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Moving popular but non-commercial content off the main site?

 7:06 pm on Aug 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with this.

2 years ago I added a new section to our main site called 'methods of widgeting' - the logic was to educate my customers with great and useful information and encourage them to visit the commercial pages.

It has become the most popular part of this site, with about 80-85% of our uniques, mostly from G, and about 60% of our new links each month.

The problem is that these visitors don't wander into the commercial part - I've tried pretty much everything!

Even worse, our overall uniques is up around 45% over that time, but this popular section now dominates the traffic and I'm getting fewer visitors with commercial intent from G to my main commercial pages.

I need to focus on commercial intent visitors rather than information seekers, as there's little overlap it seems in my sector.

I'm considering moving this section off my main site over to my blog - does anyone have any experience with this?

I'll add 301s of course, but will I just hollow out what traffic I'm getting and leave the main site languishing?

Have you had a similar problem?



 8:01 pm on Aug 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Maybe you just need to work harder at making the commercial aspects of your site more appealing to information-seekers: e.g., by offering selection tools or other "value adds," and by promoting those useful features in your page margins.

We started doing this a while back on our information site (tools that encourage affiliate sales by solving a problem for the reader), and the strategy has been working well.


 8:08 pm on Aug 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'd be more inclined to think that the commercial pages are suffering despite your information pages, not because of them. You say those pages are attracting some (presumably editorial) links, which can only be helping the main site since the content is related.

I can imagine that those information pages are helpful to people who already have their widgets, and that's why you're not seeing the conversions you'd hoped to get. But I'd expect them to continue to build your site's overall strength. You can always keep trying to improve the conversions. But, if you move them off-site, I think you'll lose more than you would gain. There's no guarantee that those pages would perform nearly as well on another site.


 8:20 pm on Aug 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

"I'm considering moving this section off my main site over to my blog - does anyone have any experience with this?"

I am in something of a similar situation, and I am considering the same thing: moving them off site.

However, I am not convinced that the non-commercial pages are in any way "polluting" or harming the commercial pages.

In fact, I would be concerned that removing the non-commercial pages would cause more harm than good.

It would be best to try and eliminate all the possible reasons for declining visits to your commercial content FIRST before removing the non-commercial content.

Hope this helps.


 8:41 pm on Aug 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

EG, thanks for the input, success stories like that was what encouraged me to try it out.

That's what I thought a year ago - we've tried all those approaches, floating sidebars, mailing list sign ups, good CTAs, integrated global menus, in content links, lots of testing!

Rain you've brought up an interesting POV about the main pages - they convert well when we get visitors to them but I think it's difficult to get a good view of them when we have an elephant like this popular information section dominating the site. It's possible they're too 2010 SEO.

My theory is that G thinks our site is best for informational searches and so sending fewer commercial visitors. What do you think?

We're B2B services that's carried out offline for background. I thought the information would help us establish authority (it's more pre-sales information) but there seems to be very little overlap in the visitors - these visitors are not 'top of the funnel', they're not even in the funnel...

Planet that's what I'm afraid of!

Any other experiences of moving informational content off a commercial site?


 4:53 am on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

There's traffic (which we all desire!) and traffic that converts (which we all desire) and sometimes the balance gets out of whack. I'd do a little more testing for "call to action" inter-linking from the info side to the commercial side before I'd ever think of removing content that actually brings visitors to the site domain!


 9:31 am on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hi Tangor - that was my thinking a year ago and so I did a lot of testing to encourage conversions.

I even used exit intent lightboxes as well as the list of things above, and I have a tested and optimized CTA but the traffic is pretty much useless.

That's why I'm considering moving it over to the blog, focusing the main site more on commercial intent topics. But I don't know if that'll work well, if the traffic will return to the main pages.


 9:46 am on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Okay. Just want to ask if your are over thinking this. Some times less is more, ie. old school. What worked for Charles Dickens continues to work today. Be brave, do it simple. Serous. Step back a few googly-type nano-generations and go from there.

