Boy, people don’t seem very happy with Google lately, huh?
Never mind the future implications of a world controlled by Big G. Webmasters and bloggers are making more and more noise about the pervasive power Google has over their online businesses right now. Selling links is the newest hot point, and it looks like some people have been made an example of to put the FUD in the rest of us.
Believe it or not, my strategy since the beginning of Copyblogger has been to pretty much forget search engines exist. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not doing anything to annoy them, and I certainly don’t turn away visitors from search engines. I just don’t depend on them for traffic.
While people work hard to attract links to rank better in search engines, you’ve got to realize that some of the highest quality traffic comes directly from the links. Pretend like search engines are not even a traffic option, and instead focus on repeat traffic and referral sources that no one can take away.
It all boils down to the three “S” strategy:
I’ve said it from the very beginning here at Copyblogger—the most important thing to focus on is not page views or search traffic. Focus instead on subscribers.
Getting someone to voluntarily pay attention to you over time is the greatest gift you can get as an online publisher. Do everything you can to get more subscribers, and quit trying to please Google.
There’s been some great advice lately about posting less, and focusing more on quality so you can concentrate on attracting social media traffic from other bloggers, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, Sphinn, etc. That’s been my traffic strategy for Copyblogger all along, which allows me to forget about search engine hiccups.
Last month, this blog did 1.35 million page views with only 16 posts, thanks in overwhelming part to social media traffic. Even when I first started Copyblogger, I wrote only two high quality posts a week so that people would link to and recommend my stuff.
Let’s face it—most of the wailing about Google has to do with the fact that people are fascinated by the prospect of sucking in traffic from Google Search and quickly sending it away for cash via AdSense. Even in the relatively rare instances where that model results in livable amounts of cash, I thought the goal was to work for yourself, not Google.
When you focus on attracting traffic via social media referrals and converting as many of those people as possible into subscribers, you build trust with your audience. And when you have trust, you can make money from selling stuff, whether by affiliate marketing, joint ventures, or your own products and services.
Oh yeah. And when you have something to sell, you can put other people to work getting traffic for you.
In case you missed it…
If you missed my selling ebooks post, at the end I revealed that I’ve written a free report about developing premium content that not only sells, but also results in recurring customer relationships. The report contains strategies you can use to monetize your blog–or simply stop blogging all together–and you can download your free copy here.
Reader Comments (114)
Hamlet Batista says
I checked it twice and it seems you forgot an ‘m’ on the first line.
Hamlet Batista says
That was fast 🙂
Brian Clark says
Indeed I did, sorry about that.
Hamlet Batista says
This is excellent advice.
At first, I was worried I would loose half of my subscribers if I slowed down my posting rate. It happened quite the opposite. Readers don’t unsubscribe if you don’t post.
I am glad I slowed down. Now I can spend a lot more time on my research and deliver higher quality posts.
Brian Clark says
Thanks Hamlet. Yeah, I’ve always been perplexed by the “post as much as you can” philosophy of bloggers… it works for certain blogs, but not many.
And I checked it twice, but it seems you misspelled “lose” in the second sentence of your comment.
Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂
Geoff Livingston says
Yeah, I agree. If Google traffic is dominating stats then something is wrong, in my opinion. Specifically you have not really engaged the media form to create a community of interested parties.
Google juice is nice, but I am much more compelled by 1) RSS subs and return traffic stats and 2) referring site traffic (meaning people dig my schtick and link to me). This is the social part of social media.
Focusing on subscribers is a great point, but it really does depend on the type of blog you are running.
I’m thinking one blog full of quality posts geared towards getting subscribers and repeat traffic, and one full of slightly lower quality higher quantity of posts geared toward Google – as the sites monetize differently.
Brian Clark says
Jeremy, that’s a good point. I own interests in several blogs that make money off the unholy alliance between Google search and AdSense, but I never count on the income long term. Too unstable for me, and ultimately less profitable than other approaches.
