Update: I keep thinking of new tips to add to this list, so I'll keep updating to help people. Let me know how much your traffic increasing by leaving a comment after implementing some of these free traffic-getting tips:
Time to do a lot of giving back -- I've been meaning to write out a major post of all the ways online writers can get more visitors to their websites.
Some of the below tips are specific to writers who write for sites that appear in Google News, like Examiner.com -- but many of them can help all online writers of their own single blogs and the like.
Lots of the tips are focused on news writers who write about breaking news topics as opposed to seasonal, evergreen stuff -- but still, the tips can help those who aren't up-to-the-minute entertainment writers.
Take what you need, leave what you don't:
About the Headline Title:
1. Put first things first. If you’re going for “Tiger Woods updates” as your keyword phrase, try and put those first 3 words in the first 3 word position in your title, not toward the end or later. Don’t waste your first precious spots in your title for words not related to what you’re trying to rank high for.
2. Make sure the URL of your title contains mostly words, not numbers and symbols. This is a factor of the website you're writing for, but if you control your own website -- like a WordPress.org hosted one, for example, under permalink settings, use a Custom Structure like this: /%postname%/%post_id%/
3. Use stuff that catches the eye, like a dollar sign, if your subject lends to that fact. (“Tiger Woods allegedly paid $60,000 for hookers” can catch the eye, for example)
4. Putting a website name in your title can help, like YouTube.com or whatever, especially if you’re in Google News. More people than you could imagine type URLs in the Google search box.
5. Write something new in your title – something that few people know yet…
6. …and something that interests you, because your passion will shine through. (Like when I wrote my “Save the Bonnie Hunt Show campaign” article. That qualifies as something new and something that interested me.)
7. Use a variety of words – make use of the space given you in the title to sometimes include different words that people may type into Google – like how this article you’ve found called “50 Ways to Get More Page Views, Hits and Visitors to Your Website, Blog or Articles” leaves room to capture all the people who may type in different synonyms of the same idea.
8. Header tags can help (see tip #2 in this post)…
9. …as well as bolding a few words or names or using italics. But don’t go crazy.
10. Write something interestingly clickable, something that you as a reader would click on. Something interesting – a buried point in research you’ve read, for example. In a bunch of articles or one piece, the most fascinating point may be buried in tons of text. Pull it out and make it your title – like when Tiger Woods called himself Blasian. That's what I found to be one of the most interesting things about those text messages. It's the first thing my eye really trained on when The New York Post put up the text messages -- and later I was rewarded with visitors when TMZ featured confusion over that "Blasian" term.
About the Content:
1. Write a lot of content, write a lot of quality...when you can. Of course when you're racing to meet breaking news deadlines, "Into the Wild" style prose ain't always gonna happen. Some people complain that they don't get many hits, but then confess they've only written 3 -5 articles per week on a news site. Whereas studying some of the top traveled writers, we'll see some create at least that many articles per day -- and they SEO the pieces.
2. Keep your keyword phrase in mind. If “get more page views” is the 4-word phrase you’re trying to rank high in Google for, try and sprinkle “get more page views” naturally throughout your article – but not too much. About 5% - 7% may be good for Google – no one but Google really knows for sure.
3. Your first paragraph is important. It’s like Google looks at that with more importance, and studying how your well-ranked articles and pieces appear in Google, you’ll sometimes see those first paragraphs highlighted with the keyword phrase, especially if you have it listed a couple of times in the top paragraph. (It can be bolded in other places as well.)
4. Longer posts can be better, but short can be better than nothing. In terms of having so much quality content, longer posts may help you win more obscure searches just by the probability of them typing in combined search terms and finding words you've used.
5. Make it pretty – and readable. Some stuff I just don’t read online if it ain’t pretty enough. Some of my own posts – I say, “Eh! How did I write that?” – and try to go back at times and make it prettier, adding more white space or structure to make it easier on the eyes.
6. Link liberally…if you’ve got the time to research and back up your facts. This lends credibility and helps other people discover you with backlinks at times. I think I got a great link from Huffington Post (at least 500,000 pageviews a day for that site) that way. And don't forget to link to yourself, your own categories -- but again, don't go crazy. Google banned this blog for my own name in 2007 because I didn't know that I shouldn't have linked "Paula Mooney" back to my homepage in a bunch of posts. Live and blog.
7. Or don’t link at all…if you don’t really have the time. Sometimes it’s more about getting the content online, spelled correctly, correctly researched and published. And sometimes that doesn’t include linking out to folks.
