily find them when I write blog posts.
If you want to take it slow; this week, consider which keyword phrases you are targeting. Next week, check your blog settings. The following week, consider adding a few of my suggestions to your posts. Then use a few more. And then a little more still.
Before you know it, this stuff will be second nature to you. Good luck, and if you have any questions, just hit me up in the comments. In my next post on the subject of getting more quality traffic to your Second Life blog, I’ll share my best tips on how to write compelling content.
“How do I get more traffic to my Second Life blog?” That’s the number one burning question I heard when I asked people what they wanted to know about Second Life blog marketing. Well, you asked! In this post, I’ll share the key difference I’ve observed between the most popular Second Life blogs, and the multitude of blogs that receive considerably less traffic.
The answer to the traffic question is so complex and lengthy it could fill a book (and has). But we have to start somewhere. This post is a lengthy introduction to the subject – but by the end of it – you will no longer need to ask why your blog isn’t as popular as the ones everyone knows about. You will know why. Knowing how to bridge the gap, however, is another matter. Still, if you’re serious about increasing your blog traffic; read on.
So where does your blog traffic come from? There are mainly five channels from where you’ll receive visitors:
- Search: A view, or visit, is allocated to the search channel when the visitor originated from clicking on a link to your website that appeared on a search engine result page (SERP) – (e.g. Google). If your visit to this blog post originated from finding this post on a search engine result page, then your visit is tagged as search. WordPress calls this ‘Search Engines’ in your Stats. To the best of my knowledge, blogger doesn’t separate them out.
- Referral: A view or visit is a referral if your visitor lands on your post after clicking on a link to it from another website. For example, if you clicked a link from my blog to get here, your visit to this post counts as a referral from ‘canarybeck.com’. Don’t confuse ‘Referral’ with the term ‘Referrers’ or ‘Referring Sites’, which is what WordPress and Blogger use for all of your channels in your Stats.
- Direct: A direct visitor lands on your post after typing your domain name directly into their browser or search engine URL bar. For example, if you typed ‘slbloggersupport.com’ into your browser locator bar, your visit to this site will be attributed to the direct channel. WordPress and Blogger don’t share data for this channel with you unfortunately.
- Social: A visitor or view is tagged as social if they land on your post by following a link to your post from a social media property like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Plurk. For example, if you found this post shared on Twitter, clicked on the link and ended here, your visit is counted as social. WordPress and Blogger will specifically tell you which social site referred visitors in your Stats.
- Email: A visitor lands from clicking on your link inside an email message. Let’s say you subscribe to SLBlogger Support by email and received a message that this post was published. If you clicked the link in that message and arrived here, your visit qualifies as being from the email channel.
However you got here – thanks for coming! Now, let’s get into some numbers.
Let’s try an exercise: Open up your blog statistics. If you use WordPress, you’ll find it in the side panel of your Dashboard labelled as Stats. Once you’ve navigated to the panel, scroll down until you see the boxed labelled ‘Referrers’. If you use Blogger, then the chart you’re looking for will be under Stats > Traffic sources > Referring Sites.
This is what the table looks like in Blogspot (shared with me by an SL blogger who prefers her stats to stay private). Incidentally, you can see that her biggest traffic drivers are Google.com, followed closely by Google.de and Google.fr in the top 10.
As an example with some more detail, let me show you what SL Blogger Support’s ‘Referrers’ table looks like for 2014.
Search is important in growing traffic for your Second Life blog
First, let me declare a bias – albeit an educated one. I write my blog posts for people first, but am mindful of what search engines use to gauge the quality of my posts relative to keyword phrase searches. A large part of my real life work has me digging deep into the analytics of large commercial websites. For these sites, search tends to account for the largest share of traffic (often more than 50%). It’s very common, and studies of the source of millions of website visit acquisitions back me up on this: Search matters.
As you can see, Search Engines account for the largest single share of SL Blogger Support’s views (20%) – most of it from Google. This is what we refer to as the head of Referrers. Much of the remaining 80% of views of SL Blogger Support can be attributed to many smaller sources like social media (Facebook and Plurk being significant, with Twitter and Google+ being notably absent from the top 10). This is what’s referred to as the body of Referrers. This is only a table of the top 10 referrers; open up ‘View All’ and you’ll see a multitude of other sources that make up the rest of the views. This is what we refer to – in the business – as the long tail (more on this later).
Is this common? Do search engines really serve such a big proportion of traffic to personal Second Life blogs? Let me show you my stats as further evidence that search really does matter for Second Life blogs.
