In 2013, my blog died.
It was sudden, and it was unexpected. Worse, it was my own fault.
As it turns out, the blog had been sick for a long time. I poisoned it at the very beginning, inadvertently injecting it with a slow-working venom that didn’t show up until two years later.
When it arose, it killed off a site overnight that only two months prior had been listed among the top 150 most-read ministry blogs worldwide.
And yet, the same advice that killed my site continues to float around on the web. It is a mindset that brings forth particular actions, and those actions are almost always detrimental in the long run.
It is the pursuit of rankings rather than the pursuit of relationships.
And here’s the deal: rankings are great, with the right mindset. What will kill you is the idea that a number one spot on Google is the money train. You can’t short-circuit the system and not expect to get shorted out yourself.
With the right mindset, however, you will get both the rankings and the relationships.
Here is how to get the rankings that matter.
1. Start By Building Relationships
I’ve said this before, but blogging is an economy whose currency is trust.
You have to earn it. You have to invest it. You have to spend it.
So start by going after your audience. Do the legwork rather than waiting for an algorithm to do the work for you. Watch for opportunities to get to know the people in your target demographic. Discover who your colleagues are. Break into the influencer networks.
And then, take it a step further.
You don’t just want readers, you want to cultivate a community. Invest in your audience. Shatter expectations. Be shockingly helpful. Figure out how you can be an asset to the people that you have connected with, and start putting your time into them.
Relationships are won when your audience is surprised. This is how you turn readers into evangelists.
2. View Rankings As Relationship Opportunities
Rankings do nothing more than extend the visibility of your site. Visibility is not enough.
If the currency of blogging is trust, then you have cross the gap from visibility to reliability.
Your blog article is like a greeting. You shake the person’s hand, share a little bit about yourself, and maybe give them something that can help them out. Then you ask for their number (or, in this case, their email), and you build the relationship.
But as Wade Harman reminds us, the relationship starts with you. The search engine simply makes the introduction.
The currency of trust goes deeper, though. At their core, rankings are meant to be an extension of that trust. As you begin to build relationships with others, you demonstrate your trustworthiness.
Google then establishes increasingly sophisticated means of measuring that trustworthiness. As you prove yourself to be a viable steward of the trust of others, Google responds by increasing your ability to build more relationships.
Trust is earned.
3. Trust Can Also Be Broken
In any relationship, there are ways of establishing false perceptions of trust so that you may manipulate that person or group of people. Then, when your manipulation is discovered, that trust is shattered.
This is true for people. If you manipulate your audience, you will lose their trust. They will stop recommending you to their friends.
This is also true for search. If you manipulate Google, you will lost its trust. Google will then stop recommending you to its friends, as well.
This was the slow poison that killed my first blog. In the beginning, I followed the advice of those “experts” that chase the rankings. I did the keyword research, optimized my articles, and found ways to build links to offer my site credibility.
I only did this for a few months at the inception of my site, and it offered very little benefit. Over the years that followed, I instead focused on building relationships, and that resulted in a booming web presence.
Then, in October of 2013, Google updated their Penguin algorithm and found those links from 2011. Overnight, my search traffic vanished, and that site has never recovered.
That is the nature of manipulation. If we manipulate people, we lose their trust. If we manipulate search, we lose its trust as well.
But there is a simple cure. Pursue relationships, and chase trust.
If you pursue relationships, you will get rankings. If you pursue rankings, you will lose both.
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