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SEO Mysteries, Content Upgrades and More: The Buffer August Content Report

7 min read Reports
Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter Director of People @ Buffer
SEO Mysteries, Content Upgrades and More: The Buffer August Content Report

Note: Updated Sept. 18 based on more details from Google’s John Mueller in the comments. Thanks again, John! We’re so grateful for Google’s help and guidance in solving our mystery and fixing our errors so quickly!

The month of August gave the Buffer Crafters an unexpected SEO mystery to solve. When Google announced that https would become a ranking signal, we switched our Buffer Social blog over to https—and subsequently lost about 90% of our organic traffic!

Here’s a look at our organic traffic in isolation. The orange line is our traffic before the switch; the blue line is after. Yikes, right?

organic traffic isolated compared to past in GA

We made the switch on Aug. 8, and it took us a while to see the drop. When we did, we checked with various SEO folks (thanks to our awesome SEO consultant Joe Hall and the kind folks at Moz for the hand!) to see if we had implemented everything correctly. (If you’re going through the same process, Joe has an excellent step-by-step resource.)

Once we were pretty sure we had set everything up correctly, we kept digging. We had recently set up Google Webmaster Tools and noticed that the blog had a manual action penalty listed, so we set out to fix that with a full SEO audit. (The penalty turned out to be an old notice and unrelated to the drop, though we still have a lot of ways we can improve!) We switched back to http to see if we could stabilize our traffic. Meanwhile, we knocked on a few doors at Google, and John Mueller was kind enough to check out our situation.

Thankfully, our SEO mystery has a happy ending. John Mueller and his team were quick to look into our situation, for which we are eternally grateful. In a matter of days, we began to see signs of recovery. (The old manual action penalty also was removed.) Knowing the number of requests and communications Google must see on a daily basis, it was amazing to see that they were able to help us so quickly, and they were such a pleasure to learn from.

organic traffic drop and recovery

I learned a few giant lessons from our big screw-up here, namely to:

Take time with site changes. We switched over to https almost as soon as possible, without fully considering the possible effects and repercussions. In Google’s announcement, it says “

In the coming weeks, we’ll publish detailed best practices to make TLS adoption easier, and to avoid common mistakes.” I’m sure we made at least one if not all of those common mistakes!

Test changes with smaller sites. When we make future, potentially crucial changes to site infrastructure, it would probably be better to try things on a smaller scale first, rather than with our most trafficked blog. We’ve put this into practice for any future changes we make to the blog, and it’s working much better.

As a result of all this, August’s numbers for Buffer Social look pretty weird. Meanwhile, we published tons of great new content on both blogs, and Buffer Open saw visits topping 100,000 for the first time.

Let’s take a closer look with a dive into the numbers!

Marketing Report

August stats for Buffer Social

  • 37,841 total email subscribers (+12.5% from last month)
  • 490,647 users (unique visitors) (-29.8%)
  • 681,638 sessions (total visits) (-26.6)
  • 866,909 pageviews (-26.1%)
  • 897 direct conversions (-41.9% )
  • 20 total posts published (-2)

Here’s what our traffic looked like in August (in blue) compared to July (in yellow).

August 2014 blog traffic

Six out of our overall Top 10 this month are new for August (they’re marked with an asterisk). This is likely because of our unique organic traffic situation—with most of our ranking search terms lost, newer content and social media sharing had to work a little harder this month.

  1. *15 Twitter Hacks That Will Turn You Into a Twitter Ninja
10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science
  1. * 30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails
8 Surprising New Instagram Statistics to Get the Most out of the Picture Social Network
  1. *The 10 Best Social Media SlideShare Presentations of 2014
  2. 53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts
  3. *The Big List of Twitter Tools: 59 Free Twitter Tools and Apps to Fit Any Need
  4. The Best Time for Tweets, Facebook Posts, Emails and Blog Posts
  5. *How We Doubled Email Signups in 30 Days: Our Strategies to Get More Email Subscribers
  6. *What Really Happens When Someone Clicks Your Facebook Like Button

You can see how many views each of these top posts received by looking below at our Top Content page in Google Analytics.

August 2014 top 10 posts

Top referral sources

August 2014 top referrals

August stats for Buffer Open

  • 2,376 email subscribers (+23%)
  • 76,572 users (unique visitors) (+21.1%)
  • 101,147 sessions (total visits) (+24.2% )
  • 123,068 pageviews (+18.7%)
  • 155 direct conversions

Here’s what our traffic looked like in August (in blue) compared to July (in yellow).

August 2014 traffic Open blog

August’s top 10 Open blog posts

Six out of our overall Top 10 this month are new for August (they’re marked with an asterisk). 
  1. *Happiness Hacks: The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy, Backed By Science
  2. *How to Send Better Email Without Second-Guessing a Single Word
  3. 5 Surprising Tricks To Increase Your Motivation Immediately, According to Fresh Research
  4. *What I Wish I Knew About Creativity When I Was 20
  5. *The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive By Changing the Way You Think About Downtime
  6. *6 Ways My Brain Stops Me From Creating – And How I’m Fighting Back
  7. Morning Routines: How Successful People Start Their Day
  8. *Single-task Your Way Through Your Day: How Focusing Unlocks Extreme Productivity
  9. Introducing Open Salaries at Buffer
  10. The Art of Reading, Remembering and Retaining More Books

You can see how many views each of these top posts received by looking below at our Top Content page in Google Analytics.

August 2014 top 10 Open blog posts

Media syndication stats

Here’s a breakdown of how many visitors (and what percentage conversion) syndication efforts brought to the blog in August.

August 2014 syndication stats

Social stats

Facebook

Facebook August 2014

LinkedIn

LinkedIn August 2014

Twitter

Twitter August 2014

Google+

Google+ August 2014

Thoughts and outlook

Experimenting with content upgrades

If you’ve read the blog before, you know we’ve been working on growing our email list with lots of different methods and strategies. This month we tried a new one: the content upgrade! This method offers

 a giveaway unique to each post in exchange for an email

We love this method because it falls perfectly in line with our mission to provide our readers with as much value as possible on the blog. And it worked like gangbusters for us—211 new email signups from our first experiment!

You can see how it works for yourself in our post 30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails.

content upgrade headlines post

I predict we’ll be doing more of these–in fact, September’s report will have ebooks and more.

Continued SEO focus

With this month’s challenges, it seems like we picked a pretty good time to get serious about search engine optimization. In August we commissioned an excellent SEO consultant, Joe Hall, to provide us with a full SEO audit of Buffer’s online presence. He’s just finishing that up now, and we’re sure to share many of the details and actions here in the future.

Decision maker process

Throughout Buffer, we’ve been experimenting with a new management structure we’ve been calling the decision maker process, based on the book The Decision Maker by

 Dennis W. Bakke.

In a nutshell, the process works by leaving each decision to the person closest to the situation—no need to ask permission. We do ask advice, though, from other members of the team. The bigger the decision, the more advice we get.

On the Crafters team, we’re really enthusiastic about the way this new process is allowing us to focus, and getting advice from other members of the team has been a great experience.

Here’s a look at our areas of ownership:

Courtney: Content suggestions, syndication, SEO, paid acquisition, product launches, Buffer Open

Kevan: Email marketing, social media marketing, writing, ebooks/whitepapers

I’m sure we’ll be writing lots more about this process soon.

Your turn: What do you want to know?

Are there any questions about our blogs, our team, or our social media marketing that we can answer? Share them in the comments, I’d love to keep the conversation going.

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