Should it stay or should it go

I’ve slowly been getting rid of junk on my site. Mostly they have been widgets from blog networks. I have two left on my site and I think they are about to get the axe.

I already got rid of MyBlogLog. It drove about 3 visits per month. BlogCatalog is better, but not by much. In the last 30 days, BlogCatalog has delivered a whopping 22 visitors out of 22,000. Given the traffic it brings, is it worth the real estate it takes up on my site? Probably not. BlogCatalog, like MyBlogLog, is slowly getting filled up with junk websites and spam. 0.73 visits per day isn’t worth the extra time do download a widget for every user. I’m also guessing I’ll get just as much traffic without the widget.

Bloggers Choice Awards
I’ve already taken this off my site. I always felt bad begging for votes. I was hopping to use winning in 2008 as one more arrow in the quiver for getting a book deal. Win or lose, I wasn’t planning on putting a link up for 2009. The contest has no rules so it encourages gaming. I’m taking this one step further and am going to avoid participating in any sort of contest which requires readers to vote. If I’m going to spend goodwill amongst my readers, I’m going to do it for something more valuable like subscribing to RSS or putting in links. Also, it appears I can pretty much stay on page one for travel without having to put in any work for 2009. I wont win or be in the top three, but who cares.

Between ads I’ve run and organic clicks, Entrecard brought in 255 visits in the last 30 days. A little over 1.5% of my traffic. I don’t drop cards, and I refuse to do so. I can’t earn much in the way of credits from advertising. The information on the site doesn’t make buying ads very efficient. This is probably looking at removal at some point, but probably not just yet. Remove the ad buys, and you are looking at about 175 visits, much of that I guess is due to me being semi active on the forums.

Various Directories
I have buttons for various directories on my site. I plan on keeping them for now. The reason is simple: they score well in Google for keywords I’m working on, so I want my site on their list. Also, the images are very small and they provide some sort of social validation of the site. Being among the top 10 says to someone visiting for the first time that I’m for real and not a fake. They are much smaller than full blown widgets and eventually can be buried near the bottom of the page.

Once most of this is gone, I’ll need to rethink navigation and what I want to put on the site. It is an area I haven’t given enough thought.


Getting a new theme

I’m starting the process of getting a new theme for my travel around the world blog. When I made my last change, it was more out of desperation. I needed to change and so I got a theme which sort of worked and did the whole thing in about 24 hours. Since then, I’ve been making changes to the header and such, and it is starting to look like more of a kludge.

I don’t think I need to rush quite as much now, so I’m going to take my time and do it right. I don’t think a magazine theme is going to work for me. I think the process will be something along the lines of: figure out what I like on other sites, try to adapt those elements to something which will work for me, customize the design elements and launch.

I’m also tempted to get a custom theme made for me. While I can tweak photos in Photoshop, doing real graphic design is just beyond me. I have neither the technical talent nor the eye for it. I’d like to have something I’m comfortable enough with so I don’t have to change it for a long time. Problem is, I’m cheap.

I am also debating the wisdom of starting an email newsletter. I’ve heard good feedback from other blogs which do it, and the brief questioning I did of other people I know thought it was a good idea. I personally think in terms of RSS, so it is difficult for me to think like someone else. I want to target non-technical users in the future, so this might be something I have to do.

I’m also starting a contest which will run during the month of November. I’ll be using a corner peel ad to promote it. It should be up in two days.

Astrobiology General Music

Travel Around the World

If you haven’t figured it out, I don’t post information about the back end or business stuff on my main site because I don’t want to bore readers with the details of running a website. I’d rather bore them with the details of traveling.

This is where I bitch about my website.

For the last six months, I’ve been trying to play the Google game and get my site ranked high for the term “Travel Blog”. At one point in June I was ranked #5 and currently I am on the front page. There are over 400,000,000 pages ranked for that term, so hooray for me.

