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One Year Anniversary Review: Reviews of the Reviews

Wow. One solid month of reviews of articles over the past year. What an amazing retrospective, huh?

An anniversary or birthday can be a time of celebration as well as reflection, and this past month writing about the past year’s worth of writing has been an amazing step back through time, thoughts, choices, decisions, and experiences.

Have you ever taken time out to closely re-examine the journey you took over the past year? Or any time period? Looked at what you did right, what you did wrong, and what you did in between that should have been right or wrong but you were stuck in the middle? Taken time to check in with your purpose and mission to see if you are still in alignment and on the right path? Checked your To Do List or goal list and marked off all the things you wanted to accomplish, and check what’s left undone?

A year ago, we bought a used car after Hurricane Katrina and I spent three very long days, more than 16 hours, waiting in the giant waiting room at the Department of Licensing and Motor Vehicles in Mobile, Alabama, surrounded by hundreds of doctors, lawyers, ditch diggers, pavers, nurses, car salespeople, shopkeepers, housewives, old, young, screaming babies, a sweating, whining, tired bunch of folks all waiting for their driver or vehicle licenses, permits, and papers. I never go anywhere without something to do, and as I sat there, hour after hour of sweat dripping off my nose and down my back, I made an eight page list of articles and topics I wanted to write about on this blog. I found the pages while cleaning papers off my desk a month ago.

I went down the never ending list, with notes written in margins, sideways and upside down, and checked off the topics I’d written on this blog. I’ve done many of them, but not all of them. Some don’t matter any more as things changed, but others are still important and need writing. I thought about making a new list and throwing this sweat-stained, wrinkled pile of papers away, but I’m not going to. This list is a reminder of what I’ve accomplished this year, and what I still have left to do.

Over this past month, writing daily reviews of what I’ve I’ve written over the past year, I’ve had a chance to look back and evaluate what I’ve done and how I’ve done. I’ve looked at what I’ve written, been reminded of things undone, and of things that still need doing.

I also learned a lot, and one of the biggest lessons I learned by reviewing my reviews deal with the mythology of SEO.

The Mythologies of SEO and Blog Popularity

Reviewing this past year of writing, I shattered the mythology of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and page rank. Also known as blog popularity, how popular your blog is, your blog statistics and traffic, and your positioning in search engine ranking, I’ve written about SEO for years, but this past year proved that I was wrong about a lot of assumptions I’d made.

When Donncha O’Caoimh asked me to help with this new experiment called , I thought about doing my own experiment. For years I’ve been educating many that content matters if you want to win in the SEO wars. Gimmicks come and go, but content is king. I had also learned from personal experience that comes fully SEO developed right out of the box, so why not test that claim?

With a blog, you have no control over the underlying code. Until very recently, you had no control over the look and design, either. There are no plugins or methods I can use to screw up the web page structure, allowing search engines to flow through eagerly, and no way of adding any “extras” to manipulate SEO efforts. All WordPress blogs automatically ping search engines through , so site submissions are redundant to major search engines, so why not just let the nature of the web take it’s course and see how this blog does without any pushing and shoving with SEO features, bells, whistles or gimmicks.

Among the many search engine optimization (SEO) techniques available, I had no control under the hood, but total control within the post content area. If this blog was to get any attention or rise in traffic and page rank, it would happen because of content.

Now, there were a few exceptions. I’d already submitted a couple other blogs to Google’s beta testing sitemap submission service, and I did one similar submission with this blog in order to write about the process. Google had already found this site, so my submission was redundant, but I needed screenshots and the instructions on how to use the service in order to write about it in “Submitting Your Sitemap and Feeds to Google Blog Search and Site Submission”. My submission didn’t change things. There were no changes in traffic that I could detect due to that single submission.

I also submitted a couple articles to social bookmarking services to test drive the submission process, and then was stung by nasty comments when folks found out I had submitted it. I guess that’s bad form. Just because I submit my own articles, I’m in trouble if it rises up the ranks. Who knew? I learned and stopped. Other people submitted my articles to the social bookmarking services because they wanted to, not because I did much to encourage them.

As another experiment, I did create a bar of links to social bookmarking services manually to prove it could be done on blogs. I found the icons to be visual clutter, and once I thought them out, they were useless, too. After all, if you have a favorite bookmarking service, won’t you use whatever they provide to include web pages you are reading in your bookmarking service account? Why should I provide redundant links? So I stopped, adding them only after an article was getting a LOT of attention, and then only rarely.

