I recently made some big changes to the Bike198 site that not only made my life much easier…but the big changes also drastically increased my search engine traffic. There is something in this story — we’ll call it my big mistake — for all bloggers, so take this ride with me and see how you can use this story to improve your blog.

This story really starts back with the re-branding of Bike198.com. Back then…I had the idea that I wanted to have each of the separate cycling disciplines on their own sub-domain with individual WordPress installs. On paper, it looked like a great idea. I would have individual sites that could carry their own weight and have their own direct advertising campaigns while somewhat benefiting from each others back links. I even made it look cool by the colors switching between mountain, road, commuting and the base domain.

It was a dumb idea.

At least for me. I have always said on this blog that I learn as much from my mistakes…if not more…as my successes and I was learning a big lesson on this setup. What I basically did with that setup was create a HUGE headache for myself in several major areas.

  • Separate installs was like running 4 different blogs at once. A total pain in the ass and ultimately some of the categories/sub domains suffered.
  • You don’t really get the full benefit of back linking to the main domain. The other sites have to hold themselves up in a lot of ways.
  • This setup rendered the core domain Bike198.com literally useless as it had no relevant info. All it ended up being was basically a landing page with post lists.
  • When people linked to my website, 9 times out of 10 they said Bike198.com instead of the respective sub-domains. Who was really going to type mountain.bike198.com anyway?

That really only scratches the surface of the issues I was running into. Basically I created a setup that need a team to run…and I am just one guy with a blog.

So I had to go about fixing this as it was driving me crazy. My great idea on paper was driving me up the wall and hurting my business. So I started looking into a setup that would actually work for me while strengthening the site.

I made the decision…I was going to drop years worth of articles and photos on the main domain…Bike198.com. Mountain.Bike198.com, Road.Bike198.com and Urban.Bike198.com were going to get combined onto Bike198.com. Sounds like a big move and it was.

Luckily, WordPress makes this entire process stupid simple. Export from one into the other and click a simple check box stating you want the images to be downloaded too. It is actually so easy that you think you are doing something wrong. As far as moving the domains so Google and the other search engines wouldn’t get confused, I just hit up an article I wrote on moving domains and I was set.

So everything was on one site. Google and other search engines knew to take the change due to the 301 redirects and I was on my way to having an easier life with my main source of website income. Through the process, I even figured out that I could simulate the separate sites through WordPress 3.0.

  • Conditional menus with WordPress would handle navigation
  • OiOPublisher would actually handle the separate advertising by category for me (huge score for that plugin)
  • Each individual category RSS feed would be my different feeds for road, mountain and urban…so that was an easy switch

So the only thing I lost was my colors…and I can live with that. (Oddly enough, a coding genius friend of mine thinks he can still get that done with a couple of lines of Javascript…)

The Real Result: The next 72 hours…

A crazy thing happened in the next 72 hours. My traffic went through the roof…by a large percentage. It was actually so bad that I thought I had done something wrong. I was already ranking incredibly well for high competition keywords like “mountain bike reviews” so I am used to a surge of traffic especially during the warmer months. But I was not prepared for this…

As I started to research into what was “going wrong”, I found something really interesting. As Google was spidering my content and switching the url from the sub-domain to the main domain thanks to my 301 redirects, my rankings were increasing drastically within it’s rankings. I just started laughing to be honest. I thought it was a mistake and things would go back to normal soon.

It wasn’t a mistake…as things kept going…results kept getting higher and stabilized.

I was now ranking 1 and 2 for positions I was holding in the 4 to 5 territory. Long tail keywords (around 4 words) were always in the top 5. It was as if my site was given instant juice that was getting directly injected via IV into all of my pages.

The goal of this project was to make my life easier…and hopefully that change make my site perform better. If anything, I was expecting a slight drop off in traffic until Google caught up with the inbound links from the other sub-domains. That would have been completely normal…the increase is not when moving domains.

The big difference here is that I was performing actions that was making it like trying to run in lead boots. I had great content, it was getting linked to and I was otherwise making all of the right steps. Where I went wrong was trying to bite off too much at once…which ended up biting me in the ass by making my SEO efforts harder and my general site maintenance harder. Now…my site is getting full advantage of all of my hard work…and it is awesome.

So what should you take away from this?

I know you are probably thinking “Wow…that’s great. But I don’t have multiple sub-domains or the issues you were having…I am just trying to build traffic and subscribers.”

You are right. 99% of bloggers were not in my situation which you would think would make this post completely worthless to most bloggers. But like with most stories, there are things that you can take away that will help you in your blogging.

Getting Credit For All Inbound Links

Make sure you are putting your best foot forward by choosing www or non www in your domain and stick with it. While WordPress handles this by your settings…you need to make sure you are letting Google know exactly how you want to be indexed and linked to by putting a simple bit of code in your .htaccess file .

Redirect www to non-www:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Redirect non-www to www:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Think About Your Visitors…Not You

When you are designing your site and handling how your visitors will interact with your content, you absolutely have to think of your visitors first…what you think looks cool second.

If it doesn’t convert…it is not worth having. Drop all of the widgets that 70% readers aren’t going to interact with and make things easy to find. Beyond that it is about converting visitors into readers.

Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

As bloggers, we want to take on the world. Sometimes, this gets us away from what we are good at an in a world that we can not possibly manage. Try to avoid the shiny key syndrome (running after every new idea) and really plan your attack that will fit in your life. You can not possibly manage 10 blogs on your own and be good at it. Do what you do best…and manage your life at the same time.

Blogging is not rocket science…but we try to make it that way.

Blogging at its core is great content and marketing…not complicated site builds and big dreams. It is important to have goals and to see where you want to be in the future. It is detrimental to your success to not stay rooted in reality and plan your moves carefully.

You could be giving up a lot and making things harder on yourself like I did.