Blogosphere

Google giveth and Google taketh away

My blog’s stats are essentially meaningless. I’ve said it several times to you that engagement with you is far and away the biggest joy of this blog for me. I love it that I put my thoughts and photographs out into the world and people like them enough to keep coming back.

Yet it bugs the tar out of me that my pageviews are way down this year.

If my average daily pageview rate holds this year, Down the Road will net about 216,000 visits by year’s end. In 2018 it was about 245,000 visits. 2017 was Down the Road’s best year ever at 288,000 visits.

I’ve written before that search is driving fewer and fewer visits to my site. In 2017 search brought 10,000 to 20,000 visits each month. Now it’s no more than 4,000 monthly

I think this is in part because many others have started blogging and YouTubing about film photography and the more crowded field has diluted my blog’s influence.

But I see now that I may also have shot myself in the foot in June of 2018 when I completed a large project to change this blog’s tagging scheme (announced here). Tags are little keywords that further describe the post. You can click any tag to see all of the other posts I’ve written that use that tag.

When I started this blog, an old friend who works in advertising gave me some search-engine optimization (SEO) advice. A key piece of his advice was to tag posts with good synonyms for the post’s main subjects so search would have an easier time finding them.

I was inconsistent and sloppy with it, and I wasn’t sure it was helping bring people here at all. Then I decided to add tags to my photography and road-trip posts to help organize that content by cameras, films, and places. Now when you click a tag for a camera, film, or place, you see every post I’ve ever made related to it.

Then I deleted scores of what I thought were useless synonym tags. The decline in search visits roughly correlates to the time I did that.

Correlation isn’t causation. I did that synonym-based tagging scheme from 2007 to 2018 and it wasn’t until 2015 that search started bringing people here in any real numbers. So I can’t say for sure that my tagging scheme had anything to do with my search-driven visits.

I blog to connect with people who share my esoteric interests. Some of you found my blog because you searched for something I wrote about, and you liked what you found here and kept coming back.

If search is bringing fewer people in, there are fewer chances for those connections.

Let’s say that search drove monthly visits in 2019 roughly equal to an average month in 2017. That would bring an extra 5,500 visits to my blog every month, or an extra 66,000 visits all year. That would make 2019 Down the Road’s most-visited year ever.

I blame Google in my title because you have to play their SEO game to rank well in search results. But it was my choice to stop playing the game.

Its time for another tagging project, one in which I restore the synonym tags. I can do it in a more organized manner this time.

I’m also going to read up on SEO. The game has changed a lot in the dozen years since my old friend advised me. There may be some simple changes I can make that will help bring search traffic back.

I have also just upgraded this site to WordPress.com Business to gain the SEO optimization tools and plugins available at that tier of service. It’s three times more expensive than the Premium plan I was on. But after this many years it’s clear that this blogging thing is not a passing fad in my life. The connections I’ve made through this blog are meaningful and enriching. I want to keep making new connections. One of the ways I can do that is to play Google’s game on its terms.

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