Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

At the mercy of the search engine gods

Screenshot of weekly visitor stats

Anyone who works in search engine optimisation (SEO) – the process of getting web sites to rank higher in search engine results pages – will know that you’re at the mercy of a largely opaque algorithm which decides how important each web site is. And it’s an algorithm that changes, so you have to keep up and ensure that your web sites change with it.

I’m not big on SEO when it comes to this blog. I use the WordPress SEO plugin for help with writing blog posts in a way that will help them rank better on search engines, but not all of the time. Indeed, I probably won’t for this post – ironically, given that it’s about SEO. Conversely, Monday’s Netflix post was optimised prior to publishing to hopefully make it more visible.

Anyway, I posted a screenshot from my stats above because you’ll notice there’s been an upward trend in visitors to the site in recent weeks. This started at roughly the same time as a recent Google algorithm update, called Penguin 6. It appears that Google now thinks my site is more important, so my pages are ranking higher and more people are clicking through. This is good news for me – after all, I don’t write blog posts so that no-one will read them, but it’s also good from a financial perspective. The more people that visit my site, the more chance there is that people will click on the banner ads, or the affiliate links, and these help to off-set my hosting costs. Note that I haven’t made a profit from advertising on this site for several years now, but any money coming in is better than none.

In the golden days of blogging, which were around 10-12 years ago, the majority of people who clicked through to my blog were regular readers – many of them bloggers themselves. But nowadays most of my traffic is from people stumbling across old posts in search engines. So the ‘success’ of this site is primarily reliant on the mysterious ways of Google – referrals from there account for around 90% of my incoming traffic. Whilst I’m pleased that the Google gods are currently smiling on me, I’m aware that it only takes another algorithm change for everything to change again.

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