Just Trying To Figure Things Out
This is the second in a series that explores what little I’ve learned about the world wide web and my attempts to grow traffic on the internet.
Over the past four or five years I’ve read hundreds of articles and subscribed to services promising to show me how to increase traffic with SEO tips. The biggest result I’ve seen is huge increases in my incoming emails but nothing I can point to regarding improving traffic. I’ve used an SEO plugin that evaluated every post. A vast number say the same things over and over and pretend that they are offering unique insights. The plugins seem to follow the usual set of rules as well.
Areas I intend to going forward and cover include:
- Traffic data reports
- SEO best practices
- Using social media
- Issues with WordPress and other hosting options
- The echo chamber
- Paid traffic services
- The technology con
Who Am I
This site is my hobby TheIntentionalTraveler.com (Intend2Travel.info). I was a photographer, I’m retired, in my seventies and I live for travel. Six continents, over 80 countries and islands and every one of the worlds oceans. I started a free WordPress site over four years ago to let friends and family see where I am and where I’ve been. It was free and had nothing to do with money. As people visited and subscribed it may have become about validation. Fame and money started becoming a possibility but it was still my hobby.
Today I manage two additional free websites, a paid WordPress site (I ran out of room) two online store sites (only marginally successful) and almost a dozen social media sites along with two Etsy outlets. After all that, I confess that I understand very little about how to succeed on the web and it starts to seem like an addiction…
I’ve Experienced A Recent Change in Traffic
Information from the previous article and starting at the end and working forward. Just in the past six months my travel site experienced some serious growth. Following is a chart showing results reported by Google data compared with the contributions from other search engines.
Looking at the data it raises some interesting questions:
- The Google impressions show major changes in growing, peaking in May and falling off again.
- The percentage of clicks per impressions also grow (from about 1% to 1.5%) with a peak in June and falling off again.
- The percentage of Google clicks to all other search engines starts at about 27%, grows to almost 57% and drops back over 3 months to 27%.
What do I make of this?
First, Google clicks seem to correlate somewhat with reported total impressions but do show growth in the percentages indicating a deviation of about a half a percent (same bell shaped curve) which suggests an anomaly.
Second, various search engine contributions as a percentage of total search referrals seem to remain constant when averaged over two months of results. The only exception is the Google contribution. Google’s share starts at just under 28% of total search referrals, grows to almost 47% in May and drops gradually back to under 28% (the bell curve again). Statistically it should have stayed at under 27% in alignment with the additional 5 other search engines.
SEO On The Website
Most suggested SEO efforts focus on 4 areas in post creation. Two or three years ago when I was using free WordPress hosting I made a mirrored site in an effort to understand what practices produced results. Each new post was added to the mirrored site.
There are millions of articles about using SEO:
- Titles – Pick words that have meaning in the article. Insert call to action words in every title. Select words like you’re picking high value tags.
- Headings – Use section headings like you pick titles but don’t repeat words that are in the title.
- Tags – Use a hashtag online search site for relevant high popularity tags. Don’t use tags that are already in your titles. Always try and find at least 6 tags, Regularly use the hashtag # symbol. Use no more that 12 tags. Don’t use the #. Use as many tags as are relevant regardless on quantity. Never use more than 4 tags.
- Alternative Text – Use these to tell the web crawler what’s in the pictures. It also helps to comply with requirements for blind visitors.
While search engine traffic was growing slowly, there had been some growth and I applied many of the SEO suggestions to the mirror site and none to the original site. After six months the traffic on both sites showed little difference.
There are a number of videos on YouTube featuring Google engineers with good information on selecting tags worth watching.
Using Social Media To Improve Traffic
Most discussions regarding SEO put some emphasis on setting up social media accounts to bring traffic back to the website. The focus is on the established names:
- facebook – Create a dedicated page for your website (you need a personnel facebook page before you can add a business or site page) and either manually add a post on each new posting or set up an automated link.
- Twitter – Add a twitter account for your website and either manually add a post on each new posting or set up an automated link.
- Instagram – Add an Instagram account for your website and either manually add a post on each new posting or set up an automated link. Instagram can also be auto linked to a facebook page.
- Pinterest – Add a Pinterest account for your website and either manually add a post on each new posting or set up an automated link.
My experience regarding additional traffic from links from these social sites has not been great. They represent only a little over 1% of the total traffic and out of 20 referrals 12 have come from Twitter, 4 from facebook, and 2 each from Instagram and Pinterest.
To set up auto-posting to social accounts IFTTT.com has some good applets you can add and there are a number of plugins available for WordPress. These may be difficult to deploy to free WordPress sites.
What Does Make A Difference?
After four years I’ve found that the only real thing that does show results and increases search traffic is the frequency of posting. There is a direct link to frequent posting and search engine traffic. Also subscribers become a significant source of traffic once you get above 200 or 300*.
Another area I explored was joining groups. Facebook has a number of travel groups and I have worked three different groups (more later)*.
*This has a huge impact on what I call the “echo chamber effect” which I’ll get to soon.