Digital Media Minute Vs Google–Who Won?

Digital Media Minute Traffic Decline
Digital Media Minute Traffic Decline

As painful as it was for me to see after putting so much time into this site, I’ll admit it has also been morbidly interesting to watch the death of traffic to in the last 3 1/2 years. You can see the basic idea in the screenshot, but suffice it to say that site has gone from 5000 unique visits on weekdays in 2010 to maybe 250 unique weekday visitors or sessions as they’re now called today. If my math is correct that’s a 95% drop.

Virtually all of this is a function of the site no longer ranking very well for thousands of longtail keywords that used to bring most of its traffic.

If memory serves me right the top few posts alone used to get 500 or 600 visits each day, but just as an article that ranked well for a low-traffic long-tail keyword now might be on the second or third page instead of the top of the first page, the articles that brought visitors via the high-volume keywords also slipped to the second page or much worse.

Naturally this entire dynamic is played out for many millions of websites, especially since April 2012 when the first Penguin algorithm update hit.

For Digital Media Minute it was a slow-motion train wreck which actually began before the first Penguin update, as you can see from the screenshot. As the traffic fell I tried several things, the most time-consuming of which was to add content to every single one of the 2,800 posts on this site. I did this in November-December of 2011.

Many of the posts were ‘thin’, which meant simply that they didn’t have very much content on them, so I assumed and hoped this (rather straightforward) fact might impact the entire site. It makes sense that Google would have a problem especially with thin pages with AdSense on them. I feared that there were so many thin posts that even the quality content on the site no longer ranked well for its keywords.

By the way, I’ve never believed that advertisers would necessarily have a problem thin content; in theory having just a sentence or two might cause a user to click on an ad faster to get his question answered. Certainly we have all seen (and continue to see!) pages all over the web plastered with advertisements and very little of anything that could be conceived of as substantial content. Still, I don’t doubt that over time Google would like to avoid pointing ad impressions at poor quality pages, and I think it’s unreasonable to hope that they wouldn’t penalize thin pages in their search engine results pages eventually.

At any rate I assume this was part of the reason why this particular site got hit– many pages were just a sentence or two worth of content-so I arbitrarily decided to make sure that every single post on the site would contain at least 100 words. Obviously many of them had a lot more than 100 words but for the ones that weren’t I needed to find some semi-happy medium between how much time job would take me and the potential for improvement on the site. With the best of intentions the previous owner of the site (from whom I purchased it) had simply put often brief tips related to programming or a hundred other tech-oriented subjects on site, often just a sentence with a link pointing to something he found interesting.

Eventually as we all know now, content of the sort no longer ranks well, usually.

To emphasize again, even though many of the articles were hundreds of words, the entire site was hit; even the longer articles were suddenly not ranking well for the keywords that brought visitors. (My memory is that approximately 85% of traffic to the site in its glory days was from Google.)

Anyway, I took a couple of weeks to get every single article over 100 words. I decided not to outsource because I didn’t want to risk a language-quality penalty after doing all that work. Frankly it took less time to do it myself than it might’ve if I had outsourced and then edited the outsourced content. As you can see from the chart there was never an upswing in traffic, even after I was done with this job.

In fact, just the opposite happened as April 2012 was the start of the final decline.

I added at least one new post to this site every single day since I purchased it in late 2008. By 2012 I was no longer doing this, as it didn’t seem worthwhile. I was surprised that between the longer posts (admittedly not that long!) and my posting every day that the site was clearly very unloved by Google.

I suppose I’m simply giving this account so that anyone who still visits the site understands why my posting has been virtually nonexistent for years now. From time to time I think about arbitrarily putting one post per day of a few hundred to several hundred words of decent content, maybe for a month or so just to see what happens. I’m not expecting anything, but maybe this is the start of that. Everything I know about SEO tells me that with all the tens of thousands of backlinks as well as the age site, etc. that the site might still have some value.

At any rate, I’ll bet there will be some surprised bots whenever they next show up on the site. Any bets on how long it takes for this post to get indexed, or how many visitors it gets?