Case Study Part 2: Does Adding Your Site To Google Webmaster Tools Improve Your Traffic?

chemistry catLike most internet marketers who blog for a living, I’m a skeptic when it comes to anything regarding Google.  And, I finally decided to join the “conspiracy theorists” and cut all ties with Google products.

So, I set up up a free account at statcounter.com, and began using it to track traffic on my new sites.  I avoided Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Adsense… and even moved all of my work-related discussion out of Gmail (Something I still recommend you doing no matter what your business. Your business is none of their business. Those snoops. )

However, after making the switch away from Google products, I began noticing that it took longer for my new sites to rank. After several months of frustration I finally tested whether adding your site to Google Webmaster tools would improve it’s rank.  (Click Here to read about the first test)

In that first test, we saw literally overnight improvement in that site’s position in Google’s results.

But with only a sample size of n=1, I needed more evidence.  The next site I wanted to test had just undergone a lot of improvements.  It was a strong, expired domain that I had purchased and than rebuilt in its original niche, and I had (have!) high hopes for it.

I decided to use it for the second test.

Before the test began, I let the site perform naturally. For several agonizingly slow months, the site danced and creeped and finally crept onto page 1 of Google for 2 separate terms.  After giving it a couple of weeks to settle in these spots — and without making further improvements that might skew the experiment — I added it to Google Webmaster Tools.

As you can see from the graph below, the traffic immediately improved:

webmaster tools improves rankings

(Click To Enlarge)

Literally the day after I add the site to Google’s Webmaster Tools, the site takes on a much steeper growth curve.

For the most part, this growth seems related to increased long tail traffic, although I have noticed other pages on the site slowly climbing higher in the search results as the site “proves itself”.

Probably the most painful thing about this graph is that this site would have likely been making money 2-3 months sooner had I put it into Google WMT right away.

A Little About My Site Design

While I do this for a living, I also build these sites for fun.  And so I like to use a blog-type format that is very personal and informative.  Most of the time I spend a significant part of the article discussing common questions, and then suggest a few products with about 300 words devoted to each product.

So we’re looking at good content with footnotes and links to primary literature that is truly helpful.

Nothing flashy.  But a solid site that I am proud to own and thrilled to work on again ….now that this experiment is over and I don’t have to worry about skewing the results .

Last month it made about $100 from Amazon.  For February it looks like we should be just past the $200 mark. Ideally, I expect this site to grow into a $1,000/month earner.

Why Google is Still The Devil

  • They copy books and make them available to the public
  • They remove “spam” in order to promote more ads or their own sites
  • They lie about such spam removal practices
  • They spy on your Gmail
  • They likely spy on your Google Voice accounts

But if you wanna play with fire — ahem — be a blogger, you’ve got to be willing to play on their terms. For now.

What are your thoughts about these two case studies?

Opening Graph Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 6/01/2014 Update: The last two months this site has cleared $1700 each month between Amazon and Clickbank products.  Plus it has a engaged readership that often comments and asks questions. Pretty fun, eh?

 

15 Responses to “Case Study Part 2: Does Adding Your Site To Google Webmaster Tools Improve Your Traffic?”

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  1. That’s a pretty interesting set of experiments you’re profiling here sir. I have actually not added a single site to webmaster tools since 2009! but I may just give it a try on my site that is quickly becoming my go to site for testing and experiments.

    I have a site doing decently on a Google blogspot hosting. I may just try putting it in GWT just to see what happens. Since it’s already on blogspot hosting and I’ve got Google+ implemented on the site it’s not like I’m hiding anything from them. :/

  2. Frank Joseph says:

    This simply means that no matter what bloggers do to avoid google and their puny ugly face. They still needed them to survive on their portal (google.com)

    I have a new niche site that is currently not ranking on the top 100, i will try this and see.

    • lostcyclist says:

      Let us know how it goes! I just did one at a time so I could get a feel for it. I’m in “full steam ahead” mode, now.

