Most summers I travel. This summer I’m taking a staycation, revisiting 30 of my favorite destinations, and sharing them with readers on my guide2travel.ca website–where I was also focused on improving the site’s Alexa ranking.

Screen capture of guide2travel online travel magazine.

Screen capture of guide2travel online travel magazine, owned by Linda Aksomitis.

I started guide2travel.ca about seven years ago, although I lost the domain in the middle, so it has only been under development by me now for three years. When I got it back at that time it was banned by search engines, since it had been used as a referral site for a pharmaceutical company (should have thought of that and selected a new domain name!). I eventually got it back into Google, but am still working on Bing and Yahoo.

In the month of May, before I started working on the site, it had:

Unique visitors Number of visits Pages Hits Bandwidth
Viewed traffic * 2,356 6,718
(2.85 visits/visitor)
31,706
(4.71 Pages/Visit)
37,877(5.63 Hits/Visit) 536.67 MB
(81.8 KB/Visit)

This was actually pretty good as the site hadn’t had any new content posted since November of 2011. At that time there were around 220 pages of content altogether and it was still wearing the 2009 template.

The site was, of course, ready for a face-lift, so I did a lot of research on new themes and couldn’t find a free one that had what I wanted:

  • A homepage slider to show off my travel photos
  • A newspaper design that provided excerpts and an image for each article
  • Widgets to include more social media
  • Widgets for more search engine optimization

I ended up purchasing a membership with Elegant themes that provided access to 75 themes and technical support for a year. It was the best move I’ve ever made! Not only did I get to try out a number of advanced themes before I settled on the one that I liked best, but there were also additional features for my posts. The themes included text boxes (grey – content, yellow – info, blue – bio, etc.) and tabs. Wow!

By the end of June I was finished updating one of blogs on guide2travel (my own — there are two other writers who are friends of mine: Judith Silverthorne and Neilia Sherman), and ready to start my staycation.

Oh yes, my Alexa rank before I started redesigning the site and adding staycation content was 3,743,202 in the world and not showing for Canada. That’s not really that shabby, but there was certainly room for improvement.

I started adding articles at the rate of 3 to 5 per week, so from July 2 to July 27, I had placed 17 new articles. The articles were in-depth, all including images, a text box of FAQ about the destination or something at the destination, a quality video selected and embedded from YouTube, and an if-you-go text box with a summary of required information. Total word count for each article was between 1000-1200 words divided into segments.

In the middle of July I also finished updating all three blogs on the site.

With the new design, eight articles were displayed on the homepage (I’ve since increased this to ten), plus a widget of popular posts displayed five more in a sidebar, and I added two additional widgets showing randomly linked images to another six articles.

At the end of seven weeks, the change in the guide2travel Alexa ranking was staggering! I still hadn’t got any more search engine listings than Google (I spent one day in July making search engine submissions, but there hadn’t been any real results yet), but my Alexa rank had improved by 2,393,647 to 1,349,555. The rank in Canada for the site was at 38,589 from not showing at all.

Why? The answer was in changes to the way visitors used the site. These were July, 2012, statistics:

Unique visitors Number of visits Pages Hits Bandwidth
Viewed traffic * 2,682 8,092
(3.01 visits/visitor)
88,042
(10.88 Pages/Visit)
161,288
(19.93 Hits/Visit)
1.89 GB
(244.92 KB/Visit)

Alexa measures site traffic on popularity with surfers or its readership. While the number of unique visitors only increased by 326, and the number of actual visits improved narrowly from 2.85 visits per visitor to 3.01 visits/visitor, the number of page views per visitor nearly tripled, while hits per visitor nearly quadrupled.

So, the improvements in Alexa ranking were the result of increased page views–and those increased due to the new site design. While it’s hard to make a lot of changes in search engine rankings in the short term, webmasters can ensure that their websites are easy-to-navigate and that content is packaged in the most appealing way possible. If you consistently create good content and make it easy for readers to find it on your site, your site will increase in popularity!

Here are links to the latest posts on my guide2travel staycation:

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