How I’ll Fight The Panda Once More

Panda algorithm updatesI bought Digital Media Minute back in late 2008 from a web developer. He’d had added content virtually every day–sometimes multiple posts per day–since he started the site in 2003. When I bought DMM it had over 3000 posts on it, almost all of which were indexed in Google.

At the time the traffic was about 5,500 unique visits per day on weekdays, when most developers were at work and referring to the site for the answers to minor programming questions, or the sort of hacks that the former owner excelled at writing.

Probably a majority of the posts were less than 100 words in length, as again the site functioned as a repository of thousands of one developer’s professional notes to himself.

Some of the posts brought hundreds of visits each day, but Google loved even the less visited small ‘notes’– cumulatively they attracted a ton of long-tail traffic. Back then there was a place for a lot of sites like this, that aggregated answers like that, but it was not meant to last.

Panda and Penguin

In February 2011 the first Panda algo update hit Digital Media Minute badly, Panda 2.0 followed in April and things went from bad to worse. Penguin the following year didn’t hurt as much, but the traffic decline was pretty steady even outside of major algorithm updates.

It was all an education for me.

Proof that even with over a million backlinks, zero artificial linkbuilding, no duplicate content, on a responsive (albeit ugly!) WordPress theme, etc., a nicely aged site could be hit hard in such a way that even the 2,000-word posts that had formerly brought hundreds of visits each day were impacted too. Number-two or -three rankings for a keyword became second page rankings, then page four rankings…

The Road Ahead

After not touching this site for years, for the last few weeks I’ve been adding content, almost daily. I’m just writing about a couple of my hobbies: tech generally and Internet marketing. I’m supporting myself online by the way, and have for years. Client work and my own projects. Not too difficult in Bali, Indonesia, where (the good) life is still inexpensive and where I’ve had a base for 12 years now.

So yes–longer posts, just trying to be helpful or share genuine enthusiasm. Add an image with an alt tag, tweet out the URL to get it indexed a little faster, etc. Basic stuff.

It hasn’t been hard for me to get a post together each day, share opinions and small tips of my own, no longer programming tips but more in line with topics with which I have experience, especially Internet marketing.

But I’ve got a little plan.

There is very little to lose when it comes to Digital Media Minute. Worse case, well, not much will change frankly, in terms of revenue the site is earning (enough each month for a half a pizza in the US of A, or a week’s worth of lunches at my favorite warung here in Bali) or traffic, under 100 visits per day as we are now.

Best case, frankly any bump at all in traffic will be something of a victory as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll have some hard data I can share in an interesting case study.

My plan has a few parts to it, and I’ll get more ideas as I go, as one does.

Here’s what I’m planning at the moment:

This is a traffic generation challenge. Unlike in 2008, I won’t rely only on SEO to increase site traffic. But I still want to start by trying to increase traffic from search.

In 2011, post Panda, I added content to the posts that were literally a sentence or two, so that every post on this site had 100 words, minimum. Took dozens of hours. Of course these posts were still insanely thin, but maybe just a little less laughably thin than they had been. Clearly it didn’t change anything.

At the time I was considering radically culling the number of posts on the site, putting back to draft status all posts that had no backlinks, fewer than X amount of visits per month, and that had made zero or a few pennies income.

I didn’t do it at the time because I thought there might be a chance that things would somehow improve over time.

I no longer think that will happen. I think the thin pages are still hobbling the entire site, per my understanding of Panda.

I’ve also been swayed by the example of people like Brian Dean of Backlinko, who was doing incredibly well in the SERPs even when he had fewer than 20 (epic) posts on his site, and adding new content only once a month or so (if memory serves).

That is the opposite of what this site was built on, short posts and updates every day.

Brian Dean is number 1 or 2 for ‘onpage SEO‘. Traffic to this site is down by 98%.

In terms of strategy, I’m just not shooting for the super long tail traffic that used to be DMM’s bread and butter, as attracted by the short, specific posts I mentioned earlier. Fewer, longer posts are the way to go.

But first I will cut the number of posts on the site radically.

Over the course of the last year about 600 posts–out of 3000+ remember–received any traffic. In the last two years that number is under 1000.

I’ll cut out any post that hasn’t been visited in the last 2 years. I’ll 301 any backlinks these posts have to them.

