Back in November I implemented some changes to this site in an attempt to increase search engine traffic. Let’s face it, everyone wants more search engine traffic and I’m no exception! Sure I’ve written in the past that I believe search engines are not as relevant as they once were and that social media sites will power the next generation of web users but you can’t ignore the free website traffic the search engines can send you.
The changes I made to the site took 5 minutes to implement and have resulted in a dramatic increase in search engine traffic.
Whilst the changes themselves are related to installing a WordPress plugin, the fundamentals can be applied to any website whether it be a static site made with Dreamweaver or any other blogging or content management system. They’re basic SEO and you may be surprised why I haven’t implemented them before. I’ll go into the reasons at the end of the post but I’m guessing you want to know what I did, right?
I installed the All in One SEO Pack plugin. It took 5 minutes to upload, activate and configure the plugin and that was it. Nothing else. No crazy stuff under the hood. Just a simple case of using the right plugin to do the job.
The All in One SEO Pack allows you to alter your post title, add either an auto generated or manually written meta description and create a set of meta keywords for each post. There are a whole heap of other options but these were the ones I concentrated on for this particular experiment.
Creating unique and keyword focused titles and descriptions are a fundamental part of your onpage SEO. If you’ve read any of the forums or blogs or books (I recommend Aaron Walls excellent SEO Book) you’ll read this time and time again. The problem is that out-of-the-box WordPress doesn’t allow you to do this so a plugin is required. There are a number of them out there which will generate title tags, there are others which will generate meta descriptions or tags but the All in One SEO Pack does them all for you so that’s the reason I decided to run with it.
As I said, it took only took 5 minutes to configure everything and I was good to go. Now I must be honest here and say that I did spend a little bit longer going back to older posts and creating new meta descriptions and keywords but, looking at the referral traffic and which posts have received the most search engine lovin’, I still stand by the statement that 5 minutes is all you’ll need to dramatically increase your search engine traffic.
The guys at Tubetorial have put together a great video on how to use the All in One SEO Pack which I recommend you have a look at. Graywolf takes things one step further with his post Optimizing WordPress Page Titles, Post Titles and Page Slugs. Although he focuses on a different plugin (SEO Title Plugin), you can still apply the concepts to the All in One SEO Pack.
Now I know that some of you will be throwing things at your monitor and calling me all the names under the sun for writing such a sensationalist headline and you may be feeling a bit let down with the answer but the numbers speak for themselves. In the three months before installing the plugin I got 2615 search referrals. In the three months after installing the plugin I received 5418 search referrals. And here’s where it gets a little bit more interesting.
Before installing the plugin, 92.4% of all search engine traffic was coming from Google. Since installing the plugin, that figure has dropped to 74.1%. There has been a massive increase in the level of traffic coming from MSN/Live. Now this suggests to me that, despite what a lot of the experts say, that Microsofts search engine still uses meta keywords as part of it’s algorithm and that the meta description does actually play a part in their rankings.
A number of SEO experts say that the meta description isn’t used in the ranking process and that it only enhances your CTR because it makes your listing look more clickable but I’d argue that Microsoft are still using it to a degree. I don’t believe that such a massive jump in traffic can be put down purely to writing a more interesting meta description.
I’m going to test this out a bit more to see if I can prove it conclusively, or at least as conclusive as anything ever is when it comes to search engine optimisation, but I’d be interested to hear what people think.
Is the increase down to a higher CTR or is Microsoft using the meta description as part of it’s ranking process?
OK, so why haven’t I implemented any of these basic SEO practices before? After all, I’ve written in the past about how to improve search engine ranking so shouldn’t I be practising what I preach?
Well yes and no. The fact is that I use this site as something of a test ground. I regularly tweak things to see what works, what doesn’t and basically play around with ideas before implementing them on my other sites. I rarely write keyword heavy content on here or write stuff with the search engines in mind because this site is more of a personal blog in the original sense of the word than any of my more commercial interests.
Up until I installed the plugin, most of my traffic came from referrals which is kinda how I like it. People recommending my content rather than search engines. Sure my traffic is probably lower than it could be (around 5000 visitors per month) but that suits me just fine.
So going back to the experimenting, older readers (and I mean people who have been reading the site for a while rather than grizzled pensioners smelling of wee) may remember that I stripped the site of all meta descriptions and tags back in January of last year. I wanted to see what effect it had on the old Google supplemental index results. The experiment worked and, to be honest, I hadn’t bothered replacing them.
Now that I know that my latest experiment has worked and that the All in One SEO Pack really is the mutts nuts, will I be uninstalling it and trying something new? Hell no! I like the new found traffic far too much! What I will be doing, though, is going back to some of my older posts and playing around with the meta descriptions and meta keywords to see if I can prove my Microsoft theory. Knowing my luck I’ll finally get conclusive proof on the day that they announce they’ve bought Yahoo! and I’ll have to start all over again…