Search Engine Traffic for Low Ranking Blogs

This guest post is from Raju Dinesh of Interesting Things blog, who had earlier written at Triond and achieved 2 Million views badge. More insights can also be found at his other blog.

I have been observing how the search engine results are evolving recently. The current scenario has evolved to a point where for any topic or keyword, the high ranking websites are taking first positions in search engine results. So if you have a low ranking website or blog, you will have a lot of difficulty in overcoming tough competition from high ranking sites. These high ranking sites might have taken a long time to establish themselves, but it feels unfair especially when they can easily rank up for any topic relative to your low ranking site even if you feel that you have better wisdom or content to share. This has become a natural problem for many bloggers now. It is even worse for those who target hottest trending topics of today.

The Effect of Competition

I will go into the details of how exactly the competition is affecting a low ranking blog.

Just few years ago, it was plain easy to write an article on trending keywords of the day and get some traffic if not much. Six (6) years ago, there was almost nil competition. Although it was there, it wasn't organized by Google. The world-wide-web has presented plenty of scope for targeting a variety of keywords which weren't then well exploited by webmasters. Year after year instead of following better practices, many webmasters tried to game the ranking algorithms of Google. Google too evolved over the years. As webmasters were busy playing games, this presented an opportunity for genuine webmasters. They are the same webmasters that you see today as those running established high ranking websites. All those who tried to exploit loop holes in search engine algorithms were washed down the ranking list of Google search results.

While this was happening, many people who have genuine content to share have found a great opportunity. All those have increased the content on the web and increased the competition. The recession played a pivotal role after this. More competition came from all quarters. As a result, even a genuine blogger has less chance of attracting search engine traffic. It's as though there is an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) mafia out there who take all the share of the pie leaving you little or nothing.

The problem is two-fold. First, you have competition from high ranking sites. You target any keyword, you will rank lower than the established sites in case they also targeted that keyword already. Second, you have competition from low ranking sites like your own. The web is growing in a boundless manner. It is because everyone can become a blogger and share their ideas on the same topic that everybody else also does. These result in a stiff competition for an upcoming blogger. Today, it has even become more difficult to establish your site among the high ranking ones. It is now more of luck despite putting genuine effort.

The Solution is in Volume and Unique Content

From my experience I have come up with a solution for this problem. But then it has its own compromises. If you think something is better than nothing, you can go ahead reading.


The idea is to focus on keywords (or topics) with huge search volume than those with low volume. So even if the topic is old, it is better to stick to one with huge search volume.

For a low ranking website to get some traffic, the overall search volume for a keyword should be very high. You can not just filter out long tail keyword and expect to get traffic from it. Because there is so much competition today, it is likely that most of the long tailed keywords you thought about are already conquered. As long tailed keywords will have lesser search volume than short keywords, you would get less or no traffic at all. All of that little traffic will be taken up by high ranking sites. Here let me digress.

I have noticed in the past few years that a lot of websites opened up just to take advantage of the trending keywords. If you don't know what trending keywords are, you can find them at google.com/trends. They are the ones that people are searching most today than on previous days or months. If a keyword got sudden surge in traffic for whatever reason, it is said to be trending.  There are also new upcoming keywords which for example can be a new movie name that surges in volume once the movie is released in theatres.  If it breaks box office records, it will trend a lot more time. Most of the trending keywords settle down to their earlier or new average low volume after some time period.

It also happened in the last two years that a lot of websites just cropped up to take advantage of long tail keywords. I too tried that. This is because most top ranking websites like wikipedia or youtube already show up in first page for any short keyword like "greek mythology". A new sub-keyword like "apollo in greek mythology" ranks a different website at first place before wikipedia entry. Even longer tailed keyword like "apollo's sister in greek mythology" pushed the wikipedia entry further down. This means that one can have a chance to regain lost ranking by looking a long tail keyword that no one has yet written for. But then this phenomenon has happened already and now there are many websites like Yahoo Answers, Wiki Answers kind of sites that already have entries for these. You can hardly stand a chance against these.

So if at all a low ranking site has to get at least share of traffic, one has to focus on short keywords. Back to square one. This certainly has a lot more competition, however, if your content is unique the huge search volume creates possibility for little traffic for certain combinations of long tail keyword searches that will match your content.

Why unique content? These long keyword combinations shouldn't be popular enough that nobody would've thought about. Hence, if you write unique, new content on your own, you stand a chance that some randome search would match your combination. Don't worry too much about uniqueness. We are all unique individuals. Just write on your own. Any two individuals who write on their own even on the most simple topic will write content that doesn't exactly match. Plagiarism certainly fails here. So you can see how natural evolution of Google search engine algorithm takes care of plagiarism.

