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30 Days to Better SEO – Week 2

This post is a continuation of 30 Days to Better SEO – Week 1

I know I’m not tackling this SEO course in 30 consecutive days (it’s more like 1 week = 1 month of time passing, but bear with me for more insights into how I’m using the course to improve the SEO on this site.

Quick Recap

In the first post of this series I shared some basic stats for the site. One month later, let’s see where we are.

Google analytics graph showing first month's traffic during course

This graph represents the first month of traffic since starting this course in comparison to the previous month. A disclaimer as always that there are multiple factors that impact traffic, so this course doesn’t account for all changes.

You can see a couple of notations I’ve made in Google Analytics (if you’re not using notations, I highly recommend you start as that can provide context to your future self about what you were doing on your site that might impact traffic at any given time).

The first notation reminds me that I started the course on February 15, 2016. The second comes a few weeks later and notes that I deleted some out-of date posts and created 301 redirects for them.

There’s an inverse dip at the beginning and end of the period, which makes the stats overall flat (traffic and sessions are up slightly overall, but not enough to merit mention). What’s interesting to me is that colossal dip at the end of the period. That represents 61% less traffic than the same week one month prior.

Clearly not the direction I want to move. I could blame it on some weird impact of me deleting those old posts, but the graph doesn’t tell the whole story. Between March 1 and March 15, I published exactly zero posts. I know that fresh content drives traffic. Bad Carrie!

In addition to keeping up with the course, I need to crank out more content.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program… we’ll pick up with Day 8.

Day 8

I’ve officially been bitten by the SEO bug. I spent the weekend with course creator Rebecca Gill (and a lot of other smart WordPress business folk) at Pressnomics 4 and got to pepper Rebecca with SEO questions as they came to mind.

As a matter of fact, she was a guest on my podcast during the conference. Our topic was personal branding, but we actually talked quite a bit about SEO as it relates to targeting content for your user personas. Take a listen.

For coursework, here’s what I’ve done since I last left you:

  • Finished my basic seed list (this is what I think I’m writing about)
  • Expanded my seed list by grabbing search phrases from Google Console and Google Analytics (this is how people are actually landing on my site).

I haven’t done anything with this list yet. Pretty sure that’s coming up in the next lesson. If nothing else, it’s insightful to see how people are landing on my site. If you aren’t using Google Analytics yet, make your very next action getting that done. The data gets richer over time.

Day 9

I have a confession. I’ve been dragging my heels on this next step because it’s, well, a lot of work. Today’s lesson? Researching your competition.

I like to fancy myself as someone who isn’t in competition for business, so coming up with a list of competitors was difficult. I also still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, which makes nailing down competitors a little vague.

Anyhow, I picked 5 sites of people I like and think do good work. Among them (for grins) was Rebecca lists a LOT of (free) tools you can use to dig into these competitor sites and unearth their keywords. So I went digging. Not as much as I could’ve, but enough to be revealing:

My competition’s SEO is terrible ( aside). That was encouraging to me as it means I could likely outrank any of those folks with a little bit of effort. I’m not going to dethrone them yet, however, as I’m still not sure we’re going after the same traffic. At any rate, I discovered some new keywords to add to my list.

Day 10 – Reporting In

In Day 4 of this journey, I highlighted a post that was in need of re-work: Know what’s a terrible idea? Mixing hosting with email.

I cleaned up the post to better address the needs of what information people were searching for and spruced up my affiliate link call-outs (and added one new affiliate program, Google Apps for Work).

One month later (yes, it’s taken me one month to move “six days”), here are some notable things to report:

  • Pageviews are down 4.4%
  • Average time on page is up 10.8%
  • Bounce rate is down 2.96%

Those are all wins for me. Fewer people are landing on the page (I’m making the gross assumption that my meta description is more informative and helping people make a decision of whether or not to click through from a search result). People are spending more time on the page (winning!) and the bounce rate is down (more people, albeit a small number, are sticking around).

So, all of those things are great, but let’s measure this against one of my stated goals (discussed in Day 6): affiliate income. In this time I’ve had 10 conversions on the Google Apps link. TEN! Granted, their affiliate program means that someone has to use the service for 120 days before I get a payout, but who cares? If all ten go through, that’ll be $150 in my pocket just for making some tweaks to a blog post. And presumably those conversions will hold steady over time.

Afflack duck meme saying AfflinkDon’t get me wrong, making money affiliating isn’t effortless – it’s work, and smart, intentional work at that – but in applying some of the SEO knowledge I’ve gotten through this course , it’s already translated into goals met for my website.