The only SEO technique I had control over was my content. And that’s what drew people in. I offered information and explanations for things they were interested in, and in turn, they told the world that I’d helped.

When the first blog statistics were available on blogs, my numbers were in the teens. With the release of “How Google Ranks Websites”, almost overnight my blog traffic increased to over 20,000 in one day but soon dropped down, then spiked again, and died down, and spiked, and dropped, but consistently started rising from 12, 22, 33, 102, 340, 623, 1328, and so on. People enjoyed what I wrote and many wrote and linked to the articles. I just watched and kept writing more.

I kept delivering information people seemed to respond to, and again, my traffic spiked, and luckily, after the spike, when it dropped back down, the numbers kept going up gradually and consistently. I began to ignore the spikes and only monitored the normal and consistent traffic levels, recognizing those as my return customers and the ones to focus on.

All I had was content. As I built up my content collection, I found myself writing about similar topics from different angles. I wanted to improve the site’s stickability, keeping folks around longer, so I started adding related articles and site search tags manually at the bottom of most articles. This helped people find related content, and kept them on the site longer. As the number of articles grew, I had more content to reference, creating a body of work.

I worked hard on writing with good keywords, knowing I needed to provide people with something worth searching for in my content. I changed my writing style to make it even more streamline and focused, using keywords over and over again in imaginative but non-abusive ways, to group “searchable” phrases together. Always the focus was on helping my readers find the information they wanted by making the words easy to search.

I also worked on the titles, thinking them through. Titles and headings play a huge role in helping people understand quickly what an article is about. Since search engines display the titles in search results, I wanted people to quickly judge an article’s value by the title. This increased the likelihood they would click through to here.

Look at my blogroll, which I called “Displays Brilliance”. Is it long? Are there dozens of links there? No. I didn’t play link exchange games or “put me on your blogroll and I’ll put you on mine”. If you had something worth bringing to the attention of my readers, I wrote about you. That has more value than a link. Even a trackback link has more more value than just a blogroll link. It’s a recommendation.

No major SEO techniques were used on this blog. No tricks, no gimmicks, no games. Just consistent and solid, keyword-rich content. Over time, my words found eyes who realized that I had something to say and they told the world what they found. Traffic continues to increase, slowly and surely, and more and more people are discovering this blog and finding value.

Thanks To You, Lorelle on WordPress is a Success

My experiment was an amazing success. Because of you, telling me what you wanted to know and helping guide what I wrote, you kept coming back. You told others about what I do here, and they started showing up for the party. I wrote what I know and love, and you, my wonderful readers, found something of value.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You’ve proven to me that content does have value. You’ve proven that over time, an audience can grow if you continue to give them what they want, plus a little more.

Oh, don’t thank me. You thank me every time you return to find out what new things I have to say or what old things I said that will help you. You thank me with your comments, and with your links and trackbacks, and especially when you write about what I’ve written about. While this blog is about WordPress and blogging, it is also about you. Answering your needs and questions on WordPress and blogging. When I can help you, my mission is fulfilled.

Next time you think about how to push and shove your SEO techniques around to drive traffic to your blog, think about what I did over the past year. I wrote what I know, and shared with you what I learned. I stayed focused, on topic, and committed to sharing my passions with you, my readers. Instead of spending energy on useless SEO games, I just wrote. Wrote what you wanted to know, and what you wish you’d known before you got here. I learned as I wrote and you learned with me. I asked questions, and you answered, and together, we created something special here.

What if we all blogged this way? Think of what the meaning of “blogosphere” would really mean?

Thank you for this past year and here’s to plenty more!

One Year Anniversary Review Articles

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

One Comment

  1. Posted September 18, 2006 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle

    I have only recently started blogging but I can honestly say your blog kept me going. At first I was writing to make money from affiliate programs and adsense clicks. I would try and get the traffic in. Now I write because I love to write and because I am passionate about my topic. I still would like some money from advertising etc but I find myself checking my adsense account every week instead of every hour.

    You have inspired me, and I still have a long way to go, but I come here often and I wish you success for another year ahead and look forward to reading your posts.

    Kind regards and best wishes.

    Steven Aitchison

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