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A lot has changed in blogging since we first introduced our SEO strategy back in 2017. We’ve experienced quite a few challenges with Google’s ever evolving algorithm, we’ve watched so-called “expert” SEO advice turn toxic, and we’ve seen the fight for rankings become fiercely competitive.
In light of all these changes, we’re often asked if SEO is still worth it. If Google is always changing, how do we stay on top of it? The answer is yes, SEO is definitely still worth it. In this post, we will explain why and give you some advice on how to maintain your sanity when Google changes their algorithm.
We’re bloggers just like you. We were hit by the Aug 2018 algorithm change and the one in November 2019 and January 2020. We, too, are constantly fighting to retain our rankings and we need them because traffic is what pays our bills. We know, perhaps better than most, that the world of SEO is dynamic and always changing.
However, SEO is the tool I used to get where I am today and I stand behind it 100 percent, and I remain committed to SEO despite the ups and downs.
In many ways, investing in SEO is like investing in the stock market. If you’re not able to handle the risk, this business might not be for you.
It’s important to stay focused on the end goal and not get tied up in worrying about the fluctuations that will naturally happen due to algorithm changes and social media adjustments.
“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field –- not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard.”
So, Is SEO Still Worth It?
Things change rapidly in this business, but just as in 2012 and 2017, in 2020 you still need a solid SEO strategy to succeed.
Over the past few years, Gemma and I have been helping bloggers of all niches build success using SEO. There are countless testimonials on our Facebook group from bloggers who have used our strategy and exceeded even their own expectations. Many have built really successful businesses based on SEO alone. It’s not only possible, it’s necessary.
However, there are and always will be fluctuations in blogging. Your traffic will probably never remain constant. And you can’t expect to do nothing and achieve great results.
Here are four solid reasons why you still need SEO.
We Still Need Search Traffic
It might feel like the world is caving in when Google sucks away half your traffic, but search traffic is still a vital part of your success.
In fact, search traffic still amounts to 70% of the traffic on my travel website. I’m still seeing up to a 300% increase in traffic on newly revived posts, compared to last year.
Affiliate marketing is still most successful with target keywords. Without being able to target buyers who are searching for solutions, we would have a very difficult time making any sales.
SEO is always evolving and changing – but no matter what, in the end we still need search engines to put our content in front of readers. Without it, we’d have to rely solely on social media and direct traffic.
That makes Google a very important middle man that we can’t ignore. And since we need them, we still have to feed the beast.
Rather than giving up on SEO, we have to be patient and adjust to the new rules.
Keywords Are Still Necessary
If you want people to read your content, you have to make sure it’s a subject people are actually searching for. No Google update will take away the importance of knowing what’s in demand.
You might be thinking that knowing what people are searching for is only good for attracting search traffic through Google, but that’s short sighted. Search volume can be used as a barometer of what is currently trending. Those same questions are being asked and answered all over the internet, not just on Google.
By choosing keywords that have a high search volume, you know you are writing content that is in demand. Keyword research ensures the content you write matches what users are searching for.
If you stop caring about keywords, you will lose the ability to understand what readers want. And your traffic will go away with it.
Search Engines Still Need Guidance
Despite the ups and downs, Google and other search engines still need SEO signals in order to rank your content.
We’re not talking about just adding keywords. We’re talking about all the signals you’re putting into your content that help search engines understand what your content is about and how high they should be ranking it.
This includes well-researched target keywords in strategic places, as well as internal and external links, images and graphics that retain a reader’s interest, and engaging meta descriptions. >> See our 8-step on page SEO checklist to make sure you’re doing them all.
If you stop caring about on-page SEO, the search engines might not know how to rank your content.
Backlinks Are Still a Major Ranking Factor
On-page SEO is only a part of the equation. Off-page SEO, like backlinks and social signals, also provide guidance about your content to search engines.
If you stop trying to gain backlinks and building your brand on social media, you’ll begin to lose your leverage. You’ve worked this hard to build up your rankings and traffic. If you stop focusing on SEO, you’re damaging future traffic potential.
Your traffic might be affected by Google today, but there’s no way of knowing what they’ll do in the future. If you damage your potential now, you might not be able to reap any rewards in the future.
How to Weather the Storm
I’ve mentioned how investing in SEO is similar to investing in stocks. According to Nerd Wallet, these are five essential tips for investing in the stock market:
- Check your emotions at the door.
- Pick companies, not stocks.
- Plan ahead for panicky times.
- Build up your stock positions with a minimum of risk.
- Avoid trading overactivity.
These tips apply equally well to SEO and blogging. If you can master these five things, you will be ready to stick it out, even when the road is rough.
