Google PageRank still matters for SEO

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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

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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.

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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.

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Mobile friendly works for SEO

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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!

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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):

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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:

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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.

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