It’s Friday and I’m currently updating the DIY site I manage. It’s a big job requiring hours of editing, creating Amazon/affiliate links and looking for images for posts that don’t have them and better ones for those that do (for which I mostly use photopin.com).
I won’t finish it by end of play today. In fact I won’t finish it by next Friday, or the Friday after that.
The work is ongoing. There will always be something to tweak, fix or test.
While I’m working on the site I thought I’d document what I’m doing for future reference, and also because you may like to make similar improvements to your own site – there’s always ways to improve the user experience, increase search engine traffic and make more money.
Before I get into the improvements I’m suggesting, let’s first look at what I’ve got.
It’s a website a family member started way back in 2008. It’s in the do-it-yourself niche and it currently has just under 200 published posts. Like many sites, a flurry of activity at the start was quickly followed by a much quieter period. It’s a shame really, as the guy behind the site really had a lot of faith in it and spent countless hours adding valuable and detailed content, accompanied by computer generated diagrams backing up the information. All of which comes from 30 plus years of personal and professional experience.
It did well for a quite a while and ranked on the first page of Google for DIY tips for a couple of years. The income from AdSense was okay, but not outstanding.
I’d offer advice and support whenever needed, but generally I didn’t get too involved with the day-to-day running of the site. Until a few months ago. When I suggested accepting guest posts. It makes a lot of sense because no new content was coming out of the site and plenty of people are still looking to use guest posting to market their products and services.
It seemed like a win-win situation. So that’s what we did. We started publishing a couple of posts a week and soon the traffic was coming back.
Here’s the numbers from Google Analytics for the last 30 days.
This is the screenshot from GWT, which shows how many times the site showed up in the search results and how many times someone clicked on a link to one of our pages.
That’s around 7% of all potential traffic coming through. And that’s just for the phrases for which the site is (not) optimised.
There is very little optimisation in place.
I explained the basics principles of on-page optimisation to the guy behind the site. He took some of that on-board and published content in a very natural way. There is no keyword stuffing, very little interlinking between pages and pages titles were/are descriptive but not alluring.
So, what I want to do with the site is first of all go through every page and every section looking for ways to make it more attractive, more profitable and, of course, more helpful to the end user.
I also want to get the guy I mentioned earlier more involved with it. At the moment he’s taken a back-seat and lets me handle the site. But I’d love him to come on-board and start producing more content. For want of a better description – the guy knows his shit.
What am I doing to improve the site?
At the top of the list is the post title. Two reasons: it’s visible in the search results and it’s visible in various locations around the site (such as the related posts links). Some say the title is the most important part of any article. If the headline is dull, nobody will click through to read it. Which, of course, is absolutely true.
I’ve installed a free plugin called Title Experiments Free (there’s a premium version which allows you to do more A/B testing). It lets you setup multiple headlines for the same post so you can test which works best. Over time, it promotes the best performing title and displays it more often.
(This is great for links within the site…)
What it doesn’t do is change the title tag of the page, the one visible in search engines. So I’ve recorded the pages I’ve testing onto a spreadsheet and after sufficient time has passed, I’ll revisit these pages and change the title tag in accordance with the test results.
I reckon one to two weeks is plenty of time to get a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t.
Meta Description Tags
All posts and pages have a meta description tag. Sometimes because it’s automatically drawn from the content, sometimes because it’s specifically written for the post.
Whatever the reason, I’m revisiting and updating these as I go.
I once read somewhere that starting a description tag which a question and ending it with a call-to-action generated more clicks that a ‘bog standard’ tag.
The meta tag is important because it shows up on Google in the search results. A good meta tag grabs attention and encourages the reader to click your link.
The guy behind the site mostly used the visual editor. Looking closely at some of the pages you can see large chunks of whitespace. Break and non-breaking-space tags somehow found their way into the content, so I’m removing as much as I can through the text editor.
The guy is a good writer but spelling mistakes and grammatical errors pop up now and again, so I’m reading everything and fixing typos.
The biggest issue with the current formatting is the large blocks of text and the distinct lack of lists. On lots of pages there’s a list of tools or equipment for each job. Usually at the top of the post and in paragraph format. I’m shifting them to the bottom and converting the paragraph to a list. I’m also adding affiliate links to some of them.