Something didn’t seem quite right. Even when I peaked at #5, I got a whopping 26 visits to my website from Google. Just because the keyword has a lot of sites doesn’t mean a lot of people search for it. As I noted in my previous article on traffic, spending time and effort in ranking for something hyper competitive with little traffic is a suckers game. Getting beyond #5 also seems really difficult as the sites above that are Lonely Planet and

So if not “travel blog” what else?

A recent thread on Griz’s Make Money Online blog (one of the only ones in that genre I enjoy. Most are garbage) got me thinking about what keywords I’m targeting. Ranking high for a crappy keyword is like not ranking at all.

I have an account on where they all sorts of tools you can use to check keywords and other metrics. One item they link to is free keyword tracker, which tells you how many searches are done per day on various keywords. In the last 24 hours, here are some of the stats: (The difference between specific and general is specific is the literal string, and general is any keyword search with those words included)

Keyword Specific Searches General Searches Different Search Strings Number of Sites
Travel Blog 34 270 54 56,700,000
Travel Around the World 206 263 11 25,800,000
Travel Website 25 1,868 76 43,800,000
Travel Photography 68 87 8 14,800,000
Travel Writing 21 69 17 18,500,000

If you actually looked at the Google results in addition to this, the answer is pretty freaking obvious what I should be working on: Travel Around the World.

I’m not going to undo what has been done. Much of it is out of my control at this point, but there are many advantages to this approach.

1) Less conflict with other travel bloggers. That isn’t necessarily their niche. None of the bloggers I know are ranked high, and I’m not sure that they even would want to target that keyword.
2) Should be possible to reach #1. I don’t think it would be possible given my current efforts and budget ($0) with “travel blog” and who the competition is.
3) More traffic. More targeted traffic. My best readers are those who want to go on a similar trip or dream of doing so.

So, if you are reading this and have a link to my site, please change the anchor text to “travel around the world” 🙂

My rank for “travel around the world” was #151 before I did anything. After writing this article I changed the title of my site and rearranged some words so the keyword fit on the description paragraph on my site, and then put the keywords in bold. This morning, about 12 hours later, I am ranked #38. I have also changed the text linking to my site on this page and another blog I run, but those haven’t been indexed by Google yet.


Culling The Twitter

I’ve massively cut down on the number of people I follow on Twitter. It was getting to be just too much noise. Following everyone who follows me just isn’t possible. I have created a bit of an ad hoc system of picking who to follow:

1) Do I know you? I don’t have to have met you in person, nor do you have to know me, but I should know who you are if I’m going to follow you. You could just be the author of a blog I follow. Even people who comment on my website, replied to one of my tweets, or have emailed me can make the cut. This is a pretty liberal standard.

2) Bots begone. If the Twitter account does nothing but send out updates and URL’s, its gone.

3) Do you have anything interesting to say? While I don’t want all URL’s, I also am not interested in nothing about “i’m going to the gym now”. You should have something interesting to say occasionally.

4) Have you used Twitter in a month? This shouldn’t be a big deal if all you care about it noise I guess, but I also don’t see why I should keep you on the follow list. It seems a lot of people got on the Twitter bandwagon and then jumped off right away.

I was following about as many people as were following me, around 500. I’m going to try to cut that to about 200.


Keyword Analysis

From May 14 to May 20, I received 514 visits from search engines. Those 514 visits represented 358 different search terms.

I’ve been focusing on the term “travel blog” for SEO purposes because I really have no clue what other term to focus on. (My results for “travel blog” are getting better, but I don’t think they will ever be that good) I think my search engine results have increased as my content has increased, simply because there is more stuff to search.

I expect the search engine traffic to jump dramatically once my images are indexed on Google Image. There are fewer images than pages of text floating around the internet. I also need to step up doing more of the “seven wonder” posts. They get a lot of search engine traffic.

In addition to “travel blog” I’ve also started to put some emphasis on “travel photography” and “travel blog directory”. I do well in that last one, so that wont require a lot of work.