July 8, 2017

Does your blog come on top of search pages, does it?

All bloggers want traffic, and for that search engines are godsend. Who does not want to come on the first page of Google?

Wondered how many top search results show blogs? I did a bit of random research for you, to give you a glimpse of that. I am not a researcher, nor has my site ITB resources to get a research done. I, however, bought some gigs on Fiverr for variety in searches and some experimentation. My small but guided experience will definitely give you a few hints on how to search optimize your blog, especially if you have not hired an SEO expert.

When I went for a very broad search term (e.g travel, health, recipes, America, sports, blogging), hardly any blog came in the top 10 results on Google. Mind it, I used the private mode on the browser and wiped memory of the websites/ blogs I had earlier visited from the browser cache. But since all big search engines have their servers in major world locations, they'll likely give at least some results of your country however much you cloak your location.

Interesting it was to see that of all kaywords, 'pregnancy' was quite less commercialized and the results on Bing, Yahoo and Google were very similar. For a few other keywords, the similarity in non-commercial results was striking. The inference that we bloggers can draw from this is that if a page has quality content relevant to the keyword, it will come high on all search engines.

OK. The next step. I went for two-word search expressions (=keywords) but still very broad. Also one-word keywords but not too broad (e.g. yoga, fasting, American fashion, continental recipes, Indian news, banking career, portrait photography, women shoes, bed sheets, iPhone). Some blogs start coming here. Interestingly, that depends also on the browser in addition to your browsing history, location etc. even if you are in incognito/ private mode.

I've also found that Google Plus posts come high in search pages if the title and content are relevant. 

It is sometimes said that being in the Yahoo index helps SEO. I found that Google did not give such sites extra points. (Btw, because Yahoo did not throw up any results for blogs in the top ten results, I did not look further if blogs posted to Yahoo index - which is a paid service - fare better than others.)


I had not realized before this, that the world is so commercialized! For popular products, search engines give e-commerce sites on top (often localized), and then news sites and Wikipedia articles if there is some non-commercial angle to the search query. So, a search for 'bed sheets' and 'women shoes' results not only in dozens of commercial web pages in the first few pages, the suggestions too are of commercial nature.

That gives another takeaway: If your blog is not an established blog and deals only with information (not products and services with direct commercial value: recipes, make-up reviews, etc), its chance of coming in top search pages for keywords relating to popular products is very bleak.

An indirect inference from the above observation is that normal (not well search optimized) blogs dealing with popular products are not likely to get good click-through rate (CTR) because the most relevant search traffic is focused on commercial and big websites.

OK, let's see what comes on top when we search for long-tail keywords. 

Remember, Google and Yahoo suggestions at the bottom of their search pages are actually used, popular, keywords. We need to optimize our blogs for these keywords. These are mostly with 3 or more words and give complete intent of searcher. 

I also compared my results with those found through Google's highly popular Keyword Planner tool. There were wide variations. I have a feeling that Google calculates the traffic in the Keyword Planner tool keeping advertisers in mind, not publishers (i.e. website owners, bloggers). Of course, its data on competition etc directly keeps advertisers' need in view, that's obvious. 

I took a number of long-tail keywords with no direct buying intent (not like 'pet food in California' or 'How to buy wedding dress'). What I found again proves the commercial angle in search results:   
when we look for 'how to...', search engines throw all types of sites including videos which do not always answer the question. Among the relevant pages that answer the question, there is hardly a blog page. Sometimes Quora or Yahoo Answers or Wikihow come up but probably when search engines have no commercial site in their index that relates to those queries. So, the manual tweaking of index that search engines do supposedly 'to give you a better user experience' is humbug. Business angle is supreme for them!

When I asked academic questions shorn of any commercial intent (e.g. 'When did the British rule India', 'How do trees bear fruit', 'French space program'), authoritative sites and Q-A sites (mostly Quora) came up but hardly any blog. Blogs did come in lower search pages, but only when they were very focused (e.g. 'to seed or not seed citrus'). I extended the search further and checked for suggested keywords which were very focused. Blogs (independent blogs as well as free blogs with blogspot and wordpress suffixes) started coming in top pages. I got some of these blogs thoroughly checked by a Fiverr guy and he reported that these blogs had good material on topics around the search term and over a long period. A few very new blogs and a few with only 1-2 posts on the topic also came but I could not analyze them any further.

What that means is: If your (little) blog wants to come on top of search engines for saleable things, it has to compete with biggies. On the other hand, it can come up high for information keywords but there will not be many people searching for these terms and even less buyers. In either case, to come on the first page, blogger must regularly write posts around a topic for a long time.

I then looked at local-interest and local looking searches with low commercial angle. When searchers look for 'wildlife around Oregon' or 'Thai massage parlors', they are wanting to know things in those locations but when they look for 'Chinese paintings', they might be looking for this in their neighborhood or its features irrespective of location. I found search engines good at knowing the intent and serving relevant results. Sometimes blogs show up high on such searches, perhaps based on focus on the content. I'd advise information-purveying bloggers even if they are into broad niches, to include some posts on very focused topics, including that with local flavor, to get some targeted traffic. In fact, travel bloggers do it quite often. 

I also looked for expressions 'blog', 'blogging', 'blogger', 'blogspot' and 'wordpress' along with the main search words. Not many people will search with such keywords, but my idea was to check whether blogs come there just on the strength of their content. Results were relevant and many blogs (along with big websites, news on blogs, and commercial sites) came up in top 50 results, but competition for smaller blogs seemed to be quite high as not many common type of blogs come high up. For buying-intent keywords (yoga pants, iPhone, flatbed scanner), blogs have no chance [more so, those on free platfroms] but for other information in which sellers may be less interested, blogs with big resources had high SERP presence. My takeaway from it would be to post regularly and develop huge resources over time.

Quora has high reputation, especially on Google. When searches start with interrogative pronouns (what, why, when etc) or end in question mark, Quora answers come up high. Bloggers can make use of this by regularly posting good content on Quora and linking relevant blog posts from Quora posts. 

Let me sort of conclude. If you have opened the blog with a view to earn from it through search and AdSense, you need to optimize it well. Next, you must have two types of content: one, that is full of information and two, that links information with products. Some posts should be focused on narrow topics and these should serve great value to the few looking for that exact information. Post good content regularly. Also use the power of Quora and search suggestions thrown by Google/ Yahoo.

Warning! If you have grown big enough to take on big websites, these observations are of no value. ;)

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