  3. Wesley Banks says:

    Were you using any type of sitemap plugin (i.e. Yoast SEO, Google XML Sitemaps, etc.) before adding to Google WMT? I’m curious if adding to WMT is just helping your site get crawled properly or if it’s having a real affect on traffic.

    • lostcyclist says:

      Oh, good question.

      The first one, no. Then I added a plugin and sitemap and WMT all at the same time.

      The second one I didn’t even add a sitemap to. Just put it in WMT and let it ride. It still doesn’t have a sitemap.
      This second site has been a long-running project that has absolutely been a stubborn-butt about ranking. It has climbed so. slowly. So the difference with WMT and without has been pretty incredible.

  4. Jason says:

    I guess in a way if you’re skipping GWT it’s kind of like opening a store in the mall without adding it to the Mall Directory. Interesting case study for sure. My last couple sites have been kept out of the google “system”. I’m also using statcounter instead of analytics.

    • lostcyclist says:

      Yeah, I’m with you. If you end up converting any of yours over to WMT, let us know how it goes for you.

      I think I need to add them to Bing’s WMT, now.

  5. Winston says:

    That does make sense though. Google does the same thing for G+ giving it an advantage so it doesn’t surprise me. The other thing maybe having it in WMT, lets their system see the site more efficiently since it knows all the pages or something. Not sure.

    My question now is, over time you build a stable of sites. Do all of them go to WMT. Which means all sites are essentially linked to a single account Google holds. Is there any risk in that?

    • Daniel F says:

      That’s the big question I have right now. Does it affect rankings if I have multiple site that Google knows are mine? I’d assume its ok as long as you don’t have too many that are linking together and they think you’re trying to build a PBN.

      • lostcyclist says:

        Well, the PBNs aren’t in WMT.

        And each site has it’s own separate PBN network supporting it.

        And none of the sites link together.

        But you are right, there is a risk, there. If I get hit, I’d probably move the content to new domains that are kept out of WMT

  6. Thanks for this case study, i really appreciate this information here, i have been avoiding google webmaster tools for sometimes now, but with this new study and information you shared here, count me in! going to try it out on my new Amazon website and i will come back with positive results.. (am that optimistic)

  7. Jerry says:

    It occurs to me that GWT is a valuable service. The sort of data it shows has a good deal of economic value. Therefore, since G gives it away for free, there must be some equivalent economic value in it for them. What is that value? What do they get from this data? We are bribed into revealing all of our inside data for a couple of points in the SERPS and they get to know every detail of our sites.

    Hmmm

    Or maybe G is just a big hearted organization that only wants to give away valuable tools to help us and I’m being paranoid.

    • lostcyclist says:

      Perhaps the value Google gets out of it is economy of scale? By giving them an “inside look” of your site, their bots are better able to categorize it, and gives their bots some help instead of leaving them to wander the internet blindly. That’s got to save them money.

      And this is probably something that needs constant re-testing because they may change their algorithm tomorrow or change their bots and this will no longer give the same boost. But, since we’re building new sites every month, we should be able to catch on if they change the game.

      The main thing is that it isn’t a “couple of points in the Serps”. In the case of this site it is literally the difference between 50 visits a day and 300+ visits a day. Or ranking on page one in 3 weeks compared to the 3 months it had been taking. It also seems to help me escape a lot of the Google Dancing other people deal with. In the previous case study the site jumped 20-ish spots literally overnight. So it offers the site owner a huge economic benefit.

      And if the site gets slapped? No biggie. New domain, transfer the content. Start over.

      I suppose if someone wanted to protect themselves they could build 2 sites in the same niche and googlefy one and degooglefy the other. (or maybe bingify it?) Might be a really good idea, actually.

  8. scott masse says:

    Quinton,

    The article was great to think about the ramifications of moving away from google.

    In the site development world, it is often a game of inches and a few spots on the leader board makes a huge difference in traffic.

    I appreciate you taking the time to test your theories for our benefit!

    Regards,
    Scott in Boston

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