Category Archives: seo

WordPress vs Movable Type Six Weeks Later

It’s now been almost 6 weeks since I moved this blog from the Movable Type platform to WordPress. I made the move mainly because I prefer WP. However, I was interested at the time to see if WP performed any better with regards to Google organic search traffic because people always rave about how wonderfully WP can perform in SERPS when used with the Yoast SEO plugin. I must confess that I didn’t do much (or any really) optimization when I moved the blog content so I didn’t really expect any improvement. And sure enough that’s what I saw. No improvement. So what does the WordPress vs Movable Type traffic look like? Here’s the Google organic traffic comparison since the migration and the same period prior.

WordPress vs Movable Type

Sure there’s a 50% improvement but the actual traffic this blog receives is so pathetic that I’m going to happily call that “noise”. Perhaps no-one is interested in what I write (so sad) or perhaps there’s a lot more to SEO than on-site factors.

What Next?

I guess as I find time I’ll work my way back through older posts and make use of the Yoast SEO plugin a little better. In the past I’ve generated posts with little (actually no) regard to SEO at all. That’s because this blog is really just a little bit of fun for me. There’s a learning opportunity though, if I can make this blog perform better in the SERPS just through the use of the WordPress blogging platform and a bit of effort with the Yoast plugin then it may be worth the gargantuan effort of migrating one of my product websites to the same platform. Because of that, I’ll have to make sure I find the time to improve my post archive and see what benefits I see over the old Movable Type platform.

Moving this blog from MovableType to WordPress

Gentle reader, I am sure you’ll be pleased to know that this blog gets almost no traffic. It’s a busy day when one visitor shows up here to disturb the electronic cobwebs. This doesn’t bother me much but I’ve always wondered if putting the blog on a different platform would help. Right now it’s on a very old version of MovableType. I’m going to move it onto WordPress, which is the most popular blogging platform out there. I’ve used it enough to know it’s pretty freaking awesome. I’ve also heard that WP is the ducks testicles as far as SEO goes especially when a good SEO plugin like Yoast’s SEO is used. While I don’t particularly believe that a simple change of blog platform can help that much there’s no harm in testing. So as something of an experiment I’ve decided to move this blog to WordPress, install the Yoast SEO plugin, do a bunch of 301 redirects from the old blog entries to the new ones and see if the blog actually gets any improvement in terms of the traffic it sees. For reference here’s the traffic stats for the last 3 months (prior to December 6 2013).

Vists: 431
Unique Visitors: 320
Pageviews: 676
Pages/Visit: 1.57

The visits were sourced from referrals (263), direct type ins (97), organic searches (56) and social referrals (15).

Caching Your Website Content

I’ve always tried to include some varying content on my websites because many people believe it helps your search engine rankings. The logic being that fresh content is likely to be more relevant and get a boost in the SERPS. I don’t know if it’s true or not because I can’t find anything definitive posted by anyone from Google or a similar major search engine. In any event, it seems like a good idea and I’ve been including a small amount of changing content on my website for years. Thinks like the last 5 blog entries or customer testimonials mainly.

That sort of content is database driven so rather than hit your database every time there’s a pageview you should consider creating the content on a regular basis and having your website display the cached information. I do this with PHP and CRON jobs. My PHP script generates the content and writes it to a file. A bit of PHP in the web template includes that file to display the content. The CRON job runs the PHP that generates the content, perhaps hourly, but more commonly, daily.

Here’s what my CRON jobs generally look like:

14 */8 * * * php /srv/www/public_html/cron-scripts/create-blog-links.php

And a skeleton PHP script to generate some content looks something like what I’ve shown below. Note that I echo out the data created because (generally) when your cron jobs are run you’ll get an email from your server displaying the output from the script.

