Does Your CMS Affect Your Traffic?

This site began on December 16, 2009 with an article on getting Windows Live Writer to recognize your Joomla! theme – as far as I know, it was the first article on the web describing how to do that because I’d searched and searched and couldn’t find any tutorial on how to do it. After figuring it out, I decided to share that knowledge.

I don’t do any advertising or marketing of this site, I rely on search engines to provide me with traffic.

I have always used what are termed “SEO friendly URLs” – i.e., my urls look something like http://complete-concrete-concise.com/friendly-url instead of http://complete-concrete-concise.com/article?id=0126334.

Originally, this site used Joomla! 1.5 as the CMS (Content Management System). I used Joomla! because I was familiar with it and use it on some other sites. After posting about a dozen articles, I was not not thrilled with the look of the site, nor the available functionality and I left the site fallow for about a year before deciding to change Joomla! for WordPress.

Since I only had a few articles, it was easy enough to manually copy and paste them into WordPress (mind you, it still took me 2 days to do that – fixing up image links, and updating their look). It is not something I would do with my other sites – I would look for some automated way to transfer articles and comments. To date, I have not seen any plugin for WordPress that will import my articles and comments from Joomla!.

The Joomla! powered site always received a constant trickle of traffic. As soon as I switched over to WordPress, the traffic increased significantly. This was unexpected because I expected a drop in traffic – all the URLs had changed (even if the content hadn’t), so all the pages indexed by search engines were no longer valid – but since my site was barely visible, I wasn’t concerned about breaking the URLs.

Below is a graph of the number of weekly visitors to my site, it starts from my first post and ends four weeks after my changeover. Click for a larger image:

To the left of the red line are the weekly visits when it was powered by Joomla! 1.5. The green shaded area is the period (it might even be one to two months longer) during which I wrote articles for the Joomla! powered version of the site. Starting at the red line are the site visits after switching to WordPress 3.1. The result is startling, on the week of the changeover (at the red line) the site visits are as they’ve always been. The following week it starts shooting up and continues to grow (and still continues growing).

The only difference between the two sites, aside from being Joomla! or WordPress, is that on the Joomla! version, I never allowed comments because I’ve never found a Joomla! comment module I liked. On the WordPress version I have allowed comments since day 1.

What are possible explanations for this sudden jump in traffic?

  1. I started writing articles again after switching to WordPress. But … I wrote articles before (see the green shaded area) and never saw any significant jump in site visits.
  2. Revamping the site caused search engines to see it as a lot of activity and started indexing it, again. But … the content hadn’t changed and all the old content disappeared – in terms of where it used to be. I should be penalized for breaking those links. Search engines are in the business of delivering indexed pages, if I frustrate their attempts, why should they reward me by sending me more visitors?
  3. The new articles I was writing were much more relevant (in terms of search keywords) than the older articles. But … the first newer articles were older Joomla! 1.5 articles updated to reflect Joomla! 1.6, so the content and keywords were pretty much the same.

This isn’t a sufficiently controlled experiment to show that a CMS can affect your ranking in search engines, however, it is interesting and suggestive.

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