How about those SEO tweaks?

I thought about labeling this post “Does SEO work?” or something similar until I realized that is just stupid. SEO stands for search engine optimization and not only does it work, but in many ways, it is the basis for why blogs work so extremely well for promoting yourself as an expert within a niche topic (as Rhonda has done… Or even a nationally recognized expert!)

So where am I going? I recently had another meetup with my project blogger and I realized I hadn’t made some simple SEO-related tweaks to his wordpress blog that I made to RCG last December. The tweaks I made were to:

  • edit the title tag of all my posts
  • add keywords to the blog

I gave one update to this post, but essentially failed to follow through, so I’m hoping to remedy that right now. šŸ™‚

First, I’m a bit surprised that many of my one week observations held steady. For example, RCG is still the #1 result for [Agent Recommendations]. Also, RCG has essentially dropped off of Google’s radar for a search that used to be our #1 organic traffic generator: [Seattle Real Estate]. My expectation was that Google’s algorithms might be temporarily confused by my changes to the site, but that they would pick up our new configuration after a while and continue to drive us traffic on this key search term. No such luck after four months.

As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that Google is still somewhat confused. My logic stems from the fact the page Google has decided is most relevant (using this search term) from RCG changes on a weekly basis. This week it is the link to Robbie’s articles which shows up somewhere down the middle of the page (if you show 100 results per page on Google as I do)


However, the real genesis of my SEO tweaks were to see if I could get the “other” search engines to send RCG a higher percent of our organic traffic. The idea is that Google was sending about 92% of the organic traffic to RCG and I wanted to see if I could get MSN and/or Yahoo to send more. As you can see from this Google Analytics chart for stats from the month of March, 2007, I failed:


Google sent 91.73%, or approximately 92% of all organic traffic to the site in March of 2007, which means there was essentially no change at all! In other words, the SEO-related changes I made did not have the intended effect of increasing the percent of organic traffic that RCG received from non-Google sources.

However, I’d be ending too soon if I made it sound like the SEO changes were not beneficial. Here is the marketing summary from Google Analytics for the month of March 2007 compared to the month of November 2006 (i.e. well after the changes to before the changes!).


What you see is that our visitors from organic sources is up 138% between those months and the visitors from organic Google searches is up 139%. This is almost double the increase from “referral” sources which makes me think that the changes I made to the site were effective and not just background growth!

(Of course, it can’t go unnoticed that the Seattle Bubble sent us over 2000 visitors in March. Wow! That’s well worth a juicy link to the most bubblicious real estate site in Seattle. šŸ˜‰ )

Also of note… Google really seems to like our article on moving to Seattle. I love that my “little bit of serendipity” has turned out to be so helpful. You can never tell what post is going to kick start an interesting conversation.

Finally, as a treat, I thought I would present the chart that never fails to impress at my seminars. In March 2007, there were almost 25K people who came to RCG once and never returned. šŸ™ (that is NOT the impressive part…). On the flip side, there are over 1,800 people who have visited the site more than 200 times.


For the RCG contributors (and commenters!) who wonder how widely that your stuff gets read, realize that there are a HUGE number of people who read without ever letting their presence be known. If you fall into that category (at least 95% of the regular readers do), feel free to introduce yourself in the comments any time! (The first comment is free.) šŸ™‚

So, to wrap this up as a “project blogger” post… I’d highly recommend that anyone starting their own blog get Google Analytics. It’s free, easy to use, and provides a wealth of information about how people use your site! šŸ™‚

24 thoughts on “How about those SEO tweaks?

  1. Thanks so much, Dustin. I’ve learned so much from YOU! šŸ™‚ I’m trying to added the Google Analytics to my Typepad blog and…I’ve contacted the Typepad help desk…you gotta love the help desk.

    I am always impressed at RCGs stats.

  2. “You can never tell what post is going to kick start an interesting conversation.”

    Dustin, Does that mean that the conversation in the comments gets picked up by Google also?

  3. Another question,

    If all of your visitors came from or or Yahoo (not realistic, but…) would “Google Analytics” only show the ones that came from Google and not the ones that came from

  4. Robbie, your writings are probably the most relevant thing on RCG! LOL!

    Ardell: Yes, Google DEFINITELY picks up and indexes the comments.

    What may have confused things is that most blogs (including RCG) add “no follow” tags to links on comments. This means that the links within the comments do no get any of RCG “link juice”. However, the text is definitely still picked up and a pages with a niche theme that are constantly updated (i.e. frequent new comments) do best in Google).

    In terms of Ask, MSN, etc, Google Analytics definitely picks them all up. The way it works is that I needed to install a little piece of customized “javascript” on the site. Whenever someone loads the site (with javascript enabled), then a “ping” is sent to analytics. This ping tells Analytics the URL a user came from (i.e. referral traffic) or the search terms were used to get to the site (i.e. organic traffic).

    The only catch with using something like Google Analytics with your stats is that not everyone enables javascript on their browser… and if they don’t, then they don’t get picked up.

