Active vs Passive SEO |

Active vs Passive SEO

By Tad Chef / September 19, 2009

Fat Cat Chilling

CC Image Couch Potato by Shawn Allen

As a SEO turned business blogger I noticed that the main difference between old school SEO and new school SEO is the level and focus of activity/time spent working on your site or blog. I say site or blog as formerly you had only a site and now you most often have a blog (on top of a site). The time spent on different activities like

  • on page SEO
  • content creation
  • link acquisition

changed considerably.

While old school SEO was something like 25% on page SEO, 25% content creation and 50% link acquisition new school SEO using blogs is more about content creation. The time spend these days is probably 5% on page SEO, 90% content creation and 5% link acquisition. The longer you have a blog the more SEO equals content creation after initial on site optimization using some plugins or making minor tweaks.

While I’m quite fond of blogging and clearly prefer getting links for “killer blog posts” than begging people to link to you with link exchange requests it occurred to me that the time spent on creating high qualitative blog content is overblown compared with the results.

Let me give you an example to illustrate my point. On my SEO 2.0 blog I have 314 published blog posts but only a handful of them work in the long run getting steady traffic from Google. Still many posts got substantial attention from social media sites etc. but in the end the best performing posts after two years are only 5 – 10% of them.

It’s difficult to know which posts will perform over time. Keyword research and a good dose of opportunism allow you to predict it to some extent but it’s still more of a lottery.

In order to achieve the best possible results with the least time spent, you have to merge old school with new school SEO techniques.

The ideal is passive SEO where you create a great resource once and then it gets traffic and sales for a long time with little effort.

Active SEO forces you to create more content or build more links incessantly. Passive SEO ideally works almost on autopilot once correctly executed. While considering setting up a blog or rather choosing traditional SEO strategies focusing on the active vs passive decision is more effective than thinking in old school vs new school categories.

Think about results not personal preferences or trying to act just like everybody else. For each business and niche the question whether you need a constantly updated blog or a site with evergreen resources requires an individual answer.

The SEO industry is rapidly changing and highly competitive so you either have to keep posting or acquire more links to stay afloat. In many other niches you won’t have many new developments. Take alternative medicine for instance: Acupuncture has been there for thousands of years. So a resource dealing with it will remain valid for years or decades to come.

So for a site about acupuncture you would be able to create a few in depth resources and just add new studies over time.

Of course a blog is part of a different approach to SEO. It’s not only about traffic and sales. It’s done to get a reputation and become part of the blogosphere in a particular niche. It’s an interface to interact with the public. You get in touch via a blog without having to buy or sell products or services but in many cases you will later on.

A blog is very time consuming compared to a conventional website. It’s not only the content creation. It’s also the constant updates of WordPress and the comment moderation. Also the social media activity connected to a blog is not be underestimated. You have to announce blog posts to your community in a meaningful way or better several:

  • RSS
  • Email
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Sphinn (or your niche community/forum)

Sometimes you even have to ask for votes to get initial traction. Traditional SEO often works for a while with no extra effort. Google of course notices that your site hasn’t changed but as long as from time you get new links you won’t lose your valuable positions.

In recent years bounce rates, conversions and ROI have become much more important for SEO practicioners all over the world. Blogs have higher bounce rates, do not convert well and the ROI is fuzzy. Of course there is ROI as I explained a few times but it’s not as direct as with ecommerce sites for instance.

So how do yo reconcile both the art of modern SEO, including blogging, bounce rates, conversions and ROI with the notion of passive SEO? How do you manage not to spend half of the week hunting for new blog content?

You have to determine your gold mines and mine them. You have to obsess with details and getting the most of the main resources you offer.

Check your search analytics for questions that get asked over and over. You also can find them on forums or Q&A sites. People tend to ask the same question over and over. Answer the question with a resource that offers both free answers but as well leads to a solution sold by your company. In every niche there are several gold mines.

So the basic passive SEO steps are as follows:

  1. Identify your gold mines using keyword research, search analytics and social media
  2. Create a stable and comprehensive resource to deal with the questions that get asked repeatedly, be it a FAQ, glossary, tutorial or resource list
  3. Get some authority deep links for that resource and make sure they stay for a while
  4. Employ A/B split testing and other landing page optimization techniques to refine your page
  5. Fix broken links and update your resource from time to time adding additional material

So let’s say you spend 4h for keyword research etc., a day for the resource another day for the links then some time for the testing and optimization. Then sit back and relax. Come back in 3 months to fix the links and add some new pieces of information.

The mistake I commit and most other bloggers as well is not returning to old postings that work but frantically trying to find new stuff to write about. Google often ranks blogs on top that haven’t been updated in a year. So it’s not necessary to blog all the time for SEO reasons. It is though to keep in touch with your peers and the industry. Evaluate whether you need to blog frequently as in active SEO or you can get away with passive SEO for a while. I definitely recommend the passive SEO way especially if it also yields stable revenues.

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