This is a guest post from Eric at Narrow Bridge Finance.
I can’t tell you how many times I have read the phrase “content is king.” According to Google, it has been mentioned 170 times on this site alone. As much as you might think that SEO is king, marketing is queen, and everything else in the middle might take priority. I recently learned that the old adage is true.
A growing blog
My personal finance blog started as a hobby on Blogger almost four years ago, and it has come quite a long way since then. In fact, it has turned into a profitable business. I get more comments per day than I used to get visitors per day. It took a lot of persistence and hard work, as it does to grow any blog.
For years I saw slow and steady growth. I was never a guest posting superstar or mega-networker, so much of the growth came from building a strong history of quality posts and building up steam from search engines.
I did see a large jump in growth after joining a blog network with other like-minded bloggers in my niche, but most of my traffic growth over time came from Google. I was happy to see organic traffic grow, as I know that is one of the most valuable types of visitors from a revenue growth perspective.
When I got smacked with the Panda update, I lost about 50% of my traffic overnight. The thing that got me is that I’m not a re-poster. I’m not a spammer. I write original content on a regular schedule.
I read things all over the web and even considered giving up on the blog altogether.
Instead, I did a complete blog redesign. I moved ads below the fold and removed advertisements that I didn’t consider as savory as others. I redesigned my homepage, made some changes to my category structure, took down everything from the sidebars that did not give each visitor value, and re-focused my writing toward what I believe is a better content.
As those changes were made, I continued to shed traffic. It was frustrating, but I didn’t give up. I continued to change my revenue stream from ad sales to affiliate programs. From August, 2011 to December, 2011, I lost 51% of my traffic.
I kept on with the strong content and regular writing schedule. And, slowly, things started to turn around. From December to March, my traffic started to come back. As I wrote more consistently (I finally started to hold to a M-W-F schedule—Darren’s advice really works!) and planning my posting, I saw my traffic start to grow again.
In that time period, traffic grew 59%—not quite back to where it had been, but I was on the right track.
It worked. For a while…
Then Penguin hits
I really started to worry that Google was out to get me. I saw a slip in traffic when Penguin was released, but nothing as bad as the Panda hit. I knew that I could survive the wrath of Google at this point, so I was not quite as discouraged this time around.
The biggest change was that Penguin impacted my top ranked posts. Before Penguin, the bulk of my search engine traffic came to about five of my 700+ posts. After Penguin, traffic started to go more into the long tail of posts.
Looking back, I believe that this may be part of what hurt my site. When Google penalized blog networks, we might have been caught up in it. We interlink strongly between our sites and often work together to share contests, carnivals, and other relevant information in the personal finance niche.
The biggest upside, though, is that we share visitors. Because we all write about the same topics, we often send referral traffic to each other. We also help each other get attention to top posts, which leads to inclusions by even bigger websites and roundups.
A great post gets what it deserves
Last weekend, my sister graduated from college. While sitting on her couch the next morning, I wrote a post with her in mind. Thinking about what a pre-med graduate probably knows about personal finance, I wrote her a letter with my top money tips for new grads. I wrote from the heart and shared what I hoped would help her lay a foundation for a great financial future.
Of course, I didn’t just send her an email. I turned it into a blog post. They say that the key ingredient when cooking is love. It turns out the same goes for blogging.
It started like any other post. I had an average number of visitors the first few days after it was published. Four days later, however, it was picked up by a top personal finance website, Wise Bread, and included in their daily roundup. It was nice to see the extra traffic, but I have been included there before, and it wasn’t life changing.
Then, this morning, I logged into WordPress. I was almost above my entire previous day’s traffic by 9:00am. Something was obviously going on. That king content, that pillar post written with a touch of love, was linked to by a top blog in the personal finance niche. Trent at the Simple Dollar gave my post a little link love and sent me enough visitors to give me an all-time record number of visitors for a day.
What I learned
First and foremost, don’t give up on your blog when something bad happens. If you get a Google penalty or have to recover from any number of problems, use it as a learning experience. Any challenge can be overcome.
I bought and read the first edition of the Problogger book and have been following this site for years. It is filled with amazing tips that really do work. I have attended a niche blogging conference, and built up a network of friends and supporters. I participate in a local blogger meetup group where we discuss ideas for improving our online business strategy.
I always knew what to do; I just needed motivation to do it.
Panda was that motivation, and record traffic was the reward for following blogging best practices.
You really never know which post is going to take off and send you a record number of visitors. That is why it’s important to treat each post like an opportunity to show off to the world.
Who knows? One of these days the world might show up on your blog’s front door. Make sure you’re ready.
This is a post from Eric Rosenberg, who blogs at both Narrow Bridge Finance, a personal finance and lifestyle blog, and The Israel Situation, a blog about politics, culture, and life in the Israel and the Middle East.