TESTIFY! (and go sign up for this SEO course if you’re not already taking it)

Day 11

I loved these final chapters in the Keyword Research and Selection module. Why? Well, I got to take a little break from the “homework” of keyword research and wrap up with some SEO tips (and mistakes to avoid).

Here’s some of my favorite golden nuggets:

  • Don’t be greedy with keywords: You confuse yourself, your visitors, and the search engines if you go after too many terms to quickly.
  • The hard truth of SEO is that it isn’t that easy. Mastering the SEO basics for WordPress takes time, education, and effort.
  • The goal of a focused keyword is to set the focus for a singular piece of content. It is to provide a one to one relationship between keyword and content. In other words, don’t duplicate the same keyword focus across multiple posts. I am GUILTY of that on this site.

That said, I must confess something. I’m in a bit of a transition right now. In the past, I would’ve wanted to rank for words that would bring potential clients to my site. At this time, I’m not looking for client work. I have some WordPress products and courses I want to promote, along with my podcast, but I’m not sure what keywords I really want to target there.

What I want to do is just write about whatever’s on my mind (which is what I’ve always done), but I would like to do it in mindset of understanding what “works” for SEO.

That means I’m less concerned with going after particular keywords and more thinking that whatever I write about should, indeed, have a focused keyword.

Day 12

Today’s lesson was fun for a couple of reasons:

  1. I started the chapter that introduces site mapping.
  2. Rebecca mentioned me in the lesson. Yes, I’m wearing a stupid grin.

I’ve always thought of a sitemap as just that .xml file you send to search engines so they’ll crawl your content. I knew they were important to SEO in that regard, but never considered the importance of what was actually in the sitemap. Turns out it matters.

You are creating a roadmap for Google by showing Google which piece of content relates to a given search phrase.
– Rebecca Gill

Rebecca also talks about the concept of competing with yourself for the same key phrase. For example, let’s say I’ve got two posts targeting “cinnamon Jolly Ranchers.” Should I actually rank for that search phrase, which page should Google serve up? I’m competing with myself. I know I do it on this site and I (kinda) dread the work of going through my content and correcting this.

That means my next update is gonna be all about the content audit.

course progress indicator - about 1/3 of the way through

Day 13

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you a special update… No course work today, but I DO want to report on another specific SEO win I’ve had as a result of this course.

Last month I was trolling my Google search console for key phrases that listed me on page 2 search results. Now, I’m on page 2 for a lot of crap I don’t care about, but one search phrase stood out to me as something I wouldn’t mind being on page 1 for: “Beaver Builder vs Divi.”

At the time, I didn’t have a single mention of Divi on this website, but I did have an article on Beaver Builder. Since I DO have strong opinions on Divi, it was all of 10 minutes work for me to update the article with a section comparing Beaver Builder to Divi.

Well guess what? Within a month I went from position 17.5 (page 2)  to 10.1 (page 1, baby!). Click through rate also went from zero to 10%. This stuff works, people!

Google Analytics graph showing my percentage improvement

That post generally converts a few affiliate sales each month, so an increased percentage of views should, in theory, result in increased conversations.

SEO is fun.

Day 14

I lied about SEO being fun. Today began… the content audit. As may (or may not) sound obvious, this is the process of taking stock of all of your site content (posts, pages, categories) in the form of a spreadsheet and noting certain details (title, URL, focus keyword, google rank, etc.).

Rebecca recommended using Dynomapper or Screaming Frog to speed up the process of grabbing all of your site content- I tried both of them (the free versions), but got a little irritated with extraneous results in my audit. When I say “extraneous results,” I mean things like the paginated archives for each category, media files, blah blah. It wore me out and I was spending too much time just cleaning up spreadsheets. I probably did something wrong and over-complicated it, but after an hour of farting with it, I did the nerd thing and just exported the data I wanted from my WordPress database. 5 minutes and done.

So, after that I had a spreadsheet of all published pages and posts (I don’t really use tags and I don’t care about categories for the moment). The next step was to use Google Search console and figure out page position for each URL.

Time. Consuming.

I still need to take stock of social shares and note the “last updated” date for each URL, but that’s not gonna happen today. I’m a few hours into this for the day (I’ve got about 160 posts and another 10 pages) and am done.

Want to know the really depressing thing? After going through and grabbing the Google page position for each of my URLs, I’ve discovered that I’ve got some really great content (IMHO) that is buried in search results. I also learned that my (previous) ability to choose decent focus keywords was awful. Ha!

In summary, today was not fun, but it was very enlightening.

Continue to Week 3 of 30 Days to Better SEO

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