    Another way to pick up analytical numbers is to use server logs (which pick up all users whether or not they have javascript installed. However, the “server side” solutions I’ve played with tend to overestimate traffic substantially because they pick up bots, comment spammers, etc. and all kinds of traffic that doesn’t really come to get value out of RCG.

    The traffic levels from RCG’s server logs are over 4X higher than the numbers from Analytics! For example, the server logs show we had 180K visitors viewing 426K pages, while analytics says we had 40K visitors viewing 72K pages. While analytics is definitely missing some visitors, I have more faith inthe lower numbers….

  5. Interestingly, my ramble on stats had me checking a few things I haven’t taken a look at in a while… One thing I notice is that there are a bunch of hits coming to RCG from questions about PMI… As in “When does PMI go away? ” or [when does LPMI go away?] And yet, we don’t do a good job answering that question anywhere on the site.

    That tells me that it is prime time to actually answer that question. I’m not qualified to do a good job answering that question… Any takers?

  6. Hey Dustin,

    As always, another great technical post!! I learn an amazing amount of technical stuff from you & Robbie…please don’t stop…keep it coming!! šŸ™‚ I’ve definitely got to get hooked up to Google Analytics as you suggest. Hmmm…maybe you & Robbie should consider a weekly technical post of some sort? Perhaps if you traded off with each other, the work load wouldn’t be too heavy for either of you?

  7. Dustin, LOL…we did answer the PMI question at least five times. You want me to pull the answers into a string and make a post out of the answers šŸ™‚

  8. My experience has been that it’s easier to get a #1 ranking (and multiple top tens) in MSN or Yahoo, but that’s still going to drive less traffic than a single 5-10 ranking in Google. I typically see 60% GOOG, and 15% each for MSN and YHOO, with 10% from other engines.

  9. Ardell: I don’t necessairily need you to take on that task, but my (subtle) point is that whoever does will likely “own” that google search before the end of next week because it is a common consumer question without a good answer (according to Google). If it was answered in an Seo friendly way (keywords in the title of the post), then Google would likely pick the article up quickly… Back in my scrappy days (ie pre-Ardell), I used this method a lot to find out which articles I should cover next! šŸ™‚

  10. Google Analytics are a great tool, especially for a freebie! I also like VisiStat, which takes things a step further.

    Reviewing the keywords that are used to find your blog (or website) is a good way to figure out what the consumers are interested in, which is good fodder for tweaking the blog to include items that most searched for in your area.

  11. Linda, your comment is right on… I’m always surprised at the number of bloggers who *don’t* look at their search terms and/or referral logs. Those two sources are a treasure-trove of information about what your readers (or potential readers) find interesting. It takes a lot of klutz-paw in my mind for a blogger to think that they *know* what their readership finds interesting, especially for a new blogger that doesn’t get a lot of comments on their site.

  12. Bill: To give you an idea of how illogical Yahoo seems to me, this site ranks #3 in Yahoo (while RCG ranks #10) for the search [seattle real estate blog], a term that seems quite well suited to Rain City Guide and one I know has been used to link to RCG hundreds (thousands?) of times.

    Note that site has only one blog post and 2 inbound links according to Yahoo. RCG has over 1000 posts on the topic and 37,203 inbound links according to Yahoo.

    If content AND inbound links (and the fact that I’ve optimized the keywords in the header for the above phrase) don’t appear to count for much with Yahoo, what does work?

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  14. I made two small SEO changes to the site this morning (May 12th!). In an effort to see if I may have confused Google and/or Yahoo by adding too many keywords and/or a site description that is too long, I’ve simplified the stuff in the header tags considerably. The big change is that the keyword are now “seattle real estate blog”. In a few weeks/months, I’ll do an update post to see if these changes make a difference…

  15. I find it fascinating that the changes took less than three days to start having their intended effect. On the very common search [seattle real estate], RCG went from being on the four page a few days ago (result #42 or so, with Robbie’s page being the highlighted page), to being on the second page (result #15 or so) with the correct page being highlighted.

    Still, I’ll give it a bit more time before I do a follow up post so that I can gauge the other effects that the change may have caused (intended or otherwise).

  16. I am a new blogger, but MSN loves my new blog (page 1 with multiple hits for 4 of my top keywords) šŸ™‚ and per Google Ananlytics, 22% of my organic traffic is coming from them. When I have an internet lead I always ask them how and where they searched I’ve had 4 verified leads from MSN searches in the past 2 months.

    I have noted something potentially interestesting demographically, my MSN searchers are more “mature” and more determined to move than those who find me through google searches, to date…this is something I’m really trying to track. I’m in the top 30 on Google and that is crawling up from 64 last month, so I’ve got a ways to go get to page 1 on Google to really compare apples to apples with MSN.

    Dustin, as always thanks for sharing such great info with all of us, I have sooo much to learn and SEO is really my weak point!

  17. Michelle,

    I’m so glad you find it helpful! I wish I knew the trick to tap into MSN’s algorithm! Nonetheless, I’m glad to hear it is working for you!

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