Is Google Analytics The Only Viable Traffic Entity?

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was doing an experiment on one of my other blogs by writing a blog post a day for a month. Tomorrow ends that month and, though it’s been harder than any other challenge I’ve ever given myself, I’ll close out the month by accomplishing that feat; yay for me! lol

alex logo 1
Creative Commons License brar_j via Compfight

Yet, something happened that I thought was really strange. Usually having a lot of content helps your traffic ranking go up; at least via Alexa, which is the only easily visible tool I have to go by. Instead, every day my ranking went down until, with a week to go, I was suddenly unranked. What the hey?

Last year I wrote an article talking about how writing a blog post a day didn’t work for one of my other blogs for December 2015. However, I figured that one out, realizing it had more to do with mobile speed than anything regarding the actual content. Yet, even then my ranking didn’t drop, but pretty much stayed the same.

This time though… well, I was a bit dismayed by what I was seeing. I figured it was time to do take a look at my traffic via Google Analytics, which is always recommended, as the first step towards a traffic audit.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw that, instead of my traffic falling, it had actually increased over 300% from the previous 30 days. A couple of the posts actually got some pretty nice traffic, which is rare for that blog since most of the content is about local stuff. So then… if my traffic actually increased, why did Alexa drop me into the void?

I don’t have anything definitive; truthfully, I’ve always seen Alexa as kind of a global barometer of website health and nothing overly specific. I’ve never added the toolbar because the way I saw it, I’d be ranking myself against only other sites that used it instead of everyone. It sounded good on paper.

I decided to do what I do; research it. I came across this post titled Alexa Rank Dropping Fast in April 2016 – [Case Study], which looked at a lot of very popular and large sites and tracked how their traffic had decreased drastically… at least via Alexa. One of the funny stats is that Alexa’s own site lost ground as well.

The article alluded to a blog post by Alexa themselves talking about an increase in the size of Alexa’s Global Traffic Panel… whatever that is. Supposedly by doing this particular thing, more websites would see their rankings increase; nope didn’t happen. Actually, it was intriguing to find out that Alexa even had a blog.

After that… there were very few articles about it that were recent. Most of the discussion traffic was on forums… and that was fruitless, with most of the responders saying “why are you concerned with Alexa anyway?” A couple stated something about it being related to something in our .htaccess files. I did notice that a couple months after changing those on all my sites when I was working on my mobile speed that Alexa stopped showing my traffic growing and all of them started going in the other direction. The timing was close but a bit imprecise so that doesn’t seem like a viable conclusion in my case.

I get that. I’ve heard that one for years, and while I’ve always taken a slightly different view about it’s importance, I also recognized that those same traffic numbers didn’t quite match what I was seeing in my Analytics panel, let alone matching up to what I was seeing on other blogs whose traffic I knew was less than my own. At the same time, I was usually only doing month by month comparisons, almost never looking at 90-day totals, which Alexa is based on.

Regardless, after all these years I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Alexa isn’t getting the job done any longer. At this juncture, the only site I know that’s giving me accurate traffic numbers… even if I don’t always like them. I’ve removed the app I’ve always used to track Alexa and I’m not replacing it with anything. I realize it’s time to track my traffic using Google and nothing else for the moment… unless one of you responds and tells me of something else that’s worth taking a look at to compare with other sites.

Traffic numbers are important because all of us hopes to get as many people as possible to look at what we’re doing on our blogs, whether we’re trying to make money from it or not. Looking at your traffic and how people are finding you is pretty important stuff. Most of it probably has to do with how you decide to market yourself but content is, in my opinion, as important as the marketing piece. As long as you’re using a credible tool, at least you’ll have an idea of what you might need to do to change things.

Alexa, unfortunately, isn’t it…
 

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Figuring Out When It’s Time To Let Go

That’s an ominous title, so let me first say that I’m not ending this blog, not leaving my relationship, and nothing else bad has happened to me. Not that any new readers will care, but some of the consistent readers might be wondering what I’m talking about; all is good with me. 🙂

services stuff

What’s not good is one of my websites, one that I’ve had since 2006. It’s called Services and Stuff, and I’m not going to link to it. The reason I’m not going to link to it is because when it expires in March I’m not going to renew it, and I’d rather not have to try to remember to remove the link from this particular article, especially since I have to try to remember to go back and remove it from any other articles I’ve added those links to over the years.

When I created that site, it was my intention to create kind of a portal site where businesses could add their links to and I could make money off it via affiliate marketing. The two images above represented “services” and “stuff”, since I hadn’t fully defined what “stuff” was going to be back then. It turns out that over the years I never fully defined what stuff was, so it turned into anything that wasn’t services.

The difference between my portal and all those directories you see everywhere else is that I was personally reviewing each site, which means people couldn’t just add their wacky sites to it. If a site didn’t fit my own quality standards, then it didn’t get listed. I also indicated that to anyone who visited the site, hoping that they’d see what a difference it was from other sites purporting to do the same thing.

