3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Blog

Today’s bloggers face a number of challenges if they want to succeed and stand out from the crowd. For one thing, you’re competing with more than 160 million blogs  and that number continues to grow.

Of course, not all of those are active blogs and not all are your competition. Still, it gives you an idea of how many people you are competing with to gain the reader’s attention.

Wordpress statistics

Not only that but within your niche industry, you are likely competing with some people who are very Internet savvy. Either they are experts on SEO or they hire experts to help take their blogs to the top in search engine ranking. If you want to really succeed, you are going to have to do a lot more than just work hard.

improve your blog

You are going to have to work hard and work smart.

Using the Right Tools and Strategy

Utilizing the right tools and applying the right strategy is vital. At WHSR, we focused on several strategies in 2015 and managed to double our traffic; while maintaining site bounce rate and pages per session in 12 months’ time.

WordPress blog

Keep in mind that even as you start to pull in extra traffic, you want your bounce rate and pages per session to stay the same. This shows you that you’ve pulled in the right audience for your website. These are going to be the people who are most interested in your content rather than just bodies bouncing onto and off of your blog.

Here are the three strategies we used, and will continue using, to grow our site – which you can use to improve yours as well.

Strategy # 1: Continuous Improvement in On-Page SEO

Better search engine rankings equal more traffic and revenue. It really is as simple as that.

Although sites no longer live by search engine rankings, it is still important to rank in the top results if you have any chance at all of reaching people searching for the topics you cover on your blog.

While research and improving off-page factors such as obtaining links naturally are important; the on-page SEO is something not to be taken lightly. And, when I talk about on-page SEO, I mean much more than a simple tweak of the headlines and title tags.

We need to understand, or more accurately, to guesstimate how Google works in modern days. Google is constantly changing their algorithm to improve how it tracks not only the volume of content or particular keywords, but the quality of the content provided.

In fact, Google looks at so many factors today, and they change so often, that you are better off improving the quality of your content above all else. Of course, some things are still of vital importance, such as an expert opinion, beautiful photos, quality writing, and using the right keywords. However, they are small pixels in a larger picture that makes up your Google ranking.

1-a: Improve Site CTR on SERP

As mentioned above, Google is constantly changing their algorithms to meet new demands. Over the year, there are always a number of rumors about how Google might change their algorithm and add weight to the user experience as search engine ranking factors.

Some of these rumors are proven true via experiments. For example, according to Rand Fishkin experiments, we now know that CTR does affect site rankings.

Fishken studied Google’s patents and figured out what Google ascertains from user behavior. He found that there were three elements that likely impact your rankings, including queries that associate a brand name with a generic phrase. Click through rates matter a tremendous amount. And long verses short clicks or clicking through and then immediately returning to the search page because the page they went to didn’t offer what they wanted.

The easiest thing to start with is CTR. You can improve your site rankings by improving your site’s CTR at the search result page level.

Getting It Done

Here’s one way you can tackle this issue:

  1. Go to Google Search Consolve (previously G Webmaster Tools)
  2. Go Search Traffic > Search Analytics >
  3. Check “Clicks”, “CTR”, “Position”, select “Pages”; and generate a list of 100 queries with CTR & Position data
  4. Export the data, open the file in Excel
  5. Compare each page’s CTR with the average value of your top 100 pages.
  6. Look at pages with low CTR and fine tune on-page factors (such as title tag and description).
  7. Win! 🙂

google search console

1-b: Improve Site Engagement

Here are two more metrics that I believe are (or will be) key ranking factors at Google:

  • Site bounce rate
  • Time on page

Why are these key factors that play into your ranking? Here’s how Google might understand the situation: The longer a searcher stays on your site, the more relevant (or useful) Google believes your site is. And Google’s job (at least on the surface) is to provide the most relevant and useful answers to users’ searches. That means that if Google believes your site is useful to the user, then they will rank your site higher in results for that search phrase.

While I can’t find any case studies or experiments to prove this theory, I have focused on improving these factors at my site and the theory is simply common sense. After all, lower bounce rate and higher time on page means a better user experience. If you put your users’ first, you’ll always come out ahead.

For one thing, your users will come to trust you and will return again and again, giving you organic traffic over time.

Getting It Done

Here’s what I have done constantly, and you can do on your blog to improve search engine ranking and the overall quality of your site –

Find underperforming content on your blog (in terms of bounce rate and time on page) and optimize each page separately.

  1. Go to Google Analytics, Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
  2. Make show rows = 50
  3. Download the list and compare each page bounce rate and Avg Time on Page.
  4. Determine how you can improve the metrics on the underperforming pages.

time on page

Strategy #2 – Facebook

I’m sure you already know this, but Facebook is too big to be ignored. There are more than 1.5 billion users on Facebook, and advertisers spent $17.08 billion on Facebook in 2015. One big reason for this lies in the ability to hone in the ads to your specific target audience by narrowing down which users see your ad.

