Backlinking and Keyword Research - Is it Worth your Time?
I've been writing for HubPages off and on for about two and a half years know. After more than 135 articles and more than a quarter of a million views and I can definitely say that I've learned quite a few things. When I first joined this site I had already spent quite a bit of time writing for other sites and experimenting with different avenues to make money from the Internet. However, back then, I spent a lot more time on SEO than I do today. I remember spending hours backlinking my articles and promoting my content. When writing articles I also spent a lot of time doing keyword research and attempting to ensure that my writing maintained the proper percentage of those selected few words. Looking back on thinks I am now wondering if all that time spend doing SEO was worth it. After all, the powers at be (ahem... Google, etc), are constantly changing their algorithm making it nearly impossible for a family man such as myself to keep up with it all.
It wasn't long after Google let the Panda out if its cage that I came to this realization. Knowing that the future of the Internet was now uncertain (was it ever certain in the first place?) I decided that Search Engine Optimization was now dead to me - for the most part anyway. If I wanted to be truly successful in bringing natural, organic traffic to my articles, I needed to focus almost exclusively on writing quality articles instead of spending time trying to bring readers to them. For me, this simple change in thinking has reaped many rewards over the past few months. As I have said in many of my posts, Quality is King.
Is Backlinking Worth It?
The old strategies that I employed for years no longer produce the desired results that I once received. For the amount of effort and time that I spent backlinking, the return was no longer really worth it. I had a great strategy kept good records, and was very organized and even occasionally had an article that "went viral." However, any improvement in traffic was usually very short lived. These days, search engines seem to place much less emphasis on links placed at social bookmarking sites than they have done in the past. They can also probably recognize that the same user (by IP address) has placed all the links.
So is backlinking completely off the table? No, not entirely. It still has it's place for me, however I spent about 95% less time on it than I used to. Most of the articles that I have written aren't the kinds that people would be inclined to share anyway. They tend to be more informative and to the point which doesn't lend itself well to the content that people typically share. For someone who writes humorous, controversial, or otherwise revolutionary types of content, social bookmarking and backlinking might prove more valuable to them.
...And What About Keyword Research?
Well, I once wrote a decent article about doing keyword research. While it's still as valid today as it was the day I wrote it, I don't spend any time doing keyword research anymore. For me, it's just not worth the time and effort. Why? Well, in general I believe that I am a pretty good writer. I've noticed that performing keyword research doesn't really do anything to improve the quality of the content that I am producing. In fact, keyword research has actually reduced the quality of some of my past articles. I have found that by trying to force certain words into an article, the content loses its flow and starts to become unnatural sounding. In the end though, within the limits of the topics I write about, there was simply no significant difference in the amount of traffic received between the articles that I wrote while doing keyword research versus the ones that I wrote without it.
Instead of forcefully stuffing my articles with keywords, I now tend to focus more on just staying on topic within the framework of my article. By having a good outline and keeping the subject matter focused, I have found that it's actually quite easy to include the optimum amount of keywords within the article. And to avoid using the same word repeatedly, I turn to the thesaurus to find synonyms that don't detract from the context and flow of the article.
So if SEO is Out, Then What is One to Do?
Obviously, being a successful writer on the Internet requires more than just having hundreds of backlinks and a web page with a perfect distribution of keywords. If someone were to ask me if I had any advice for new online writers, I would tell them to spend more time focusing on creating quality content instead of employing SEO techniques to improve traffic. A well written article on the right topic will generate its own traffic independent of the SEO techniques that you use.
Does this mean that you should ignore SEO techniques completely? In general, no you shouldn't. When writing online articles it's helpful to keep in mind how search engines work and just how they rank web pages. Before writing about a particular topic, check out the top 5 or 10 search results for those words. Look closely not just at the content of those web pages, but how those pages are structured, how they flow when they are read, and how visually pleasing they are. Writing for the Internet is nothing like writing a college paper or a book. These are all really different animals. For new writers, this is all the SEO that I would recommend.
Yes, actually. A lot of what makes someone successful on the Internet is just plain dumb luck. You could have the best, most well written and perfect article ever, but if your timing is off or your topic isn't appropriate for the current culture of the Internet, it's not going to get read. On the other hand, however, you could have some articles that get almost no traffic and then one day the readership could explode! This has happened to me on more than one occasion. Even though you can't control or predict when you will get lucky, finding your black swan isn't impossible. As the quantity of articles and range of topics that you have written about increases, so to does your chance of seeing an explosion in traffic.