	$now=microtime(true);

        //code to generate content goes here

	$file_name="/path/to/webroot/generated-includes/blog-links.php";
	
	$content=get_content();
	
	if (strlen($content)>0)
	{
		$file_handle=fopen($file_name,'w') or die('cannot open file');

		fwrite($file_handle,$content);
		fclose($file_handle);
	}
	
	echo "create-blog-links.php complete, run time:".number_format(microtime(true)-$now,4)." seconds<br /><br />";
	echo "$content<br />";
	
	
?>

And finally, the include for my web templates that actually show the generated content. Again I do this in PHP.

include('/usr/www/generated-includes/latest-blog-links.php');

I believe this process could be taken one step further (and it’s something I plan on experimenting with) by actually rotating the parts of the static content of a website. I think I’d do this less frequently, perhaps weekly or monthly and you’d want to make sure you have a large pool of static content to rotate in and out.

Google Antics

Everyone knows about Google and nearly everyone uses it to do their searches. It’s become so dominant in the market that small online businesses (like mine) can be made or broken by where they appear in Google searches. Appear in the first 10 SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions) and you can make some money. Appear in the first 5 and you could make good money, appear as number 1 and you could potentially make LOTS of money. So getting high up in the Google rankings for your product search terms is important, and as with anything important that money can be made from there’s a whole industry formed around getting high Google rankings. It’s known as the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) market. And it’s shocking.

People charge huge money to optimise a site and VERY VERY few have any concrete idea about what they are doing and the effects it might have on Google rankings in either the long or short term. The main reason for this is that Google hold their cards very close to their chest, and while they might give general indications of the things that affect search engine rankings they never, ever provide intimate details. The reason of course is that they do not want people gaming the rankings for financial gain. Not that this actually stops anyone, because hundreds of thousands of web-sites are spawned every year just to game the rankings and make their owners a few quick bucks.

Back in the day (more than 5 years ago) I used to read various SEO blogs and forums. But gradually I realised that no one person really knew what they were talking about and constant Google algorithm updates were constantly shifting the goal posts of the SEO game. That’s the key problem you see, Google changes their algorithm that ranks web-sites in searches ALL THE TIME. And whenever an update happened there’d be an up-roar about this site that gained rankings and that site that dropped and much wailing and wringing of hands by web-masters whose gaming of Google suddenly didn’t work any more. So I quit reading SEO blogs, I quit reading SEO forums, and I unsubscribed from all my SEO mailing lists. And I just concentrated on building better products and adding useful content to my web-sites.

The only slightly SEO based activity I’ve taken part in for years is making sure that I research the right keywords for my products, make sure those keywords are in page <h1> tags and that the keywords appear a few times in my text. That’s it. No link building, no auto content generation, no paying SEO consultants, no mini-sites, no nothing. And Google has (apparently) rolled out dozens of updates in that time and I couldn’t have cared less. Links to my web-sites have grown naturally, reviews of my products have popped up, and I’ve had mentions on social media sites, all without me getting involved. And my life has been better for it.

Until mid-October 2012 that is. That’s when I noticed that traffic to one of my major sites was down a bit, maybe 15%. Which is unusual because my web-traffic follows a pretty predictable pattern and has done for 5 years. Anyway it turned out that at the end of September Google announced they’d be rolling out an update that devalued exact match domains. Exact match domains use keywords in their domain names to try to get a bonus in their Google rankings. So, if I was selling blue foozles, I’d try to register an exact match domain like www.blue-foozles.com anticipating that Google would rank me higher because of it. All in all this isn’t a bad thing but of course if there’s money to be made the low-lifes crawl out of the gutter and hey-presto the internet became inundated with spammy exact match domain web-sites. So it turns out in late September 2012 Google said “no more” and appears to have removed the bonus that exact match domains (and apparently partial match domains) gained.

And that’s what zapped my traffic. Almost all my software product domains are partial match domains. That’s because I’m particularly unimaginative when it comes to naming my products. If it’s a timesheet program then I call it timesheet something-or-other. If it’s a time clock program then I’m going to call it time-clock-a-ma-jig. If it’s a coin collecting application then I’ll call it coin-collector-whatsit. Now I am not the first person to do this, there’s a little WORD processing program you may have heard about called Microsoft WORD, and a book-keeping program called QuickBOOKs, and a little known anti-virus program called Norton ANTI-VIRUS. So in these cases (and mine) the keyword is the BRAND. And sadly it appears that right now I might be getting walloped in the search engine rankings because of my brand.