I’m also converting uppercase characters (there’s tons and tons – usually post titles) to lowercase. I’m using the title testing plugin I mentioned earlier to see if the size generates more or less clicks.
You can’t ignore images these days. I’m adding images to posts that don’t have them and trying to find better ones for the ones that do. Sometimes this is easier said than done and is a real time-eater.
I’ve installed the Pinterest “Pin It” Button plugin to make it easy to share content on the platform, and I’m hoping to see quite a bit of traffic coming from there over time.
This is proving to be quite a headache. Because somebody else built the site, it’s taking me a while to find my way around and understand how all the content links together.
It doesn’t help that I’m pretty average at DIY and some of the terminology goes over my head.
That said, I feel interlinking the content is of great importance as it should help the site rank better. It will also help people get a better understanding of what they are doing as I’m adding links to internal and external resources relevant to the topic they’re reading about. It makes perfect sense to lead people through the site to the pages relevant to them.
I know of some WordPress plugins that automatically interlink content. But I want more control over where the links appear and what the anchor text says.
I’m using a few different types of link:
- Exact match keywords
- Exact match keywords as part of a sentence (click here if you want to know how to hang wallpaper)
- Generic phrases such as ‘this post’ and ‘click here’
- Brackets (read: how to hang wallpaper) – sometimes I’ll link the whole sentence, sometimes the keywords
- ‘Notice’ links – (go read this post then come back here to carry on reading this one)
This is such a slow and laborious task, it’s driving me nuts. But I’m hoping the hard work will pay off by increasing traffic and user engagement.
(If you have any hands-on experience of interlinking your content, either good or bad, please comment as I’d love to know your stories.)
The site uses pages for the main navigation. It always has. They’re divided into logical categories: woodwork, decorating, plumbing, electrics etc. Each page is a list of text links and was updated manually – I’ve changed this and I’m using a plugin and shortcode to pull in new posts so each list automatically updates when new content goes live.
I created sub-pages for some of the main navigation pages. For example, the decorating page now includes links to the newly created painting and wallpapering pages, and these pages list the posts in the respective categories.
I assigned each post to at least two categories. Sometimes more.
To make these pages a little more useful, I’ve added short snippets of text relevant to the subject.
Sometimes, especially if you’re a novice, you read a post on a DIY site and think “WTF?”.
Video is a great way for people to visualise what they’ve just read. So, I’m checking YouTube to see if there are videos relevant to the topic. If I find a good one, I’ll add it. I’m not doing this on every post though, just on the ones where a video would help explain the process.
In time, I’d love to make our own videos.
I’m running AdSense on this site. I’ve taken the ads out of the sidebar and placed them before and after the main content on each post. I’m also using a leaderboard in the top right hand side of the header.
The best performing ad unit right now is the one between the title and the post content. It’s a custom size: 700 x 90 and I’m running AdSense experiments to improve performance.
The ad unit at the bottom of the post always works quite well. The leaderboard was a good performer in the past, but since I installed the custom size plugin, it’s become the worst of the three.
I don’t use any text links.
Here’s a few ideas for making further improvements to your site. I have’t implemented any of these on the DIY site yet, but they are worth considering.
- Condense content – For example, one of the most popular posts is about fitting a kitchen. It’s spread across five pages. I’m toying with the idea of making one large post or three at the most.
- Delete or repurpose content – Have a look at Google Analytics to see which posts go unseen. Ask yourself why nobody reads them. Are they easy to find? Do they contain useful information? Based upon your findings, improve or remove them.
- Design – I installed a modified version of the Lifestyle Pro* theme on the DIY site. It looks okay. In the coming months I’ll certainly give it a overhaul. I’m happy with the layout and function right now; it just lacks a bit of oopmh!
Over time I’ll track how much difference these changes make to the performance of the site. The top three goals right now are generating more traffic, improving the user experience and, of course, increasing the income.
It’s a lot of hard work and so far I’ve only seen small jumps, but it’s only been a week (and I’ve had other stuff to do).
The biggest boost is the income. Not only from the custom AdSense unit, but also from Amazon. For ages I’ve had no sales through Amazon (I have always had a tetchy relationship with it), but this week, since I added a few affiliate links, “I’ve” sold 11 items. Yes, it’s small fry, but what it shows is potential. And that’s the most important thing going forward.
I hope this post helps you make improvements to your site. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to add, ask or share.