Strategy 4. Meet Your Top Commenters

If WordPress.com hosts your site, you can tap one more set of useful statistics. Take
a look in the Comments box to see which of your visitors left the greatest number
of comments and which posts stirred the most conversation.

The most interesting information is the top commenters. These people are particularly
valuable, because their input can start discussions and keep the conversation going.
Once you identify your top commenters in the past week or month, you can try to
strengthen your (and therefore your site’s) relationship with them. Make an extra
effort to reply to their comments and questions, and consider making a visit to their
blog, and commenting on their posts. If they stick around, you might even offer them
the chance to write a guest post for your site, or to become a contributor.

Strategy 4. Meet Your Top Commenters

Strategy 3. Play Well with Search Engines

In any given minute, Google handles well over a million search queries. If you’re
lucky, a tiny slice of those searchers will end up at your site.
Webmasters pay special attention to visitors who arrive through search engines.
Usually, these are new people who haven’t read your content before, which makes
them exactly the sort of people you need to attract. But it’s not enough to know that
visitors arrive through a search engine. You need to understand what brought them
to your site, and to understand that, you need to know what they were searching for.
The Search Engine Terms box can help you find out (Figure 12-25). It lists the top
queries that led visitors to your site for a single day (or, if you click Summaries, over
a longer period of time).

If you use SEO to find what you think are the best keywords for tags, titles, and
descriptions (see, for example, page 443), the Search Engine Terms box helps you
determine if your efforts are paying off. And even if you don’t, it gives you insight
into hot topics that attract new readers—and which you might want to focus on in
the future.

Strategy 3. Play Well with Search Engines

Strategy 2. Who’s Giving You the Love?

There are three ways a visitor can arrive at your site:
• By typing your address into his browser (or by using a bookmark, which is the
same thing).
• By following a link from another site that points to you.
• By performing a search and following a link in the search results page.
The first type of visitor already knows about you. There’s not much you can do to
improve on that.
The second and third types of visitor are more difficult to predict. You need to track
them so you can optimize your web promotion strategies. In this section, you focus
on the second type of guest. These people arrive at your site from another website,
otherwise known as a referrer.
If you followed the link-building strategies laid out on page 440, the social sharing
tips from page 414, and the publicizing techniques described on page 427, you’ve
created many different routes that a reader can take to get to your site. But which
are heavily traveled and which are overgrown and abandoned? To find out, you need
to check the Referrers box, which ranks the sites where people come from, in order
of most to least popular.

Once you know your top referrers, you can adjust your promotional strategies. For
example, you may want to stop spending time and effort promoting your site in places
that don’t generate traffic. Similarly, you might want to spend more effort cultivating
your top referrers to ensure you keep a steady stream of visitors coming to your site.

Strategy 2. Who’s Giving You the Love?

Strategy 1. Find Out What Your Readers Like

If you know what you’re doing right, you can do a lot more of it. For example, if
you write a blog with scathing political commentary, and your readers flock to any
article that mentions gun control, you might want to continue exploring the issue in
future posts. (Or, to put it less charitably, you might decide to milk the topic for all
the pageviews you can get before your readers get bored.)
To make decisions like that, you need to know what content gets the most attention.
A Facebook Like button (page 419), a WordPress.com Like button (page 421), or
Polldaddy ratings (page 423) may help you spot popular posts, but a more thorough
way to measure success is to look at your traffic. On the Stats page, focus on the
Top Posts & Pages box, which shows you the most read posts and pages over the
past couple of days.

The Top Posts & Pages box gives you a snapshot of the current activity on your site,
but to make real conclusions about what content stirs your readers’ hearts, you
need to take a long-term perspective. To do that, click the Summaries link. Now
WordPress lets you compare your top pages over the past week, month, quarter,
year, or all time. Just keep in mind that bigger timeframes are often biased toward
older articles, because they’ve been around the longest.
If you analyze a site on WordPress.com, you can also check out the Tags & Categories
section. It shows you the categories and tags that draw the most interest. You can
form two conclusions from this box: Popular categories may reflect content your
readers want to keep reading, and popular tags may indicate keywords that align
with popular search terms.

Strategy 1. Find Out What Your Readers Like

WordPress Site Statistics

Once you have some solid promotion tactics in place, you need to evaluate how well
they perform. There’s no point in pursuing a failed strategy for months, when you
should be investing more effort in a technique that actually works. The best way
to assess your site’s performance, and see how it changes over time, is to collect
website statistics.
There are a number of popular statistics packages that work with WordPress, and
a range of plug-ins that automatically add tracking code to your site. In this section,
you’ll focus on WordPress’s own statistics-collection service, which it offers
to all WordPress.com sites and which is available to self-hosted sites through the
Jetpack plug-in.

Viewing Your Statistics

The best place to view your site statistics is on the WordPress.com home page. Go
to http://wordpress.com, log in, and click the Stats tab. If you have more than one
site, you need to pick from the drop-down list in the top-right corner (Figure 12-22).

NOTE Jetpack users can see the same statistics by choosing Jetpack→Site Stats in the dashboard. However,
WordPress encourages everyone to view statistics on the WordPress.com home page, and it may remove the
statistics link from the dashboard in the future.

