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“In my day, we blogged for our subscribers!”
But today, of course, we know that subscribers are pretty hard to come by. There may be a lot of people out there who like your blog very much, but they may not visit it above once a month or so – even if they’ve subscribed to your RSS feed! Blog-reading just isn’t the daily priority it used to be.
…So as a blogger, it really pays to embrace this intermittent style of reading, and to consider a different kind of audience – I call them “searchers.” (Well, because they are.)
With about seven years of collective craft blogging under our belts, we’ve created a truly massive online archive of how-to. We’ve also (as we know) grown a bit fatigued with our overstuffed RSS readers. So as readers, we’re gravitating toward searching for that one specific thing we need – it’s way faster than combing through every blog we like.
There’s a whole audience of searchers out there, Googling for very specific things and just waiting to discover your blog in a search result. These folks come to you in an open, exploratory frame of mind, and if your blog has what they need, BAM! They’ll wonder what other cool stuff you’ve written and start poking around.
Neato! How do you reach these searchers?
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First, we look for your specifics.
What is your blog about? (If that’s a hard question, try this one: what is your blog about most of the time?) What do you want to be known as an expert in? Or, what kinds of searches would you like your blog to show up in?
Reaching a search-based audience requires a little specificity. If you go to Google right now and type in “crafts,” well… you’re going to get eleventy bazillion results, and most of them will be awfully general. (Same thing happens with searches like “sewing,” “knitting,” “jewelry-making,” etc.) Most people who use search engines understand that the more specific the search query, the better the results.
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…So it stands to reason that the more specific you can get with your blog posts, the more prominently your blog can show up in searches. If you write about a general idea like “sewing,” you’re competing with eleventy bazillion blogs for position in a search result. But if you write about smaller sewing-related details, like how to make a perfect bound buttonhole, suddenly you’re competing with only a handful of other blogs. If your how-to is well-titled (more on this in a moment), you can show up prominently to those searchers.
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Next, we look at how search engines think.
Search engines are literal, literal creatures. They sort web pages according to straightforward, commonly-used language. When they scan your blog, that’s what they’re looking for. So it pays to keep your blog post titles very clear and to-the-point.
A personal example…
Check out this 2007 post of mine. You, a nice human, can look at the title and the photo, get the joke and understand that I made the bracelet from a plastic bottle. But there’s nothing there for a search engine to understand. As a result, this post has never ranked anywhere in searches for “how to make a bracelet from a water bottle.”
(In fact, why don’t you do that search now and see what does show up on the first couple pages?)
If I were to change the title of this post to, say, “How to make a bracelet from a plastic water bottle,” then more searchers could see it! Are there any posts in your archive that would benefit from a title change?
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It should be said: search engines don’t just scan the titles of your posts; they also scan the text. So you can boost the search ranking of a post by adding phrases people might type into a search engine. In a tutorial for making a crochet blanket, for example, you might say something like, “Here’s how to crochet this granny square blanket.”
I frankly hate this tactic and am terrible at it. I find that adding these phrases to my writing feels (and reads) like shoehorning. But maybe you’ll want to give this a try and maybe you’ll be better at it than I am.
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Using search to help you plan content
You can totally leverage this search thing to create more search-able future posts for your blog. If there’s a particular craft you want to be known for, here’s a tactic worth trying: for the next couple weeks, keep track of the Google searches you do on this craft. What words and phrases are you using? Which ones are bringing you the most relevant results? Those are good foundations for blog posts.
Now, try typing some of these phrases into Google, and seeing what related searches come up. These related search phrases are showing up frequently among Google users. In other words, they’re topics a lot of people want. So how might you incorporate them, literally or thematically, into blog posts?
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Remember content strategy?
Now, our earlier discussion of content strategy applies here, too. Once you’ve drawn a searcher to your blog, you’ll want to give them some easy ways to explore more deeply. That means presenting them with a limited number of options, directly related to their interest, right in the spot where their moment of need happens.