Blogging 101: you don’t need to pay for SEO

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If you’re like me and want to increase your visibility on the web, you might be tempted to take advantage of those email ads promising instant visibility for a fee: search engine optimization. If you’re not familiar with the term, search engine optimization (SEO) is a service provided by individuals and companies that will put your blog or website and its articles on the top of Google and other search engines. But commercial SEO is expensive and unnecessary. You can optimize your own blog, using some simple tricks, and it costs nothing. All you need is a little patience.

I’ve written other articles about how to write a post people want to read, so here I won’t be focusing so much on how to write interesting and engaging articles, because that’s really another topic. Of course good writing and good looking posts are important, but here I’ll be focusing mainly on how to get the most out of things like social media share buttons, tags, categories, pingbacks/trackbacks, linking, and other tricks that generate maximum traffic to your blog.

1. The title is everything.
Make your titles short and catchy–and maybe a little sassy or controversial too.
This is really part of writing an engaging article but it belongs here because the title is SO important. Titles that are too long and sound like the title of a Ph.D thesis get ignored. It doesn’t matter how interesting or well written your article is. If the title is boring or pretentious, people assume what you have to say is boring or pretentious, and will skip over it. Try to be creative but not so creative your title has nothing to do with the article.

2. Use the Share buttons.
I can’t tell you how important this is. If you’re a WordPress blogger, the share buttons are available through the Dashboard, and include almost all the most popular and well known social media sites. You can also add your own, if the site you want a share button for isn’t available. Even if you can’t stand social media, other people reading your article will use the buttons and do your dirty work for you. I’ve had articles that reached 1K+ shares to Facebook, which would not have been possible without the share buttons. If the buttons aren’t there, chances are no one will bother to share them, even if they enjoyed your article.

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3. Use tags and categories.
Be careful with this. I have a bad habit of using too many tags and categories per post. It’s best to choose tags that are relevant to the post, but are no more than one or two words long. Categories are more general and you should use fewer of them than tags. For example, if you wrote an article about why cats shouldn’t be declawed, the categories you would use should be something like: cats, animals, pets, veterinary medicine. The tags could be more specific–unethical veterinary practices, declawing a cat, pets, animals, cats, animal cruelty. It’s okay to repeat your tags and categories, but the tags would be more specific, while the categories are more general. The reason why tags and categories are important is because when someone is doing a Google (or other search engine) search, the tags will refer to your article so it will be listed on the search engine page. Using too few tags means your article may get fewer hits (because people use more than one word or phrase to search for something), but using too many isn’t good either (though I’m not sure what the reason is, and I’m guilty of it).

4. Post every day.
If you’re a serious blogger, you should write at least one article a day. If you only post once a month or once a year, people aren’t going to bother to keep checking your blog for new material (of course, not all bloggers care about visibility and are writing primarily for themselves and that’s okay too, but if you’re that kind of blogger, you have no use for this article anyway).

There will be days you can’t think of anything original or are just too tired to write, so then it’s okay to reblog someone else’s post, post a video you like, a funny or attractive photograph, a joke, a meme, or what have you. But make sure you do post original material often. People will lose interest in a blog that’s nothing but a compendium of other people’s material.

5. Use Twitter #hashtags.
Even if you dislike Twitter (many people do, because of the 140 character limit), if you want to promote your blog, every so often you should choose articles you want to promote or think may generate interest and post it to Twitter with hashtags. If your blog is set up to automatically share to Twitter (as mine is), you can’t add hashtags to the initial share, but later on you can reshare it and manually use hashtags. Hashtags act like tags, and will generate more traffic because when people search for a term using a hashtag, your article will come up in the list if you have tagged it that way. For example, an article about baking chocolate chip cookies could have hashtags like #baking, #cookies, #desserts, #sweets. Unfortunately, hashtags can be one word only, unless you put two or more words together as one, such as #chocolatechipcookie. You should do this only if it’s a term you think people will actually search for. #chocolatechipbananacookies probably won’t work. Keep in mind that due to the 140 character limit on tweets, you can’t use more than 2 or 3 hashtags, so choose them wisely.

