Google PageRank still matters for SEO

visitors_sept

On Monday, September 21st we moved this blog to another domain. This has made the traffic on the blog go up from 2000 to 2800 unique visitors per day. You can see the effect in the graph above (source: count-per-day plugin).

Google PageRank

lsw_domains

At LeaseWeb we run several websites with different Google PageRank scores as you can see in the picture above (source: www.seomastering.com). In order to let the sites benefit from the highest valued domain we could move the sites from subdomains to paths. We did that for this site (LeaseWeb labs).

www.leaseweblabs.com => www.leaseweb.com/labs

This higher Google PageRank led to an expected increase of Google search traffic. It went from 1250 to 2000 (+60%) clicks per day. It is incredible what better Google PageRank can do for the traffic of a site.

Moving domains? 301 everything!

Moving content from one domain to another (or from http to https) is not without risk. If you do not proper 301 redirect your content, you may lose traffic/rank due to penalties for having 302 redirects or no redirects at all.

I suggest that you create a second property on the Google’s Search Console so that you can see the search traffic move from one site to the other. You can also tell Google in the search console that the site has moved.

google_clicks

On the above graph (from Google’s Search Console) I have drawn a red line to show the 6 day transition from the old to the new domain.

Share

Mobile friendly works for SEO

organic_search

In the past month this blogs traffic has structurally improved from 1800 to 2050 unique visitors on a working day. We have seen on Google’s Search Console that the organic search traffic has gone from 1000 to 1250 clicks per day (see graph above).

+25% for mobile friendly

In the past month we have seen the traffic to LeaseWeb labs increase every week with a few percent. When we analyzed the traffic we found that only the organic (non-paid) search engine traffic has grown. The only real thing we changed was the new mobile friendly layout of the site. Interesting is that the amount of mobile traffic on the site has not significantly changed. We believe this can be explained by a lifted penalty Google had given us for not being mobile friendly. Not having the penalty, causes higher ranks in Google and therefor more visitors. Apparently this penalty applies to both mobile and desktop users.

Twentyfifteen theme

We have used the WordPress built-in twentyfifteen theme for this blog. This theme is mobile friendly out-of-the-box. The only things of the theme we adjusted are the colors and the added logo. It is quite interesting to see that this default theme works well on mobile and thus scores good on Google. It is expected that this is the world’s most used website theme as WordPress is the most popular CMS and this is it’s default theme. I guess that this time it paid off to be lazy. 🙂

Move to leaseweb.com

To further increase the traffic to LeaseWeb labs we have moved the site from www.leaseweblabs.com to www.leaseweb.com/labs. We have recently made this move and it is still too early to discuss the changes we measured. We will report on the effect of this move in our next post. Stay tuned as this seems to have a positive effect as well!

Share

Block Google and Facebook to improve Firefox privacy

firefoxFirefox, a browser built by the Mozilla foundation, is in my opinion the best browser on the web. It is available all major operating systems including Linux and Android. Unfortunately Firefox is not available for iOS. Firefox is “Committed to you, your privacy and an open Web” and on the Mozilla website they tell us that Firefox is:

  • Trusted: Designed to protect your privacy
  • Flexible: Designed to be redesigned
  • Fast: Faster than ever

On the Firefox privacy page Mozilla says:

We build Firefox with a mission to put you first, above all else.
We do it to keep you in control. We do it so you can browse without worry.
And we do it because no one else will. – Mozilla

I think it is widely accepted (and true) that your privacy is much at risk when you are surfing the Internet. Firefox will protect your privacy (to some extent) if you tell it to, but you do have to tell it to do so. You can do this by clicking the menu button and clicking “Preferences”. This screen has a privacy tab and I strongly recommend you to set the settings as strict as shown on the screenshot below:

privacy

Pay extra attention to the “Accept third-party cookies” and “Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked” options. Unfortunately this last feature just informs any third party of your preference, but it does not actually block the tracking. This is where AdBlock Plus comes into play.

ad_block_plus_logo

Download Adblock Plus here. After installing you can configure the AdBlock Plus icon (red stop sign) to be present in the toolbar (or not) by clicking the menu icon, clicking “Add-ons” and then the “Extension” tab on the left and then the “Preferences” button of AdBlock Plus. On the bottom there is a list of checkboxes and one is “Show in toolbar”.

adblockplus

It is very convenient to have the AdBlock Plus icon in the toolbar (left from the menu icon) so that you can quickly disable it if that is needed. It may for instance happen that a site no longer shows you Facebook “Like” buttons and you are very desperate to “Like” something.

