How does search engine traffic affect your blog?

by Mack Collier

I am definitely not an SEO expert, but after a couple of years of studying up on how search engines work, I think I have at least a 101-level understanding of the topic.  Still, as with most other things, I can learn something better if I can figure out for myself why it works.

Earlier this year I started paying closer attention to the percentage of this site’s traffic that came from search engines.  I noticed that at the first of the year, less than 10% of the traffic came from search engines.  This seemed really low to me, and the most common answer I was given for increasing search traffic was to post consistently to the blog.  The idea was that over time, search traffic should rise as more content from the site was indexed.

And here’s the graph for the weekly search traffic here:

In February, search accounted for just 6.53% of the traffic here, but through last week, search was responsible for 34% of the traffic here for this month.  And the nice steady growth in search traffic you see in the above graph backs that up.

But I noticed something pretty interesting when I was reading my site’s stats.  For the year, 73.84% of the people that visited this site were here for the first time.  Yet when I look at just the search traffic for the year it was even higher, the percentage was 78.25%.  So that means that almost 80% of the search traffic here were people visiting this site for the first time.

I think this is pretty significant because many of us that blog want to avoid covering topics we have already previously discussed.  But at least for this site, roughly 75% of the people that see every post, are seeing this site as a whole for the 1st time.

This leads to some interesting questions, such as…

1 – Should we as bloggers be attempting to more narrowly focus our content?  For example, instead of covering 5 complimentary topics, focusing on just 1 or 2 areas, and creating content that often covers the same ground?

2 – Or should we instead be looking for ways to get more visits from return visitors?

3 – What IS the ideal percentage of new visitors?  Very little in social media is ‘one size fits all’, so how can bloggers decide what that percentage should look like, based on what they want to accomplish with their blogging?

Would be interested to hear what y’all think, and also how my stats compare with what you are seeing on your blog.  I used Google Analytics to find mine, and I don’t think there is a ‘right’ answer here.  If your percentages are higher, that could be good, and if they are lower, that could be good as well.

{ 15 comments }

Roy Morejon December 14, 2010 at 8:36 am

Interesting post Mack as I’ve debated this topic on my personal blog, on how focused my topics should be. As you mention in social media there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ fix. I’d be interested to hear what percentage of your new visitors are subscribing/liking/following you once they engage your content.

Mack Collier December 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

Roy that WOULD be a good thing to look at, do any Google Analytics ninjas know if I could do that? (Examine what percentage of new visitors are subscribing to my blog)

Jacob Varghese December 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm
Sheila Atwood December 14, 2010 at 9:26 am

Mack,
I think you need plenty of both. It would make since that those who return often will promote you most often and buy.

Then we need new people to build up that core of true followers.

I have added the plugin “Tweet Old Post” which brings traffic to my old posts, I even get a few comments.

Then I have looked at the new pull down menus on the top of Copybloggers site. I like the way he sends you to old content. Plus it creates easy to read site maps.

I have also tested out where my optins come from. Most come from those who have come in from the search engines. They also stay on my site longer.

Mack Collier December 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

Shelia those are good thoughts about directing new visitors to ‘old’ content. I also have been tinkering with the idea of adding a subscribe link at the end of every post.

Michael Guill December 14, 2010 at 9:56 am

1. Just my opinion, but generally speaking, I don’t think it’s a great idea to become too focused and hone in on one thing. If the hoopla over that phrase or keyword ever goes away, then you’re stuck finding the next thing to attract readers… and that from ground zero if you’ve specialized too much.

2. Convert new visitors into repeat visitors. Have you considered creating “sneeze posts?” Problogger mentioned them in the 31 Days thing (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/04/23/create-a-sneeze-page-for-your-blog/), and postulated that it might help first-time visitors find good content, even if it was old stuff.

3. I have no idea. I think it’s different for each person. :)

Mack Collier December 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

Michael I have no idea about #3 either, was hoping you guys could bail me out ;)

Interesting that both you and Shelia mentioned how Copyblogger and Problogger point new readers toward existing content. I will have to give this some more thought. I do know that adding the Popular Posts section to the topic of the blog has created more links and traffic here.

Ben Wan December 28, 2010 at 12:58 am

Hi Mark, Sheila, Michael,

Yes, I want new visitors to turn into repeat visitors and read my other posts as well. I use several techniques to lead a first time visitor to read my other posts, I to refer and link to my other posts within a post, use Related post, Link Within, Popular post, Subscribe to comment plugins. Then I use cliff hangers to future posts, and asking my readers what they want me to write about.

I think of making my blog a network of related posts rather than individual posts.

I also update old post and re-date them.

Ben Wan.