Here’s what I do. Every few weeks or so, I pull up my stats page and check which articles are getting the most views and shares (sometimes the most popular ones surprise me!) Since these articles are already getting a lot of hits, I’ll reshare them to Twitter, this time using hashtags, to capitalize on the article’s popularity and generate even more hits. Also, if there’s an article I really like but it seems to be getting ignored, I’ll give it another chance by hashtagging it. Sometimes this works too, and the article suddenly gets noticed even though it didn’t the first time around.

6. Be a necromancer.
Every so often (but not too often!), you can give an old article new life by resharing it. You might want to do this for an article you’re especially proud of or ones that are already getting a lot of hits since those articles are resonating with people anyway. By resharing an article that resonates, your hits will reach the stratosphere.

When you reshare a post to Twitter, you should also reshare to other social media as well. On Facebook, be sure to set it up so anyone can see it, on or off Facebook, not just your friends. At the top of each post, there’s an option for this. The little globe means anyone on or off Facebook can see it.

Set up accounts on other social media too, just to share your articles. I have a Tumblr account I never use other than to share my articles.

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Credit: Necromancer / Deviantart

7. Link to other blogs or websites.
Not only will other bloggers like you (and maybe follow you back) if you give them credit or quote them in your posts, linking to their article generates a trackback or a pingback, which appears on their site under the article itself or in the comments section. The curious may click on the pingback, which will take them to your article.

8. Love your haters.
You might hate having haters (I sure do and will probably never be comfortable with it), but having haters also means your blog is getting noticed. Haters generate traffic. A controversial article will get noticed and that means more hits for you, and your haters and detractors might even share it too. My haters have actually unintentionally brought me new followers, so I do appreciate them for that. That doesn’t mean you should write something controversial or incendiary just to get hits (because that’s basically just being a troll), but it does mean you should be able to write about what YOU want, even if it’s an unpopular opinion or idea.

Since I run ads on this blog, I like to tell my haters that I make money off them every time they visit (it’s only pennies, and I don’t do this for the money anyway, but saying that usually shuts them up).

9. Self-generating hits.
If you do all or most of the above things, there probably will come a time when certain of your articles become self-promoting. That allows you to rest on your laurels a little bit (but only a little). An example is my “20 Songs About Narcissism” list, which was split into two articles so I didn’t have to put too many videos in the same article. If you Google “songs about narcissism” these two articles now appear at the top of page one! That wasn’t the case when I posted them. I think they were on page 16 or something. It happened because as those articles’ Google rank began to rise over time (due to my promoting them), their higher placement generated even more traffic, without my having to do anything. Since there are a lot of people apparently Googling songs about narcissism, and my articles are the first thing they see, they continue to get a lot of hits, and I don’t have to do anything at all to promote them!

So that’s basically how SEO works. All you need is patience and the willingness to pimp your blog in the ways I’ve outlined and watch your Google rank rise and the hits start popping like Jiffy Pop.

Of course, if you’re not patient and can’t do without “instant gratification,” you can always pay for SEO too.

Also see 12 Ways for Non-Lazy Bloggers to Get More Hits.

For even more of my articles about writing and blogging (and how to handle trolls and bullies), see “The Art of Blogging” topic in the header.

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My ten most popular articles in 2015 (so far)

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So 2015 is half over, and out of curiosity I wanted to see which articles have been the most popular/viewed for the first half of this year. Here are the Top 10.

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Click for larger view. You cannot link to the articles from this table, but you can use the search bar to find them.

Well, I just have to say it.

May 18, 2015: 2,597 views.

My October 3 article, A Match Made in Hell: Narcissists and HSPs, has exceeded 1K Facebook shares. I can’t believe this. Obviously it hit a nerve out there.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! ❤

The top 6!

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Because I can’t think of anything more interesting to post about right now, here are my Top 6 most popular articles since I started this blog back in September, that have at least 1,001 hits apiece. (I am not including static pages–my Homepage/archives would have the #1 spot if I did that).

1. 20 Songs About Narcissists (#s 11-20) : 3,702 hits

2. 20 Songs About Narcissists (#s 1-10): 1,914 hits

3. Narcissism is a Family Disease: 1,821 hits

4. Famous People Who Have NPD: 1,222 hits

5. Anyone Remember Merrimints: Well, They’re Back (Sort of): 1,191 hits

6. My Son is Furry — Got a Problem With That? 1,001 hits

Other than #3, all these articles have something to do with pop culture or junk food. Not too surprising actually.