If you look at the stats for my blog, you’ll see that I also get my largest share of visits (29%) from Search Engines as well (my head sources). The ‘big three’ social media properties follow in proportion (accounting for less than 5% of my views – which is a tad depressing if I’m honest – but I’m pretty lousy at social media so I guess I get what I deserve). Social is followed by referrals and feeds – for which I’m grateful. Rounding out the edge of the top 10 Referrers is SL Blogger Support – which is one of the reasons I put a effort into guest posts for SL Blogger Support. These sites made up the body of my sources in 2014. If I showed you ‘View All’, you would again see the familiar head, body, and long tail pattern, which is a seminal concept in marketing, and specifically online marketing.
I would expect that my blog would get a reasonable amount of search traffic, seeing as how I write posts while considering search as a source. I have a niche. I post – on average – about 2 posts a week. I write lengthy posts that tend to packed with keywords in the right places. I have a decent number of inbound links from various sources for which I’m grateful (although nowhere near as many as I’d like).
Where established Second Life blogs get their traffic
But does my experience mirror that of other experienced Second Life bloggers? I asked some popular Second Life bloggers about their traffic source proportions with, and this is what they said:
New World Notes is a news publication fuelled mainly by Hamlet Au and Janine Hawkins. About 35% of their views comes from search traffic (at least via desktop/laptop) and probably more via mobile. This site is one of the biggest Second Life blog by numbers of views (about 180,000 per month). There are clear reasons why this site is so popular: when it comes to SL blogs. First, it’s got a really long-standing reputation a very short and memorable name (accounting for 43% direct traffic). it’s also ancient by SL standards – publishing since 2003. Google puts a lot of trust in domains that have stood the test of time and have a massive amount of content behind them. It’s also usually first with breaking news about Second Life, and often is beneficiary to exclusive content. Hamlet and Janine publish so routinely you could set your watch to it. The posts are typically at least 300 words in length, in depth, well-researched, and they cover broader subjects like video games and virtual reality – all of which bring in the search visits. Their social footprint is also huge, bringing 12% of their visits. Most importantly, I’d say, are the number of inbound links. If my counts are to be believed (I get them from the industry standard search intelligence tools from SEOMoz), this site has over 20,000 inbound links from over 300 different domains. Getting cited on New World Notes is a really big deal for any Second Life blogger; one feature on this blog will open your audience a great deal. I’ve been fortunate to get about six separate citations, and they are now my biggest referer this year to date, after search.
Inara Pey, is a Second Life journalist and blogger behind Living in a Modem World. She gets 26% of her visits from search. Again, she has a relatively high profile as a blogger – although her domain name isn’t homonymous – which might suggest why she might not get as much direct traffic as a proportion of visits as Strawberry Singh (this is speculative, because we didn’t discuss it specifically). She also has a good social media footprint, which accounts for about 23% of her visits. Inara is well-known for her frequency of posts (at least daily, if not more than once a day). Not only are they frequent, but they’re well researched, balanced, and well-written posts, rich in keywords and well titled, tagged and documented. Furthermore, what sets Inara’s blog apart from the rest is the sheer number of inbound links she has to her blog with very high search equity (I counted them – and yeah, it’s huge, but only about a third as many as New World Notes).
Strawberry Singh blogs about a variety of subjects (including a fair share of fashion) and gets about 26% of visits from search. Most of us know Berry’s blog – she’s an engaging writer, an excellent photographer, and an influential blogger. She has one of the biggest social media footprints (which accounts for 11% of her traffic – which is very big by the way) in Second Life. She also has a very recognisable – and homonymous – domain name (which would account in part for her receiving a higher proportion of Direct visits – a whopping 47% of her traffic). That is a very good example of the pulling power of a brand name – and I’d say that is what accounts for her head content. She has a lot of inbound links too, but not as many as Inara, and across fewer domains.
Caitlin Tobias, Second Life explorer and blogger of Cait’s World, gets 6.5% of her views from Search Engines (in the thousands), but they are still her biggest single source of traffic – making it her head source. We at SL Blogger Support are very familiar with Caity’s excellent social media posts, and her site is an example of the merging of great photography with a superb ability to find the best Second Life locations. Caity sees the body of her traffic come from social media (2%), and what I imagine would be a thick and long tail of smaller, more incidental referrers; which means: A lot of varied inbound links. I counted, and my suspicions were right, she has a lot (more than Berry). The other reason I think she can get a lot of traffic with relatively less search traffic, is because she has a niche (locations). Again, this is one of the reasons I push niching so much – it makes everything easier. Something I would suggest to her, if I were asked to help her improve her search traffic, is to choose a theme that shows more text on her homepage. Her chosen theme (WordPress premium theme Simfo) only shows images and titles. Homepages are critical, and a theme that displayed at least one post’s worth of text (or even better, excerpts of her posts) on the front page would likely be more easily found by search engines.
