Working on increasing my average page views per visitor this month I decided to take a look back on how things are going comparing these 30 days to the prior.
The Big Ouch
Before looking at my stats I believed my initial outlook was good. I expected more page views per viewer. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I had a big OUCH.
A month ago today I did something that I thought would help my site out by complying more with Google’s SEO suggestions. Google suggest that you do not have more than 100 links on one page. A month ago and a day I averaged about 150 links on my home page. For every post, I had links to their categories and tags. I decided to delete those links, and only display them on the specific post pages.
My reasoning to comply was two fold really. I believed Google would like my home page more, and it would create a better user experience. Less clutter often equals a happier visitor, and less bounce. Reducing the bounce rate was my overall goal at that time. Unfortunately, this resulted in a double blow for me. My Google traffic went down by 6%, and even worse, the traffic I got was just crap. This gave me horrible page views per visitor numbers, and an even higher bounce. Did removing those tags and category links kill my SEO value?
I then started evaluating my specific keywords. I noticed I was getting less traffic for keywords I target, and more traffic for things I don’t even remember mentioning. My Google traffic started giving me visitors that averaged 1.3 page views. That is absolutely horrible traffic, and there was not even a chance of converting these visitors.
Tampering With It Again
So now I was left in a dilemma. Do I put the links back? If I do, will Google hate me even more? Did I do anything else? I started reviewing my journal for this site looking at any changes that I may have done. I even considered the number of posts. Nothing really seemed to add up except for removing the links from the home page.
Time, Google, and People
Checking out my home page you can see I have not added the links back. I am sticking to my original reasoning. Google suggest not having too many links on one page, and it’s a better experience for the user. Am I just kissing goodbye the search engine traffic?
Nope. I am not saying bye to search engine traffic, and there is actually three reasons why I am not tampering with my site again in this way. It’s Time, Google, and People.
Time was my first clue to not change my site back to the way it was. I decided to look at my search engine traffic as far back as Jan. 2008. Do you know what I saw? A trend line that slowly goes up, with the usual ups and downs throughout the time period. My site was currently experiencing a down turn for the past 30 days, and I believe my changes that I made a month ago today had no real influence. In fact looking at the past ten days I see a rapid return to status quo.
There is another site the changes besides mine, and that site is called Google. Google changes or “tweaks” its algorithm on a regular basis. To stay as the top search engine, they simply have to. Sometimes those changes Google makes are not so good for you, but as long as your content stays on target, the next improvement they make will most likely turn in your favor. You need to shoot for the long term.
There is another influencer in all of this, and it played a roll in my site as well. It’s people. People search for different things. A major player in my numbers here was when Firefox updated to version 3.5. Google apparently wasn’t ready for this new browser, and had a few problems. When Firefox users started updating their browsers they came across those problems.
What did they do to resolve it? They searched for it using Google, and often landed on my site looking for the answer. As that issue has resolved itself, the search traffic has died down for it. It turns out I was also comparing a really really good month with a slightly less than average month.
A Final Note About Search Traffic and Analytics
Don’t kill yourself on the day to day stats. This post for example, is not going to drastically change my traffic, nor getting a few more external links. Just shoot for your target, and then use the stats to make sure you are keeping on target. As you can see there are other things that can influence your site where you have no control. It’s all about the plan, your plan, and keeping it all on track.