The Future-Proof Guide to Getting More Traffic as a Writer

We’ve covered a lot of ground, so let’s recap.

Google Authorship is a reality. It’s easy to configure (if you follow our instructions) and writers who have already done so are being rewarded with more traffic due to higher click-throughs on their rich snippet-enabled search results.

But the true value of Google Authorship is that it lays the foundation for things to come.

Author Rank is the popular name for a mechanism that would allow Google to use author authority to influence search engine rankings. And while the implementation of Author Rank is not a cast-iron certainty, few in the SEO community would bet against it.

So where does this leave the search-savvy online writer wondering exactly where to focus his or her efforts to get more traffic for their content in the future?

4 Content Trends You Can’t Ignore (and What You Must Do to Thrive)

Looking at current trends, let’s make some predictions about the future of content and try to draw some useful conclusions.

#1 Google will get even better at gauging the quality of your content

Google is obsessed with content quality. Algorithm updates such as Panda have helped it weed out the poorest content, however it still relies on external indicators, such as backlinks, to spot the best.

But as time goes on, Google will start to use other indicators such as social signals – i.e., numbers of tweets, shares, +1s, etc. – to more accurately measure the value of your content.

So anything but the best content will struggle to rank well in Google Search. Low-grade content will be filtered out early on and higher quality content will need to earn its place via the approval of its audience.

Conclusion: You’ll have heard it a hundred times before, but it’s truer than ever. If you want Google to reward you with higher rankings – and more traffic – focus on producing high-quality content. And the definition of quality here is simple: it’s content that people want to read and share.

#2 Google will gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of your content

For a long time Google has relied heavily on keywords to gain a superficial understanding of what your content is about. But eventually it wants to understand what your content actually means.

The key to this is semantic search, where queries are matched to relevant content not simply according to the specific keywords used, but based on a model of what they mean in context.

Consequently, Google will get much better at understanding the topics you write about online, not just the keywords you use. And they have said that they want to be able to give subject authorities a ranking boost for relevant queries.

Conclusion: The benefits of being a topic specialist will become more pronounced as time goes on. So if you currently write on a wide variety of topics, you should consider narrowing your focus. That goes for your blog too. And don’t obsess over the specific keywords you use in your posts but do make sure you write in the same terms that your target audience uses.

#3 Your reputation as a writer will become an increasingly valuable asset

Guest blogging – writing for someone else’s blog as an external contributor – has long been a great way to drive relevant traffic directly to your own blog.

But due to the increase of low-quality guest posts (the blogging equivalent of spam), Google is now committed to cracking down on this practice.

This means that popular sites keen to preserve (and enhance) their search rankings will become much more fussy about what – and whom – they publish. So your track record as a writer will be vital when landing valuable guest blogging opportunities.

Conclusion: Actively manage and enhance your reputation by writing valuable content for the most respected blogs in your niche. Spend time building organic relationships with top bloggers who accept third-party contributions. And if you accept guest posts on your own blog, be very discerning about whom you invite.

#4 Google+ will become the essential social network for content creators

The growth of Google+ has been impressive, but despite its success, it still plays second fiddle – at least in terms of public perception – to its older siblings Facebook and Twitter.

However, Google+ will soon be the de facto choice of social networks for serious content creators. And while ignoring Facebook might be viewed as a valid tactical decision, failing to exploit Google+ will be seen as sheer madness.

Some reasons include:

  • As Google starts using social signals to measure content authority, it’s only natural that signals occurring within Google+ will carry significant weight – and signals from known influencers on Google+ will carry more weight still.
  • Content posted “natively” within Google+ is easy for Google to index and will likely show up in search results before content posted outside the network.
  • Personalized search (where users see custom search results based on their profile and search history) can give content a boost if endorsed by people in the user’s network.
Conclusion: Take advantage of the fact that it’s still easier to get on the radar of key influencers on Google+ than it is in Facebook or Twitter. Build your network by being visible and generous. Because while the early adopter ship has already sailed, you still have time to gain some serious traction before everyone else tries to do the same.

10 Simple Steps to Jumpstart Your Success as an Online Writer

With all this information, knowing where to start can be a challenge, so use the following 10 simple steps – most taking 5 minutes or less – to set you on your way:

  1. Get on Google+. If you haven’t done so already, create your basic profile, and be sure to upload a “clear and recognizable” photo of yourself to allow rich snippets.
  2. Enhance your profile.  Add detail to your About page under Story and be sure to tell us which subjects you specialize in. Remember to create a compelling Tagline.
  3. Add a Google+ link to your blog. Add your Google+ link to the list of social media links on your blog. Add it to your email signature too.
  4. Configure Google Authorship. Install the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and be sure to add your blog’s URL to your Contributor to list on your Google+ profile.
  5. Claim your guest posts. If you’ve written for other blogs, make a list of your best posts and email the blog owners asking them to update your byline with your authorship link.
  6. Circle 10 influencers in your niche. You can search for recommended users by topic and add them to your circles. And while you’re at it, why not add me and Jon? 😉
  7. Post a link. Link to your latest blog post, or to a favorite post elsewhere on the web so your posts page doesn’t look so empty. If you’re short on ideas, post a link to this guide.
  8. Engage with other users. Find an interesting post in your stream and +1 it, share it or leave a comment.
  9. Join a community. Find a Google+ community related to one of your main topics, join it and post a quick introduction for other members.
  10. Create a Google+ post. Share your thoughts on a topic by creating a native post. If you’re feeling adventurous include some custom formatting and a hashtag.

So that’s it! You now have everything you need to prepare for the content revolution to come.

Are You Ready for the Authorship Revolution?

It won’t happen overnight, but there’s little doubt we’re moving towards a more author-centric world. And that’s great news for writers who are committed to working at the top of their game and creating original, valuable content that serves the most pressing needs and desires of their audience.

And the rest? Those writers who prize quantity over quality and see content as a necessary evil for getting the search rankings they crave?

Who cares? They’ll be irrelevant soon anyway.

Time to get started!

About the Author: Glen Long is the Managing Editor of Smart Blogger and gets to work with some of the best writers on the web. He’s also the Assistant Instructor on Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging Apprenticeship Program, where he helps students get published on some of the biggest blogs in the world. If you’d like him to critique your writing, click here.

Many thanks to Mark Traphagen for his valuable input on the first draft of this guide. Mark is Senior Online Director of Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting and also runs the Google Authorship & Author Rank community on Google+.