Of the remaining 1000 posts, I’ll cut hundreds more. Only 600 posts have two or more visits in the last two years. 425 posts have 3 or more visits in the last two years. Only 338 have 4 or more. You get the idea.

I can’t see how I’m hurting things if I end up with only a few hundred posts on Digital Media Minute, and maybe a lot less than that.

I don’t expect to see a traffic explosion, of course! But we’ve heard anecdotes where doing this sort of thing can rather counter-intuitively increase traffic.

I do think it’s worth an experiment. Especially since the posts I ‘cut’ will be simply put back to draft status, not deleted.

After a few weeks–I’ll use one tactic at a time to see if it has any effect–I’ll put time into improving the remaining posts. I’ll select posts that rank at the bottom of page one or top of page two for their primary keywords, favoring primary KWs that have especially high search volume.

Then, if we’ve seen any improvement at all, I’ll work on branding and a new theme, and list building.

There’s a lot more to tell; I’ll elaborate further in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading.

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Get In The Google Search Results ASAP–Three Reliable Ways

Google Search Results–What’s The Trick To Getting In?

I recently got a letter from a reader, saying in part:
…..it seems that I must not have set my site up quite correctly, as my post is still not coming up in any Google search results. I’ve tried everything I can think of (alt text for pics, keywords in the edit snippet bit). It says ‘SEO – good’ in the Yoast plugin) and I have the green bullets! I’m lost. 
Anyway before I lose the will to live – is there any chance you can give me some advice on what I may have done wrong?

Ok, here’s a little secret.

If you have a question for me about tech, life, living in Bali (I’ve been in Bali for about 12 years, that’s true), or almost any other damn thing, if you’ll simply imply that your will to live is contingent on me getting you a good answer, you’ve probably found a way to compel me to answer.

So now you know. I’m putty in your hands. Up to a point anyway. I have my pride, or some that remains.

So here was my answer, outlining a powerhouse three-pronged approach, and I can only hope she gets into the search engine results pages (the “SERPs”) as fast as possible. And you do too, for that matter.

Are You In The SERPs Already? Do This

First, enter the URL of your site into the search field at Google.com, e.g. www.digitalmediaminute.com.

You should see your site, most likely as the first result. If it isn’t there then the site isn’t in the Google search results at all, i.e. Google’s index.

There are several things we can do to get a site into the index, or as we say, get the site “indexed”.

Here’s the first thing to check. You just want to make sure the noindex meta tag doesn’t exist in the homepage’s HTML code.

Sound complicated? In WordPress it’s dead simple.

(If you’re using a different Content Management System/CMS like Joomla, Dupal etc. there’s probably a way to in your dashboard.)

Look in Settings>Reading in your WordPress dashboard. The ‘Search Engine Visibility’ box as shown in the image below should be unchecked:
google search results indexing wordpress setting
If the box is checked, uncheck it click “Save Changes” and do the steps below.

If it is unchecked then you can do the following. I’d do all three of these things:

1) The easiest thing is to use this link to submit your site to Google: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url

2) Also easy, and good practice: post a link or multiple links to your homepage in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.. New pages on the web are discovered by crawlers coming from other pages and sites, via links.
You can imagine that as important as social media is that crawlers are all over new posts on all the platforms. If they find your link they will follow it to your site and you’ll get indexed.
Caveat: For a new site this will probably take days, even if you do everything I’ll suggest. It could take weeks. Don’t get discouraged and IMPORTANTLY–don’t let it stop you from creating content. Your site will get indexed and you’ll be getting free, targeted search traffic from the SERPs. We just cannot know how fast Google will index it.
Also, you can certainly post links on social media to inner pages on your site. Do so. It is very good practice not just for SEO but to simply get the word out there about your content!

3) Signing up for Google Search Console ( https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ ) and verifying your site is also good practice if you’re serious about your site. Then, for new sites I submit a sitemap.

You can either use a WordPress plugin to create your sitemap, or I think the Yoast SEO plugin (which I recommend in my “How to start a blog” post and video) will help you create it.

Here’s the section in Google Search Console where you submit your sitemap. See the red button in the upper right?

GSC for google search resultsAfter you submit your sitemap it can still take some time to have your site show up. Check using the method above; enter the URL into Google. As long as you have the box ticked in your WordPress settings as I show you above, the crawlers will find you eventually if you’ve submitted your site to Google, added it to Google Search Console, and submitted a sitemap.