Huckleberry Hax, Second Life novelist and blogger at What the Huck? has blogged since 2007 with an average of just under one post a week for the past 4 years. Still, he only gets 5% of his traffic from search (which, to be fair, is still in the thousands). Again, it’s not a massive proportion on its own, but it is still his biggest individual referer. Why the lower proportion? Several reasons: Huck has been doing a lot of publishing offline, and I suspect gets a lot of visits from direct searches and inworld groups. Huck doesn’t publish as often as he might, because he’s often too busy writing magazine articles and books. Still, he’s one of the best writers in Second Life – of both fiction and non-fiction alike.
What about new bloggers? Does search work for them?
All of the above are established Second Life bloggers that have been publishing for years. All of them write an average of at least 300 words per post. All of them write often (ranging from twice a day to once a week). All of them are capable photographers and write quality posts. When I look at new bloggers (those under a year old) I notice a different pattern – with a few exceptions:
Hellisium Resident has written a fantasy fashion blog called Monster Freak Show for the past 4 months. He sees only 2% of his traffic come from Google (about 100), with most instead coming from Facebook and a Second Life Fantasy Feed. Hellisium has been smart in choosing a niche (which appears to be fantasy role play fashion). He’s got some cool images and is very diligent with his credits. If he sticks with it, he could attract many long tail search views from people searching for the specificity he offers. Averaging about 4 posts a week, he’s a prolific, early-stage blogger who clearly has the bug. With that said, if Hellisium wants to generate more traffic from search engines, he’ll need to write more words in his posts, beyond only titles and credits. An about me page would also help. Further, the title of his blog: Ｆｒｅａｋ Ｓｈｏｗ, while in theme, isn’t going to help him with search engines at all. That particular word on its own, especially with all the spaces, is almost invisible to search engines. Better would be to title it “Monster Freakshow: Second Life Fantasy Roleplay Fashion”. Search engines aren’t that smart. They need to read titles of blogs to understand what the blog is about – the more specific and clear the title, the better they can index it.
AnnaDarling Gibby writes a new fashion blog called Second Eyedentity that she launched in March this year. She gets 7% of her blog traffic from search – which is really good for a new blog! It’s not a huge amount of absolute traffic from search (double digits), but it’s not a bad start. She has some really good pictures too, which I assume accounts for why Flickr is her second biggest traffic source. She’s also done a reasonable job in titling her blog what it is: “Second eyedentity | SL Fashion Blog”, which can really help in the early days to get a foothold with the search engines. She’s posting frequently, which is good. However, Anna is in a very competitive sector (fashion), and attractive pictures with credits may not be enough to cut through the clutter of the SL blogsphere. If she wants to improve her traffic, I’d advise her to write more words in her posts, because search engines can only read words, not images (no matter how good the images are). I’d also recommend choosing a niche within fashion, so she can further carve out long tail searches.
Lici Li publishes a blog called Time and Lace. She gets only 4% of her traffic from search engines (double digits again). Again, Lici’s images are good. She has a generous blogroll and shares links to many blogs she follows. Good on her too, for writing an about me page – this can be a good place to pack some keywords, which she does when she writes “Time and Lace is a fantasy style fashion blog.” I’d add part of that phrase to the blog title too, which is more niche than “Time and Lace | Second Life Fashion Blog”. If she wants to increase her traffic, I’d recommend writing more words in her posts (250 to 350 per post is enough to start with). I’d also suggest writing titles that contain more keywords. I know that single word titles are cool and what not, but they don’t do much for traffic.
TinLiz Winterstorm publishes What a Beautiful Mess, which she started in October 2014. Her blog gets 6% of her traffic from search. She’s publishing good quality fashion posts daily. Apart from posting daily, she also writes about 200-300 words per post, and that will surely help drive her traffic up from search engines. Which is great, because even more people will see her lovely images, which she clearly takes great care in composing. She also does a great job in sharing credits – which is of course basic in the fashion world (and place credits too – which isn’t basic at all!) And, she’s got a good little about page. I’d like to see her use keywords in her blog and post titles a bit, but apart from that, I liked reviewing her blog so much, I followed it.
Lilli Halsey publishes A Digital Dreamer – a blog she’s been authoring since March 2015. She only gets 2% of her visitors from search. One reason this might be, I’m afraid to say, is her choice of theme (WordPress’s Cubic). While attractive to look at, image-oriented themes that don’t offer much text on a homepage simply won’t attract search engines. Again, search engines don’t care about images (apart from the metadata they can get from them – filename, alt tags, descriptions, etc.) There are many reasons this is unfortunate, because her posts are really good! Loaded with high quality pictures and about 100 words each – often written as micro-fictional stories – she’s got the fundamentals of what could be a really good fantasy role play fashion blog, if only more people can find it. I suggest she changes her theme to something that has text excerpts from her blog posts and that she write longer posts.
