Learning From Your Bounce Rate

Anyone creating web site content should learn from their site’s bounce rate.

The bounce rate for a web site is the percentage of web visitors that land on a page on your site, and don’t look at anything else. They don’t read other articles on your site…and if you’re writing a blog, this should probably concern you.

What does your site’s bounce rate tell you?

Landing Page Targeting

First, you should be able to see the bounce rate for various search terms people have used to find your site. If you cannot, switch to something like Google Analytics, which gives you this info.

If some of those search terms have higher bounce rates than others, that tells you that the landing pages for those terms are not highly targeted. People are coming to your site looking for specific information, and not finding it.

This is a terrific opportunity! Look at the search terms that have higher than average bounce rates, and write landing pages for them that are highly targeted. Link to the highly targeted page from the one that the search engines are sending traffic.

Eventually the search engines will send traffic directly to the new pages, but for now visitors should see the links and be able to get to the targeted pages. By giving your visitors what they’re looking for, you can increase your site’s value to them.

For example, Online Opportunity gets some hits for the search phrase “diy tracking affiliate links”. Those hits go to my post about DIY Link Cloaking. Traffic for that search phrase has a 100% bounce rate, because they’re looking for tracking links, not link cloaking.

I could write a post about tracking affiliate links, and my keyword research has already been done for me by Google Analytics. I know there’s a (small) demand, I know what keyword to use, and I feel that I know what the visitors are looking to find.

You don’t often get guaranteed targeted traffic handed to you, unless you pay attention to high bounce rates on your site.

What’s A Good Bounce Rate?

That’s impossible to say. That’s why I suggested you look for bounce rates that are higher than average for your site.

Bounce rates vary widely based on:

o) Your niche
o) The type of your site (e.g. store, blog, info site, MFA site, etc)
o) Your style of writing
o) The quality of your writing
o) Your use of graphics

and more.

When Is A High Bounce Rate Good?

There are times when a high bounce rate is good. Primarily, if you’re running an MFA (Made For Adsense) site, you don’t care about keeping visitors on your site. You want them to click through to ad links that earn you money. So a high bounce rate isn’t really an issue for you.

Overall, though, you want to keep bounce rates low, so that people see more than one page on your site. That gives you more than one opportunity to take search engine traffic and convert them into regular readers.

What sorts of bounce rates do you typically see?

WordPress Updated

I finally bit the bullet, and updated my very-out-of-date version of WordPress. I’d been having trouble with the old one not allowing me to moderate comments.

Unfortunately, I had so many spam comments that I just deleted them all. My apologies to the legitimate comments in the past year that got deleted, too. With the new version of WordPress I should be able to keep up with moderating comments now.

If you find links not working, do let me know. It’s hard to tell what plugins might not be working, and it’ll be slow going for me to double check each.

In other news, the ebook that I’d written long ago and intended to sell, will shortly be given away for free. I’ll post it here when I do, as a reward for the people who keep checking back here even after so long a time of inactivity.

On an SEO note, the search engine traffic to the blog has not dropped off due to my lack of updating the site. So while new sites do need regular updating to keep their rankings, established sites (mine had about a year and a half of regular posting) apparently do not. Something to keep in mind.

Use Gmail and Google Analytics and Get Indexed

A lot has been written online about how to get your sites indexed in Google.

Generally, the advice runs in two flavors. One set of people say that you need to submit your site and do a fair amount of work. These are generally the people trying to get you to pay them to do the work. Another set of people say, just put some links out there and Google will find you.

I subscribe to the second theory, but had it brought home to me recently just how easy it is to get a site indexed in Google. Remember that Google *wants* to index good sites. That’s its job, to index good sites and deindex bad sites.

I wrote a site about places to get organic food in the small town where I live. The search volume on the town’s name and “organic food” was non-existent (I was probably the only one searching on it). So I didn’t bother creating links to this site anywhere, submitting it to Google’s webmaster tools, I didn’t create a sitemap file, etc.

What I did do was use Google Analytics, so I could see how few people visited the site, and I sent out a few emails to local people I knew who might be interested.

Less than a week later, the site was indexed. Maybe sooner than that, since I didn’t bother checking until a week later, out of curiosity.

So the moral is, if you’re creating a site and you don’t want it indexed, don’t use Google Analytics, and don’t send the URL around in emails that might pass through Google.

Using Nofollow On Blogs

A post over at the Bloggeries Forum about an SEO trick using nofollow links caught my attention the other day.

