You ever hear a piece of advice so often you never stop to think about the fact that it’s just plain bad advice?
In countless articles about blogging and SEO and traffic, they’ll tell you to look at the keywords of your most popular posts and the top ten keywords that bring traffic to your site and to make sure you write more posts like that. And it sounds good on paper, right? People are already visiting your site for x so write more about x and you’ll keep them coming back for more!
Except… what if that doesn’t do you a damn bit of good? Yeah, ok, sure, you’ve got people coming here to read about x and then you can leverage that to get more people to read about x but, what if x is nothing to you? Very few of us are all that interested in traffic for traffic’s sake. What good do readers who want to read about x do you if x has nothing to do with what you’re selling?
Out of the top ten keywords that lead people to this blog, all of them are variations on “how to scam on eBay.” It’s all because of this blog post I wrote years ago about a book that purported to tell you how to be an eBay scammer. There isn’t really even anything to my post, it’s just me being like “Look at this book! Annoying, right? Grrr.” but for some reason it’s still one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written.
And because almost all of my most popular keywords on this site are about how to scam on eBay because of that one stupid article, I followed the common wisdom and wrote more posts about that topic until some confused guy thought I wrote a book on how to scam on eBay myself. And it worked great, more and more people kept coming to my site to learn how to scam on eBay which sounds great except… what the heck do I want those people here for?
I don’t know how to teach people how to run a scam on eBay! I don’t particularly want people to run scams on eBay at all. Besides, people who do want to scam on eBay aren’t interested in reading the other helpful articles on my site about building a better e-commerce business, they are looking to scam their way into a quick buck. I have lured these people here with keywords just as I was told to do but they are absolutely no good to me!
You know who I do want on my site? People who want to start a selling assistant business. People who are looking for tips on how to market their eBay items. People looking for alternatives to Amazon, eBay and Etsy. You know, people who want to read the ACTUAL THINGS I WRITE ABOUT.
Which is when I realized that this common wisdom about playing into the keywords that are already drawing people to your site is dead wrong. Instead, you want to play into the keywords that bring in your ideal readers and customers, the people who aren’t going to just read that one unrelated article and skate but will stick around, read through your archives, become a regular, buy your books.
Maybe you’re always 100% on topic on your blog and you never write anything that isn’t part of your rock solid brand. Then your top keywords are always perfectly related to what you write about and your top ten are all so spot on relevant that it’s easy for you to write more articles about that topic and bring in more of your ideal reader. Woopdedo. Good for you.
But for most of us, we’re not thinking about branding and SEO every second. And, even if we are, brand is an evolving thing and a post that we felt fit it ten years ago may not fit today. The fact is, keywords are weird and SEO is always changed and your most popular blog posts may not have anything to do with your main brand. Conventional wisdom is effectively saying, “Well, who cares what your brand is, if the majority of people are coming for that one random post you wrote about bacon flavored edible underwear, congratulations, your blog is now about bacon flavored edible underwear, enjoy writing about that forever!
(You’re distracted now because you want to know if bacon flavored edible underwear is a thing. It’s not, calm down. Ugh, now watch bacon flavored edible underwear become another one of my most popular keywords when I’m never going to write about it again.)
Then what should you do? Brainstorm a list of the keywords you wish were bringing people to your site… and write towards them. Instead of using your current Top Ten keywords or today’s most popular posts as your guide, use them as your barometer of how well you’re doing, writing more and more content of the keywords you want people coming to you for until those new keywords overtake the irrelevant ones in the top ten and your most popular posts are the ones that are useful to the mission of your site.
And maybe the next time you decide to blindly follow some bit of advice you hear repeated over and over you should stop and think it through and realize… just because something sounds good on paper, doesn’t mean it makes any sense in practice.