As long as people have been starting blogs, seemingly too, they have been searching for ways to increase their website traffic through search engines like Google. What’s great about blogging nowadays is, how easy it has become to set up through applications like WordPress. However, whether you have a brand new or older WordPress site, there is still the old question of how do you generate more visitors and page views to the blog?
Well, as someone who has been at this online game for about a decade now, I have experienced plenty of incarnations of the Google algorithm, and a bunch of crazy ways that folks have tried to manipulate it. Sure, those loopholes would work for a while, but eventually that website using them would get smacked down. Sustainability can be much more lucrative than short-term gain, but what are some methods to increase our SEO rank in 2019? That will be effective for a long time?
My Traffic Experiment
From February 2018 to February 2019, the page views for one of my WordPress blogs increased 80.2% YOY. The great thing is, it didn’t take that whole year working to make this increase. Rather, it was a concerted effort started around Halloween 2018, and actually still in progress.
In February 2018 traffic was: 38698 page views
February 2019 traffic was: 69718 page views
Yep, this blog traffic overhaul isn’t even close to being finished, and the search traffic from Google, Bing, and Yahoo have already gotten me an 80.2% increase in page views.
During this time, I haven’t done much of any social media sharing (a handful of times, maybe) or link building (zero on the latter). This traffic increase is coming straight from higher rankings and click through rates from search engines. How have I done it?
Setting the Stage
So, the WordPress blog in question, is one that is over five years old at this point. In a lot of ways, this was a revitalization project, as well as one creating new content. No worries though, no matter if your blog is new or old, there are still lots of steps in this process that will be very useful.
The problem of the site, wasn’t that it had been stagnating, per se. In fact, I had regularly been creating new posts, a few times per week. The problem was, that even with the huge amounts of new material being posted, my traffic was stagnant to declining depending on the month.
Essentially, all of the old material that had once generated a lot of traffic, was losing its rank in Google and the newer stuff was struggling to replace the visitors that had already been lost. No matter how much I produced, I was spinning my wheels. Actually, worse than that, because the revenue had declined by a fair bit also.
Knowing that I needed to shake things up, I took the first step, to fixing a key metric that would apply to every page on the blog.
Step 1: Make the Pages Load Faster
This step I actually applied during the summer of 2018, before the main revamp, of the website’s rankings took place. However, it is a super important metric for not only Google, but also your visitors.
Simply, my site had become bloated, and slow as shit. In March 2018, the average page load was 16 seconds! That is according to Google Analytics. In March 2019, so far, 7.96.
Now, that number is still way too high, but vastly improved. I also have my doubts about the accuracy of how long it takes for the pages to load according to Analytics. As, independent testing sites show my site loads in under 3-4 seconds. Either way, it can be better, and it has steadily been declining since the summer.
How I got my page load speed down, involved a few different tactics.
First, I took a look at the plugins, that I had running on my website. Facebook Like Box and Instagram feed for that site, were taking up a lot of time in the loading process. Did I actually need those on my page? Sure, it helped to alert my visitors to my social media, but I never really updated that blog’s social media. I deleted those plugins.
Next, I deactivated any other plugins, and deleted anything that I didn’t need. Now, I did download some other WordPress plugins, designed to make a website run faster. These were: Hummingbird and Smush.
Hummingbird has a whole host of tools and diagnostics to make things hum along better. I tested, fixed, and re-tested. It seemed that images were taking up a lot of space. That’s where Smush came in. It smushes down the file size of each picture and makes it faster to load. I still only use the free version, but I could get even faster times by using the paid one, for even greater file size reduction.
Another thing that still makes my page load time lag a bit, is the presence of Amazon Affiliate widgets. There’s really nothing to be done with those, as they are a giant source of income, for that particular blog. It has to stay.
However, a third issue was with the blog’s WordPress theme. Yes, the layout had become dated, and the mobile site was created using a third party plugin. That plugin took up more space and the desktop layout was also super slow. I found a newer and better looking layout, with a built in mobile site, and it got things going much quicker.
These were the basic steps that I took to make the pages load 50% faster. Again, this is a metric that effects rankings. Slow page load times, make people bail out on your site, which signals to search engines that it sucks.
Step 2: Secure Site Certification
My blog was an http site and didn’t have the https designation. In order to get that, I had to pay money, to get my website certified. I got this done through my web hosting provider and it took a few days to get the process completed.
Why is this important? One, it tells visitors that your site is secure, and so is their information. Secondly, Google is going to be using this as a ranking metric from now on. I’m not sure, how much it boosted things, if any…BUT it had to be done.
Step 3: Average Time on Page
On thing that I noticed about my old blog, was that, the average time on page was steady around 2:36 for its entire history. This was something that I could chalk up to my past laziness and inexperience.
See, five years ago, you could create a site with really thin content and still rank highly. Sure, people wouldn’t spend a lot of time there, but you could grab a number 1 ranking for low competition searches.
That’s a lot of what I had done. It made me quick cash, but eventually Google got tired of those pages crappy metrics, and dropped them like a stone.