Two more things:

a) This might be obvious, but determining that your site is in fact in the SERPs **doesn’t mean** you will be ranking well for the keywords you’d like to show up for. That’s a different challenge, the SEO challenge. For conveying deep SEO knowledge via lucid explanations, I recommend learning from this guy.
b) Making sure your homepage is in the Google search results is the first step, but you will want all the pages on your site to also be indexed in Google’s SERPs, naturally.
(By the way, I’m talking about Google because 80%–90% of your search traffic will come from Google. Luckily, getting indexed in Bing and other search engines simply involves getting crawled, which you will be sooner or later. Bing for example has an equivalent to Google’s Search Console. I have never submitted a site to it, fwiw. If your site gets into the Google SERPs it will get into the other search engines eventually too. We’re far more interested in Google because of the volume of search traffic it can send us.)
Back to indexing inner pages of your site.
We do not directly control how many of our pages are indexed. It’s Google’s index. But they do want to index your content. The most important thing is making sure your site is crawl-able by search engine robots.
Don’t worry, a standard WordPress installation leaves you in good shape for crawlability and basic SEO…the idea is that once the homepage is indexed the crawlers will look for links on the page to go deeper into your site.
This doesn’t mean you need to link to every post on your site from the home page(!). If you have several posts you will link to them all, in practice, but obviously with hundreds or thousands of posts this becomes impractical. Tags and categories help with all this but no need to overthink it in the beginning.
So the point: having a link to your sitemap on the homepage, even if it is way down out of the way in the footer, is enough to give the crawlers access to everything, making it more likely that all the content you’ve worked to produce ends up in the Google search results.
In closing I’ll say that just as sharing on social media helps your site’s initial indexing, it can only help to get your deep pages indexed too.

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Getting Featured Snippets And Testing Push Notifications

Wide Angle Wednesday — Quality From Around The Internet

Matt Diggity logoMatt Diggity does a lot of things right. He’s become a well-known SEO figure on the strength of the quality of free lessons and tips he shares. Sign up for his list and you’ll see what I mean: no fewer than nine SEO resources come with your welcome email. Everything from an onsite SEO guide to the hosts he suggests for PBNs to scaling an SEO agency.

Today I found an excellent post of his on how to get your or your client’s page into the featured snippet on page one of the SERPs. He definitely includes what I’d call non-obvious tips and ninja tactics. He also shows you what tool to use to do an audit of your pages so you can see where the low-hanging fruit is.

The steps he suggests are easier to implement than you might think, and no, you definitely don’t need to be at position #1 for a query already to get in the featured snippet! Check this out:

If you don’t grab it on the first try, make some adjustments and try again.  Don’t give up.  Put it this way, I’ve never not been able to steal it.


One SignalI’ve been meaning for a long time to test push notifications, as I’ve heard they have far better response rates than email, and the opt-in is so much faster.

Finally I installed One Signal today on one of my sites and I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. I can’t speak yet for the the engagement I’ll get but man for a WordPress site creating a One Signal account, installing the plugin and setting up for Chrome, Firefox and Safari was a breeze.

I know it’s capable of a lot more than I’ll probably need it for too. Incredibly to me, it is free, and there are no limits on devices, notifications, or integrations. Real time analytics, A/B testing and more right out of the box. I’m trying to stay objective but I’m not seeing a downside yet!

 

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My Favorite Keyword Volume And Related Keywords Free SEO Tools

Free SEO keyword research tools

Free SEO keyword research toolsI want to point you to two SEO tools I’ve been using for a long time now, tools that work together to let me do two major SEO tasks very, very quickly: finding related keywords and get keyword volumes/CPC amounts. Even better, they are free. Sometimes a lean tool with fewer features is best, and these tools are a good case in point.

When you’re doing keyword research it’s vital to get a wide range of keywords related to the topic you intend to create content around, or the primary keyword you’ll be targeting, if you have it defined. Keyword Shitter (sorry, but that is its name) allows you to put in one or several keywords and then quickly get dozens or even hundreds of related keywords returned to you.

These related keywords serve a dual purpose. First, you can discover keywords worth targeting which might be even more attractive than the keyword you’re currently targeting, in terms of relatively high search volumes or low SERP competition.

Second, to include as many LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords is good onpage SEO practice. You’re sure to find many to include in your article or blog post that’s you’d never have otherwise thought of. There are more thorough tools for this but I still find myself using this tool because it’s so fast.