Hamlet Batista says
Sorry. I had it right and changed it. It is really hard being an ESL these days 🙁
I think the main point is the importance of building defensible traffic. Subscribers are one way to measure how defensible is the traffic. I also like to measure direct traffic and visitors typing my site name on the search engines (brand searches). If everything falls apart you still have those.
Brian Clark says
OK, you win. 🙂
Pete Osborne says
I believe you’ve provided more insight to (or is it ‘on’?) the balance between quality vs. frequency to drive traffic. It goes back to the old sales tenant of qualified leads versus unqualified leads to deliver conversions. You could take the scatter shot approach and try to be everything to every one to the benefit of none, or target your audience, hone your message, and create quality content that people can trust will going to be worthy of their dollars. Your subscribers will be more likely to pay for a e-book, or other form of paid content, because they know the quality of your product and value your work. I do.
Now, will you please start posting more Nude Paris Hilton stories? All the words in long columns make me cranky.
Lawton Chiles says
Ok, you win.
I will NOT post en mass anymore…
1. It takes way too much of the one component I sometimes can control- my time.
2. This way, hopefully, I will really have to focus on the content being excellent.
With many people wriitng the same things, it seems I’m just going to add to the clutter.
There’s the rub.
Chris Furniss says
Wait, first you say that we shouldn’t pay attention to page views, but subscribers… then in the next couple paragraphs you start boasting about page views? While it is totally rad that you got a bunch of views from 16 posts, why should we pay attention to subscribers, especially if they aren’t going to the actual site?
Brian Clark says
Boasting? Yes, I was really milking it, wasn’t I?
I mentioned the stats to point out that social media drives more traffic than Google. See, when people believe that posting more means more page views, you have to give them proof to the contrary.
I tied it back to subscribers in the third section, by reinforcing the point made in section one that subscribers make you money, not page views.
You did read the whole post, right? 🙂
Marty Van Diest says
As a real estate blogger I make my money from people who want to hire me as their realtor.
So I agree that subsribers are the bread and butter…and cream too of the blog. The more subscribers I have the more my posts are being read by local people. That is what will pay off in the long run.
I appreciate the heads up on this. I won’t feel give myself a permission to only post 2-3 times a week. When I started I was shooting for six and week, and that burned me out.
Katie Konrath says
You make a good point about posting quality articles over quantity. I’ve seen that reflected around the blogosphere too… a lot of others are starting to say that it’s better to only post when you actually have something to say.
I find that reassuring. It’s exhausting to have to think of a great post every day, and it’s not fun to write something really good that didn’t get attention on the first day, and then never will because it’s getting pushed further down.
To me, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. Concentrate on writing good posts, and give them a little time to sink in. Sounds good.
People who are actually interested in what a blogger has to say will prefer waiting a little for better posts.
Caroline Middlebrook says
This makes me feel reassured. I recently had a look at my stats after one month of blogging and I was a little alarmed that only 3% of my traffic came from Google. The rest was mainly social media and some direct traffic. This kind of post makes me feel a little better about that 🙂
I now only post once a day, mostly, my subscribers have increased as a result. I don’t write specifically for social media sites as the traffic numbers are great for your ego but not for sustainability.
But then again, I could gradually raise my advertising rates due to the influx of non-search engine traffic.
Geez, I pay so much more attention to writing a comment on your blog than anywhere else.
Dean @ Technical Itch says
It makes sense to me too.
I read a lot of articles about how blogs need to publish on a daily basis if they want to get subscribers. That may hold true for a new blog trying to get noticed, but as Katie says it can put pressure on established bloggers to keep posting.
I personally prefer to subscribe to blogs that post less frequently with higher quality. Blogs that post too often will actually turn me off. I don’t have time to read all their articles.
Some people say if you slow down postings you’ll lose readers but I question that point.
Melissa Donovan says
For the most part, I agree. However, many blogs depend on searches, particularly if the content is in a very specific niche. My blog is about writing and I’ve noticed that many writing sites are hosted by blogger and wordpress, requiring me to have an ID to leave a comment. This poses certain limitations with regards to community-building.
