Content gardening-bridge

Published on February 24th, 2013 | by Derek Slater


Content gardening: Improve content performance via 4 data points (part 1)

Hi. Thanks for visiting Content Informatics. If you don’t know what CI is about, read this.


In this series of posts, I’m going to describe a step-by-step process aimed at improving the performance of already-published website content in three ways:

- by bringing more visitors to the site

- by getting them to stay longer and visit more pages

- and by converting them.


These tactics work whether you are doing content marketing, running a media website, or producing content for other reasons.

Getting the job done will require you to tweak content pages based on four pieces of data:

- your inbound search terms, which we’ll find in Google Analytics;

- bounce rate and

- pages per visit (PPV) for each of those terms, likewise in GA;

- and search rankings, which we’ll find using plain old Google search.

This process of making performance improvements reminds me of gardening. You love your site, you watch over it, and every day you weed, water, prune and plant. Over time the site becomes more productive, because it is more carefully calibrated to the needs of your audience.

Although it’s one overall process in my mind, I’m going to break it into three manageably-sized blog posts. You’re welcome. :) And if you find this process useful, please take a look at my new book Online Content Marketing In 30 Minutes.


Part 1: Bringing more visitors to your site

Search traffic is good traffic. For many sites, visitors coming from search stay longer and view more pages than the overall average site visitor. (A quick survey of about a dozen B2C sites’ analytics shows more than half of the sites fit this description.)

So we are going to start our work by looking in Google Analytics at what bring in visitors from search engines.

In Google Analytics, go

Traffic Sources >  Sources  > Search  > Organic

Here a slice of inbound search terms for, a site about healthy food sources:


inbound search terms for MyFreshLocal

Let’s zero in on term #6: “sky vegetables”. [Vegetables. Gardening. Notice that?] What we know immediately is that people who find this article via search seem to like it. The pages-per-visit (PPV) number is nothing special, but the bounce rate (right-hand column) is incredibly low – less than 6%.

Two quick points about this bounce rate number:

- Yes, the total number of visits shown in this time frame is low, so the bounce rate is based on a small data sample. I could expand the date range in GA to see if this number stays consistent over a larger number of visitors.

- What constitutes a “good” bounce rate? There is no magic number of course, and site design/architecture/navigation issues can have as much effect as the quality of the content. Web metrics guru Avinash Kaushik says 40% to 60% is the normal range for websites.

For practical purposes, though, it’s useful to just compare an individual page’s bounce rate (or PPV) against the site average.

MyFreshLocal’s overall bounce rate is less than 30%, so this search phrase brings better than average traffic for this metric.

(I will say that MFL’s sub-30% number is one of the lowest sitewide rates I’ve seen, across dozens of B2C and B2B sites.)

How do you find out which page these search visitors arrive at?

In the GA view above, you can click directly on the term and then

Secondary Dimension > Traffic Sources > Landing Page

(These commands are directly above the keyword list in the middle of the page, not on the left-hand nav.)





Another way to do this is just to pop over to a new tab and Google the keyword phrase in question, “sky vegetables”. That approach also provides us with another piece of useful data: The search rank for this article.

Is search rank a perfect, pristine, scientific piece of data? No. Does it fluctuate? Yes, sometimes. Is it affected by personalization and/or the location of the searcher? Yes, sometimes.

But is it still useful? Absolutely.

So here it is, an MFL page ranking 10th on the first Google results page for “sky vegetables”.


search engine results page (SERP) for "sky vegetables"


Okay. Here is the article that’s drawing that search traffic.

Forgive the tall image. I want you to be able to see more of the elements of the page, so it’s even better to view the article itself on MFL. article on Sky Vegetables


Let’s review what we know about this article.

- It has an okay PPV number (relative to the site average) and a great, low bounce rate. So it’s a good article that engages readers.

- It ranks well in search, but is not in the top 3 results for the search term in question.

- When was it written? March 2011. Being that old, it’s not highlighted on the home page, and most of the people who find this page are doing so through search. (This is one of the many points in this gardening process where your knowledge of your own site is critical.)

So this is a great candidate for a little content gardening. People searching for information about Sky Vegetables like the article. If it ranked higher, it would bring more happy visitors to MyFreshLocal.

What steps can we take to help this page rank higher?


6 steps to raise the search ranking for this good content

1. Add an update: Sky Vegetables hasn’t updated their own site since 2010. Are they out of business? More current info = better reader service. By inserting the date of our update, we’ll also flag to the engines that this content is more recent and relevant.

2. Add captions to the diagrams including the phrase “sky vegetables”. Research shows captions are actually read MORE than body copy.  So again, captions add reader service.

3. Add a subhead or two with the phrase.

4. Add links to this page from other places on MFL, and, if possible, in contributed articles/guest posts on other sites. External links on trustworthy sites are more valuable.

5. Create a tag: Add a “sky vegetables” tag. (The tags are listed just under the headline and deck.)

6. Re-promote the article on social media. (“Ever wonder what happened to Sky Vegetables? [URL] updated on @myfreshlocal”)

These steps are mostly standard SEO work (clarity of labeling, etc) with a happy emphasis on a couple of items that serve the interests of the reader.

However, it’s a targeted effort, based on the fact that we’ve used analytics to LISTEN to the audience before acting. We’re focusing on this particular piece of content because the engagement metrics told us the content (or the site) is a good match for search visitors using the phrase “sky vegetables”.

Which naturally raises the question:

What if the content has BAD engagement metrics?

And that’s what we’ll cover in the next post.

About the Author

is editor of an award-winning B2B media website and magazine. Opinions and ideas expressed here are my own, not my employer's.

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