Organic Search, Search Marketing

Here’s What We Did to Triple Organic Traffic

The last year has been one where we’ve been working tirelessly on clients… so much so that we’ve often ignored our own back yard. The MarTech blog is a significant publication with a few thousand blog posts over ten years. We’ve migrated hosting, changed themes several times, modify our plugins all the time, and have had incredible ranking at times and poor ranking at others.

Quite honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to search because we had some good rankings and an avid audience that was subscribed by email, mobile app, podcast and even video. But we’ve been working on the site tirelessly the last few months to prepare for an upcoming design change, we couldn’t help notice that the changes we’ve been making have had an enormous impact on the site’s ranking across several thousand keyword combinations – many very competitive.

We did not systematically optimize the site and monitor rankings, so I couldn’t tell you what combinations or single thing had the most impact. I can only tell you that after doing all of these things, our ranking has skyrocketed. I’m quite sure some of them didn’t make a difference, but I can’t say it with statistical certainty. So – I’ll share the changes in the order that I believe made the most difference.

marketing-technology-blog ranking

  1. Disavow Links – having bad backlinks doesn’t always mean you’re de-indexed, it could simply be holding you back. We did a backlink audit using Link Detox and disavowed all of the links on sites that appeared sketchy and had a ton of outbound links.
  2. Secure Certificate – our site is now secure having installed an SSL certificate and working through thousands of posts that had embedded content from insecure sources.
  3. Fixed Duplicate Titles – we had a huge problem with our current theme and duplicate title tags with bad pagination throughout the site. The pagination provided the same title on every paged result. I knew about the issue for months but hadn’t got around to fixing it because it wasn’t impacting our readers (not a lot of people click on the pagination links).
  4. Image Compression – we deployed an image compression solution on the site. With all the infographics we share, some of our file sizes were huge and really making the pages load quite slow.
  5. Removed Page Sculpting – we were nofollowing virtually every outbound link on the site and many navigation elements. I removed all the nofollow attributes with the exception of our advertising.
  6. Reduced Script and CSS requests – this one is far from over, but we had a couple of plugins – including our main menu – that had tons of scripts and CSS requests. We still have a ton that I’m looking to condense, but now we have about half of the requests when you load a page.
  7. Removed Aged Content – we had a ton of articles on technology that no longer existed. We have reduced our number of overall posts on the site by more than 1,000 posts over the last year. More is not always better – especially when you have a lot of content that’s not getting attention. Posts that had no social sharing, no backlinks or posts about technology that no longer exists is being removed.

What are we doing next to help?

The cool thing about the above work is – outside of disavowing and securing the site – the hardest work was improving the reader’s experience on the site. Next we’re going back and making sure every post has a good featured image associated with it and we’re sharing old posts that are still relevant – trying to get some attention to them to strengthen the authority of content we put effort into!

Algorithm Updates

While I’m confident all of this worked, there’s always the remote possibility that other sites we were competing with just got slammed with the algorithm updates, too!

3 Comments

  1. 1

    This is a great list to get some quick bang for your buck – totally stealing this. For people just starting out I’d add: dig deep into your Google Webmaster Tools if you haven’t in the past couple of months.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the post Doug. Can you talk more about the no-follow links? We’ve made a practice of making most external links no-follow as well, or greatly reducing the number per post to help substantiate what the blog was truly about, but based on what you’ve said above, should we change our practices?

    • 3

      Hi Crystal!

      Matt Cutts has provided more insight into nofollow in this video that led me to change my own. I used to believe that followed links were like “holes” in my site where I was pouring authority back to the sources. My personal opinion now is that Google knows whether or not the destination site is relevant and deserves credit. If you’re crafting everything with nofollow, I’m fairly certain Google knows whether or not you’re simply trying to game the system. Once again, I think advertisements should always have them per Google’s advice. Everything else, I’m not so confident anymore. Hope that helps! You can always test and see! Remove them and wait a few weeks to see what happens!

      Doug

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