This is a part of the ongoing process, increasing time on page, and the quality of the content. This site has hundreds of pages and editing them to be better is going to be a process for most of the next few months. I think this entire revamp, will take the better part of 2019, but should be quite lucrative to complete.
Anyway, where to start? Well, I decided that the best way to get my site’s average time on page number higher, was to focus on the pages that were still getting the most traffic. Not everything had been beaten down by Google and Bing. I went through my top 25 most traffic pages and did re-writes.
I re-wrote or expanded upon everything. Added new images. Changed up formatting. Changed the publication date to 2018 or 2019. A page with a newer publication date, will generally get better click through rates, when people are searching.
Those thin pages with 300 word posts? Bulked those up to 700-1500 words. These pages on this particular site, don’t need to be super in depth, but they need to get people the right information and encourage them to click on further pages on my site. Instead of leaving my site and using another search result.
Just changing up my most trafficked pages, boosted the site’s total time spent on page by 25%. That’s pretty good and it will certainly tell Google that these pages are pretty high quality.
Judging by the better rankings of my most trafficked pages, I’d say that this was a pretty important metric to focus on. The quantity in words to an extent, but really the quality of information.
Step 4: New Content Overload
For a solid three months, I wrote like a mad man. In that time, I created somewhere around 250 pages of new blog content. Now, I know what you’re thinking, that this is where the increase in traffic came from. New content.
Not really. Sure, some percentage of it did. But really what got huge swaths of traffic, were old posts, that I re-worked and got higher rankings. Most of the new content, is either stuff that doesn’t get many searches per month, or things that are still languishing in Google’s search results.
That’s the weird thing, stuff I hadn’t re-written yet, that was 3-5 years old started getting a rankings boost. Just by doing the first three steps of this process.
Anyway, the new content push is extremely important. Why? Not only because you will start to get newly trafficked pages over the ensuing months, but also because, it makes Google continually crawl your website.
All these new updates, has gotten Google and Bing, to crawl my sitemap everyday. It used to be every 5 to 7 days, unless I did it manually. Now, automatically, they just crawl everyday. Hence, why I believe the search engines suddenly love my old posts, and are rewarding my SEO practices.
While, I have moved on to Step 5 from the new content push, this is still in effect. I’m no longer doing the same crazy pace of writing new posts, but I still post new stuff every couple of days. Plus, I have 180 unwritten posts lined up in the draft queue.
Maybe I will go hard and try to get those 180 posted ASAP, but Step 5 is more pressing, so doing this will be difficult.
Step 5: Re-vamp the rest of the old Content
I already had re-written and improved upon the old stuff that was still getting visitors to my website. But what about those who have been beaten down? Well, that process was begun about 2 weeks ago, and hasn’t accounted for the traffic increases as of yet.
I started to go through the oldest posts and those that used to get a lot of traffic, to see if they were still relevant, and salvageable. Luckily, I create a lot of evergreen content, that is relevant for many years if not longer.
The process of this is to:
- Go Back and Edit. Create higher quality and longer content. Link to newer posts that are related to these older ones. Set a higher standard across the site.
- Add new affiliate links with Amazon. This site didn’t always use Amazon affiliates and I never updated some of these old pages. So, any traffic they did still get, was leaving money on the table.
- Change the publication date to when it was updated in 2019. Then, re-submit the page to Google. Let Google crawl the new content and hopefully boost the ranking within a couple of days. Some pages, may take months. Others, will get a slight boost initially, and slow climb to the top.
- Edit old posts each day. This and changing the publication date, makes search engines, essentially treat it like fresh content. Good for our metrics.
- Create actual new content from Step 4 in conjunction with this old stuff.
Where It Goes From Here?
The 80% YOY increase from 2/2018 vs. 2/2019 is great. Trust me, I’m enjoying the doubling of revenue from that blog.
The thing is, I’m just scratching the surface. With higher rankings, my traffic could be 2-5x higher with the content I’ve already written. The money to be made, is an even higher multiple, because that doesn’t follow a linear 1 to 1 path with traffic.
So far, over the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of re-writes and updates. There’s been some positive movement, but no really significant increases in the search engines. But it took 2-4 months, for the first 3 steps to start to process, and I expect it’ll take the same for this.
I can just imagine, having hundreds of pages refreshed and climbing up towards the top of Google’s page rankings. Add to that, almost 200 pages of new content, and you’ve got a well-oiled machine.
To relate this to your own WordPress blog, start by doing an examination of your circumstances.
If you’re new, get the things you need in place, to make your website blazing fast to load. Start your own campaign of putting out high quality content. Not just high quality, but volume, with quantity. Do something every day, to make Google take notice. Don’t have the post ideas yet? Start there. Brain storm, keyword research, and get those pages up.
If you have an old blog, that you want to revamp, follow the same type of process that I laid out here. Go back and re-edit old stuff. Expand upon it. Find new related keywords that can be apart of the re-writes.
This is indeed, a long haul process, but one that is well worth it. In the realm of blogging, there aren’t too many who take the time and do this sort of thing. If you do, you’ll probably end up outranking them, and start seeing huge leaps in traffic numbers.