Incredible news for my “Merrimints” fans!

Several months ago, I posted an article about “Merrimints,” a delicious mint candy that was made until the 1970s and then disappeared. But due to the overwhelming demand for these delicious mints, several companies have recreated them. The article I posted also contained a recipe to make them yourself (not my own!)

So I have two pieces of good news for my followers who found this blog because of my Merrimints article.

The first thing is that out of close to 500 articles that exist on this blog (which has only existed for 6 months, and I’m going to write an anniversary post after this one), the Merrimints article is my third most popular post of all time! Here are the stats that show its placement among my 7 most popular articles (a few of the articles shown in the list are not articles but static pages from my header that get lots of views)

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Screenshot showing 3rd place placement of Merrimints article (the “1st placer” is just my homepage). Click to make larger.

The Merrimints article is also almost always among the list of Most Popular Posts that appears in the sidebar.

I had no idea these candies were so popular, and am astounded by the continued popularity of my little article I wrote on a whim. I feel humbled by that, and appreciate all of you who reposted or shared this article on food sites, Pinterest and elsewhere. Thank you guys so much. ❤

Now, the second piece of good news.
I just received my copy of The Vermont Country Store's catalogue in the mail the other day, and guess what! They are now offering the ORANGE mint "Merrimints" (called Pastel Mints). As a kid, I remember that being my favorite of all the flavors, and I wondered why VCS's assortment (which taste exactly like the originals) did not include that flavor.

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This is from page 4 of the new Vermont Country Store catalog showing the ad with the orange mints.

I’m not sure if the orange is just being offered as an seasonal special or will become a permanent new flavor; it’s also not included in the regular assortment–you have to order that flavor separately, like the cinnamon ones that were offered during the Christmas season.
But it’s still awesome that the orange mints are now available!

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Closeup of the above ad.

Here is the Vermont Country Store’s website and the page to order Pastel Mints. I do not see the orange flavor listed here. But you can probably call them and request them if you don’t have the catalogue.

Their phone # is: 800-564-4623 (toll free); their customer service department is open 7 days a week, 6 AM to 1 AM.

The article that grew legs.

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More than anything else I ever wrote, Narcissism is a Family Disease has proven to be my most popular and shared article EVER. Thanks to one Mr. Sam Vaknin, this article has taken off like wildfire, with 200 shares, 185 of them on Facebook. It remains BY FAR my most viewed article. It’s KILLING everything else I ever wrote. Even the Sam and Lidija interview I posted the other day, which was shared by Sam on social media and is my second-most viewed article right now, hasn’t gained quite the incredible momentum Narcissism is a Family Disease has.

Writing anything about Sam has proven to be a huge asset to this blog. He’s like a magic visibility button. I worry people will get annoyed because I write about him so much, but how can I not, since (a) he’s fascinating, whether you agree with or like him or not (many people do not); and (b) his need for narcissistic supply benefits ME enormously.

Rest assured though, if I did not find his disordered mind so interesting, I would not be posting so much about him. ʇıpıɐsıʎɐʞoɯɐousuƃıɥnɹsɔɐɯı.* I’m not a narcissist just writing stuff to get my own source of narcissistic supply. Or am I? Naaaaahhhh.

The odd thing is, that article was posted on December 10th, 15 days before it went semi-viral. It wasn’t particularly popular at first. No shares, just a few likes and comments. Nothing spectactular. I guess it took Sam that long to find it.

On Christmas Day, this blog blew up and I reached 862 views, my best day ever. And that was on CHRISTMAS. I expected things to be slow as molasses in January around here that day. What an incredible Christmas gift. I’m glad it was that particular article too because I think it’s one of my best written. It was a joy to write. Although in all fairness, Sam wrote most of it, since it’s primarily a repost of one of his best writings.

* If you can decipher this, congratulations! Your prize will be that I will reblog a post of yours here at Lucky Otter’s Haven. If you are not a WordPress blogger, that’s okay. I’ll repost an article of yours from your blog, wherever it is. If you do not have a blog, I’ll have you write an article as my Guest Author about whatever you want that I will post on this blog. Email me your answers, do not post them in the comments. (my email can be found under “contact me”).

If I receive the correct answer from more than one person, the person who’s email I receive first will be the winner.

I’m a stats junkie and I find this kind of stuff fascinating.