The case of the disappearing web traffic

In general, the traffic on my blog has had a generally upwards trend since I started keeping track of such things in October 2008. There are a few ups and downs, and a couple of specific spikes which I was able to explain.

However, starting in December 2010 there was a huge dip in traffic, after which it has gone continually down. Last month I had less traffic than I have ever had since January 2009, when I started blogging every day. This month will be lower yet.

Anecdotally, despite the statistics, it seemed like roughly the same number of people were reading. I had about the same numbers of comments, and the same number of people sighing and saying “I read it on your blog!” when I launch into a story.

I should specify that I don’t do this for the traffic, per say. But as a blogger, you can’t help but look at the statistics and say, “What did I do to drive them away? What am I doing wrong?”

Sara has been listening to me complain about this for months, but then she finally gave me the clue that I needed to figure it out:

“Are you getting as many random searches as you used to get?”

As a matter of fact, I had noticed that I had not. I usually keep a running list of funny searches people used to get to my blog, and I hadn’t had anything to add to that in months. But I had never connected that to the decrease in traffic before.

Once I figured that out, I connected the dots and realized that I had moved to shanehalbach.com in mid-November 2010, right before the big traffic drop in December. I don’t know how that never occurred to me before, but it made perfect sense: my web-rank went down.

Not to be too technical, but search engines have sophisticated algorithms to decide which search results are most likely what their searches are looking for. Websites that have a high “web-rank” are returned at the top of search results. Spam websites, or new websites with no authority or popularity are ranked lower, since it is less likely that someone searching for something is actually looking for them. So in a sense, the rich truly get richer; the more traffic you get and the more people link to your website, the higher you return in the search results, so the more likely random people are to find your website.

By moving to a new domain, I was basically starting over again at 0.

Anybody who had previously linked to my site was now linked to my old site. And because wordpress.com is a well known, well reputed site who tries to keep out spammers, etc. I was previously benefiting from being associated with them (this was part of my confusion, since I’m still technically a part of wordpress.com, but apparently the search engines don’t see it that way). I also lost other traffic that was previously driven to me from inside of the wordpress network. From what I’ve seen online, this is all supposed to come back in a month or two after moving your site thanks to special web redirects that wordpress puts in place, but that obviously didn’t work for me. And I never would have guessed that so much of my traffic was due to my wordpress.com URL.

So the question is, knowing what I know now, was the move worth it?

I still think so. While I’m disappointed with less traffic, I’m not nearly as disappointed as I was when I thought that people were just getting disgusted with my blog and stopped reading it. I can’t really feel too bad that people searching for “clocks” don’t land my blog anymore. And obviously I don’t just do it for the traffic, since I would be (and was) blogging anyway, even if nobody is reading.

So if switching is going to take you down to 0, you might as well do it sooner, rather than later. This site is probably not destined to achieve much web rank anyway, since it is pretty random and not devoted to any single topic. In other words, it is relatively unlikely that someone who doesn’t know me would be interested in reading it.

So that’s it. Thanks for not abandoning me, even if I thought you had!

3 thoughts on “The case of the disappearing web traffic

  1. I think your rank is also based on activity. I threw a few posts up back in like 2007 and let it lie until last year when I started posting more. I’ve noticed more traffic and random searches since I started becoming more active.

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  2. does it matter that I no longer search for your blog, as I have the url saved as a “favorite”. Anyone that knows you can easily type in shanehalbach.com where before I used to google “is this thing on” and find it through there

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  3. Pingback: Google Searches IV « Is this thing on?

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