While the poster made some points I didn’t agree with (namely using nofollow when linking to certain authority sites), the basic principle is an excellent one. Web sites and blogs are treated the same as far as Google goes, but blogs have some characteristics that make them less reputable in Google’s eyes. One of those characteristics is the huge number of outgoing links on the typical blog post.

Not necessarily in the post itself, but between comments and sidebars, most blog posts have tons of outgoing links. WordPress by default will add nofollow to comment links, but does follow for everything else (although this may also depend on your theme). This has a few effects.

First is that the value of any one of those outgoing links is diluted. Second is that a page with too many outgoing links isn’t as reputable, and will most likely rank lower in Google results. This is primarily a concern if you’re targeting highly competitive keywords, and have already nailed the rest of the SEO factors you can control.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a plugin that provides an easy way of adding nofollow to all the outgoing links except for in-post links. Most of the plugins are either designed to remove nofollow from comments, or to add nofollow in specific cases (such as links to Wikipedia). The best list of plugins I’ve found is Andy Beard’s Ultimate List of DoFollow/NoFollow Plugins. Scroll down to the nofollow section for some interesting ones.

If you experiment with this technique and have any results to share, head over to the Bloggeries Forum post and let us know.

The Importance of Regular Site Updates

There’s a lot said about various SEO factors, but one that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the importance of updating your site on a consistent schedule.

More often is best, of course, but if you can only update the site once a week, then make sure you do update it each week at about the same time. Don’t publish a flurry of updates one week, then nothing for a couple of weeks.

The reason is that one of the factors Google uses to rank your site in search engine results is the consistency of site updates. Imagine that you’re Google, trying to figure out which web site to put in the number #1 slot for a particular keyword. All other things being mostly equal, would you go with a site that was updated inconsistently, or one that had regular updates? Google goes with the regular updates because, to them, that reflects a more reliable site.

Note that having no updates might be perfectly fine for your site. My neglected niche sites are ones that are not updated at all, and continue to get a trickle of traffic. You won’t get #1 in Google, but you might get onto page 2 if your other SEO factors are good.

Inconsistent updates really hurt, though. I have another niche site that I’ve had trouble finding time to update. It was on the road to being high on the first page of Google for its keywords, but the inconsistent updating has killed its rankings. I’m not sure how long it will take me to reestablish its credibility (assuming I can find the time to update it!)

My recommendation for new blogs starting out is to pick specific days of the week to publish new posts, and then to stick with those days. If you write more one week than usual, schedule the posts ahead. That will help if you come up short another week. And make sure that you pick a posting schedule you can live with long-term. There’s no sense posting 20 times your first week and then going to once a week after that.

Remember that creating a niche content site should be seen as a long-term investment. Don’t burn yourself out before you see the rewards!

How To Outrank Program Pages In Google

I’ve noticed a trend lately with my program reviews, that I outrank the programs themselves in Google search results.

My review of the Big Dog Heavy Hitter’s Co-op Program, and my Stealth Money Maker Review are two good example.

Doing a search on “Big Dog Heavy Hitters” or “Stealth Money Maker” puts my reviews in the #1 spot, with the actual program page further down. And this is generally just a day after I write my review.

In one day, getting the #1 spot in Google for a new program.

I can’t claim to have any secret here, it’s something that anyone can do. Here are the key elements:

Your blog must have some age

In Internet terms, my blog, being about 10 months old, is nearly ancient! Most blogs die off much earlier than that. So Google sees my blog as more of an authority, because of the age.

Your blog must be SEO optimized

The meta keyword and meta description tags should be used, and contain the post title. The post title should be in an H1 heading. Have good keyword density, etc.

Many WordPress themes aren’t SEO optimized by default, in particular many do not put post titles in an H1 heading.

You should review programs that are newer than your blog

The difference in ages between the two sites is enough to give your site more authority in Google’s eyes, even though their site has the keywords in their domain name.

Post daily

Google loves frequently updated sites, so daily posting helps your posts to get indexed very quickly.

Use sitemaps

Use a plugin that creates sitemaps automatically and lets Google and Yahoo know about them. This helps Google determine the most recent content.

Follow all of the above, and you should be able to outrank the program pages themselves. For most programs, that isn’t a big deal, but if you hit one that becomes extremely popular all of a sudden your review is now seen as an authority and you’ll get a good share of the organic traffic from searches.

Using Free Keyword Analysis For Post Titles

The only way to get reliable organic traffic for your blog is to know the basics of search engine optimization.