If you want to see a new blog with some amazing photography, Rainbow Mubble’s Rainbow Sunday will surely not disappoint! She’s getting 4.5% of her views from search, and it’s probably because she’s writing at least 200 to 300 words in every post. I’m not a big fantasy-lover (although it is a good niche) – but her posts are little gems of inspiration that I know most bloggers will enjoy. As I was reviewing it, I went to click the follow button and realised that I was already following it! Figures – here’s an up-and-coming blogger to watch.
Krystal Meriadoc writes Krystal Klear Dreams, where she gets 1% of her views from search engines. Krystal produces some pretty images and comprehensive credits. She took a bit of a break from blogging before April and is back it, so her blog is only really only a month’s worth of posts so far, despite being a year since she started it. This is a good example of how the search engines will punish your blog if they don’t see steady content updates. Further, it’s going to be tough for her to make a mark in a crowded field like fashion, when most of her posts are only a couple of sentences long (excluding credits). If she wants to increase her traffic, my unsolicited advice to Krystal is to start writing more words per post, and avoid taking further big breaks. Also, her blog title should be shorter (Google will only read the first 60 characters including spaces), and contain more keywords related to Second Life Fashion. Oh, and don’t forget to pick a niche.
(Note: if you submitted a response to my query about your stats and don’t see your blog reviewed here; I’m sorry, but I needed to publish before I received your notecard. I’ll aim to review your blog in future posts.)
Search isn’t everything, but understanding and exploiting search will build your blog traffic
I’m sure you’re beginning to see a pattern here. Search tends to be the head of traffic for the biggest Second Life blogs, and relatively less significant for smaller Second Life blogs.
For bigger blogs, the body of traffic tends to be social media and some key referrers that share content, write reply posts, or refer as a source.
The long tail of traffic tends to be all those other referrals that you may not know too much about, but still supply a large proportion of traffic.
If your blog is more established with a reasonable amount of visitors per year (at least 1000), then your biggest single source of traffic is likely to be search as well.
If your blog is relatively new, you’ll be mainly getting traffic from friends (which often shows up as Social) and referrals. Search, as a traffic source, is typically under tapped – and this is your opportunity.
If you have blogged for a long time and/or a recognisable name among bloggers (like the examples I shared above), then you might be able to edge out search with direct traffic. Direct traffic, unfortunately, isn’t well reported by the free stats packages that come with your blogs – but they are by more robust packages like Google Analytics.
The problem with relying on direct traffic is that it takes a long time to build a name for yourself – and by long I mean years. Second, it really helps if your name is the same as your URL, and ideally – your own domain name (without the WordPress or Blogspot domain). Of course, this isn’t necessary to have a popular blog (as many examples would show), but it helps to give people only one thing to remember.
By the time you get to where everything you publish is flocked to and shared by a tonne of people just because you wrote it, you can forget about search. By then however, your good habits will likely be so ingrained that search engines will like your stuff anyway, because you’re just a good, trustworthy, and respected blogger.
As most seasoned bloggers know, one’s network of friends and social media reach can only go so far, or grows relatively slowly over time. If you really want more traffic, the search engines have to find you.
Search engine optimisation is a lot of things: Content length. Niche keyword phrases. Keyword density. Tags and formatting. Outbound links. SERP descriptions. Spelling and grammar. Click-through rate. Page load speed. Mobile-friendliness.
The biggest factor in search popularity that I’ve observed, however, is the number of inbound links your blog receives. This factor not only influences your search traffic (because Google considers your site more trustworthy, so it ranks you higher for the same keywords your competitors choose), it increases your referral traffic (because people find links to your blog everywhere), and it stimulates even more link building, because people like to link to trusted sources that are already linked. Getting linked, however, requires really good blogging.
Search is important, but it isn’t everything. If you turn the examples of the bigger blogs I cite on their heads, SL Blogger Support gets 80% of its traffic from sources other than search, I get about 70%, Berry and Inara 74%, and Caity about 94%. So the body and the long tail are also very important.
Also, just because a source generates a lot of traffic, doesn’t mean that the traffic is useful for your blog. I could write about sex for a month straight and I know I’d get my numbers way up, but that’s not how I want to do it.
But just think, what if you could better exploit the opportunity that search gives to improve your traffic so that it would account for thousands of more visits like it does for the bigger blogs out there? If you want your blog to get more traffic, you have to consider generating more traffic from search.
At the beginning of this post, I told you I’d answer what the difference is between the biggest Second Life blogs and the little ones. Now you know. But knowing the difference is one thing, crossing that gap is another matter entirely. Climbing to the top of the mountain isn’t for everyone, but if you’d like to enjoy a better view than you now have, you will want to read my future posts.
In my next post, I’ll share some very simple tips to help you get your posts and blogs to be more search-engine friendly, without needing a plugin, or an expert to help you, or feel like you are writing for machines.
Thanks to all noted above that were kind enough to share their statistics with me.