There's call to action giggly wise, and there's the ordinary. Might try that for a bit (3 months or so). We know the whizbang current trends ain't working. Try old school and see how that works. (and it is a treat, but you will have to test is yourself to be convinced)


 1:53 pm on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

The other thing is if you DO remove all the non-commercial information from your site and put it in a separate blog, google is still going to (eventually) know that information is yours and will associate it (in some way) with your commercial site.

In the end, you are going to need some people to link to the commercial pages on your site, and so you are going to have to figure out ways to get people to do that (which won't violate gooogle's terms of service).


I don't know if this is going to help you or not (or whether it is completely related or not) but here goes:

Back in 2012, my site (which has both an eccomerce commercial section and an information session) was getting the most traffic and sales ever,

In 2013 I was hit by Penguin and things dropped by about 50%

Earlier this year, I recovered during the Panda 4 update, and now traffic OVERALL is as high as it was during 2012.

But sales are down, and the lion's share of traffic is going to the non-commercial pages - and those visitors don't convert at all. The most popular page on my site is an article page and it has an ecommerce value of less than .01 cents :(

But I feel that the commercial pages are just a few good links away from getting increased traffic.

So we will see what happens.


 1:58 pm on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

One more thing: If you haven't done so, it is probably best to make it EASILY CLEAR exactly where visitors will go if they click on a link.

By that, I mean I would sometimes just have the phrase of one of our best selling links in the test and link it to the sales order page. Or somewhere I would have an image link to one of our most popular widgets. But there was no text explaining that clicking the link would take the visitor to a sales page.

My feeling now is that DIDN'T help with sales and may have possibly hurt rankings.

Anyway, now I still have some of the images of our most popular widgets on the non-commercial pages but I clearly label them so people will know exactly where they lead to (i.e., a sales page for the widget).

Less people click those links (and go to those sales pages) but the time on page and pages per session has improved for those people who do click through.


 3:19 pm on Aug 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Tangor I'm almost certainly over-thinking this :)

What do you mean exactly by old-school? If you mean in terms of SEO, it would be suicidal with G these days.

The new tools and marketing techniques have been great - they've saved my bacon actually. I've almost tripled the conversion rate on the commercial pages over the last 2 years with floating sidebars, good optimised CTAs, exit lightboxes, a newsletter, good copywriting, headlines and optimised forms, and I'd recommend to everyone here to try them out.

But that's barely kept pace with the decline in traffic to those pages versus the informational pages.

I'd love to hear more about your experiences with simplifying things (?) - which would favour culling back the information section, no?

Planet, the commercial vs informational imbalance sounds similar indeed.

Our link profile is clean so I don't think Penguin is a problem for us - in fact links is probably our weak area as we never did any real link building.

Our blog is reasonably established, just over a year old and in Spring for uniques it overtook our main site. Needless to say it's all really good, engaging and useful content and all organic links.

That's part of what makes me think the blog would be a better 'home' for this content, which also uses authorship, but I don't want it to damage the main site - which is my bread and butter - and what traffic it does get to the commercial pages.

So you can understand why I'm pretty averse to just testing and seeing.

Everyone's feedback and experience welcome!


 3:40 pm on Aug 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Tangor, I'd love to hear more about how you're paring your approach back.
And of course anyone else who's moved popular content.


 10:00 pm on Aug 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

I personally would not move something generating 80% of uniques and 60% of new links to a different location.
In some ways it is to be expected that a search engine would reward information users find helpful, but that isn't necessarily going to carry over to other sections of your site.
If you have a structure something like:



It might make sense to consider combining like:
site/red-widgets/methods-of widgeting
site/blue-widgets/methods-of widgeting

Your existing onsite navigation is something I'd leave alone except for possibly adding some things per other suggestions, users obviously find it useful. Altering the structure, along with a sitemap, might be enough to help search engines understand the connection between commercial and methods of widgeting for each individual widget.

It might not be applicable in your situation, but it's probably worth testing on a limited scale.


 7:05 am on Aug 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Tangor, I'd love to hear more about how you're paring your approach back.
And of course anyone else who's moved popular content.

Always the visitor first, any consideration for search engines is a distant third or fourth. What makes the user happy will make an SE happy. My approach? No games, and all spiffy bells and whistles are reduced to a minimum. And I disbelieve 112% (sic) of what G tells me in GWT (for example) Twenty-percent of "best practices and SEO tricks" are of value, the rest is smoke up my skirts.

