Friday, July 15, 2011

Type A Conference Recap - Traffic Building Bootcamp

Yes, there is still more from Type A Conference to share. This was one of the sessions that was really jam packed with information, enough so that I will admit that it's more choppy than some of my other posts, but the content is there. This one was a great discussion about how to build your blog traffic. As with so many of the sessions I attended, we easily could have spent more time on this topic to truly cover it, but this was a great start.

The facilitator was Heather Solos (@heathersolos) from Home Ec 101.

Both a really cool sign in Asheville, and what you want you blog to present to the world

How To Succeed
Host your own site, not just using a provider or using Facebook as your site. If you don't, it could be gone someday if the hosting service goes down, the server has a bad day, Mark Zuckerberg deletes it, or whatever. It's gone. If you host your own site, you are then also responsible for backups. Make sure you do it frequently and in multiple places. Protect your own data. Make sure at least one backup is off site, in case something happens in your home. Cloud backups are a great option. Hosting your own site on your own server doesn't have to be expensive. More on that later.

Content is king. That's what's going to drive traffic to your site, especially repeat traffic. High value content needs to be useful, entertaining, and/or informative. It needs to be abundant - keep building it and keep writing about it. Write about it in multiple formats - if people ask a question, answer it in different ways. Don't necessarily just point to the old post. Or if you're getting the same question repeatedly, you may need to tweak how it's getting referred to. You need to be thorough. Link to other people, don't just give the quick answer or half of it. If you choose a niche, stick to it. You need to be an expert in that area.

Invest in your design. If you put up a crappy design, no one will take you seriously. They don't have to be complicated. Simplicity is the way to go, but make sure they're nice.

Google, Yahoo, Bing all want you to succeed. They don't want spammers to succeed. They want legitimate sites to succeed. Take advantage of the tools they offer. It's on the web for free. Register your site with each of the major search engines. That's really simple. Add your URL to Google, Yahoo, and Bing. If you're already listed but have never done this, it doesn't hurt to do this again. It speeds up the process of the spiders finding you, and it shows the search engines that you're serious about your site.

Terms
Traffic - amount of people coming to your site
Hits - call to your server for something. Each page of your site may have many calls to your server. When you write in html (hyper text markup language). If you have 3 images on the page and it has to call each of those images and each will count as a hit.
Unique visitors - people who show up at your site. They aren't recounted in a specific amount of time
Returning visitors - people who return to your site over a specific amount of time
Bounce rate - people who show up on your site, get distracted, then go elsewhere or close the browser. No action happens; you can't tell if they read it or anything else. If you have low traffic and a high bounce rate, what you are doing isn't engaging or relevant. It's a problem, for example 30 hits a day and a 98% bounce rate. Millions of hits and a 99.9% bounce rate, it becomes irrelevant. Heather's is 80% but has 3,000 unique visitors a day.
Click throughs - someone who takes an action that leads them off the page
Call to action - something that is placed on the site somewhere that you want someone to do, sign up for newsletter, follow on twitter, go to next page, etc Don't want too many calls to action, and want them in the right place
Spiders - crawl through the web and mine data. This is the same as bots, crawl, slurp - google penalizes slow sites, you will rank lower if it's slow
Periodic table of SEO rankings - it's laid out graphically and explained - look it up created by Danny Sullivan searchengingeland.com/seotable Content Quality
html tags - don't use pictures with the numbers that are automatically assigned when you download your photos. Make sure you rename the photos to describe what's in them to tell Google what you're writing about. People search for images, so you'll get more hits that way.

You also want to put titles in your pictures in your posts themselves to make them accessible to the sight impaired. To be verified to meet the ADA standards, you have to do this.

Use the Google external keyword tool. You can use it for keywords in two different ways. Your blog in general is targeted to a specific set of key words. Each page and each post can be related to a subset of related key words. They have to relate but can also expand. Targeting keywords for posts that have a lot of searches and high CPC means you can increase your hits (and your income if you use adsense) - adwords.google.com You can also use this to create more content, additional blog ideas, etc. Don't just keyword stuff - it has to be good writing, as you'll have no long term benefit. It goes back to the good writing. Don't annoy people with bad writing due to the keyword stuffing.

Don't sell text links. Don't do links in posts with the random links. It actually goes against Google's terms of service, and they will penalize your site's page rank. If you do anything, use the "rel = no follow" so that you show that you don't trust the site, and it won't hurt your ranking. You can tell advertisers you'll have their ad but you'll do the "rel=no follow" bit, except of course then the advertisers aren't interested in this because all they want is your page rank.

Always delete the garbage links that show up on your site. You don't want those links going out from your site, and it can also trash the page ranking of the company it's linking to.

If you switch from blogspot to your own site hosting, this will take time to update your page rank. It may not officially change for awhile, though it used to be updated quarterly. So long as you're getting traffic steadily growing, then you're fine even if your rank isn't officially updated. To help improve how search engines see your site is to make sure you don't let your domain name get anywhere close to expiring. Make sure it is always at least 1-2 years out, as that shows your commitment to your work. It makes a difference, as you could otherwise sell your site and then have it filled with spam - or so goes the logic, so they want to see that you're serious about what you're doing. All of the "bad" sites want to be in and out - they want to make their money and run before they get caught. Showing commitment helps show that you aren't spam - back to who the search engines want to have succeed.

Watch Out for Violations
Thin content is a big problem - this is if you've written a paragraph, maybe 200 words in a post. Make sure even if you have a video embedded, you have text anchoring it. This will help search engines find you. If you are participating in a meme, that's different because you aren't wanting people to find you via search engines. You're looking to have people click through the meme.