The second tool is Keywords Everywhere. First, find and install the browser extension. Then, paste as many keywords as you’d like into it and immediately get the search volume and CPC amounts for each keyword. Choose to get stats from several different countries or ‘global’ for the whole world.

See video for the 90 second workflow.

Digital Media Minute Vs Google–Who Won?

Digital Media Minute Traffic Decline
Digital Media Minute Traffic Decline

As painful as it was for me to see after putting so much time into this site, I’ll admit it has also been morbidly interesting to watch the death of traffic to Digitalmediaminute.com in the last 3 1/2 years. You can see the basic idea in the screenshot, but suffice it to say that site has gone from 5000 unique visits on weekdays in 2010 to maybe 250 unique weekday visitors or sessions as they’re now called today. If my math is correct that’s a 95% drop.

Virtually all of this is a function of the site no longer ranking very well for thousands of longtail keywords that used to bring most of its traffic.

If memory serves me right the top few posts alone used to get 500 or 600 visits each day, but just as an article that ranked well for a low-traffic long-tail keyword now might be on the second or third page instead of the top of the first page, the articles that brought visitors via the high-volume keywords also slipped to the second page or much worse.

Naturally this entire dynamic is played out for many millions of websites, especially since April 2012 when the first Penguin algorithm update hit.

For Digital Media Minute it was a slow-motion train wreck which actually began before the first Penguin update, as you can see from the screenshot. As the traffic fell I tried several things, the most time-consuming of which was to add content to every single one of the 2,800 posts on this site. I did this in November-December of 2011.

Many of the posts were ‘thin’, which meant simply that they didn’t have very much content on them, so I assumed and hoped this (rather straightforward) fact might impact the entire site. It makes sense that Google would have a problem especially with thin pages with AdSense on them. I feared that there were so many thin posts that even the quality content on the site no longer ranked well for its keywords.

By the way, I’ve never believed that advertisers would necessarily have a problem thin content; in theory having just a sentence or two might cause a user to click on an ad faster to get his question answered. Certainly we have all seen (and continue to see!) pages all over the web plastered with advertisements and very little of anything that could be conceived of as substantial content. Still, I don’t doubt that over time Google would like to avoid pointing ad impressions at poor quality pages, and I think it’s unreasonable to hope that they wouldn’t penalize thin pages in their search engine results pages eventually.

At any rate I assume this was part of the reason why this particular site got hit– many pages were just a sentence or two worth of content-so I arbitrarily decided to make sure that every single post on the site would contain at least 100 words. Obviously many of them had a lot more than 100 words but for the ones that weren’t I needed to find some semi-happy medium between how much time job would take me and the potential for improvement on the site. With the best of intentions the previous owner of the site (from whom I purchased it) had simply put often brief tips related to programming or a hundred other tech-oriented subjects on site, often just a sentence with a link pointing to something he found interesting.

Eventually as we all know now, content of the sort no longer ranks well, usually.

To emphasize again, even though many of the articles were hundreds of words, the entire site was hit; even the longer articles were suddenly not ranking well for the keywords that brought visitors. (My memory is that approximately 85% of traffic to the site in its glory days was from Google.)

Anyway, I took a couple of weeks to get every single article over 100 words. I decided not to outsource because I didn’t want to risk a language-quality penalty after doing all that work. Frankly it took less time to do it myself than it might’ve if I had outsourced and then edited the outsourced content. As you can see from the chart there was never an upswing in traffic, even after I was done with this job.

In fact, just the opposite happened as April 2012 was the start of the final decline.

I added at least one new post to this site every single day since I purchased it in late 2008. By 2012 I was no longer doing this, as it didn’t seem worthwhile. I was surprised that between the longer posts (admittedly not that long!) and my posting every day that the site was clearly very unloved by Google.

I suppose I’m simply giving this account so that anyone who still visits the site understands why my posting has been virtually nonexistent for years now. From time to time I think about arbitrarily putting one post per day of a few hundred to several hundred words of decent content, maybe for a month or so just to see what happens. I’m not expecting anything, but maybe this is the start of that. Everything I know about SEO tells me that with all the tens of thousands of backlinks as well as the age site, etc. that the site might still have some value.

At any rate, I’ll bet there will be some surprised bots whenever they next show up on the site. Any bets on how long it takes for this post to get indexed, or how many visitors it gets?