Get More Traffic – Website Case Study Month #2

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We purchased a website late March 2020 which had been affected by a Google algorithm change and as a result had suffered a significant drop in traffic. Our goal with this website is to see if we can get more traffic and increase revenue for the website.

During the handover, movement of the website files to our servers and domain name ownership change the traffic continued to plummet: 

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By the time we took over the website late March 2020, the daily visitors were less than a quarter of those in January 2020. Ouch.

Nonetheless, we’d committed to this website, the niche was a personal interest of ours (it’s in the health, diet, weight loss and food niche) so it was time to get started on an SEO strategy and website redesign.

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Homepage Design

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The first thing we noticed about this website was the lack of structure on the home page and navigation menu. 

When designing a website, it is important to have a home page that is engaging, and encourages people to click through to read more of your content. 

You’ll want to display your primary services offered or topics covered. The home page on this website wasn’t well structured and neither was the navigation menu.

Our first task was to redesign the website home page and link the internal pages of the website in a more structured format. With 70+ pages on the website, this turned out to be a bigger task than we’d expected. 

A task that we are still working on as we learn more about the website.

 

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Search Engine Optimisation

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One of the opportunities we had identified with this website was the addition of search engine optimisation.

The website already had good organic traffic from Google, yet many of the title tags, meta descriptions and alt image text had not been properly completed for SEO purposes.

What we thought was going to be a quick SEO fix turned out to be a mammoth task!

As we worked our way through the 70+ posts and pages, we realised some of the content needed updating with fresh, relevant information. We set about updating the content as we went, so are yet to complete all posts and pages. 

We also needed to add new content to the website. Google likes to see websites updated regularly, and this one had not been updated in at least 6 months. 

Not only were we redesigning, we were now updating content, adding new content and completing search engine optimisation!

 

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Mobile Web Design

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We also discovered that majority of traffic was viewing the website via a mobile phone. This changes so much when optimising website design for mobile devices. The traditional page page with a sidebar layout isn’t the best option for mobile.

With responsive themes, the sidebar is moved to the bottom of the page after the content.

That means important links, advertising and calls to action are positioned at the very bottom of the page. This poses the risk of not being seen by the website user at all if they click off the page before they get to the bottom.

For this reason, we focused on mobile web design above designing for desktop computers, laptops or ipads and tablets. 

We achieved this by incorporating in text links, advertising and calls to action.

This is a process however, and something we are still working on with the website. 

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Traffic Growth

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We started to see some positive results and appeared to be on the right track on our quest to get more traffic. You can see the slow incline in traffic during April 2020 in the screenshot below:

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The diet and weight loss space is a fairly hard niche to rank in. Many of the targeted keywords have quite high difficulties and we are up against some big competitors in this space. 

Like I said in the initial website case study, we don’t shy away from a challenge. To see steady traffic increases was rewarding, and gave us confidence we could recover this website easily. 

Then this happened the first week of May 2020…

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Google Core Update May 2020

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Several times a year, Google releases updates to its algorithm. Google refers to these as “core updates”. Google themselves, state that their mission is to “present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.”

The way Google explains this is to think like a list of the top movies for the year. There are likely to be changes to the list each year, with newer movies making the list and older movies moving down the list. 

That is how Google feels about content. Given that we had started updating content, implementing search engine optimisation and writing new content for the website, we wondered why the traffic would take such a hit.

As you can see, the clicks through to the website were cut by almost half. The site dropped down the search engine results pages (SERP’s) by around 4 positions and the number of impressions (the number of times the website showed up in Google search results) dropped by approximately 34%.

With a drop in impressions, comes a drop in clicks to the website. This is natural to see. If you’re not showing up in the search results, how can users click through to your website?  

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Backlinking Strategies

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As the title suggests, it was time to take a deeper look at what strategies the previous owner had taken to gain backlinks to the website. 

Backlinks, are other websites that link back to your website. Google has very specific rules around this, particularly when it comes to some of the older tactics that used to be used. 

We reached out to the previous owner to discuss his backlinking stragegy. It turns out he owned several websites in a totally unrelated niche, but was using these websites to link back to the website we had purchased.

This is referred to as PBN’s – or private blog networks. 

Some years ago, this was a common thing to do. But in 2020, as Google’s artificial intelligence becomes more advanced essentially making the algorithms smarter, PBN’s do not work. 

We set about checking thousands of backlinks coming into the website to find out which links were relevant and which were not. There were some good backlinks, but also a large volume of undesirable ones too. 

Here is what Google has to say about backlinks:

 

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“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

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After sifting through thousands of backlinks, we asked Google to disavow several hundred links. This means that the links still remain pointing to the website, but Google will not pay any attention to them. We have basically said to Google, these exist, but we know they are not relevant, so please skip over them. 

Google knows shady backlink techniques happen. Google also has this to say:

For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO) you’ve hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines.

 

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As professional, trained search engine optimisation experts, we will never participate in link building schemes or black hat SEO techniques that could potentially harm your business or website. 

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We took this algorithm update in our stride and continued to focus on creating quality content for the website. It may take months to see results, but we are monitoring it closely. As we do with all the websites we manage. 

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Big Wins for Other Important Metrics

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You may recall in initial website case study we identified some key metrics that we were hoping to improve on. They were:

  • New Users vs Users
  • Bounce Rate
  • Average Session Duration
  • Pages Per Session

Returning Visitors

When first took over this website, less than 10% of users returned to the website for a second look. This tells us two things…

1. Users aren’t finding the information on the website valuable enough to come back again; or

2. Users got what they were looking for and have no need to come back.

Given we are in the diet, food and weight loss space, I’m going with option number one.

We finally have some good news to share! In the month of May 2020, 14% of users returned to the website. This is an increase of 4.2 percent. This is a good sign!

Bounce Rate

The initial bounce rate of the website was 87%. This is the percentage of people who navigate to a page of your website, then don’t navigate any further around your site. 

During May 2020 the bounce rate has decreased to 84.45%

We aren’t hugely concerned about this bounce rate, as the website contains links to other offers. Ultimately, we want the user to click through to an offer and purchase something. 

Decreasing the bounce rate by 2.5% is still a small win and movement in the right direction in the eyes of Google.

Session Duration

In our last post, we spoke about the average session duration. This is how long a user has spent on your website before they click off. 

For this particular website, the average session duration was 44 seconds. Some of the blog posts on this website are 3000 words long. Can you read 3000 words in 44 seconds? Given the long form content, session duration should be much higher than 44 seconds. 

With redesigning the website, we have heavily focused on user experience. Long content has been broken up into short sentences and paragraphs. We have added headings, images and more structure to the informational page. 

We have been rewarded significantly here with the average session duration jumping up to 1 minute and 29 seconds

You might remember from our last blog post, our first goal for session duration was 1 minute! We are incredibly happy with achieving almost one and a half minutes. Now, let’s aim for two minutes!

Pages Per Session

We are pleased to report there has been a slight increase in pages per session – from an average of 1.21 pages per user to 1.32 pages.

Ideally, we would like to see this significantly increase. This will come down to good site navigation and internal linking structure. All part of on page SEO.

 

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Our Website Management Strategy Moving Forward

For the month of June 2020 our focus will be on content and user experience. 

We will also be continuing on with optimising pages for mobile views before desktop views, and fixing any SEO issues we come across along the way. 

For the rest of the month of May 2020, the site traffic remained consistent.

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With continued updates to the website and providing the best, most comprehensive information to our users, we have no doubt we will see some upward trends over the coming months.

Stay tuned for our next update and follow us along this journey.

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