Kristof December 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

Hi Mack -

10% and even 35% of traffic from search seems really low but there’s a few things to consider. Even if 75% of traffic is from 1st time readers, you have a huge fan base that helps spread the word and drive traffic — which is great. The other point your stats show is that consistently publishing can drive traffic. Not just because of more and more content but because search engines give active sites more weight – they go hand-in-hand.

To your questions:

1. I’d to avoid having too narrow a niche. To clarify, a focused topic for a blog is good but it’s important to have complimentary topics. The complimentary topics help give more weight to the primary topic as well as provide more opportunities for including additional keywords.

For example: Just talking about “red widgets” won;t get you very far with search engines or getting more readers. So including articles about “making widgets”, “blue widgets”, “how to buy widgets” etc. will help your blog.

A good post to review is “How to Silo Your Website: The Content” http://bit.ly/grkdPI

2. Definitely look at getting more return visitors. Simply from a sales point of view, it is seven times less expensive to to market and sell products to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. One of the most popular ways of doing this is are through growing an email list. So make sure you include that option in a dominant location.

3. I don;t believe there is an ideal percentage of of new visitor’s. For example, my site has a high percentage of new visitors as well but my traffic source is primarily from search. And since I have a much, much, much lower readership, I’m more reliant on optimization to drive traffic.

I think a really good take away here is that you’ve shown that bloggers — specially if they’re new — can still drive traffic even if they’re not an SEO whiz. Some basic understand of what to do and a good SEO WordPress theme, etc. will help right out of the box.

Congrats on the increase in search traffic. It’s amazing what stats can reveal and if you digger deeper, I’m sure more insights will come to light.

Mack Collier December 14, 2010 at 10:54 am

Thanks for the great comment, Kristof. One of the things I’m noticing, and you might have been able to pick this up from the graph, is that search traffic levels seem to be flattening. Last week was the best week ever, but it was only a fraction above what I saw in October, so there’s still growth, but it’s slowing. Not sure if that will change or if 35% is about where I can expect to be for now.

And good point about an email newsletter, is that what you meant? This is a project I’ve been meaning to get off the ground for months, but I have too many balls in the air at once ;)

Thanks again for the feedback, it’s really helpful!

Kristof December 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

Yes – email newsletter. The simplest approach is to use feedburner. It’s free and will give you templated signup form to drop right into your site. Then, every time you post a new article, your subscribers will receive it via email. To help extend reach, be sure to include options for your readers to easily share the article.

A second tier approach is to use a paid service like CampaignMonitor or aWeber to manage your list. They can both be set up to send articles via email but you can also set it up to send automatic followups (great for giving away free bonus content) as well as to send other, more “newsletter” type content. But even sending regularly timed newsletters can be as simple as sending a ‘best info from last week/month’ etc.

Additionally, if you have a book like someone I know *cough* Mack Collier *cough*, the newsletter becomes a great vehicle for communicating with your readers off-site. Giving them a heads up for what’s coming down the pike or for offering a discount, etc.

An email newsletter/list is a very powerful sales tool.

Jacob Varghese December 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Thank you for posting your findings.
I agree when you say that its probably a good Idea not to focus too narrowly on your niche. I guess if your blog is a reflection of ones personality, it may even be difficult to keep it too narrowly focused. Unless you are some bot.

Something I’ve noticed in quite a few blogs are that there are no ‘Categories’ or other menu options that can help first time visitors to navigate between posts and stay longer on the site.

Apart from ease of Navigation, a look at the categories can also help visitors get an overall feel of what the blog is about…including an overview of the complimentary topics to the main blog niche .

May even encourage people to return.

Jonathan Saar December 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Mack let me share you what we have been able to accomplish for The Training Factor. We look at our blog content from both perspectives. We want to engage our regularly active online audience and we want to be able to attract those who don’t know about us. The latter has happened as a result of consistent content and regular use of both short and long tail keywords in each post. We are in the process of a site redesign since our blog visits organically searched are now about to surpass our static site visits.

There are still many folks that just don’t know what they are looking for and that is where your topic for today comes into play. The data within google analytics really helps with content decisions. Thanks for your post. There are some hiccups with GA but overall its encouraging when you see your content drive your site stats.

Gabriele Maidecchi December 15, 2010 at 4:04 am

I am actually sitting on a 19.75% from search engines and 73,27% new visitors values, however I don’t agree with narrowing our arguments list too much. Of course, there’s a good balance to find here, and that’s the hardest part. I don’t really like all-in-one blogs treating 100 arguments at the same time, but I think limiting to just 2 or 3 can have bad results as well.

Shailender from India Darshan December 17, 2010 at 2:19 am

I am a newbie in blog posting so I don’t have enough idea but surely I keep visiting here to hear important tips from the experts.

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