A Dialogue about Website Traffic
by Janet Hayward Burnham
(Bethel, VT, USA)
Best Children's Books traffic
Janet: Just out of curiosity, how many hits do you get in a day, in a week?????
Steve: I'll show you mine if you show me yours! These are my traffic totals for last month. (See above.) I'm also attaching the daily totals (not shown here) so you can see the nice growth trend towards the end.
Janet: I'm impressed.....I get maybe in one year what you get in one day!!!!! ...well, maybe it's in 6 months.
Steve: Well, your site (no longer up) is lovely - I mean that - but it's not exactly built to rank highly with the search engines. (Still, I'm looking at your traffic meter and I think your site probably does better than most.)
Let me ask you some questions. Do you know how many pages your site has? Do you post new pages yourself?
I looked at the computer code for your page. (Anyone can do this if they know how!) I see that each page has a "meta title" (the text that appears in the blue strip across the top of your browser), but no "meta keywords" or "meta description".
Those are omissions that make it a little harder for the search engines to decide what your pages are about, which makes them less apt to rank you highly! And as you probably know from experience, if you're not on Page 1 of the Search Results, you're not likely to get clicked on!
In addition to answering the questions above, maybe you could tell me a little about your goals for the site.
Janet: I'm in nursery school when it comes to internet knowhow. I hardly speak the language. Even though you've explained what a "meta title" is, I don't know where that blue strip is. Is it like the blue strip on the top of this page, which says: A Dialogue about Website Traffic"?
Goals for the site? Well, I guess number one, more hits...which hopefully would translate into more sales. I've found the hardest thing by far about being an independent self-publisher, is just making folks aware that you exist. We live so much by the media today...if you're not in print somewhere, you're invisible.
Steve: Yes, it's exactly that blue strip! Here's the thing...
If you don't know what this stuff is - or don't have someone telling you - your website ends up kind of, well, broken.
You know, most of us Google every day. It doesn't faze us to do a search and have 78,300,000 results come back. We look at the page one results - starting at the top - and find something to link to that looks like it may hold our answer.
Once in awhile we get to page two of the search results. But I've yet to meet anyone who makes it to page 7.8 million!
Here's what I'm getting at: too many people build their websites and ignore those odds. They expect to be found on a search for, say, children's books, but they fail to remember that there's 78,300,000 other web pages lining up to be found for that search!
My point? If you don't have a strategy for getting found, for rising toward the top of those rankings, you're pretty much playing the lottery.
On the day I write this, this site comes in #1 in the Google rankings for discount children's books, #1 and #2 for cheap children's books, and #2 (behind Wikipedia) for bibliotherapy.
Either I'm very lucky, or I know something about how internet search works. And I'll tell you this...
I'm not very lucky.
The good news is you don't need a lot of tech to understand how to rise to the top of those rankings. If you did, I wouldn't be at the top of those rankings. I can't even get my wide screen TV to work.
You're on the right track when you say the thing you want most for your site is more hits. Any website's sales are a direct function of its traffic.
Have you given much thought to what makes a site rise toward the top of the rankings?
If I said you need (among other things)
1. a big site
2. lots of text, and
3. a strong awareness of the search terms people use to find information in your field...
...would any of that surprise you?
And if I said, "Who's better equipped to write a big website with lots of text than a writer?" would that make the prospect any less daunting?
I find that being in print - on the internet - is no guarantee that you won't be invisible. If no one clicks to a website, does it really exist?
Janet: It's the old poser question: "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if no one hears it?" That's an apt description for a website on page 7 that's seldom seen by human eyes. For all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist. Well, doesn't exist in terms of the purpose it was created to perform.
So again, I'm back in kindergarten, I don't know the SEARCH TERMS that work. It's the language thing again. If you don't speak it, you're not getting your point across.
What do you mean by a BIG SITE...lots of text I get that idea...more information given. But even then, I would guess it's the SEARCH TERMS that make the difference. What are the terms that most often pop into searchers heads when they're looking for books for kids? Or probably, more to the point, what are the tricks and terms that get Search Engines to give you first page billing?
Steve: Great questions. Let's speak to BIG SITE first.
Think of a website as a fishing net. Bigger ones catch more fish. Google looks for the best PAGE for a particular search, not the best SITE. The more pages (and text) you have, the more searches you can WIN.
(What you said about page 7 is also apt. If you have to click 7 times from the home page to find a page, it might as well be invisible to surfers AND to Google. For Google to find and value your pages, they should all be within 2 - 3 at most - clicks of your home page.)
Now, the engines don't like sites just because they're big. They like big sites on narrowly focused subjects. Janet's Children's Books, good. Janet's Children's Books And Drywall, bad. They want sites that are expert on one subject.
Okay, let's talk about SEARCH TERMS. Let me show you a tool free to anyone.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Make sure "Descriptive words or phrases" is selected and "Use synonyms" is checked.
Type children's books in the box. Click. Click "Avg. Search Volume" above the results.
Ta-da! The 150 top recent search terms related to children's books, in order.
I'm guessing you didn't know this resource was out there! One way to build a well-trafficked children's book website would be to write a page "optimized" to each of those 150 search terms.
This tool is valuable. A suite of tools that includes this tool is priceless. That's what I used to build this site.
I know you used a web designer. I'm guessing there was a lot of back and forth about design and functionality, because mylittlejessiepress.com has those things in abundance!
Was there much back and forth about attracting traffic?
Janet: To tell the truth, I don't remember either of us saying much about that. To be fair, my designer probably asked the questions he thought necessary. I know I was just thinking: "Build it, put it out there...and they will come." And to some extent, of course, that's true.
What I didn't know was there are ways to make that happen more frequently.
So, let's see if I've got this straight. In the blue "meta title" strips I should add descriptive words or phrases that describe what's on that particular page....making use of the top 150 search terms I'll find on the Google Adwords site.
Should every page have a different twist to the theme? Can some be the same? Or should there be something different mentioned in each one?
That's a pretty simple fix. I'll get in touch with my site designer and have him fill in the "meta title" strips.
Will search engines like Google just automatically pick up that change? Or does it have to be submitted in some way?
Steve: Wow, Janet. Great questions.
The good news is Google knows about mylittlejessiepress.com and seems to "spider" it relatively frequently. I checked, and they last visited 4 days ago. (Did you notice? Did you leave out cookies?)
That means that you can trust that any changes you make will be discovered without further action on your part. (At least by Google.)
So in answer to your question about editing the "meta title," Yes.
Kind of. Let me detour for a moment.
Janet, they're telling me we've reached our character limit. Let's continue our website dialogue on this page