If you’re an aspiring gun writer or blogger, you know that gun reviews are big money. People go on the internet searching for “Brand X Model 1 Review” all the time; and the temptation is strong to SEO game it so that you call out a post as a review specifically to attract search hits. I know, because I’ve done it and I’ve told writers to do it. We’re not without sin at Gun Nuts, and have written some pretty terrible reviews here. I know it, and I’m not proud of it. I’m not talking about avoiding negative product reviews, rather you shouldn’t write low quality reviews just to get traffic.
Lately I’ve noticed a growing trend in online reviews; and it’s not good. The gun blog world is getting crowded, and it’s getting tougher for blogs to get noticed. One of the problems is that there is big money in the online gun space right now, companies like Demand Media, owners of Cracked.Com, Livestrong.Com and other major brands are dipping their toes in the pool by purchasing high traffic domains and creating a mindless SEO machine that churns out well indexed but mediocre content all day long.
So honest bloggers are forced to turn up the wick. The hallmark of the independent gun blogger for years was the thoughtful, well done review. Writers would take guns they personally owned (instead of T&E guns) and actually shoot them, spending time with the gun and getting to know it. This created a culture of good content in the gun blog community, and the industry recognized that. However, we’ve now reached a point where there are quite a few people trying to game the system for traffic.
Here’s the secret though. Traffic isn’t everything. It’s important, for sure – but I sit in meetings with major firearms industry brands all the time, and they’re a lot less concerned about gross traffic metrics than they are about making sure that their message is reaching the right customers. The truth is that your traffic only matters if it’s engaged traffic with good reach. As someone who sells advertising space, I’d rather have a blog that gets 100,000 hits a month but has a dedicated, engaged reader base than a blog that gets 3 million pageviews a month and has a garbage click through rate because their content is mediocre at best. It’s the difference between a Wal-Mart and a mom and pop shop with great customer service.
At the end of the day, blogging is ultimately about what you want to do. If you want to try and SEO game it and compete with big corporate money, go right ahead. But I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I’ve sat on both ends of the sales meetings to get advertising dollars for websites. If you really want to be a successful blogger, write good content. Don’t half-ass your reviews to get traffic. Be honest with your readers. Be willing to engage with industry. And again, write good content.