Note: this article will be of little interest to most, if not all, readers. Unless you’re into hearing someone complain about how changes to a search algorithm ruined their life, it’s best that you just hit the like button and move on.
For those who decide to continue reading, you’ve been warned.
In late September of this year, Google made some changes to its search algorithm, something it apparently does on a fairly routine basis. I’ve never been aware of these changes until the most recent one, and only because it appears that the changes have had a somewhat significant, negative impact on my little blog.
Here is a table I created that shows my total daily views and how many of those views came from a search engine, from August 27 to September 26, and then compares those numbers to what they look like a month later, once the search engine changes took place.
|date||total views||referred from search engine||date||total views||referred from search engine|
A couple of items to highlight:
- I don’t know what happened on September 5, but it was one of the greatest days of my life, so of course, I wrote a blog about it. Whatever it was, the effect lasted a few days, and then things returned to normal.
- My average daily views, before the Google search engine change (and not including September 5 since it was clearly an outlier), were 427, with 262 of those views, on average, coming from a search engine. After the change, my average daily views dropped to 250, with 130 of those views, on average, coming from a search engine. That’s about a 40% drop in daily views and a 50% drop in search engine results.
- Prior to the search engine change, it was a rare day in the past several months that my average daily views dropped below 300. And it had been well over a year since I ever had less than 200 views on a given day. After the change, I only had four days out of the 31 days shown where I had more than 300 views, and even worse, I had five days where my views were below 200.
- The number of page views that came from search engines was only below 200 one day before the changes; after the change, the number was never above 200
- (Are you still reading? Like I told you, this post is not for everyone. If a Google engineer came across it, he’d probably get a good laugh out of it.)
- And all this has happened despite the fact the number of views I’ve been getting for my new posts each day has actually increased significantly over this time, along with the number of likes and comments I’ve been getting each day. So I guess this post is not all complaints.
So when I look at all these numbers, something obviously happened to my little blog, on or around September 26. (Which just so happens to be my wedding anniversary, but I’m sure (well 99.9% sure) there’s no connection.)
I’ve been writing my blog every day for nearly five years (it will be five years on December 31), and during those five years, I’ve experienced growth each year in the total number of views for the year, as shown below:
- 2015: 18,517 annual views
- 2016: 22,899
- 2017: 32,468
- 2018: 61,172
- 2019: 109,791 as of today; projected to be about 125,000
When I looked at those numbers a month ago, I started projecting that in about three years I’d be getting a million views per year, and 2,00,000 views in four years.
Which basically means $kaching$.
At that point, advertisers would be knocking down my virtual door to put ads on my site, and I’d be jet-setting around the world, setting up a charitable foundation, and appearing on Ellen and all the late-night talk shows talking about how I did it.
But alas, it looks like I may have to put those plans on hold, or even worse, start looking for a Plan B.
Now Google did provide some guidance as to what webmasters can do to improve their search engine results. The guidance came in the form of a set of questions that webmasters can focus on to maximize their search results:
- Does the content provide useful and trustworthy information to the user?
- Does this content provide the same information as the other blogs present in the niche or it adds some additional value to the user’s knowledge?
- Does this content provide some useful statistics to support your argument?
- Is this sort of content a person may feel sharing it with friends/coworkers?
- Is your headline/meta-tags descriptive?
- Does this content avoid being unnecessarily shocking?
- Is this sort of content people might use as a reference?
- Does this content make the user feel that the publisher is authentic and expert in the niche?
- Would you feel comfortable referring to the content as a source of information in the decision-making process?
- Is the content free from grammatical and factual errors?
- Was the content produced well or displays some hurried creation?
- Are there too many ads on the content distracting the reader from the main content?
When I looked at the questions, I started to realize what the problem might be.
I didn’t get into blogging to provide useful, trustworthy content, or to worry about grammar and facts, or to check if my meta-tags were descriptive (what’s a meta-tag anyway?). I got into this so I could retire early and just spend a couple of hours a day writing some blather about whatever struck my fancy at that moment, and then spend the rest of the day reading on the beach.
It seems that if I want to increase my views, I have to get serious about my blog and stop writing about nonsense. The problem is, if I did that, instead of having a daily blog, I’d have an annual blog, at best.
So my plan is to just hope that Google’s next quarterly update magically fixes my problem, and I’ll be back on track for reading on the beach.
By the way, I also came across an article in late October about BERT, formally known as “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.”
BERT is the new sequence of code that Google engineers implemented sometime in late September, claiming that the new code harnesses advanced machine learning and mathematical modeling to produce better answers for complex search entries that often confound its current algorithm.
Google claims that the changes are among the largest improvements to search in half a decade.
I’m not sure if this is related to the search changes noted above, or if perhaps they are one and the same set of changes.
Either way, Google engineers have caused me an enormous amount of harm and humiliation.
The thrill I used to get from constantly checking my stats throughout the day is gone.
But for some reason, I still can’t stop checking…
P.S. High five to anyone that read this far…
*image from Search Engine Roundtable