8. Write the next thing, the new thing, the thing that people will be searching for today and tomorrow. For example, as I write this, people are writing about the tragic death of Brittany Murphy. While most people are writing to inform people that she died, I just wrote a piece about the next logical thing people are searching for, chiefly: Will Brittany Murphy's autopsy results confirm or dismiss rumors of drug use and anorexia?
9. Take your time sometimes...because once you know how to SEO stuff well, it's a bonus. I didn't rush writing the Brittany Murphy piece, because I've learned that sometimes a well-SEO'd post can bring more traffic than a fast one that hasn't taken any of these tips in mind. Plus, taking my time allows me to spell check better, actually read the post aloud to myself if I'm so inclined -- and makes for a more credible report, thus more likely is it that folks will pass the thing around.
10. But speed up...if you have to. Sometimes us online writers have only a few minutes to publish stuff before we must attend to other duties, so learning to type fast, think fast, research fast and write fast is of the essence. Thankfully I had a great teacher in high school -- a bearded fellow who taught us how to type without looking at the keys. But I heard about a teen recently who types over 100 words per minute by using a typing game that escapes me right now. It wasn't that SpongeBob typing game, but something else on the PC, methinks. Find a good one and try it out if you're a hunt and peck type of typer. I've been one a little bit this week because of my holiday acrylic nails, and I can tell already how much I've slowed down.
About the Images:
1. Use .jpg – a fact I was surprised to learn from a Google video that said that’s what Google prefers in Google News articles that rank high (I can only find a great summary of that video here, which reminded me of other points like using large photos, and don't break up your text.)
2. Don’t link the images if you want that sweet Google News prime spot – another fact I was surprised to learn in the same video (See the same article till I can find the video)
3. Make full use of ALT Tags, and if your article is about “Tiger Woods’ new mistress” for example, your ALT Tags might look like “Tiger Woods,Tiger Woods wife, Tiger Woods mistress count” and the like, all separated by commas. But don’t go crazy again. Google doesn’t say how many tags are too many, but one can assume 50 would be too many. Are 20 too many? Google knows…
4. Name the images something related to what you want searches to find…
5. …and separate the words with dashes, which are better than underscores or nothing at all. Therefore, a piece about Jamie Jungers might be named http://yoursite.com/Jamie-Jungers-Tiger-Woods-new-mistress-list-count-photos-pics.jpg
6. Get new and fun images, or ones that people haven’t seen before – and try to keep it all legal by either buying them from places like iStockPhoto or AP Images, or getting them for free from PicApp or places like that. (John Chow has a great article here about free photos and here, too.)
7. Include caption ID text. That's another thing that Google looks for, caption ID text. Depending on your content management system, this may be found under "CaptionID" based on your WordPress theme -- or vary for Blogger and other sites. Search thru your code for the text, or thru Google to find what I mean so you can add a caption to your images that helps Google find what your image means -- and therefore send searchers to you not only thru Google News (if your site is blessed to be there) but also for those Google Images searches, too. Hopefully.
Where to Find Breaking News:
1. Take advantage of toolbar options, like the ability to add Alexa.com’s “What’s Hot” URLs (http://www.alexa.com/hoturls) to your toolbar (http://www.alexa.com/toolbar) so you need only glance up and see what’s going on any second.
2. Most online news writers know about Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends), a list now whittled down to
3. Add feeds that actually update frequently to your iGoogle page -- and put them at the top (http://www.google.com/ig?hl=en) – so that when you’re signed into your free Google Account, you’ll see some of the most recent headlines right there on ONE page together without having to scroll through Google Reader. This can slow down your Google page loading, but whenever I need to get to another Google feature like Gmail or Google Analytics, I just right-click “Gmail” or “My Account” and open that in another tab while some of these websites’ feeds I have on my iGoogle page load up:
4. For feeds that don’t update as often, or ones that aren’t as important to you – but ones that you still want to keep track of, add those to Google Reader – and peruse those for new news and updates as well. I remember reading that Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.com reads 600 or so feeds on a daily basis through Google Reader, so it’s a good way to keep track of things, along with checking out aggregator sites like TechMeme.com
5. Surchur (http://surchur.com/) is another type of aggregator that looks at trending stuff from Bing.com, Technorati.com, Yahoo Buzz and other sites to figure out what’s trending. I don’t use it often, but it is another option.