Additionally, many directories don’t have a category for writing. I’m noticing a trend where visitors are coming in through searching for specific terms pertaining to writers (i.e. grammar terms).
Still, I don’t think it’s wise to overly rely on search and building a solid readership definitely holds greater promise. I just wouldn’t write off the search engines completely until thoroughly reviewing the stats.
The bottom line is that you’ve got to know where your traffic is coming from and then cater to that method.
Glenn -- Write for Blogs says
Nothing wrong with an editorial blog/site whose primary traffic comes from people doing searches for specific terms or products. If you meet their needs and the site can monetize the traffic, that’s a decent model.
Thank you so much for this post. I’ve just opened up an online store, and in addition to trying to figue out HTML/CSS, I seem to be staring into the overwhelming maelstrom of of SEO.
In reading up, I learned that one way to drive traffic to your site is by blogging on a niche subject. I have a day job and take classes. With an online store project added to my schedule, I was wondering how I could fit in time to add new blog posts every day. I’m so glad that quality over quantity still counts for something. Now I think I actually have a chance to contribute a worthwhile blog.
I have actually unsubscribed from some blogs because they posted too much.
I try to post once per weekday, but unless I write ahead of time it just doesn’t seem to happen. I’ve also found that, like you said, the articles that I spend the most time on usually elicit the greater and stronger responses from what few readers I have. Not to mention that it is also those articles that drive a lot of traffic to my site via search engines.
So, quality articles = more subscribers + increased traffic regardless of frequency. Thanks for the great post!
But until you can meet some undefinable critical mass, don’t you need search engine traffic so that other people, bloggers, social media can find you? Or are you basically relying on your posts and submissions to these other places?
Two things I hate about some blogs-
1) 3-5 posts a day
2) A really short post that ends with ” … so let me hear what you think. ”
One thing I love about blogs –
1) When they post a helluva great post like this !
Looking forward to the report O’ Teller & Seller of Truthness.
Another great post Brian 🙂
While many are bad mouthing Google its easy to forget that for lots of people without it their income stream would be $0.
You make a great point about building traffic from other sources.
Dan Schawbel says
Google just bought Jaiku. Basically, if they keep purchasing social networks, they will have even more authority on the internet. This needs to stop!
Hey Brian – You didn’t mention the impact of paid links and pagerank penalties from Google, which personally I think is at the root of this discussion (and I have to say that since I’ve likely been penalized 🙂 ).
I agree that Google traffic isn’t something to depend on and I think all bloggers should be using models that diversify both traffic and income sources, however as a person who earns four figures from selling text links, Googles actions could eventually lead me to a place where I have to decide what I value more – my google traffic and PageRank credibility, or my $2,000 from selling text links.
I agree about your comments on posting frequency, I have an article in my archives about how much a blog post is “worth” that relates to this topic. I like the “less is more” approach too.
mmm, not sure, i thought post less frequently with higher quality but lately i changed my mind. I’ve noticed people like reading news every few hours. And sometimes (with much disappointment) i also doubt about quality.
John Lockwood says
This is a very thought provoking post from a point of view fairly opposite to mine. My own focus is on Google traffic, and I’ve been fairly successful with that. The blog supports that effort, but I have yet to see how the blog converts to a real estate sale or even much in the way of inquiries, whereas other aspects of my site generate lots of contacts.
I’m willing to admit that the cause of that is the SEO stench that clings to me like the smell of stale cigar smoke. However, I’m not sure to what extent having more subscribers is a businessworthy goal, inasmuch as (near as I can tell), a real estate blog’s subscribers are typically either colleagues or critics. Real estate buyers and sellers don’t hang around reading real estate blogs, so far as I can tell, they’re off looking at the houses.
Still, I would love to build a loyal following and will read more and see what I can learn and apply. I’ve always enjoyed your work very much.
Brian Clark says
John, I built a successful brokerage from nothing but a website and free content. I attracted opt-in subscribers to my home buying tips, and converted those leads alone into tens of thousands of dollars in monthly revenue.
Bottom line–quit writing for your colleagues.
Great post! I couldn’t agree more that quality content should always come before worrying about SEO or search engines. Make your sites friendly to search engines, definitely, but don’t make optimizing your website the focus of your attention!
It’s all about the content and most importantly your readers! Subscribers is a great point that many people, including myself, often overlook!
I really think you are making the point here – Big G. is too dominant at the moment and I really hope that this will end with new search engines on this planet!!!!
Very good write up Brian. I had a similar post last month entitled, “” which pretty much echoes what you’ve said. Many people spend too much time worry about SEO and Google and not enough time worry about the product they are putting out. No amount of SEO is going to make something that’s crap good.
Links are great if they`re the right type. I`m not convinced that a great deal of activity is created by them. I still think search engines are the main source of visitors.
Great post Brian! The part I loved the most is…”I thought the goal was to work for yourself, not Google.” Very well said…
BTW, will you send me an email of copywriters you recommend since you’re not taking consultations right now and The Copwrighting Maven is leaving to FL for the AWAI Copywriter’s Bootcamp. Thanks!
Michael Martine says
I find it quite intriguing that Google’s actions are cutting off their nose to spite their face. How can you trust a search engine that can’t even find John Chow? Oops…
On the plus side, John Chow is famous and doesn’t need Google. He is proof (and others are, too) that you don’t need Google.
Laura Bergells says
What a fine post!
I, too, get tired of people fretting like teenage girls when Google “dumps” them.
In fact, getting Google to love you is like teenage dating. If a guy you like ignores you, your best option is to make yourself fabulous and hang out with cool people. Shallow guys like Google will come crawling back once it sees how cool you are…and when it sees how popular you’ve become.
I know. Google has dumped me twice…but within a few weeks, Google always comes crawling back.
Mike Fort says
great post…. thought you were going to get into the google “evil” of how much data they collect… but I liked the article nonethless
Great stuff. Blogged about it here:
Drupal Themes says
This was an anticipated post from Brian. I have been reading in webmaster forums there are people who are very disappointed with Way google is managing their PageRank stuff
Google Search results are no longer the best, this has been echoed by many people in various forums.
If Adsense gets a good compititor, Google’s titanic is sure to sink.
Jon Morrow says
I don’t know about everyone else, but I learn more from you by watching the way you write your posts than anything else. For example, just breaking down this one post:
Linkbait title? Check. Cool picture to catch my attention? Check. Harnessing social proof (page views)? Check. Great content? Check. Using controversy to create conversation? Check. Building anticipation for your report at the end? Check.
End result? One digg, and a guy that will check your blog every day for the new report.
You guys can talk about this as much as you want.
As long as search is how 75%+ of folks find stuff online, and as long as Google dominates that market, people will try to manipulate the results.
And as long as they do THAT, any savvy marketer will at least try to stay even. Hopefully not by buying links, but through link baiting, smart title tags, etc..
Excellent post. I too have been experimenting with just writing posts that are important to me, building subscribers and my community 1 person at a time, and using social media.
Slow progress but progress nonetheless.
Brian Clark says
I never said I wasn’t doing that. 🙂
I’m just saying I can live without them if I had to.
I entirely agree that it’s about good content to make the visit worth your subscribers’ while rather than counts. Just like any other worthwhile thing–you do it for the sake of doing it and doing it well, not because you want fame or fortune. If you can get those, too, well, who’d complain, but it’s not the point! (Or, shouldn’t be.)
Nature Wallpaper says
I personally think that getting traffic from portals such as MSN and or other sites through the means of advertising, is not as affective as having a person search for your product.
I have tried exchanging links with other sites, and results have been pathetic.
lawton chiles says
Case in point: My family runs a business and breakfast inn here in Tallahassee called the Governors Inn. We have tried optimizing it for SEO and found that many of our competitors are double-stuffing keywords on us (gasp!)
