Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Search engines

I have been looking at traffic to the blog coming from search engines.

In terms of percentage of total traffic, it has grown from 14-15% in August and September, to over 21% in the first 3 weeks of October.
In terms of number of visits originating in search engines, it started with 22 in August, went up to 45 in September, and it is over 190 in the first 3 weeks of October. That is a huge growth.

Google is at 97% (the remaining 3% is search.com, ask.com and aol.com (which I also think is powered by Google)). Live search and Yahoo! do not appear at all.
When investigating this, I found out that Live search and Yahoo do not even index the blog, even though it has been linked from other sites (such as wflavors.com) for more than 3 months. Sigh... I have now submitted the url of the 1. Family. Friendly. Food. site to both Live search and Yahoo!. We'll see in a few weeks if it helped.

Why is search growing?
It is hard to tell for sure why October is so much bigger than the previous months. I'll continue to track and see the trends going forward. There are two reasons I can think of:
  • the blog has more and more content, and therefore more and more searches will find answers in the blog (it maps to more keywords).

  • the blog gets linked from more sites as time passes, and therefore its popularity grows and it will come up more on the first page of some searches.

Is search traffic good?
When looking at visitor loyalty, search traffic tends to be lower than the site average. The average time on site was 40% lower than the average in September (but only 10% lower than the average in October) and the number of returning visitors tends to be close to 0 (as opposed to 20-30% on average).

The advantage of having a lot of returning visitors is that once you have paid the price to gain them as a customer, they come back (so are are starting to see an ongoing flow of income from them). On the other hand, given that the cost of acquiring a customer from search is pretty much 0 (we don't have any ads to bring in people), it is still good. For example, in terms of impressions from ads, they still count regardless of how much time they spend in the site.

Next steps
Here is what I plan to do next regarding search engine traffic:

  • Look at sites that claim to increase traffic by submitting the site to lots of search engines, such as SubmitExpress.com

  • Look at improving the keywords / meta tags to attract more traffic.

  • Analyze the top keywords that caused traffic to the site

  • Brainstorm changes to the site design that will help this kind of users be more loyal (stay more times / return more / subscribe to the RSS feed, etc.)

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