I changed the initial look pretty quickly, within a couple of months actually, and what you see is what it looked like after the change. It was a lot cleaner than my original main page, which was more of a splash page without any real content on it. I thought I was on my way to making at least a few hundred dollars a day. Who doesn’t dream big?


early look after 2 months

Within a year I had added a lot more affiliate links and way more categories of both services and stuff. Yet I wasn’t making all that much money, and almost all of it was through Google Adsense, which isn’t always the best option because when people click on those ads they leave your site. Still, I was averaging maybe $2 a month; that’ll buy you a candy bar but not much else.

Over the next few years I’d keep adding pages and subtracting pages and adding links and removing links. When I wrote about leaving Commission Junction back in October, I was griping about not making a lot of money through its affiliate program. What I didn’t mention is that it and other programs of the past (like the Google Affiliate Network) kept adding and removing affiliates, sometimes totally shutting down, and most of the time they wouldn’t tell you they’d done it. Not only was that hard to keep up with but sometimes a link I’d added for one of those affiliate programs would expire, and they didn’t tell you that either. It was a lot of work for little money; sigh…

I knew problems were there long ago. Heck, my 2011 goals even mentioned that I was thinking about changing it to some kind of online store because my original idea wasn’t working that well. It took me 4 years to give that a shot, when I created a page of all the books I’d been recommending over the years on all my blogs and other books I liked. That all came crashing down with the B&N fiasco that I hadn’t realized occurred months earlier; now the only page I still have on there is my Fitbit page, which I’m not linking to yet because I’m going to move it elsewhere, possibly linking it directly to IJS… which means I have to change how it looks, which probably isn’t a bad idea. Luckily I went the route of not using CJ for any of those products; whew!

The last time I renewed the site was in 2014, and I did so because I was out of town consulting and I didn’t have any time to think about it. After all, it was kind of my baby, my dream, and I was holding onto it for all it was worth.


S&S now

Well… it’s time to let it go. What you see above is what the page looks like right now… and it’s all wrong. The movies are old; about 80% of those affiliate programs are gone because they were part of CJ. All those other pages are still around, but there are banner ads on all of those pages and, frankly, I don’t have the time or inclination to go and remove them from each of those pages. Instead, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to start removing all the content from that site. When I’m done, I’ll only have an index page, and I’ll probably link it to this article explaining why I’m shutting it down. I’ve given it a good 10 years; who wouldn’t agree with me that it’s time to let it go?

I should have done this years ago, but now that I’ve come to this decision, I feel a bit of pressure off my shoulders. It’s like when I decided in November to give up news and to focus more on happiness. Sometimes we all need to learn when something’s not doing us any favors, or some people are hindering our progress, and we just need to let it go.

At least it didn’t take me 18 years like it took Elsa! 🙂


https://youtu.be/moSFlvxnbgk

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch Mitchell

My Quest For Better Mobile Speed; Things I Can’t Figure Out

I know I said 4 weeks ago that I was done working on increasing the mobile speed of my websites. Actually, what I said was I was done for a long while… I’m thinking 3 weeks is a long enough “while” so I’m coming back to the fold to talk about it once more.

Speed ahead
SprinterJockey via Compfight

The thing is, there are some issues that I just can’t solve, and all my research isn’t answering any of it. I’ll own up to seeing a lot of solutions here and there, but I have to add that none of them either make any sense or don’t work.

One other thing that’s happened, at least for one of my regular websites, is having pages that are slower than other pages when the content is literally the same, and the page speed error messages are the same as well. Why does one page pass the test when the other doesn’t?

All this and more follow, but I want to mention the two reasons I’m putting this one together. The first is to show other people who might be fighting these issues that they’re not alone. The second is hoping that someone with some “real” knowledge will pop in and explain what some of these things are and how we might actually be able to fix them.

1. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

This one is at the top for my regular websites. For both sites, the issue is the CSS file, since I figured out how to correct javascript. There doesn’t seem to be a way to defer CSS files loading, and supposedly what this means is that we should put most of the code we have in a CSS file into the actual pages.

That’s fine, except… that’s the reason we’re using CSS in the first place, so that if there’s a change we want to make to affect all pages at once we only have to put it in one stupid file! All the research I did said to first try to minify the file (which means clean is up; there are lots of pages that offer links that will do it for you) but even after doing that it didn’t change my speed any. The second recommendation was to leave it alone and just thumb your nose at Google. Since I can’t find a better fix to this issue that’s exactly what I’m doing… but it’s unsatisfactory.

2. Leverage browser caching

This one recommends setting what’s called expiry dates to certain types of files, where the intention is to tell the browser of your visitor whether it needs to actually download those files to the browser again if you’ve already visited the site within a certain period of time. The site I linked to actually gives you the code to add to your .htaccess file, which I mentioned in the last page speed post, only… it doesn’t work!