Our solution: Start three quality blogs with a post once a week that is essential- that they actually want to use and look forward to seeing.
This will be a great content test for me to develop posts that hit home with our audience 🙂
I’ll let you know how it goes…
As always. the content is the magic key to their hearts…
I notice that every post you make has a photo that is so cleverly related to the topic. I originally assumed that you must be excellent at finding great stock photos… but then I see the word “EVIL” written Google style, and I realize that this was just too rare of a find. Are you creating these on your own? What is your secret for finding these kinds of pictures?
I’m just about to start my own blog and would love to learn how you consistently keep coming up with photos that are high quality and actually relevant to the topic at hand.
Brian Clark says
Jason, 99% of the photos are stock, which I purchase at bigstockphoto.com (but the same photos are available at several places).
Occasionally I’ll use photos from other sources with attribution. The Google Evil logo was provided in a blog post as a downloadable attachment, which I linked to in the post (whoops, fixed that link!).
Mark Harrison says
Post less – I totally agree with this. I quite like to drop by Copyblogger once a week and read the posts that have accumulated there since my previous visit. Generally each post is off a high quality and so it keeps on making me come back for fear of missing something good.
I recently unsubscribed from Chris G’s blog solely due to the fact that he posts too often and as a consequence I think the quality of his posts suffer. I’ll still drop by Chris’s blog as there is some good stuff there but it’s more of a cherry picking affair.
Content is king, and Google recognizes that, most of the time. Most of my traffic comes through Google. Love `em or hate `em you just can`t do without them – for the time being at any rate.
Graham Jones - Internet Psychologist says
You echo my sentiments exactly. I have been saying for ages that search engines are a distraction. What matters most is your content. Get that right and people will find you. The Internet is a publishing medium and too few people treat it as such, instead hoping that technological trickery will help them succeed. It won’t; good content will since what you write will be picked up and recommended – and as ever, word of mouth is always best.
John Lockwood says
Interesting. I didn’t know you were a Realtor(r). So where’s this killer app free content real estate site?
Brian Clark says
Sold long ago. 🙂
John Lockwood says
Congratulations. Did the guy take it down, then?
Stephen Waddington says
You’ve summed up the single flaw with the Google model as a means to drive blog traffic in a single line – bloggers seek to suck in traffic via Google search and then send it away via ads.
Strong content is the only viable mechanism to building long term traffic.
People are fixated, obsessed even, with Google traffic. Copyblogger is proof that delivering value is key. John Chow didn’t even blink an eye when he got penalized by Google – because he doesn’t depend on Google traffic. That independence gives him the power to do whatever he feels like with his site.
Latarsha Lytle says
Thanks for the post.
Web success is all about giving your visitors enough meaty substance to keep them coming back for a little more…and that’s something you do very well.
Thomas C. Sullivan says
I won’t lose my traffic?… What traffic?
My blog (http://tcwrites.wordpress.com/) is pretty new and I launched it with this type of advice in mind. Trying to keep quality up by not pressuring myself to over-post. Of course, without any traffic yet it’s hard to know how that strategy is working 😉
Thanks again for the advice.
Chris Smith says
Great post Brian. All of the blogs that I read on a regular basis take this approach to quality content instead of quantity content. For me, any more than one post per blog is too much. I have so many blogs to read each day that I don’t have time to read three different topics on one blog.
I just did a post about the Google Gavel and how to determine if it effects you or not.
Just like with SE marketing, you are so much better off building your own mailing list and keeping those subscribers. For bloggers your feed subscription is like the website’s mailing list.
Daria Black says
Fabulous post. I admit that I was worried a little bit when I first heard of sites being penalized but then I realized that Google is only one of many sources that a person can bring in traffic to their website. The secret lies in creating sticky content that keeps people at your site. I also agree that creating a site that depends solely on one traffic source is asking to be owned by that traffic source.
Forget about Google… that is really a good idea. Seriously. How much better will our posts become when we start writing them without having search engines in mind!