ad_block_plus_settings

For the best experience I would disable “Show tabs on Flash and Java” and disable “Count filter hits”. In the filter preferences I have added three subscriptions and unchecked “Allow some non-intrusive advertising”, like this:

adblock_filter_preferences

Most people install only “EasyList”, which is easy to find and mainly blocks advertisers.  I also recommend the “Adblock warning Removal List” to avoid any warnings that may appear due to the usage of AdBlock Plus. The other subscription you should have is “Fanbox’s Annoyance List” which sounds unimportant, but actually blocks all Google and Facebook tracking (and many other “annoying” things). I also use “EasyPrivacy”, which also blocks privacy threats. These subscriptions may not be available from the user interface, but this should not stop you. You can find them on the following link:

https://easylist.adblockplus.org/en/

AdBlock Plus will block the loading of elements that match the rules that are defined in the subscriptions. These elements can be visible or invisible (scripts or transparent tracking pixels). This does not only improve your privacy online, but also makes websites load faster. It actually matters a lot as you can see from a quick experiment I did using Firebug. I executed a full page refresh on several websites with and without AdBlock Plus enabled. Below a graph showing the loading time of the website with AdBlock Plus enabled compared to the loading time of the website without AdBlock Plus enabled. You can see that all sites load faster with AdBlock Plus enabled (<100%), since the browser has to load less elements from the website:

website_loading_times

This is the data I collected in my (single) run along some popular websites, which is used to draw the above graph:

           website   total   onload   total ABP   onload ABP   total   onload
washingtonpost.com   12.06     6.98        5.12         4.72     42%      68%
       nytimes.com   11.35     5.72        6.84         4.28     60%      75%
             nu.nl    5.17     4.07        2.29         1.63     44%      40%
     microsoft.com    3.41     2.85        2.69         2.15     79%      75%
   mail.google.com   10.19     1.15        8.47         1.12     83%      97%
        google.com    1.58     1.06        0.89         0.84     56%      79%
           cnn.com    9.48     5.45        3.09         2.17     33%      40%
           bbc.com    3.42     3.05        2.09         1.82     61%      60%

So the bottomline is this: by protecting your privacy better, surfing the Internet will go faster. This is a well-kept secret that I share with you “because no one else will.”

About privacy and the ethics of blocking ads

Some people argue that you should not install ad blocking software, because blogs can exist because banners bring income to the writers. Although I doubt that this is true (direct advertising and editorials pay a magnitude better and cannot be blocked), I want to focus on the opposite: websites stealing from their visitors. By using “free analytics”, “like buttons”, “JavaScript-driven ad engines” and “web-shop tracking” many, if not most, websites are sharing very sensitive (privacy related) information about their visitors with third parties (without the visitors consent). This information can be stored and used to identify and profile visitors. The bad thing is that many site owners do not even realize their behavior is unethical (and in some cases even forbidden by law). In my opinion this unethical behavior makes using blocking software ethical.

Share

Panda 4.1 impacts organic traffic from Google

Here is a screenshot of my Google Webmaster Tools search statistics for the past 3 months (sorry for the Dutch dates and text):

panda41

It seems that LeaseWeb Labs was affected by an update of Google’s ranking algorithm named “Panda”. Every now and then Google adjusts the ranking of websites to avoid search engine spam.

Google launched Panda 4.1 on September 25, 2014 and told us it would be a “slow rollout” that would go into the following week. No one really expected the rollout to continue into this week but it has and the fluctuations and ranking changes you are seeing are likely related to that. – searchengineland.com

As you can see in the above graph we have lost 10-20% of our search traffic from Google. We believe that update 27 (version 4.1) of the Panda ranking algorithm is to blame. Although Google may be optimizing their algorithm continuously, updates with high impact do not occur often. It is believed that on Friday 8 August 2011 7% of the queries were affected by an update. Until the May update this year there was never such a big impact of any update. In September we have seen another update and although the impact is said to be smaller, it seems bigger on our site. Below an overview of this years algorithm updates (source):

Update   Name        Date         Queries affected
26       Panda 4.0   2014-05-20   8%
27       Panda 4.1   2014-09-25   4%

So it this really bad? No, not at all! Google needs to fight search engine spam and every honest site benefits from that, so this is also good for us. And we are not completely dependent on Google search traffic. It is estimated that about 40-50% of the total visitors of this site come from Google. So this small loss of organic traffic is hardly visible in our total traffic graph (from the “Count-Per-Day” WordPress plugin) as you can see below:

panda41_2

Did we learn any lesson from this? No, not really. We will just continue to make good (unique) content and trust that Google will keep rewarding us with lots of visitors.

Share