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Adventures with Cows and the SEO Struggle

Adventures with Cows and the SEO Struggle

I promised that on this, my personal blog, I would relate some of my experiences with the Wine Travel Guides website. It’s been lots of work and the latest developments were announced in the press release earlier this week announcing our launch of tailor-made wine tour itineraries. This is an attempt at utilizing the in-depth information we already have in a slightly different way, by providing a service for time-poor wine-loving independent travellers. Lots of good comments already, let’s hope plenty of people sign up for it!

But what has this got to do with cows or SEO? I hear you cry …. Well quite a lot to do with the latter, I promise you – if you work in PR or on-line you should have realized by now that on-line Press Releases (especially those you pay for with a reputable company – I use PR Web) are really great for SEO. Now, you do know what SEO stands for, don’t you? OK, Search Engine Optimization … please bear with me, I will get to cows eventually, I promise!

My principal aim, fairly obviously, has been to attract so-called ‘quality visitors’ to my website. I’ve succeeded on the quality front (visitors stay a long time and look at lots of pages), but am struggling with getting significant numbers. When people talk about great content being what matters, well for me that’s a no-brainer, for I started out with over 40 wine travel guides written brilliantly by a team of specialists (and now have 50). However, I was never dumb enough to think that people would flock to the site without any promotion, yet how to promote a website isn’t always obvious. I was a fairly early adopter of the internet and, of course, an eager user of what I now think of as the god Google, so being attractive to search engines has always been a consideration.

But, I am a one-person business (plus paid contributors, a paid website designer and some voluntary help – thank you, friends). With a limited budget I started planning my website way back in 2005 (it eventually went live in 2007). I can’t tell you when I first discovered the term SEO, but it might well not have been until 2008 and then I had to learn about it super-urgently. I started going to internet shows, seminars and reading, reading, reading on and off the web. And realized quickly that content was one thing, but SEO was quite another (most painful for a writer/editor is that you have to learn to write in headlines and use lots of repetition).

So what about cows and SEO?! Well, the Wine Travel Guides blog which has been live now for nearly 18 months on WordPress.com, rather than here on Blogger.com, is much easier to upload pretty pictures, and it seems there are all sorts of clever technical ways that make the pictures search-engine friendly. Happily, to an extent, blogs do the SEO for you automatically – you just upload pictures and caption them if you can (hard here on Blogger, easier on WordPress). So …. here it comes (I do hope you’re still reading) …. On a post about the Jura region and its food specialities including Comté cheese I used one of my pictures – and yes, I’ve used it again above – to illustrate the Montbéliard breed of cow used for Comté cheese.

It so happens that WordPress.com, albeit a free platform for blogs as is Blogger.com (owned by Google), gives extremely well laid-out simple statistics (you can’t use Google analytics), which I avidly look at to see how many readers I have, where they come from and where they go to (Yes, you did know you were being watched, didn’t you?!). The stats list the search engine terms visitors use to find the blog. Well, I began to notice that frequently the word ‘cow’ came near the top of the daily list – on closer examination, so did ‘Montbéliard’ or ‘Montbéliard cow’ or even ‘cow picture’. As time went on (the original post with the picture was in March 2009), I realised that these terms brought me more traffic than any other terms, just take a look (sorry, not giving you the figures, but I promise you, this is the very top of the list).

It will be interesting to see whether this post garners equal interest. My friend Alfonso who writes the engaging On the Wine Trail in Italy blog posted a picture of Texan cows this week and I’m hoping that he also gets the SEO cow effect, but intriguingly he knows of a similar theory about traffic cones and SEO (please, don’t even ask me … just search on his blog)!

My web man and others tell me not to get upset by Google, so this post is by way of therapy. The sad thing is that the cow picture may not bring me ‘quality visitors’ to the blog, whereas on the main Wine Travel Guides website I definitely do get super-high-quality visitors, but they don’t come from Google search terms. In fact, Google appears to dislike my website that has garnered praise from several different directions recently, including being awarded Daily Mail website of the week, being well reviewed in German on an excellent culinary blog and garnering great quotes from users. In the meantime, the site (not the blog) has steadily dropped out of Google’s index despite untold amounts of time (and some money) spent on doing everything the SEO gurus tell me to do. It seems that some young whippersnapper at Google HQ has changed the ground rules and all my hard work is for nothing – I am reliant on my Social Media work and other backlinks to bring me new quality visitors… oh yes, and cows!

So, the moral of the story is that whatever the gurus say, SEO is often beyond your control. The main reason to have good content is to attract good visitors who keep coming back, and to get links back from other places, but you only obtain those by becoming known and recommended. So, if you liked it, please share this article on Twitter, Facebook … (and pssstttt…. to lovers of cows).


Comments (3)

  1. You had me at "Adventures." Laughing now and alternately cleaning up the coffee on the screen. You are too funny. All this and the world authority on the wines of the Savoie? It's just too much for one morning. I better get to work.Grazie, miss you guys!

    Apr 30, 2010
  2. "the site … has steadily dropped out of Google’s index"That is a sentence that only has a meaning if you add "for search terms like e.g: …."There is no 'independent' Google indexing for sites. There's only indexing for search terms.So what are the search terms that you are so frustrated about? What are the search terms that you think you should have a high SERP placement for?Without that info there's no way to know if you're just whining or if you're really disadvantaged.;-)

    Apr 30, 2010
  3. Per – my terminology is obviously failing me, forgive me if it seems like I'm whining.I could email you the whole story, but suffice it to say Google Webmaster, with whom my site is registered and a sitemap submitted, provides me information on the number of pages indexed (their terminology). Having freed up my subscription model giving nearly 2,500 pages on my site, the numbers indexed rose from December and by February just over 300 pages were indexed, this then steadily dropped over 2 months to reach 0 at the beginning of this week – Google organic search numbers dropped too – and they dropped my auto sitelinks (their terminology).Happily Google must have read this post (joke, honest … I do realize it's a machine). Today, all of a sudden they report 180 pages indexed, so I look forward to happier times. Some 'experts' tell me that this is the so called 'caffeine' effect (Google boffins drinking too much coffee or some new roll-out they are working on). I am not the only site to have been affected in this way, it is widely discussed on the webmaster forum – but there is no rhyme nor reason that I can discover as to who is affected or why, just luck of the draw.I do hope you liked my picture of the Jura cow in the field.

    Apr 30, 2010