1. Check Your Emotions at the Door
When this happens to your stats, it’s hard not to get emotional. Believe me, I know. That graph is my own from when the November 2019 algorithm wiped out nearly half the traffic on one of my sites that I’d been pouring blood, sweat and tears into for years.
It didn’t feel good, I can tell you that.
After a brief period of anger and sadness, I gave myself a pep talk and decided not to open Google Analytics again for at least a week.
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all, but that’s not what a business does. You can’t just get upset and quit. You have to accept that there are ups and downs in every business. You will see peaks and valleys like this more than once if you’re in this for the long haul.
The key to winning is not letting this sort of setback get the better of you.
Just as Google made the change that dropped my stats in one day, they can also make a change that brings it all back. This type of volatility has occurred many times – both up and down – in the past five years, and I don’t think we can bet on it changing anytime soon.
Instead of getting down about it, complaining about it to anyone who will listen, and letting it stop you from moving forward, you need to find a way to accept that this is going to happen, and check your emotions at the door.
2. Pick Companies, Not Stocks
You can either pick reliable companies that will help you build a solid portfolio, or you can choose random stocks that are performing well right now. In other words, you can build a house or you can build a pile of rocks.
Just like in investing, you need to build a solid foundation of content that works together to increase your expertise. Many bloggers write about whatever topic appeals to them right now, without considering the long-term benefit of a content strategy.
Writing great content is the first in our SEO strategy. Without great content, you can’t expect to get anywhere. But creating random great content won’t get you anywhere either.
Building a good content strategy requires solid keyword research, evaluating the playing field, and tracking your stats to know what’s working and what isn’t.
To make sure you’re picking companies, not stocks, do a quick survey of your blog.
What are your three core topics? For my travel blog, mine are wine, food and travel tips. If you had a running blog, they might be building fitness, running gear and joining races.
Now as yourself these questions. You can make a mind map, if that helps you visualize.
- Based on keyword research, what do people need/want to know about these core topics?
- Have you written about those topics? [read about cornerstone content]
- Are you building a pile of rocks or are you building a house?
3. Plan Ahead for Panicky Times
There will be panicky times.
What are you going to do when the next one hits?
The thing about the algorithm changes is that gaining or losing traffic doesn’t have to spell disaster. I love seeing my traffic go up in Google Analytics, so when it went down I started to panic. I thought that losing that traffic would spell disaster for my business.
But you know what? It didn’t. In fact, I’ve made just as much money the last few months as I did before November when my traffic was super high.
That’s because I planned ahead.
Here’s what I did:
- Diversified my traffic sources, so my traffic wasn’t coming only from Google.
- SEO optimized all of my money-making posts, so they wouldn’t stop earning, even when traffic drops
- Kept my content up to date.
- I don’t rely on just one or two sources of income. I have many multiple streams of income.
- Saved a portion of my income every month as a buffer for when income is leaner.
4. Build Up Your Positions for a Minimum of Risk
If you’re currently floundering and not sure what to do to prevent future declines in traffic, this is a good place to start.
If all your eggs are in one basket, it might be time to start spreading them out. This applies to traffic sources, as well as content types and themes.
If your traffic fluctuates greatly based on seasons, you might need to diversify the your content to target all seasons. Your content calendar should always reflect seasonal changes. If you have a food blog, you should start writing spring content in winter, then shift to summer content in the spring. This will always ensure you’re ahead of the trend. Doing this also helps maintain ad revenue throughout the year.
Another way to minimize your risk is to make sure you have many streams of income. Even if you only do affiliate marketing, you can build multiple money-making posts in different topics, so one or two can lose strength, but the others are still working well.
5. Avoid Overactivity
When traffic declines, your first instinct is to try to fix what went wrong. You start adjusting everything, change your strategies, delete things, etc.
However, SEO is a long-term game. You can’t change your positions just because of some volatility in the market. Usually the best long-term plan is to stay the course and the market will correct itself eventually. For as long as I’ve been blogging, that has remained true for search engine traffic, as well.
If you’re just starting out with SEO, keep in mind that it can take up to 6 months or even longer to start ranking well for a new post. You might get lucky with a few, but Google tends to reward older content. If you go changing things around before Google has had time to evaluate your content, you might just be spinning wheels for no reason.
Here’s what we recommend: do great keyword research, write amazing content that fulfills user intent and is better than the competition, work the entire SEO strategy (yes, you have to do it all, not just part of it), and then wait. If your post is still not ranking well after 6 months, go back and re-evaluate.
It’s never fun to watch traffic decline, but there is something you can do about it. You can follow the five tips we’ve laid out here, and continue to work your SEO, knowing that every business has ups and downs.