HO HO HO Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

I’m feeling rather jolly this holiday season and am going to share a bit of interesting data.  Want to drive a bit more traffic to your website?  Good, listen up.

Below is an analytics data set showing daily, organic traffic, collected over the past 18 months (June 08 – Dec 09) for just one of the website’s we’ve worked on.

You will notice the red arrow indicating the start of a rather dramatic increase in organic traffic around the 1st of the year 2009.

Now, here is the same data sampled weekly

and monthly

to give you an easier picture to look at 😉

So what did we do about a year ago to cause this kind of traffic increase?

We re-built the website’s information architecture

In this case we went from using a WordPress to a Drupal platform – Drupal gave us the ability to have greater control of all aspects of the site: custom URL paths, taxonomy/tagging, internal linking, etc.  By using a different platform/CMS and a few other architecture tweaks, the engines were almost instantly able to send more organic traffic to the site – we didn’t add content or modify the way we were marketing the site, just swapped out the framework.

What was significant about the architecture change?

  1. We already had farily SEO friendly URL’s on the WordPress site to begin with but since we now had Drupal at our finger tips we were able to ditch the page extensions (.html, etc.), making the URL paths a little shorter.
  2. WordPress creates by default category and date archive pages which were creating unnecessary duplicate content, likely making it more difficult for the engines to decide which version of which page was most important, especially for pages that didn’t have inbound links from third party or even internal pages.  We still kept category based pages on the site but we ended up nofollowing links to those pages and only displayed snippets of each page’s content to help reduce any potential duplicate content filtering.
  3. I mentioned inbound links in my last point, we also went through and looked at which pages were receiving inbound links and then began contextual linking from each of those pages to other related pages on the site that didn’t already have inbound links – this way we hoped to spread link equity around the site a bit more thereby creating a stronger site-wide reputation.
  4. With the new Drupal site we were better able to take advantage of the "siloing" technique, that’s where similar pages are grouped together via linking to create less aggregate ambiguity and a more themed aggregate reputation, through common sub navigations.  Drupal makes it easy to drop pieces of code onto certain pages or groups of pages through a system called "blocks" – your code can be anything, just a few character or a full PHP script, etc. – and you specify by pattern matching which URL path’s should receive the code.
  5. We changed out the 404 page on the site to link to the sitemap, home page and several other major areas of the site

It’s nice to look back at historical data once in a while to get an interesting bit of information… and information architecture, the way you organize, label and display content on the web, is no exception.  Well built websites can really make a big difference in the amount of organic traffic received all else being equal.


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Michael Martin • 9 years ago

Mike, I would suggest using NoIndex in the robots.txt & META than a rel nofollow for internal pages this way you still get the internal "link juice" flowing and get the same result intended w the nofollow - same for privacy policy pages, etc. I would only nofollow external links such as in comments. ,Michael Martin

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Mike Shannon • 9 years ago

Thanks Michael.  I think using the noindex in the robots.txt and meta tags can be a great tool for totally removing pages from a search index.

In our case we had to keep some pages on the site in a duplicated fashion (along side the snippets), so we decided to nofollow links to duplicate pages to help chop them off the link graph.  We should probably apply the noindex rule to those pages as well since that would really prevent any of them from making it into the index ...and I just thought of using the canonical URL tag on those pages in case someone does link to any of them.

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Hogwash • 9 years ago

Everything you just mentioned as benefits of Drupal over Wordpress... you can do with Wordpress in about 3.21 seconds.

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Mike Shannon • 9 years ago

Hi Hogwash, the project required the use of Drupal for some other reasons not mentioned here.  On the subject of wordpress I'd have to agree there are many modules available that make wordpress an excellent CMS/blogging platform.  Maybe you can let us know how wordpress can cover the same points I covered, possibly in the short time frame you mentioned?

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