The obvious question is now that you have all this raw data, what can you do with
it? Ideally, you’ll use site statistics to focus on your strengths, improve your site, and
keep your visitors happy. You should resist the temptation to use it as a source of
endlessly fascinating trivia. If you spend the afternoon counting how many visitors
hit your site from Bulgaria, you’re wasting time that could be better spent writing
brilliant content.

WordPress Site Statistics

Boosting SEO with a Plug-In

If you run a self-hosted site, you can make it even more attractive to Google and
other search engines by using an SEO plug-in. But be warned, most SEO plug-ins
are an extreme case of overkill for the casual WordPress site-builder. Prepare to be
swamped by pages of options and search settings.
If you search WordPress’s plug-in repository for “SEO,” you discover quite a few
popular plug-ins. One of the best is WordPress SEO by Yoast (http://tinyurl.com/
seo-yoast). Its creator is WordPress über-guru Joost de Valk, who also blogs some
useful (but somewhat technical) SEO articles at http://yoast.com/cat/seo.
Once you install and activate WordPress SEO, you see a new SEO menu in your
dashboard, packed with a dizzying array of options. You can ignore most of them,
unless you want to change the way the plug-in works. The following sections explain
two useful features you can tap into right away.

CREATING AN XML SITEMAP

After installing the SEO plug-in, your site gets one immediate benefit: an XML
sitemap. This is a document that tells Google where your content resides on your
site. It ensures that all your posts get indexed, even if your home page doesn’t link
to them. Although you don’t need to give your XML sitemap another thought, you
can take a look at it by choosing SEO→XML Sitemaps and then clicking the XML
Sitemap button. Needless to say, WordPress SEO updates your sitemap every time
you publish a new post or page.

NOTE
The XML sitemap feature works only if you use descriptive permalinks that include post names (as
explained on page 116). If you use the stock ID-based permalinks, the plug-in won’t create an XML sitemap.

TWEAKING TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS

The WordPress SEO plug-in also gives you control over two important details: the
title and description (known to web nerds as the meta description) of each post or
page. These details are useful—even to SEO newbies—because Google displays them
when it lists a page from your site in its search results. Figure 12-19 shows an example.

The title and description are also important because Google gives more weight to
keywords in those places than keywords in your content. In other words, if someone
searches for “dog breeding” and you have those words in your title, you can beat
an equally ranked page that doesn’t.
Ordinarily, the WordPress SEO plug-in creates a good title for a post, based on a
title-generating formula in the SEO→Titles & Metas section. This formula puts your
post name first, followed by your site name, like this for the “crystal jasmine” post:
Crystal Jasmine Named Tea of the Year – Magic Tea House
However, you can customize the title before you publish the post using the Word-
Press SEO by Yoast box, which appears on the Add New Post page (Figure 12-20).
For example, it’s a good idea to shorten overly long post titles, and to replace cutesy
titles with ones that clearly describe your content. You can also use the WordPress
SEO box to type in a meta description.

The WordPress SEO by Yoast box also lets you run a pretend Google search so you
can see how your newly chosen title and description work. To do that, type the search
keyword you want to test in the Focus Keyword box. Figure 12-21 shows an example.
TIP For even more ways to optimize your site for search engines using the WordPress SEO by Yoast plug-in,
check out the detailed tutorial at http://tinyurl.com/seo-yoast2.

Boosting SEO with a Plug-In

Getting More Links

The cornerstone of search-engine ranking is links—the more
people connect to you, the greater your web prestige and the
more trustworthy your site seems to Google. Here are some
tips any WordPresser can use to build up her links:
• Look for sites that are receptive to your content. To get
more links, you need to reach out and interact with other
websites. Offer to guest-blog on a like-minded site, join a
community group, or sign up with free website directories
that include your type of business. Or, if your site has a
broader reach, search for your topic in Google Blogsearch
(http://blogsearch.google.com) to find similar sites.
• Keep sharing. The social sharing techniques you learned
about in the first part of this chapter are doubly important
for PageRank. Although tweets and Likes aren’t as
powerful as website links, Google still counts them in your
favor when respected people talk about your content on
social media sites.
• Add off-site links (that point to you). You don’t need to
wait for other people to notice your content. It’s perfectly
acceptable to post a good comment on someone else’s
blog, with a link that references something you wrote.
Or post in a forum, making sure your signature includes
your name and a link to your site. The trick is to find sites
and forums that share the same interests as your site. For
example, if you’re an artisanal cheese maker in Chicago,
it makes sense to chat with people running organic food
cooperatives. But be careful. There’s a thin line between
spreading the word about your fantastic content and
spamming other people. So don’t post on a forum or
someone else’s site unless you can say something truly
insightful or genuinely helpful. If you’re not sure whether
to post, ask yourself this question: “If this were my site,
would I appreciate this comment?”
• Research your competitors’ links. If you find out where
other people are getting their links from, you may be able
to get links from the same sites. Google has a nifty feature
that can help, called link. To try it out, go to the Google
search page and type in a full website address, with link:
in front of it. Google will then find other pages that lead to
the web address you asked about. For example, searching
for link:www.magicteahouse.net shows you all the sites
that link to the home page on http://www.magicteahouse.net.

Getting More Links