I’ve tried changing some of the numbers. I’ve tried converting some of the numbers to the number of seconds those numbers represent (which was another recommendation). For whatever reason it’s just ignoring that code, and in all the research I’ve done I have yet to find even one person who might have an idea of why it doesn’t work… and lots of other people who have said it doesn’t work for them either.

3. Reduce server response time

IMG_20160712_094226
Need this to calm down lol

In essence, this one is blaming the host you’re using for your websites. The recommendation is to track it to see what’s going on and then… fix it. FIX IT?!?!? How do we do that? I actually called my hosting company and eventually hung up because they had no idea what I was talking about.

I could blame the hosting company but my research has shown that no one else has any real idea how to do it either except to change hosting companies. Let’s be real here; why the heck would most of us want to keep jumping around to hosting companies just to see if this possibly works?

4. Prioritize visible content

This is the strangest one. What it tells you is that you have issues with your HTML that it supposedly can’t render completely the first time around that’s above the fold. This one is problematic for two reasons.

The first is that, at least for me, the two things it’s telling me it’s having a problem with is my main image and some Google Adsense code. On the first, I’ve reduced the image and don’t have any actual HTML around the image, so I’m not sure what to do about that, especially since the entire code is actually way above the fold since it’s at the top of the page.

The second is that, even based on all the research I’ve done, they really don’t tell you what above the fold means in this particular context. For instance, on the page speed screen it shows you what you believe is the above the fold area. Yet, all the research says that’s not quite the above the fold Google’s talking about, and the only way to figure it out is to go step by step, testing each little change.

Not only do I NOT know who has the time to do all of that, but on one of my sites I totally eliminated the HTML for the content, going totally with CSS content. Unless CSS is now also HTML, Google’s gone bonkers! lol

One last thing. For my medical billing site, I actually removed both the image and the two places where I have the Google Adsense code just to see how much my speed would improve… and it didn’t improve! What the hey? I also took a different page, saved it as something else on my computer, and copied just the content of the page that’s dragging into it; eureka, it worked! That is, until I changed the Title of the page to what it should be and the title on the page for what it was supposed to represent… all broke once more; sigh…

5. Size tap targets appropriately

This is another one that’s kind of goofy. What this supposedly means is that things you want people to click on, whether it’s a menu item or links to other pages within your content, are too close for mobile users to get to easily enough.

On my main business page it’s telling me that the menu items are too close to each other. Unfortunately there’s little I can do about that because the menu was created for me 13 years ago by my friend Kelvin, and I rarely dig into javascript code to make changes because I don’t know the ins and outs of it (although I did go into it to make a menu correction; I was proud of myself when it worked).

On my medical billing site, the content it’s telling me is too close to each other is, once again, within the Google Adsense code. I mean… really?!?!? What the heck am I supposed to do with that? By Google’s own terms of service you’re not allowed to mess with their code, and one would assume that if they’re going to report on themselves that they’d fix themselves while they were at it. Then again, why expect common sense from Google when Warner Brothers has reported their own site for stealing their content? Sheesh! lol

Those are the top 5 things I haven’t been able to figure out. I’ve actually figured out almost everything else, which is how I achieved the speeds I did. One last thing though; I want to reiterate that, though those error messages above keep popping up, they don’t seem to affect all my pages the same… even though the structure of all the pages is the same. I think I need a computer Sherlock Holmes to figure it out… or maybe someone out there much smarter than me who’ll see this post and stop by to help. We can only hope… 😉
 

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The Quest For Mobile Speed, Part Three

Whew, I’m tired! This will be the last installment of the quest for mobile speed, even if later on I may write about something new I’ve discovered. It’s finally time to end this journey, which has taken on a life of it’s own. The previous quest for speed post was pretty epic; I expect this one to be much shorter… then again, what do I know? lol

This time around I’m adding two of my business websites along with talking about the blogs. I still have one website I haven’t addressed, mainly because I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with it. This still means I have 7 web properties to talk about. First, take a look at the numbers from the previous post because I’ve improved on all of them:
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The Quest For Blog Speed, Part Two

Two weeks ago I told y’all about the concept of mobile friendliness vs mobile speed and how I’d been losing all this traffic because the speed of my sites stunk even though all of my sites were considered mobile friendly. Well, I’ve been on a major quest to rectify this, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve been doing.

First, let me remind you that on the above post I showed that my friendly score was 100/100, and my mobile speed was 58/100. What I didn’t share was that my desktop speed was 61/100 at the time. All of my blogs were between 54 to 58 on speed and 58 to 61 on desktop before I started. Let me show you where I stand now, and I have to admit that I’m kind of proud, even if I’m not perfect yet:
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Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell