Ok, you’ve read my previous article on what keywords are and where to put them and you’ve gotten your pages all set up. And then absolutely nothing happened. Your page didn’t rise up in Google results and tons of traffic didn’t arrive. Here’s why.
Why Traffic Doesn’t Magically Arrive
This goes back to the basics of why search engines exist. They exist to provide answers to questions. When people go to a search engine and ask for information, they don’t just want any information. They want the most relevant information for them. This means that search engines go to great lengths to try to figure out what is most relevant.
So how do you let a search engine know that your information is the most relevant?
Well the first step is to make sure the search engine knows your information exists in the first place. If you’ve installed and activated the WordPress SEO plugin then your site will automatically tell Google & Bing when new content is published. The plugin will also create sitemaps for you by default (search engines like sitemaps, it helps them navigate your site).
Well now a search engine knows your content exists, unfortunately merely existing isn’t enough.
You Need Links to Get Visitors
Lots of websites have great content, so how do search engines decide which content is the best?
Links. Search engines use links on the internet like votes.
Links are generally done using keywords. For example since I do a lot of web design, I would want to get a link to anphira.com with the words “web design” in the linked text. Linked text is also called anchor text, it’s just the text that makes up the link. For example, click here for information on web design services. All 8 of those words are in the linked (or anchor) text.
When one website creates a link to another website, search engines look at that as one website endorsing or voting for the other. So if a website creates a link to me with the anchor text “great web design services”, then Google would interpret that to mean the website endorses me for those 4 keywords.
This endorsement of other sites is talked about so much, it has a special name: backlinks.
Backlinks stands for links back to your site. So if someone says I have 1,000 backlinks it means they have 1,000 links back to their site.
Now, not all links are created equal. Links from sites with authority are given more weight than links from average sites (just like when an Olympic gold medalist endorses a sports product it has more value than if a random stranger did). And links from unsavory sites (like spam farms) are given negative weight.
So, in order for a search engine to think your site is valuable, you need a number of votes or endorsements. A few votes from authority sites can be more valuable than a couple dozen votes from average sites.
Negative SEO or Toxic Backlinks
Remember how I said unsavory sites can give you negative votes? Those negative votes can destroy any positive votes you had. These negative votes are so bad they have a name: toxic backlinks.
In fact there are some unsavory people out there who will submit their competition’s websites to spam farms for the express purpose of damaging their competition. It’s pretty much the internet equivalent of standing outside a restaurant with a sign saying “I got food poisoning here”.
You can also get negative SEO by accidentally submitting your site to directories which Google has flagged as spam. And you can get negative links by outsourcing your link building to cheap firms (low quality, not necessarily low price).
So how do you protect yourself from negative SEO? Well, you regularly check your online reputation. For more information, take a look at Neil Patel’s article on the topic.
So you want lots of positive votes, and no negative votes. You also want these positive votes from authority sites. So what are authority sites?
Authority sites are a website considered to be high quality with a lot of links to them.
The good news is, authority is measurable and easily available.
Measuring Authority: The Moz Bar
One of the easiest ways to measure authority is the Moz Bar. It’s a free browser extension for Chrome & Firefox.
When you visit a webpage the moz bar will display at the top of your browser and tell you about the authority of the page you are viewing. It looks like this:
The first number, PA, is your Page Authority. It a score from 0 to 100 of well the given page might rank in Google’s search results. Zero is a page with no authority and 100 is nearly impossible. For example whitehouse.gov has a page authority of 96 and bluehost.com has a page authority of 94.
The second number, mR is mozRank. MozRank is scored from 0 to 10 and represents the link popularity. This uses the voting system I talked about earlier, so a site with 100 links from low authority sites would not score as highly as 100 links from high authority sites.
The third number, DA, is your Domain Authority. Like page authority, domain authority is scored from 0 to 100 and indicates how well a given domain is likely to rank in search results.
Here’s some guidelines for how to look at your domain authority:
DA 0-10: New site, lots of growing to do.
DA 11-20: Young site that has some growing to do.
DA 21-30: You are doing ok, but you want to do more than ok.
DA 31-40: Definitely doing better, you are starting to compete pretty well.
DA 41-50: You’re now the big fish in the pond and quite competitive.
DA 51-60: You have arrived. You are now starting to play in the big leagues.
DA 61-70: You are generally considered an authority on your topics.
DA 71-80: You aren’t just an authority, you are the authority on your topic.
DA 81-90: You are considered an authority by people who know little to nothing about your topic.
DA 91-100: These are household names with giant marketing budgets. Very very few sites will ever reach this.
The remaining 3 numbers are incoming links from Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
How Does This Get Me Traffic?
Back to search engines and providing the most relevant answers to questions. When a visitor types in a search the engine looks through their results for pages that are most appropriate. The engine factors in how well a page matches for keywords as well as the page & domain authorities.
This is how a site that has gotten pretty good domain authority can write a new blog post and get it ranked almost immediately for keywords. It’s because the site has already put in a lot of work to establish its domain authority.
Of course, these links & votes don’t just help you with search engines, they also help you by driving traffic through those links to your site.
So now you want to go build some links, right? Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing and The Advanced Guide to Link Building. They are both free resources and not affiliated with me in any way. I just happen to think they are well written and useful.
Don’t Forget About People
Before I wrap this up, I just want to remind you that while keywords, traffic, links, authority and all of that are important, they aren’t the end game.
The end game is to provide valuable and useful information/products to people.
Yes, you need to be concerned about these various things to help people find your website and webpages, but still you are talking about people. If the content of your pages isn’t valuable then all of the traffic driving efforts in the world won’t help.
Remember, websites are a lot like restaurants, you can run a big campaign and get people in the door once. After they are in the door, you need to serve them quality food or they won’t be coming back.
Worse yet, if people have a bad experience they are more likely to tell their friends how bad it was than if they had an ok experience. People who have an ok or good experience are not likely to talk about it. Only people who have a very good or excellent experience are likely to tell their friends.
Wrapping up, creating the content for your pages using topics & keywords is very important, but it’s just the beginning. In order to get traffic to your wonderful website, you need to get links from to your site. And backlinks from authority sites are more valuable than backlinks from the average site (although average links are loads better than no links or worse yet toxic links).