How to Predict the Future

Now onto the next problem: You have now decided to focus on short keywords but write unique content so that random unique long tail combinations are present in them. But you have the problem of volume. How do you find out high volume keywords? Doesn't every short tail keyword have high search volume? No. Same way, you can think about long tail keyword of an obscure topic, but it will have nil searches. The possibility of a random and unique long tail keyword to be searched by a random audience compulsorily needs its parent topic to be hugely popular.

As you get very little traffic from this, you would want to get that trickle over long time period which means you should be looking for topics that will trend for a long time into the future. So how to predict the future?

Here I will derive insights from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Antifragility. In that book, the author had written a small section on predicting the future through subtractive mechanism by giving a simple thumb-rule. I believe that same can be applied for online search volume as wall.

The idea is that the future is already in the past. What has survived for a long time, can be expected to survive same amount of time into the future. Which means, the new upcoming ideas will be expected to have short life time than the older ones that we still have in application today. Note the word "expected" here. This is important.

Here we are dealing with uncertainties. So we have to understand what expectation means. Expectation means on average. If you take 100 ideas that have survived last 10 years vs. 100 ideas that have survived only last 1 year, you can tell that more number of ideas out of the 100 that survived last 10 years will survive another 10 years than those from the 100 that survived last 1 year. However, if you are just looking at next 1 year, you can expect more or less similar number from both 100 to survive next 1 year. Sure there will be some keywords but there will be very few in the second 100 set that will survive for the next 10 years. After 10 years you will have those very few from second lot in your first 100 list of that time.

If you still didn't understand above paragraph, spend some more time on it. I would even suggest reading that book Antifragility. It is reading of a lifetime. Then proceed for applying in the current context.

Example

We can apply this easily to predict keywords of the future. I would better illustrate with simple example. Let us look at keywords searched in the context of movies.

For me Titanic had always been the most popular movie. Well, it got a lot of Oscars and created all time box office record until Avatar broke them. Both by the legendary director James Cameron. In this picture taken from Google trends we sea the search volume with time from 2004 till 2013 (till now), of three movies -- Titanic, Avatar and After Earth. These three are represented by colors blue, red, yellow respectively.




As you can see, Titanic is indeed popular. It has maintained an average search volume which is same or little more than the peak for this year's release After Earth. Avatar is much more popular. After its release in 2010, it reached peak. Its average volume in the recent years is close to little more than that of Titanic. 

Next we will see how their search volume fares compared to recently released movies that became popular and grossed good box office revenue for these years. I took movies released in 2010 which has Inception, Iron Man 2 and "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows".


Watch all the lines in fives colors. The colors are in respective order: Titanic, Avatar, Inception, Iron Man 2 and “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows”. In the beginning of 2010, you didn’t know which one would be very popular. But only one out of the four stood the test of time. Avatar is still the most searched today than the last three movies. Despite more than a decade after its release Titanic is still searched. 

This is the safe way to predict the future. In 2010, I know that Titanic has been popular for a decade. But of the movies released in that year, I can’t be sure which will stand the test of time. If I were to pick a movie to write an article on, I would’ve been better of writing on Titanic than on any other. If I had picked Avatar, I would’ve been lucky. But if it was any other, 3 out of 4 cases, I would’ve gotten lesser traffic.

Avatar was released in 2009 but it was almost close to 2010. So let’s look at other than the two popular movies:  Inception, Iron Man 2, “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows” and Despicable Me.



The Harry Potter movie turned to have died down with time while Iron Man 2 and Inception are continuing to get residual search volume. Despicable Me is probably getting a new surge in traffic this year because its sequel has just been released. Add 2 or 3 to Despicable Me and Google will add up volume of “Despicable Me 2” to “Despicable Me’ also. Hence you should be very careful in analyzing search results. This is the reason why I chose above movies out of many other movies released in 2010. It is easy to illustrate. You can however do further study by going to Google Trends and picking other keywords.

This information should help you if are already capable of writing unique and useful content. I am only giving you direction where your articles can continue to get residual traffic for long time to come. Look at old topics -- they don’t necessarily mean untimely. You have to find those old topics that have stood the test of time, not all those topics that were prevalent in the old days but nobody cares or remembers today. Time is a reliable filter when predicting future. This way you won’t have to do deep research on topics to write (long tailed etc.), or pay websites providing detailed analytics and all. After-all what is the point of chasing keywords that are hot now but may not be in the future?

I hope this article has helped you to understand the competition we have in search engine ranking today, and how you can get residual search traffic for a low ranking blog by following above example.

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