Facebook, however, is only a good option for brands and bloggers if you truly understand it deeply enough to spend time on optimization.

How? How do you leverage the power of Facebook for your own blog?

  • Keep track of new features (which Facebook is releasing them on an almost weekly basis) – be the first to use new ad formats – Instagram video ads, DPA carousel ads, local awareness ads, Canvas ads, etc.
  • Use an ad tool for automatic A/B testing to cut down on ad cost and improve ad efficiency. I use Adespresso to run all my ads on Facebook. It helps me to create and track hundreds of ad sets in one campaign easily.
  • Smart cross-selling or cross promotions – even if you don’t own a product, you can still apply the idea of cross-selling to keep your existing visitors. When someone visits a page from your blog, you can automatically cross-promote your other relevant content to them using the retargeting feature. For example, if one was looking at your “how to create a photography blog”, you can follow-up and promote your list of “must see WordPress plugins for photo blogs” on Facebook.
  • Create a community on Facebook. Facebook allows you to further brand your social media presence by creating a brand Facebook page. Use this page to interact with customers, offer insightful tips, give away special offers, and push news out to your loyal followers.
  • Utilize Facebook’s advanced tracking tools to study how well your ads are performing, what your cost per click is, and see whether you need to make changes.

There is no need to wait until a campaign is over to make changes. You can pause ads, change them, and make on-the-fly fixes to get the most leverage out of your advertising.

Strategy # 3 – Load Your Blog Faster

Today’s average online consumer is impatient. Loading time does impact how browsers view your site and whether they will stay and whether they will return. According to an infographic at KissMetrics, “loading time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment.”

Recently, we did a case study on server speed and how it can truly impact a business’s bottom line. We compared the online retailing efforts of Walmart and Target, looking at server response time and how it affected sales. The results? Speed matters. Even a fraction of a second can make a difference in sales conversions.

When I first used a CDN on my site, the bounce rate plunge and conversion rate (in term of sales and subscriptions) shot up by more than 30% almost instantly.

The moral of the story? Don’t underestimate the importance of your site’s loading speed. In addition to the two examples above, studies have proven time and time again that speed kills on the Internet. Slow site loading time kills your business, that is.

Imagine that your blog is a vehicle. You don’t want to build a smart car, but a Ferrari. The faster your site loads, the better.

A Number Of Ways You Can Speed Up Your Website Today:

  • Make use of Google PageSpeed tools – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/
  • Make sure that you are using a good host – speed matters. Do speed tests and compare your site speed with others using tools like Bitcatcha.
  • Check your code closely – remove HTML comments, CDATA sections, clear empty elements to decrease page sizes.
  • Combine CSS and scripts to make fewer HTTP requests.
  • Optimize your images
  • Minimize JavaScript and CSS
  • Enable gzip compression
  • Get a CDN service if the majority of your visitors are coming from a different continent from your host

Wrapping Up

Running a blog is a challenging prospect. The online world is forever changing and Google’s algorithms change from year to year. The only way to stay on top of things is to continue to study predictions, to test your site against Google’s ranking, and to put out the absolute best content you possibly can. With a little hard work and a lot of forethought, you can keep your blog successful and growing over time.

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets and hacking growth online. You can read some of his best posts at Blogging with WHSR.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Jerry,

    Great post. I think you bring up some excellent points with regards to the SEO things that many of us don’t think about. When taking a look at SEO the focus always seems to be on backlinks and keywords, but as you mentioned, Google is taking user experience more and more into account.

    It’s amazing to me how many bloggers don’t take a look at their analytics beyond the vanity stuff (visits, page views, etc) to see where they can really optimize their blog. It’s no different than building a software product. You have to see where people are hitting roadblocks and find ways to remove those obstacles.

    I have a question with regards to bounce rate. I’m assuming you have lead magnets on your site so do you take into account someone leaving your site due to filling out a form? I’ve had a number of bloggers over the past couple of months ask me why their bounce rate is so high and after going to their site and experiencing 20 different popups and CTAs I tell them that is probably the reason.

    • says

      Hey Scrivs,

      Yes I do.

      Popups jeopardize users experience. Period.

      But in the same time – they WORK.

      The day I turned on a site-wide, fullscreen welcome gate on WHSR, my ebook/newsletter subscription rate shoot up 400%. It’s a lot. Not that I like it but I have to compromise a little in exchange of 10 – 20 subscribers (read: loyal fans) a day.

