I get it: you’re proud, you want your regular readers to see your best work, and everyone has that damn ‘popular posts’ widget so you got it too.
It’s time to stop telling people which of your posts are most popular.
Get rid of that ‘Popular on the Blog’ plug-in, don’t tell other bloggers in real life or in blogger groups, and especially don’t share the keywords searchers use to find you. Hey, if you’re just blogging for fun then by all means, yell your keywords from the rooftops; but if you’re trying to make a go out of professional blogging or the money you make and trips you get are contingent upon certain traffic numbers, then it’s time to ditch the widget. Why? Well, I will elaborate here:
Think of keywords as proprietary information
Does Google go telling competitors (and users, for that matter) how their search algorithm works? Does Kentucky Fried Chicken tell you what makes up their ‘eleven secret herbs and spices’? No, well I’ll tell you: flour, salt, MSG, and black pepper. KFC is forever ruined.
If there is one thing that is important for you to keep for yourself, it’s organic search traffic. For a lot of people, that’s where a large proportion of their traffic comes from. For bloggers and businesses, going down even a few spots in search results can equal a huge loss in traffic and earnings. Whether you targeted certain keywords successfully or your highly ranked posts were a surprise, keep it to yourself.
That said, finding out the keywords people use to get to your blog actually isn’t that difficult, but generally you need a paid account for the programs that will give you actionable data. It would take a seriously motivated and savvy blogger going out of their way to get your keywords. When all is said and done, don’t make it easy for someone to take a piece of your organic search traffic pie.
Bloggers and brands have been known to steal/replicate topics
Some travel blogger told another travel blogger that they get thousands of hits from ‘ping pong show thailand’ and suddenly every blogger who has been to Thailand has a blog post about ping pong shows. I know, blogging is a community and we’re all in this together, motivating people to travel and so on… but still, if blogging is your job you should see other blogs for what they are: competitors.
New travel blogs are starting up every day and everyone is scrapping for, what is in the grand scheme of the internet world, a minutiae of organic traffic: people who travel. Even if you’re not in it to win it, be honest: your heart still sinks just a little when your traffic goes down month on month.
I’m not saying bloggers or brands are evil. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t take much to write a similar article with a different spin on it. Someone will look at your blog and go “Oh, skiing in Spain — how cool! I’m going to do that. Look at that, it’s her most popular post, well, I’m definitely going to write about it!”
This is really only a problem if the blog and brand in question is more well established than yours. They can easily push you out of the top spot for a certain keyword. Still, if the person has a better angle on the piece or their post is more informative, then it can still affect your traffic.
Now that I’m really thinking about this, it really explains why some bloggers can be so dodgy about discussing their work!
I suppose this begs the question: what else can you do?
Stick to things no one else can know as well
It’s easy to write a generic article like ‘Why Prague is Awesome’ or ‘How to Backpack Cambodia’ or something like that. But if it’s easy to write it’s also easy to write better. Be sure you offer something really unique to the post, something that would make users click on yours over someone elses.
My most popular post is actually really easy to discern and probably 98% of that post’s traffic comes from search engines. After almost 2 years, it’s still at the top because I’ve cornered a market (Canadians), its regularly updated, and a well-documented process. A few newbie bloggers have tried to do the same thing but always end up linking to my post as resource anyway (which increases its authority). They would have to do it better and then get 400+ comments on it to push me out of the top spot.
Another popular search term people use to find me is ‘sex in Martinique‘. I don’t mind sharing that because it doesn’t bring me much traffic and to write something as insightful and informative someone would have to live in Martinique as an expat for two years and gain first-hand knowledge of sexual relationships. Likelihood of that? Not very likely.
If you write something for SEO, write it better than anyone else COULD and you’ll be fine.
Build alternative sources of traffic
Search traffic is all well and good but if longevity is what you want, start working on subscribers to your blog and newsletter. Grow your community through social media. Even if your blog is so niche that no one could ever repeat it, search traffic is subject to the whims of Google (or Bing or Yahoo). They can go up and down based on the season or an algorithm change could bring your ranking down unexpectedly. Don’t rely on search engine traffic.