Pictures - alt is what shows up when you hover over the photo. Title is what you need for ADA and the visually impaired. When you load your image in WP, the spaces are there to fill it in. You don't have to go back into your html. Otherwise, you need to fix the thousands of pictures you have already loaded.... This is a good project for a rainy afternoon. Outside WordPress, Heather didn't clarify how to add titles into the photos - e.g., for Blogger.

Watch your plug ins. Watch were you get your designs from, as they frequently have links back to porn sites or other type such nonsense. Scan it on a regular basis.

Cloaking - where text is the same color as background. Google doesn't differentiate the color of the text, it alters what the page is about. Don't do this - infraction!


To make the best impression and follow how the eye moves across the page, there are certain thing you ought to do. Your logo needs to be in the upper left of the page - first place the eye goes. Subscription needs to be on the top right. People tend to start at the top center, move down, go to the left and up, then down to the right, etc.

You want to give people the option to subscribe via RSS and via email. Some people want one, and some the other. If you don't have the option that people use, they won't change just for you. Give them what they want. Put up the Facebook and Twitter, too. It's easier for people to use email, for example. Think about maybe having a Twitter account that is just for the site to announce new blog posts. That's in addition to your regular Twitter - maybe, but not as critically. Have subscription buttons on the left side, too, so that people can find them if they miss them in another spot. Maybe make the buttons look different in different places (stylized black icons v the traditional logos for each).

Don't underestimate the power of social proof. If there are already people who like something, more will like it because they feel it's "safe" to do so. If you only have 32 people, don't display your readers. If it's a larger number, go ahead and show it, as it proves your authority. That little subtle call says "this stuff is good" - text below that says "hey, thanks for visiting. We'd love for your to subscribe via X" which has the links.

Google +1 - when you are logged into your Google account. Whatever you click on is tracked (but hey - your ISP knows everything already and will report to law enforcement if there are issues). The data is aggregated and made anonymous. We can only control so much through key words because google shows different results to the same searches based on our history. Google +1 - you want to add this button to your site. Someone who likes your site can +1 you, and then your site is given more weight by google in searches. This is Google's play towards social.

Look at using Pinterest. There's also Facebook share. Make sure you do what fits your reader's tastes. Don't try to cram every single option onto your site. If the subscription button is hiding, people are less likely to find it.

Hosting Your Own Site
Plan for success. Don't go out and get a dedicated server right away. But understand those unlimited $9.95 plans aren't so unlimited. Once you start getting to a certain number of hits an hour (for Heather 200/hour, 1500 to 2000/day), your blog will start running slower. You'll need to upgrade at some point. (Ismyblogworking.com is a great test to see how well your blog is working or not working, as the case may be.) google.com/webmaster has amazing details - keywords, how are people finding you, how they are you linking to yourself, and it can help you improve old content's appearance by the words you choose to link in new posts - talked about "how to get mold out of your washer" v talked about this "here" (don't use the link on here - linking on the specific term gets you better results). Use this site regularly, as it will tell you if you have any malware or crawler errors - and it will tell you where they're expecting to find something but aren't.

Choose a scalable hosting site so that it stays cheaper when you don't have the traffic but will not crash when you do. If you do this, make sure you have ads set up based on impressions so that the revenue will cover the cost. Make sure you also have a good caching system in place. She uses W3 Total Cache. There are some general settings - minify goes through your code and strips out every space. Computers don't need spaces, we do. Database and object caching helps. User agent groups - the browsers and other things coming into your site. As your site grows in traffic, things like pictures are going to take up most of your bandwidth. What you do is use a static site like Flickr or Photobucket - anything that's not making the call from your server (called a content delivery network). Your site should automatically put them to the content server so that it doesn't take time to load, etc. Once you set it up, it's automatic. WP Super Cache works well, too.

You don't need to save each photo to Photobucket or the like. Instead create a static database on your server via a caching system like this to host your photos so there aren't so many calls going to your server.

Other Tips
If you have a blog that's based on your specialized niche, you need to make it a network - respond to every single comment that appears on your site. You need to make it easy for them to share with the Twitter, FB, email subscription buttons. Look for the new people who don't have their plates full already and who can engage with you, as well. If you have friends, you can ask them to help promote posts. That said, this is something that will work only if you will ask to promote the most pristine, perfect post. They will get those first two or three shares that you need to start having that social proof to click for us. Don't pester them, just ask for the best ones.

Key word stuffing: Google pays attention to how you mark up your text - bolded terms, how high they are in the text, if it's in the heading, etc. You want to include the key words but you don't want to stuff them. And yes, you definitely want to highlight and mark up the key words for helping searching. Just don't abandon natural language to get your key words in.

Your social reputation matters - is it being linked to from Twitter and Facebook? It makes a difference. Are you being linked elsewhere? Being linked by name will result in being ranked high in the name. If you are being linked by topic, then you'll be ranked high in that topic.

Country - if you're searching in the US, you're more likely to pull US sites.

Don't use the All in One SEO plugin for WP - it will kill your site in terms of memory. It makes so many calls back to your server that it overloads the server. Yet another related post plug in will also shut down your server and penalize you. Way too many calls. If you take up more than your fair share of the server, especially for an unlimited hosting server, the server will shut you down so others will have a way to load and run. Use Microkids related posts where you can type in a keyword or title and search for yourself.

I'm working on incorporating many of these ideas and changes into my own posts, but I'm not all the way there yet. What else can you suggest for building traffic?

2 comments:

Joanna Jenkins July 17, 2011 at 4:54 PM  

Wow, thanks for sharing your notes. This is fabulous.
xo jj

Michelle July 31, 2011 at 9:59 PM  

Joanna - I thought it was great. There's always more to put into practice, but this helps a ton as a jumping off point, no?

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