Thanks, Google, for Crushing My Hopes and Dreams

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
27-Aug 370 200 27-Sep 303 168
28-Aug 435 261 28-Sep 297 142
29-Aug 369 233 29-Sep 299 139
30-Aug 369 247 30-Sep 258 135
31-Aug 359 224 1-Oct 226 153
1-Sep 442 288 2-Oct 263 175
2-Sep 386 229 3-Oct 376 150
3-Sep 374 231 4-Oct 325 126
4-Sep 399 251 5-Oct 221 110
5-Sep 5403 3888 6-Oct 276 107
6-Sep 850 535 7-Oct 257 131
7-Sep 532 278 8-Oct 273 123
8-Sep 510 296 9-Oct 245 122
9-Sep 502 323 10-Oct 245 132
10-Sep 443 283 11-Oct 217 114
11-Sep 417 271 12-Oct 187 120
12-Sep 441 291 13-Oct 240 138
13-Sep 465 244 14-Oct 242 147
14-Sep 381 235 15-Oct 260 153
15-Sep 364 199 16-Oct 296 160
16-Sep 491 323 17-Oct 229 158
17-Sep 482 333 18-Oct 318 143
18-Sep 368 300 19-Oct 183 103
19-Sep 507 303 20-Oct 194 104
20-Sep 433 223 21-Oct 222 117
21-Sep 527 267 22-Oct 209 123
22-Sep 438 265 23-Oct 205 106
23-Sep 482 264 24-Oct 280 111
24-Sep 389 270 25-Oct 240 137
25-Sep 374 246 26-Oct 176 98
26-Sep 339 208 27-Oct 175 92
averages 427 262 averages 250 130
with 9/5 601 387

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

34 thoughts on “Thanks, Google, for Crushing My Hopes and Dreams

  1. Here I am…*high five!* Actually, I found this really interesting, and would love to know the exactly what the Google engineers did which caused this, aside from the world being immersed in a crazy political scene that may render people less likely to google “blather.” Hmmm…

  2. If you’re already writing the posts anyway, could you not just adjust them to ‘add the additional value to appeal to google’s criteria’? Sorry if that’s a stupid question…

  3. *High Fives* Fortunately, Search Engine Optimization is among one of my interests. Algorithm changes regularly. It’s part of the game. While your site may have suffered a trip in this current change, (*Shakes fist at BERT*), you’ll get to your desired views and page impressions soon.

    Thanks to this article, by the way. It is helpful and has provided me with information, Google’s AI algorithm be damned. Hahaha…

    Anyway, I will be looking more into this change. Thanks again, and have a nice day.

    1. High five to you as well, Jomz. Glad you found the article helpful. If you find out anything useful about BERT, let me know! Meanwhile, I’ll just wait and see what happens in December…

    1. I still jump for joy when I hit 100 🙂
      A lot of my views are the result of one particular post I wrote about tire manufacturers; for some reason, it consistently gets at least 40 views per day, and the day my blog went wild, it had over 5,000 views…

  4. It looked to me like Google is placing a higher value on originators of content. So, if someone shares articles, they will be lower in search results than the originator. Sites that publish reviews also saw dramatic changes as well. There were comments about blogs being hit as well as the financial and health sectors. It appears that too many links could mean a loss in search results. Hopefully, things will settle out. As always, original quality content is key.

  5. Thanks for you insights, Maggie. I always make a point to cite where I get my information from, maybe that’s the academic in me. But if I stopped doing that, would Google view my content as original? That doesn’t seem fair to the original source…

    I might be able to handle doing more original posts, but more quality, that sounds a little harder 🙂

  6. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now and don’t worry about my stats. But, I had a big dip when an advert was placed within my posts. As soon as I removed it, my daily hits went up. So, advertising is not all its cut out to be. And yes, I read to the end.

    1. Hi, Tandy. Thanks for that info about the advert, quite interesting that such a dip in views would happen as a result. And thanks for reading to the end. High five!

  7. I’m a bit of a math nerd, so I stuck with it to the bitter end.😎(Just kidding) It is interesting, but as you point out comments and feedback are more important than how many views you get. My analogy would be to picture a store showroom where 500 people walk by and take a quick peak at the item and keep walking. I’ll take the customer who cares enough to come inside and ask about the object.

    I’m impressed by your consistency each day, and I find most of your subjects interesting. So, I will continue to be the shopper who comes inside from time to time rather than the person who takes a cursory glance and keeps on walking.

  8. 🙂 Google is not the only search engine on the world wide web.

    People get extremely caught up in the affairs of Google when Bing and Yandex are around.

    Instead of putting all of your proverbial eggs in one basket, find out what it is that Bing and Yandex want from webmasters and bloggers.

      1. 🙂 Guess what, Cathy. I do not concern myself with stats either.

        Once you are writing the type of material that you love and you put people first, all should be well.

        Also, my blog is not monetized.

    1. Thanks, Renard. I really don’t do anything with regards to trying to optimize my site for any search engine. I just write my post and hit publish. Well over 90% of my search engine results come from Google, and plus it’s fun to pick on Google. By the way, I’ve never heard of Yandex…

  9. To be honest, I don’t look at my stats much. I might glimpse that bar chart when I click on my dashboard bookmark, but I don’t examine it. I knew when i started I was going to take it slowly and find my way as I went. I’m no expert in anything and I don’t have time to post often or to interact daily with numerous blogs to let them know I’m here.
    But I do enjoy writing and picking over my emails to decide which to follow further, so I’ll settle for that for now. (Other than a quick plug when our writing group’s next anthology is published… soon!)
    That list from Google is helpful, but nothing I haven’t read elsewhere from the numerous gurus advising us in their own blogs

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I’m not sure why I look at my stats so often, perhaps it’s just the accounting side of me coming through. I also enjoy reading and commenting on a few other blogs. And as far as that list from Google, it seems to be mostly common sense, which may be why I’m having this issue 🙂

  10. High five to you Jim. You covered a lot of information about SEO that I just don’t understand, but I feel your pain. We don’t need any search engines Jim, you loyal readers know just where to find you and your delightful blather.

    1. Thanks, Brad, and a high five back to you. I don’t know much about SEO either, and don’t do anything to try and maximize my site for search. I just assume WordPress is doing that sort of stuff behind the scenes. I just write my blog and hit publish. And thanks, as always, for your kind words!

  11. High Five ✋🏾..I look at my stats ..never understand them, but find all of it just interesting. I am thankful to anyone who has read the blog, I wish I could reach more, but can’t play the SEO and Google games..

    1. Thanks, LaShawn, a high five back to you! I’m like you, I look at the numbers, but I’m not willing to invest the time to see what I can do to maximize my search results. I’m just happy posting something every day; if it gets some views, likes, and comments, then that’s just icing on the cake.

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