How the VAT change brought me loads of traffic

One of the things I’m always surprised about is the sheer variety of search terms that people use to find my website.

Recently I wrote a very brief post about the impact of the recent VAT changes in the UK and how it would likely affect small businesses.  I didn’t actually write it with the intention of attracting lots of topical traffic but it did.

What was interesting was the sheer range of search queries that brought people to the article. The article was called “VAT rate change could cause website chaos“. Below is a list of some of the queries that brought traffic in just one day:

vat rate change
“amazon vat change”
1990’s change vat rate
amazon vat change
amazon vat rate
change of vat rate announced
change to “vat ” rate
chaos caused by new vat rate
software uk vat rate change 15
uk vat rate change 1990s
uk vat rate change in 1990s
vat change amazon
vat change for internet websites
vat changes amazon
vat hardcoded
vat rate change 15
vat rate change december 1st
vat rate change effect on companies
vat rate change retail
vat rate change web design
vat rate changes programers
web design vat rate
website vat change
when did the vat rate chane from 15%?

There are two things that we can learn from this exercise:

1. Writing about a topic that is currently in the news can drive a stack of traffic to your website

2. When you are thinking of what keywords to optimise for on your own website, you should spread the net as wide as possible.

I want stacks of traffic!

To take advantage of the first point, you could write articles on your blog that are purely aimed at getting traffic from the headlines of the day.  The easiest way to do this is to go to Google Trends, look for a topic that is “Volcanic” and write a brief post about it.  Remember to get the keywords into your headline and into your blog post a few times.  I’ll guarantee that it’ll attract traffic.

But it’s pointless, because it’s completely untargeted traffic.  That kind of traffic will never become loyal readers of your blog because they’re not interested in what you usually write about – only about that one post.  My post about VAT was relevant to some of our services (web design and software development) but of all those keywords, only two or three of them were actually relevant to our services.

The key lesson here is that high volumes of traffic is useless unless it’s targeted.

Go for the “Long-Tail”

The second point is more useful.  Google themselves state that at least 25% of the searches carried out each day are new to them (i.e. they have never been typed into Google before). What this means is that there are a stack of search terms out there that are easily obtainable and just waiting for you to optimise for them. They may send only one or two people your way, but if you are ranking for hundreds of them (and all that you may need is for one word to appear somewhere on your website to rank for that term) then you can attract a significant amount of traffic.

This is called optimising for ‘long tail’ search queries.  So instead of optimising for ‘VAT’ you are optimising for terms such as ‘VAT ecommerce changes in Windows NT’ and ‘VAT rate amendments to software’.

If you do not have any web analytics software running on your website then I’d recommend it. Google Analytics is free, popular, easy to use and while not 100% accurate it is good enough to give you an idea about how your website is performing.

One extremely useful thing it does is tell you what keywords people are using to find your website.  Check it out every couple of days and see what search terms people are using that you haven’t considered before – you may want to add it to your list of keywords to optimise for.

And this (again!) is why blogging is so useful for your website.  If you want to target 5 or 6 additional long tail queries then all you have to do is write a blog post and ensure that they appear in the text.  The amount of optimisation required is tiny but multiply that by ten blog posts and you can attract an extra hundred or so visitors to your site each month.

Surely having a extra few hundred visitors each month is much more valuable than having a stack of untargeted traffic coming to your blog for just 1 day?