      I think the best way to determine if popup is right for your blog readership is to run a simple test and compare the bounce rates before-and-after popups. I remember myself tracking the numbers closely when I started using Optin Monster at WHSR. Bloggers should do the same for their blog: if the changes in bounce rate are acceptable – go for it.

      Cheers, Jerry Low
      P/S: Thank you for your kind words! I am glad that you found the article useful.

  2. says

    Thank you for such valuable information. I learn a lot . I want to learn more about getting people to stay longer on my site.

  3. says

    Another common cause of slow loading times is plugins. Some plugins create big delays in page loads. Some plugins are fine but the more you add the more you have to pay attention and make sure they are not causing problems. And don’t forget that as you update them over time they may move from not a problem to something that is a problem – you have to stay on top of them.
    John recently posted…Google Check of Whether a Website is Mobile FriendlyMy Profile

    • says

      Oh yes, that’s for sure! I think it’s always best to check pagespeed before-and-after a new plugin to make sure that your site speed is not damaged by some loosely coded plugins.

  4. says

    Hey Jerry!

    Nice post!

    I’m more of a writer, and I’m a newb with a lot of the technical stuff. SEO and site engagement is something that I definitely need to improve.

    Thanks for the tips!

  5. says

    Receiving your information via your mailing list, is really give more useful to update myself as upcoming blogger.

    I will surly make use of the points you highlighted here.

    Thanks

  6. says

    Nice tutorials! Considering the first 2 of 3. I think I don’t have any issue on #3, I use W3 Total cache and WP Smush to speed up my website and the speed is ok.

  7. says

    Hey Jerry,
    Love to read your article man.
    Yes bounce rate and avg time on page are the important element which help google to messure readers engagement with the site.
    I think producing quality content is the way to improve bounce rate and avg time on site.
    By the way you have include the right technical way here to improve these sections.
    Thanks for sharing some unique methods here.
    Cheers
    Riju Debnath recently posted…4 Essential Blogging Investments Strategies for BeginnersMy Profile

  8. says

    Well for a new blog, i would not recommend seeing any vertices or metrics. All one should have is good design and content that delivers what audience is looking for.

    No body can do seo on behalf of your blog, the reason is SEO is an art and only you can do it since u know what your content is all about.

    Knowing few on page optimization is enough, after that what matters is right strategy::
    How would u bring traffic ?
    How would you collect subscribers ?
    …and the list goes on..

    Watching metrics would be waste of time.
    Although I agree with load time because it is a important factor.

    Thanks for this nice article 🙂

    • says

      Hey Kaushik – Thanks for the comment and I see where you are coming from. Yes it’s true – we only have 24 hours a day and when your blog is not pulling much traffic – it’s better to spend time on the outbound (instead of inbound) marketing. Better content and building more traffic sources are definitely the two most crucial things to focus on when you are new.

  9. says

    “Determine how you can improve the metrics on the underperforming pages.”

    Maybe a link or a reference?

  10. says

    This a wonderful comprehensive list for first-time bloggers and great reminders for experienced bloggers. Thanks!

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your secrets. Blogging can be tricky, so many steps. But persistence in these steps is so important. Thanks for helping.

  12. says

    Hi Jerry,
    love to read your guest post on Sue’s Blog.
    Blogging is really a wonderful thing to do as it helps to follow your passion on writing. It will give you immense pleasure and satisfaction, but to write something interesting and worthy which others would love is not an easy job.
    In starting the blogger finds it worthy and interesting but after some they struck. They cannot see them moving ahead. This is the time when most of them quit. Patience is important aspect which you must hold if you are in this field.
    After all the main objective of many bloggers is to get more no of influencers.
    SEO are important because it helps optimize your website for search engine. Sharing on social media is also important because it helps to get new readers for website.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    With regards,
    Saurav
    Saurav Kumar Nayak recently posted…44 Impressive Ways You Can Use Social Media to Grow Your Business OvernightMy Profile

  13. says

    Improvement is the key to be successful. The more a person can improve his/her online presence the more value he ads to his readers and this will help him to boost his blogs rank and earning both.
    Stephnie Wilson recently posted…Time Freedom : How to Earn itMy Profile

  14. says

    Hi Jerry,
    I have just bookmarked this article for future reference (daily) and nice to meet you through Sue’s Blog. Thanks Sue for introducing Jerry with this awesome post.
    Improving your blog is a daily activity I have to say and it should be like a hobby to check for things to improve. Load time will be one of the important factors after a great content.
    Knowing who is your audience and what they need and how they need has to be analysed frequently and tweak accordingly.

    Thanks again both of you and have a great day!!
    Gurunath recently posted…Theme-Junkie WordPress Theme Club Review: Budget friendlyMy Profile

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