Welcome to another edition of ‘What can we learn about our own blog from watching Mack obsess over his?’
Ok, as most of you know, in January I decided to ramp up my posting schedule. Since this blog’s launch 2 years ago (BTW Happy Birthday!) up till January of this year, I had kept to a pretty consistent schedule of 1-2 posts a week. Sometimes I’d have a bit more, sometimes a bit less.
But if mid January, I decided to really boost my posting here. I went from 1-2 posts a week, to 4-6. I immediately saw a huge spike in traffic, and along with it, search traffic. Now to be fair, search traffic here was already increasing at a steady pace, but as soon as I started posting more in mid January, the gain increased. Here’s a graph of my weekly search traffic over the life of the blog:
The X marks the spot at which I started posting more often in January, and as you can see, the last 6 weeks or so has been sideways. Also note the slow and steady growth, but it seemed to kick up an extra notch right after the X.
Now this graph bugs me, because I want to understand why search traffic has flattened over the past 6 weeks. I did some checking and thinking and I’ve come up with two possibilities:
1 – I haven’t been posting as much. Every week since April the 10th, I have posted a consistent 4 posts a week here. The next week is when search traffic started going sideways. The three weeks prior to that, I posted 5-6 posts each week. That’s one possibility.
2 – I haven’t been focusing as much on specific search keywords and phrases. I honestly think this is it more than posting schedule. From Jan through March I really tried to focus on specific keywords and phrases not only in my post title, but in the post as well. And it really worked, I got excellent search rankings usually within a few hours for whatever search keyword/phrase I had targeted.
So here is the (very) inexact method I have come up with to test to see which is the cause of my flatlining search traffic.
This week, I will post 5 posts here. This one is the second for this week, so there will likely be a new one here on Wednesday through Friday as well.
Next week, I will go back to posting 4 new posts here, but each one will be search optimized with a particular search keyword/phrase in the title and the post.
Then in a couple of weeks, I’ll report back and share the results with you. My guess is that 4 search-optimized posts will produce more search traffic next week, than 5 non-optimized posts will this week.
And no, this isn’t a perfect test, and it won’t definitively prove anything. This is more about me wanting to get a better understanding of how my blog works, and what impacts search results. That way when I am at a conference and someone asks me a question about search traffic, I can give them my own experiences, instead of just regurgitating what some other blogger wrote 😉
If you obsess over your search traffic as well, what have you discovered that impacts it? Do you think posting more often or spending more time optimizing for search will help me?
Great post Mack! Another score for the #collier hash tag community 🙂
I think it’s great that you are doing your own testing rather than just regurgitating content. And this way you know it’s real/authentic as well.
I write a blog on social media and how it relates to the legal industry. My most popular posts are always “how-to’s” and “best practices”. Regardless of what keywords I use these are always the most popular choices.
And I’ve also noticed that half of my web traffic almost always comes in from StumbleUpon. I also use businessweek exchange to bookmark some of my posts and I get an incredible amount of traffic from them.
I look forward to reading about your results!
I need to find time to really get a better keyword, seo education.
@samtaracollier Hello Ms Collier! I probably should be spending more time with the Business Week exchange, as others have told me they get good referral traffic from there. Thanks for the reminder!
I have seen a ridiculously lovely/beautiful increase in the search traffic over the past 8 months. My blogging actually has not been as regular as it was but I still try and get at least 4 out a week. However the traffic itself while growing, it does not stabilize then grow. I have some peaks for a week or so and then come the valleys where it goes back to the numbers before the peaks. I guess readers are telling me, girl, we like this but um not that. I have been delving into the stats to see where I can optimize better and continue the growth.
Keep us posted as I love stats; when I am not the one figuring them out. =-)
I gotta say I love your blogging experiments, not just because we can all jump on your train and take advantage of your results – which never hurts 😉 – but also because you prove that a blog is really a fertile ground for experiments, just like a lab.
Thanks for all your posts. I am one of your 3324 RSS subscribers and read most of your posts.
I blog 3x a week myself. Fixed schedule Monday, Wednesday, Friday. My content strategy is simple: I write about the tactical questions my clients have about ‘business’ & ‘social web’ (we help our clients become publishers of great content).
Blogging more would definitely help increase my search traffic for the sheer reasons of having more content out there. But I do think that the keyword aspect is really important.
I always try to visualise my target audience, figure out how they will search and translate that to full keyword phrases (incl verbs, etc). Example: I recently wrote a post about converting your Facebook profile to a page. I knew my keywords, but found out through research in forums, comments, etc that all these people used different words. I translated these words to my post. Ended up getting loads of traffic from people who where searching for solutions to this specific problem.
I can’t comment much on the ‘dip’ in your traffic, because I don’t have enough data to compare.
But as for ‘general advice’ (if there even is such a thing 😉 here’s a thought:
You are writing really conversational. You also have a pretty large following. A lot of people on your blog are people you have met in real life and online. (so keep writing conversational!)
But search engine traffic is mostly from people who don’t know you. They might be more solution oriented. They are looking for specific things. You are offering LOADS of great and specific advice in your posts. I think you also optimise and write well. But the one thing you don’t do (at least from what I see) is pay special attention to your Title Tag. If you use the keyphrase you want to be found on in there, you have a much better chace of getting in that search engine traffic.
Tip: use the ‘Custom title tag’ option in wordpress. You can then keep on using your nice conversational headers (they become h1).