Matt Keegan says
Sometimes I think Google’s reach is not as big as we think that it is. Google does a stellar job of marketing their various products, but they still have to contend with eBay, Amazon, Yahoo! and, yes, Microsoft among others.
It would be great if people would write simply for providing excellent content instead of worrying how much AdSense income they derived from each post.
If you are complaining about Google, what are you doing to help people use other competing search engines? I personally make it a point to search on Yahoo on every other search and even sometimes use MSN Search. I am a Microsoft hater, but many times Yahoo and MSN pull up content that better matches my searches.
Google used to be for the geeks and the tech savvy crowd, now it’s for people like my mother-in-law.
Michael Erik says
I’ll have to play the advocate here…How much of your traffic that got you where you are at, and that still sustains you, is from search engines? How much SEO best practices do you still follow?
While I agree with the precept of quality content, and what you’re saying, I also know that matching what someone needs with what we have in our site or blog content is, like it or not connected via mostly search engines as the vehicle these days.
I talk to several people often enough to find out they Google for things daily. I Google for things at least once a day I think, on average. Do you? Who doesn’t “Google” since I am using it now as a word “search for something on a search engine”. They own the market share.
They made searching “googling”, like getting a “kleenex” instead of a tissue. It’s here to stay.
Anyhow, back to the previous, I wish it were not so with the way things work, in the sense that what I said a while back similar things about keywords, though I still think we do need to play by search engine rules somewhat since we want people to find our content with the words they use in their daily search.
A billion or more searches a day (probably a low estimation), so that is how stuff is found. I just hate that the rules for using the keywords are the way they are set up to be.
Forget Google 80%, but not 100%. That’s my 80-20 input. Forget SEO and Keywords 80% and focus on content and subscribers. But focus on SEO and keywords still 20%. Thoughts?
Great tips!So there is life without the big G.I am impressed. I will follow your tips closely.I have even subscribed to your RSS feed.Keep it up!
I think people`s perceptions of the almighty G are beginning to change. PR is what the advertisers want, but the ordinary webmaster who just wants to get his site noticed depend on decent links, and, it has to be said, being `seen` by the search engines.
Quality over quantity anytime. I have two blogs, neither of which are updated more than twice a week. Yet in the latest PR re-rates one stayed at PR3, the other improved to PR4.
Pinoy Money Talk says
I find google a evil, they dont have a good competitor which can stop them from monopolizing the searches in the internet. yahoo and microsoft tandem did not materialize which could be a good competition for google.
True, you need to keep in mind though that any marketing plan involves a mixture of traffic methods and that traffic from search engines should be a part of that.
I’m 23 y/o & new to affiliate marketing & I have to tell you, this is one of the most informative blogs I’ve read! I know a woman who has made tens of thousands online since JUST LAST YEAR & she doesn’t rely on SEO tactics AT ALL because she says they’re not reliable. I had a hard time believing her because I’ve heard & read so much about people making tons online & their main stream of income came from clicks on Yahoo & Google. I had bad experiences w/ both search engines a few months back & ended up owing both around $75 each, partly because I had no clue what I was doing & SEO marketing campaigns can be kind of confusing to set up in the first place!
I tend to go off into oblivion when it comes to writing, but I hope you realize how helpful this can be to newbies like me; keep up the good work!
you’re cool dude. Its a nice advice. You’re a great help to newbie like me.
LOL. Two years later and google is still.. the “great evil one” LOL. 😛
Michael Fowler says
Brilliant advice. Traffic for traffic sake is only worthwhile when you are selling adverts. The old “quality vs. quantity” argument again. Most of the free ad-vice on the web is about massive amounts of traffic of any kind.
I think Google is the one we all love to hate.
Google is like your parents, you love them and you want them to give you lots of nice things but you hate it when they tell you what to do and how to do it.
Great article, Brian! I hate Google for a number of reasons.
And I am happy to see that more and more of my traffic comes from subscribers, social media and reffering sites.
With every day I am less and less dependant on Google.
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