A new search engine optimized website design and strategic plan for a prolific blogger and renowned spiritual counselor
Erin Pavlina started blogging and doing intuitive counseling professionally in 2006. With a professional background in website design, she designed her first website herself.
Over the next half-decade, her intuitive counseling skill and reputation grew, enabling her to build a large following of readers, newsletter subscribers, and customers.
But several years later, her website had gotten to the point where it was outdated, especially in terms of technology. She had built much of her website in plain HTML, which meant she was missing out on a lot of more modern functionality and opportunities. It became more difficult to maintain as it grew. She had, by that point, published around 600 blog articles, and to make things more complicated, the blog itself ran on a separate platform that used a basic WordPress implementation rather than straight HTML like the rest of the site. Keeping things working together became a chore.
Although Erin’s traffic kept growing steadily, she knew she was losing out on chances to grow her audience and customer base. She saw search engines in particular as a valuable source of traffic she wasn’t maximizing, although she was getting pretty good results there already.
Because Erin was constantly fully booked doing her sessions, she didn’t have the time to lead a major website rebuild on her own. Plus, several years had passed since she was operating in the web design world. Erin recognized it would take her a significant amount of time to get up to speed on what technology to use and how to implement it.
With hundreds of blog articles and her entire business running through the platform, Erin needed a high level of expertise to make sure the rebuild went off without a hitch.
Furthermore, she was hoping for guidance on how to proceed strategically with her business, so that she could make sure she was getting the most out of her platform and the opportunities she had.
Erin hired me to lead the website rebuild efforts in 2012.
We wanted to get it done quickly, but it also had to be done with care. We couldn’t afford to lose any content, break any links, or damage her website’s status in the search engines, which were a big source of traffic.
(But on the subject of search engines, we wanted to make sure the design would perform vastly better, too!)
Choosing the right technology
Getting this part right before we started coding anything was essential. It was going to be the backbone of everything.
We knew we had a big migration from a combination of raw HTML and WordPress content ahead of us. The raw HTML pages used a different link structure from WordPress, which meant we had to switch the links to the new, consistent format while making sure to redirect all the old links.
Not only did we need to be able to do this migration smoothly, but we wanted to ensure as best we could that the technology we chose wouldn’t require another serious migration in the foreseeable future. One big migration would be enough, we hoped.
First, it became clear that WordPress was by far the best option for the entire platform. Thus we would have all the content running on it: the articles like before, and also all the other pages, including those for her services, podcasts, products, training, and so on.
At that time, we settled on the Headway framework for building the new design. One of the most popular frameworks of its day, it made it easy to build out a custom theme that looked good, did its job, and helped rank well in the search engines.
Erin would keep using her other solutions for managing the email newsletter and processing customer payments for products and services. They were doing their job.
Laying out the new design
We wanted something that looked more modern and clean, while being easier to navigate.
One key benefit of WordPress we wanted to take full advantage of was linking content together so that it would be easy for readers and search engines to find.
Erin had around 600 blog articles that generally fit together well. She knew what topics her readers were interested in and she had a variety of highly useful articles written about specific subjects. We came up with ways to put those pieces of content together into “buckets” that were easy for people to find and browse.
Site analytics illustrated how people would find one interesting article in a subject, read it, and go on to read many of the others, staying on the site for quite some time. Those people were highly likely to join the newsletter and to consider purchasing Erin’s services or products.
When it came to the individual articles, we had similar ideas in mind. We wanted to make sure people who read all the way through an article knew what things they could do next. We did that by keeping a robust sidebar full of useful links, as well as leaving a box at the end of each blog post where people could join the newsletter.
Speaking of the newsletter, we did a couple new things with the goal of getting more people to subscribe for the free emails.
- We put email newsletter sign-up boxes in highly visible places: on the front page, below each article, on the sidebar, and elsewhere.
- We started giving away an audio meditation and a PDF guidebook to everyone who signed up.
As for the site migration, we handled it with care, and the launch went off without any problems.
An ongoing strategy for success
Our work together didn’t stop with the launch of the new design. Far from it.
We continued working together on business strategy and online marketing with the goals of building traffic, getting more email subscribers, and selling more products and services.
For instance, Erin wrote a new book about astral projection. As it approached publication, we wanted to maximize her reach in the search engines around this topic.
Building on an idea I learned from one of my mentors, I put together a “resource page” featuring Erin’s best articles about astral projections, with some introductory copy and brief descriptions of the blog posts, which links to each.
The basic idea is that it gives readers an easy experience of finding helpful content about the thing they’re interested in. In the meantime, this kind of page performs well in the search engines because they recognize it to be a rich source of information.
We gave the resource page a prominent, keyword-friendly URL and linked to it from the sidebar that appeared on all the pages and articles. That way, search engines such as Google could see this page as a terrific entry point for people in search of content about astral projection.
From here, we could share more information with highly targeted readers about Erin’s new book on the subject.
Our working relationship brought tremendous results for Erin.
After the site migration, newsletter signups jumped up by a factor of three, thanks in large part to the new process we set up for promoting the newsletter.
Traffic continued to increase in a big way, reaching more than 1.1 million visitors in 2013, the first full year with the new design. Within three years, traffic had grown by another 68%.
The traffic growth and newsletter conversion improvement have led to significant revenue increases for her business.
In addition to this systemic growth, special, targeted projects we worked on yielded significant results.
The astral projection resource page exploded to the top of Google, bringing in a huge amount of targeted traffic who read her topical content. Many of them purchased Erin’s new book. This resource page continued to hold the top site on Google for years, until Wikipedia eventually supplanted it.
On another occasion, a blog article I suggested and consulted on directly translated to $2,500 in sales in the first 24 hours after its publication.
In 2015, we worked together on a small refresh of the design that centered around reflecting a new direction for her business.
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