Hope this helps. And thanks for all your great blog posts.
(“Sorry for writing you a long letter: I didn’t have time to write you a short one” – Mark Twain)
All the best from Amsterdam,
@michiel.gaasterland thank you for the comment, and for reading! Awesome tip on the Custom Title Tag, and you are right, I never use that. Just curious, but how can you tell that I don’t? I will definitely to that in my posts next week, so I can get a more clear view of how search-optimized posts do for me versus ones this week that I ‘just write’.
Wonderful feedback, Michiel, please don’t be a stranger!
@maidoesimple Thank you! Yes I would hope that others can learn from my mistakes, because I learn as well 😉
@SuzanneVara that’s interesting, and now that you mention it my traffic has been more or less flat since a huge spike in January. But I’m noticing that RSS readers continues to climb steadily, up about 33% since January.
So much to learn, and we are the ones that have been doing this for a while, imagine how confusing it is for new bloggers and blogging businesses?
@MackCollier I am constantly fascinated by how many people find my blog just by searching for my name. I’m in an introvert; it’s never been my goal to create such a personal brand of ‘bean followers. I don’t know why people search for me other than morbid curiosity 😉 It’s flattering, nonetheless, and I’ve found that regardless of posting frequency, the traffic is about the same UNLESS I post a list; they’re short, digestible, and people seem to really like them.
I like reading about analytics even if I don’t use them myself. So thanks for that. Your blog is invaluable for content which is why I retweet it often. I follow a lot of people who blog and pay attention to the same analytics you share here.
But can I ask a question? Would you continue to invest your time in blogging if you tried all of the things you could do to raise your numbers and they never quite met your expectations?
I look at the traffic and the series of articles that caused the peaks and have to wonder if we are reaching a point where yes people are loyal but that loyalty only goes so far. We are looking for the information, the latest and greatest way of doing things, the how to to make our profiles better and stand out. Then there is the connection part of it all. People are looking to connect with new people who they feel will help them get to where they want to be – more followers, more contacts, more business. As we connect with new people, we show our support and read their blog which pushes one to the side; but we keep them on our radar. Hence the peaks.
Your point is so valid for the new bloggers as 2 yrs ago blogging was different. The competition was there but now we are seeing a whole new set of competition but also information overload. Reading, commenting, reading, commenting – it takes a lot of time. Time that we can take a few weeks or so spending on but then we realize that we are taking away from something else so we have to shift the time again.
Blogging is not an instant fame, instant means of having people flock in drones for every single article you write. It is still a very viable means of marketing your company or yourself however the 150K readers in a month is definitely not a viable goal.
@MackCollier @michiel.gaasterland I checked the Title tags in the source code and compared them with your blog post titles. I didn’t find any examples of two of them ever being different. So I made the assumption that you weren’t using the Custom Title Tag functionality in Thesis.
Looking forward to your experiment!
Nice ‘meeting’ you Mack. We are strangers no more.
@vanillabean45 You’re cute as can be, of course people are searching for you 😉 But yes, I often wonder about some of the search queries that lead people to my blog, as well. Some are pretty interesting, a few are actually disturbing 😉
@michiel.gaasterland proof positive that my readers are smarter than I am. Thank goodness! 😉
@Cheri Cheri that’s a good question! My main motivation in doing these little experiments is that I am trying to learn something. It’s like changing one switch, then seeing which light just turned off. If I can understand what the relationship is, that helps me understand how it all ‘works’.
IOW, I am ok with the numbers not rising if in the process I can learn WHY they aren’t rising. But if I keep trying to change things to learn what works and nothing does, then yeah, that would be pretty frustrating!
I love looking at analytics too! Maybe the dips are the blog universe’s way of keeping us humble! Have you only seen a dip recently or does it happen sometimes over the life of your blog?
My blog is only 5 wks old, 8k views, (avg 32unique a day) not bad for a poetry blog but I can’t seem to get the followers and close the deal! Blog readership is steadily growing, doubling every week but it’s like pulling teeth to get Followers.
Thanks for all you do to help the newbies out there! There is so much to learn!
@Poetonpoetry The graph in the post is my search traffic for the life of the blog. As you can see, nice steady growth till the last 6 weeks, when it has more or less been flat.
And 32 visitors a day after just 5 weeks is pretty good! I think that’s about what I had 5 years ago when I started blogging, keep at it!
@MackCollier Together we’re strong 🙂
I like looking at my analytics but I try not to get hung up on them. As long as my readership is gradually going up over time, a few down days don’t bother me. As long as people are finding their way to my freebies and moving into my funnel, I’m good 🙂
Interested in seeing your results. On our company blog, I’ve been posting daily and have seen an increase in traffic month after month (and subscribers) as a result.
I’ve been working on setting goals and reports to determine where most of our traffic is coming from (search vs. social, etc.). This way, I know where to spend our time more efficiently…
@MarthaGiffen I set alerts to notify me when I break a certain number of page views on any given day at which point I’ll log into my analytics to see what all the buzz is about, lol. My post on Friday for example was a hit – it was a video interview I did with Mike Stelzner from Social Media Explorer. Beyond that, I”ll just look at my stats once or twice a week to see over-all metrics.
This is what I am struggling with my blog was doing fine then search traffic went to zero. I then made the mistake of deleting my blog so now trying to start over and get new search traffic.