Today, I want to talk about using free keyword analysis tools when you’re trying to come up with a title for a new post. It’s important that your title contain keywords that have some search volume attached. As far as Google is concerned, the title of your post is one of the most important indicators showing what the post is about.

Let’s use Google’s Keyword Tool as an example. Let’s say I want to write a post about a new camera we just got (the Canon Powershot S2 IS). So maybe my initial thought is to name the post, “My New Canon Camera”.

At Google’s keyword tool, if I type in “canon camera” into the keyword box, and click “Get Keyword Ideas”, I’ll see that there is a good amount of search volume for that phrase. But there’s also quite a bit of advertising competition. That doesn’t necessarily means it’s a bad idea, since we’re not advertising. But if there’s that much advertising competition, there’s probably quite a few websites, too.

Going to Google.com and typing in “canon camera” (with the quotes), I see that there are nearly 3 million websites with that exact phrase. Ranking well for it will be difficult for a blog post.

Okay, back to the keyword tool. If I look down the list, I’ll find that some people are searching for the exact name of my camera, “canon powershot s2 is digital camera”. The search volume isn’t as high as “canon camera”, but there’s far less advertising competition and the keyword is better targeted.

Going to Google and searching on “canon powershot s2 is digital camera” (with the quotes), I see there are only about 25,000 websites with that exact phrase. Much better than 3 million!

So I’d name my post something like “Canon Powershot S2 IS Digital Camera First Impressions”. That tells Google that my post is about that particular camera, and the post will then rank higher for it than it would have for just “canon camera”.

Taking a few minutes before writing your next post can help to ensure more organic traffic in the long-term.

P.S. It’s also important that your post title appear in the URL, so if you’re using WordPress make sure to set up a custom permalink structure.

Understanding Google

I’ve read a lot of discussions about search engine optimization, and one comment that pops up pretty regularly is, “You can’t know what Google does unless you work there”.

That’s a bit like saying, “You can’t know how the laws of physics work because you aren’t God”.

While it’s true that we can’t know exactly what Google does, we can observe the effects. We can make changes to what we do, pass them through Google’s black box, and then see what the effect is on our rankings in Google.

This is the same process that has given us flight, and computers, and every other technological advance.

Further, with Google we do know their goals.

Google loved the early days of the web, when people linked to each other because the content was relevant. That’s the environment in which Google was created, and flourished. Google itself changed that landscape, by being successful enough that gaming Google was profitable. But that’s the environment that Google wants to get back to.

Where every link is relevant and in context.

Obviously, not even Google can get rid of paid links and the like. But, they can try to make sure that those sorts of artificial links do not impact a site’s ranking in Google search results.

Understanding that motivation gets us a long way to being able to make educated guesses about what Google might be doing. We can then experiment to see if the results support those educated guesses or not.

So while we can’t know exactly what Google does, we can come to conclusions that are close enough to let us improve our search engine rankings. That’s the whole point of search engine optimization.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug Aaron Wall’s SEO Book. Aaron has done a lot of the experimenting and thinking for us, so that we can start out ahead of the SEO game.

Making Link Exchanges Work

Link exchanges have been part of the SEO toolkit for some time now.

In general, link exchanges don’t work they way most people do them. Search engines aren’t crazy about reciprocal site wide links, so putting another blog on your blogroll in exchange for them putting you on their blogroll isn’t going to do either of you very much good, SEO-wise.

The right way to do link exchanges is to find another site in your niche that you would like to have linking to you. Find a single post on that site that has some text you want as anchor text for a link to your site, and then convince the owner to make that text a link to your site. You can offer a link on a relevant post of yours.

Done this way, the link exchange looks natural to search engines, and you both get a boost in search engine results positioning.

How do you find these sites with owners who are willing to exchange links? Contact every suitable site in your niche, and ask. Yeah, that’s a lot of work, which is why most people don’t do it.

Well, while going through all the Site Build It! tools for my series of SBI! review posts, I came across a link exchange marketplace they offer, called the Site Sell Value Exchange.

You register your site with the exchange, and specify the niche for the site by entering the most common keywords you’re targeting, and a description of the site. The exchange then gives you a list of other sites that cover similar topics, and you can contact the site owners and offer to exchange relevant in-post links.

The exchange takes the hard work out of doing link exchanges right, by providing you with a list of sites whose owners are already willing to exchange links and who want you to contact them about it.

I know my SBI! posts lately have started to sound like I’m a big fan, but I am quickly becoming one. The more I see of the SBI! tools, the more it seems like they have everything put together extremely well. The exchange is just one of the publicly available examples.

Click here for more info on the Site Sell Value Exchange.