My website is about 14 months old now and for some, it might sound fairly established in terms of traffic. At least, that was what I hoped. As a beginner, I struggled to understand SEO and in the process, I actually ended up making more mistakes than I thought. In this article, I am going to show you on how to improve on your website SEO by fixing specific problems. Hopefully, you’ll benefit from these tips too.
A couple months ago, I found out that my search traffic is finally picking up. Hurray! Interestingly, I could also match the spike in data to some of the things I did around that time.
Timeline – February 2014 to October 2014
The Stats – Zero Traffic Report
The Situation – Well, I got a website alright. But I totally FORGOTTEN to inform Google about it. So even when I was publishing my blog diligently, Google has no idea about it and hence my site didn’t get ranked at all.
(A) Set Up Google Analytics (a free web analytic service that tracks and report website traffic)
Method 1 – Use a plugin. You must have a Gmail account for this. From there, you go to Google Analytics, register your website URL and get your tracking ID. The ID is to be inserted in the Google Analytics ID in the All in One SEO plugin (if you are using this) and make sure you update the settings.
To verify, open your website in a new browser and at the Real Time data, you should be able to see ‘one visitor’ who is actually you, viewing your own site. Sometimes, it could take up to 24 hours to show data on the analytics. Once that’s completed, your status should say ‘Receiving Data’ as shown below.
Method 2 – You can also add analytics manually to your site by copying the tracking code and pasting it to your header.php file. Some people might not feel comfortable doing this because if you accidentally delete any code in the editor, your site could break.
(B) Set Up Google Webmaster (also a free service that helps to index and increase visibility of your website)
To do this, sign into your Gmail account and access to Google Webmaster Tools. Add your website and verify using your Google Analytics account, which is the recommended route. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to see some traffic report trickling in.
(C) Submit a Sitemap
A sitemap is basically a map that improves your website indexing speed by letting Google crawl your webpages more thoroughly.
To do this, you’ll need to install a plugin called Google XML Sitemaps at your WordPress site. Within the sitemap setting, you’ll be able to see the URL of your sitemap in the top column. Grab that URL and go back to Google Webmaster to add the sitemap.
After submitting the sitemap, Google will now be able to crawl your site more frequently as you continue to publish your articles. Here is what it will say on your sitemap settings;
If you are using All in One SEO plugin, the sitemap can be enabled under the feature manager.
Timeline – October 2014 to November 2014
The Stats – 10 to 20 Search Traffic
The Situation – At this point, I had like 40+ posts/pages and was getting some engagement from my readers. One of them actually commented on my poor choice of WordPress theme and suggested that I look into changing it. I used to think that all themes work the same; just different in designs and layouts. Well, I was wrong. Apparently, they play a huge role in optimizing your site.
The Fix – I upgraded to a premium theme and here’s the change.
Timeline – December 2014 to January 2015
The Stats – 30 to 50 Search Traffic
The Situation – I took some time to revise my blog and decided to improve on the content. I researched for better keywords and replaced them on the titles and in the first paragraphs. Surely with captivating titles, I would be able to capture more audience…or so I thought.
And then, I read about 301 redirect. Uh-oh.
You see, when I went around changing the titles, I inadvertently changed the URL as well. By now, Google already indexed some of my older blogs and since I had changed the permalinks of these articles, Google will not be able to find them the next time it crawls my website. As a result, my new content will rank much slower.
The Fix – In order to let Google know about the changes, you should do a 301 redirect. To do this, you’ll need to download the Simple 301 Redirect plugin (by Scott Nelle). In the setting, simply fill out the old permalinks (a.k.a slug) and the new permalinks according to your new keyword title.
That way, you’ll direct the traffic from your old URL to the new URL without affecting the page rank.
I worked on this laboriously for almost 60 articles and days later, my traffic jumped from 50 to over 100 searches. What a boost!
The moral of the story – avoid using 301 redirect, if you can. It’s very time consuming and non-productive. So don’t go around changing the permalinks unnecessarily.
Timeline – January 2015 to February 2015
The Stats – 40 to 120 Search Traffic
The Situation – Up to this point, I was only focusing on one task which is writing. As a busy blogger, it’s actually challenging to find time to work on my site. But I knew I needed to put in more effort.
The Fix – I started on a daily and monthly plan. I set dates for articles to be published (no questions asked), I organized blogs to be shared across all social networks and I actually removed some affiliate links (I was reluctant at first).
Instead, I focused more on building my internal links within the content as well as in the commenting area. As I paid more attention, I actually found a lot of great comments from my readers that can be linked to older articles and even inspired me with ideas for new blog posts.
So, to all my avid readers out there, thank you!
Timeline – March 2015 and beyond
The Stats – 60 to 120 Search Traffic (and something unexpected happened towards the end)
The Situation – I was told time and again that creating good quality content is very important and the more frequent you publish, the faster your site get ranked. I have also been using a lot of media (images, infographics, videos, etc.) and still getting good comments from my readers. So what’s going on here?
The Fix – I accelerated my writing speed and managed to publish articles every 2 days for the entire March. Suspecting that my media content could be slowing down my site, I used GT Metrix to test my loading speed and true enough, I got a shocking ‘F’ for it.
Surely, that isn’t very good for the user experience, isn’t it? Apparently most of the faults came from the size of images and after tweaking based on their recommendation, I scored a perfect ‘A’.
As I was checking what else to do to improve my SEO, I discovered one thing that I have overlooked all these while. Most of my readers are bloggers and they usually leave their website URLs behind in the comment area as an invitation for me to visit their sites. For every comment that I approved, I allowed these URLs to be published on my site too.
As a result, I had accidentally created massive external links to my site. The last I check, there were close to 1,600 external URLs leading my traffic away. That was a horrifying number! I quickly deleted all the URLs and after several days, my traffic actually doubled.
Here’s a graphical summary of my rather ‘interesting’ SEO timeline (click to enlarge).
What’s Your SEO Like?
I know, my stats is not very impressive. Then again, I am not an SEO expert; I am just a budding blogger trying to start her own online business. So I think this experience will benefit those who are starting out, just like me. At least, you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes that I did.
As the months progress, I hope to share more of these traffic data with you guys. Until then, keep writing good content and trust me, the traffic will come.
“Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” — Wendy Piersall
Do you have any thoughts or questions about improving website SEO? Please leave your comment below and I’ll get back to you.
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