I would NEVER remove ANY content which brings traffic to the site/domain, even if it is not an immediate target for commercial conversion. Rule One: Eyeballs on the site. Without that you have nothing. So, any popular page that gets them to example.com is the gateway... What needs be done from THAT PAGE (and each and every page that so qualifies as "popular" but which is not a sales page) is including obvious and reasonable links to the commercial side AS IT APPLIES.

No magic, just good marketing and good salesmanship to get the visitor to click through to the commerce side. That will only happen if they're ready in the first place. Aside: if your article is so complete they have no need to go further than you might want to redo that... that's the salesmanship thing. I believe it was P. T. Barnum who once said "Leave them wanting more." And that MORE should be your commerce pages. Tough balance to write the articles to make the SE love the info side, but the page is strong enough to lead to the commerce side. It can be done, and many accomplish this. I can't teach it (won't as a matter of fact) but the concept is sound, has been proven in business for at least a few hundred years, and not even g or the other SEs can change that. It's human nature. Find that balance to make the ka-ching ring. But for that to happen you FIRST have to have eyes on page.. and your articles are doing that already. Take the next step.

Truth be told, this works for me about 70% of the time (same situation as you). Thirty-percent are lookieloos with no intention of buying. Sigh. That 100% just seems destined to never happen. Until I took P. T. Barnum's philosophy to heart about 10 years back that conversion rate would have been closer to 35%.

While this is NOT web specific, it is a good example of what I do:



 6:22 pm on Sep 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

I wanted to update everyone on this.

As you probably figured I was starting to lose my patience, after a year of 'one more test', rethinking it through, and trying every way to get conversions from that content to budge.

So a few hours after my last post I moved the section to our blog and went on holiday for 2 weeks.

It's been almost 4 weeks so I can report the results for anyone else who's interested.

It's been positive overall - the content that I moved to the blog is even more popular than ever, with the UVs for that section up 80% above the already decent volume it was getting on the main site. This was pretty much straight away, with virtually no hiccups from the move (indicator of some sort of penalty?).

There's also been a slight halo effect on the rest of the blog content, which has seen the UVs up on the other articles by 5%, though most of this increase has been over the last week (August is the slowest month for us).

There's been no significant positive or negative movement on the main site - there was an decrease in time on site for a while but that's settled down again.

On the section that was moved the time on site is a bit lower (1m 47s vs 2m 6s previously) but I had expected worse considering the navigation on the blog is worse for this kind of content.

Conversions over to the main site from the blog are holding steady, but still not converting down the funnel, though subscriptions are up pro rata on the blog.

Back to work on getting more traffic to the main site (that converts!)


 4:13 pm on Sep 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just to confirm:

So a few hours after my last post I moved the section to our blog and went on holiday for 2 weeks.

The blog is on an entirely DIFFERENT DOMAIN, right?

Or is it on a subdomain on the same root domain?

Just realized that hadn't been specified above.


 4:33 pm on Sep 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

It's on blog.mymaindomain.tld


 1:31 am on Sep 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

A sub-domain usually removes that content from the front end visitor yet is still a part of the domain. Not sure how this would track if on a completely different tld... That said, some visitors prefer blogs over presentation pages and that might explain the numbers cited above.


 8:36 am on Sep 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Looking at the metrics as a whole it would seem the blog layout is not as good, ie time on page, av number of pages visited.
However, by the numbers of visitors G is sending and how quickly this changed after the move, they either think that visitors prefer blogs, or there is/was a dampening penalty on the main site, or something else...


 2:31 pm on Sep 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I did something similiar this year. I took all my dozens off articles and moved them to a blog on my main website, as a seed for the new blog. I kept the URL's the same, but within the linking structure of the blog. That cleaned up my main navigation significantly.

As I've noted before, I don't follow my traffic so close that I would notice small trends, but this move certainly didn't hurt me.

Frankly if visitors are coming, I've tried to convert them, then I'd probably just ignore them and continue on. There's no real cost to these visitors, and there still may be some secondary benefit like links from those visitors.

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