Sorry for the long comment, I just am really happy to see that after all those years of struggle you finally made a break through and you definitely deserve it bro. I’ve had my own struggles as well and just reading this got me a little emotional because I know what it feels like to never wanting to give up on your dreams and always having faith that one day your time will come. It’s all a matter of patience and learning from failures until you get enough experience to become someone who can generate traffic and bring value to readers to sustain long term relationships.
If you haven’t used software like BuzzSumo to check out what your competitors are up to, you’re at a huge disadvantage. These services aggregate the social performance of specific sites and content to provide you with an at-a-glance view of what topics are resonating with readers and, most importantly, making the rounds on social media. Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that kind of content to bring traffic to your website.
Robots.txt is not an appropriate or effective way of blocking sensitive or confidential material. It only instructs well-behaved crawlers that the pages are not for them, but it does not prevent your server from delivering those pages to a browser that requests them. One reason is that search engines could still reference the URLs you block (showing just the URL, no title or snippet) if there happen to be links to those URLs somewhere on the Internet (like referrer logs). Also, non-compliant or rogue search engines that don't acknowledge the Robots Exclusion Standard could disobey the instructions of your robots.txt. Finally, a curious user could examine the directories or subdirectories in your robots.txt file and guess the URL of the content that you don't want seen.
While most search engine companies try to keep their processes a secret, their criteria for high spots on SERPs isn't a complete mystery. Search engines are successful only if they provide a user links to the best Web sites related to the user's search terms. If your site is the best skydiving resource on the Web, it benefits search engines to list the site high up on their SERPs. You just have to find a way to show search engines that your site belongs at the top of the heap. That's where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in -- it's a collection of techniques a webmaster can use to improve his or her site's SERP position.
Like you I am a scientist and like you did in the past, I am currently working on translating great scientific literature into tips. In my case it’s child development research into play tips for parents. I can already see that the outcome of my experiment is going to be the same as yours. Great content but who cares. I hadn’t even thought about my key influences. I know some important ones, but don’t see how they would share my content. I thought I was writing content for my potential customers. Is your SEO that works course the same as the content that gets results course? Sorry if I sound a bit dim asking that question.
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Nice work Laura! This is going to be a great series. I'm working my way through SEOmoz's Advanced SEO Training Series (videos) Vol. 1 & 2 to build upon the advice and guidance that you and your team provided to me during my time at Yahoo!. Now many others will benefit from your knowledge, experience and passion for SEO strategy and tactics. Best wishes for great success in your new role.