6. Twitter Trends - Twitter.com keeps track of trending topics on the right-hand side of their page once you're logged in, so it can be good to check it often to find immediate trends.
7. Get Twitter search results on Google by using the Greasemonkey script (http://mt-hacks.com/20090302-realtime-twitter-search-results-on-google.html) – something Google has just duplicated with their real-time-search doohickey that automatically shows during some searches.
8. Focus on the “most viewed” articles and videos on YouTube.com, Hulu.com – as well as news sites like TodayShow.com, CNN.com and the like to see what people are hungry to read at the moment.
9. Add a bunch of cities other than your own to Google News. I just found this feature on Google News that lets you "add a section" via a link with that same name in the top right-hand corner of Google News. I went thru and added a bunch of cities like Miami, DC, New York, Chicago, London, etc. -- and to my delight, now have all those cities news reports in my Google News. Sometimes news bubbles up locally first, then globally.
10. Make full use of Google to find stuff other people haven't. For example, check out how I used Google to find the most recent AP reports:
Or look how I made use of it to find all the "Breaking News" on Twitter:com:
Learn to love all of Google's advanced features -- and how they can help your online business and writing.
11. Pay to play...I just renewed by 12 buck a month subscription to IMDb Pro because I wanted to find out more info about the upcoming "Will You Be My Black Friend?" movie. Sometimes it's worth it as an online writer to get info that not many other SEO-ing journalists may have. Step away from the crowded pack.
Sometimes promoting your content to other sites is not just about the few visits they can bring, but about the link juice they can provide. In that same Google video about Google preferring .jpg photos and ones that aren’t linked – they talk about their formula paying attention to links coming in to an article, making it rise higher in trust value as an original source of info.
1. So use Twitter, Digg, Facebook, Redditt and other places to link people to your article, in hopes that they’ll pass it around if they think it worthy and interesting enough – and in hopes the website will pass on some good Google juice to your pieces -- perhaps even if they aren't "dofollow" sites. (One cool way I'm discovering to get more Twitter followers is to use a big ol' "Follow Me on Twitter" pic like I've used at the end of this piece about TMZ.com and Jon Gosselin -- already more followers have come in a couple of days at a greater rate than before.)
2. Build your email list by encouraging people to subscribe, and using Feedburner or AWeber or whatever email subscription service you prefer if you want email readers.
3. Split off specific content into other sites to encourage specific kinds of email readers. Lately, this blog you're reading I've dedicated to mostly blog-writing type of stuff, so those are the kinds of readers that subscribe.
4. Use Google Adwords and other advertising methods to lead readers to your work, especially when they send out free coupons and such, like they recently did when they sent some random folks $100 coupons for free advertising. Even if you don't have a coupon, learn how to run a cheap campaign for 5 bucks a day or something to gain new readers that might stay.
5. Download toolbars to make the repetitive promotion easier. For example, I've got the StumbleUpon toolbar and the Delicious toolbar on my Firefox browser so that every time I want to promote a piece, I put it on there easily by clicking buttons right in front of me. Redditt makes it easy to promote stuff, too, since Firefox remembers my passwords.
6. Make it easy for others to promote your writing -- and subscribe themselves. Although I'm not practicing what I preach on this blog, other sites have an easy "email signup" box for readers to drop their email address into, and sites like Examiner.com have the handy-dandy "share this" at the end of articles to help readers share the pieces they want to via their favorite means.
About the Karma
Sometimes gaining popularity online is just about doing the right thing, and the right thing comes back.
1. Let other writers have the spotlight sometimes, and give them their hits. Writing for Examiner.com, I like to peruse those articles when I come across them in Google News, giving my fellow Examiners some pageviews.
2. When I come across a piece that another Examiner has done that already has good ranking that I may have planned on writing, at times I’ll say to myself, “Just let them have that one.” Only when I’ve been busy writing my own pieces and didn’t know other Examiners were covering a subject – or, when I know I can add my own value to a piece – do I go ahead and write what I want about the topic.
3. Giving credit where credit is due. If I’ve watched a video or read a breaking news piece via someone else, sometimes I will link on over and make sure to give that person the credit – and instead of embeding a video I found on their site over to mine, I’ll lead my readers to watch it on their page so that writer’s bounce rate will be better.
All these things help, and God has really shown me favor beyond what I’d expected in this online writing game. I know that for a fact. Having that internal "knower" gives me a creativity that's like having an edge.