I'm a bit of a stats junky. I know I shouldn't watch them too closely but I like to keep an eye on the numbers for my blogs. So when my page views, here on Binary Moon, plummeted recently - I had to find out why and fix the problem as quickly as I could.
For Binary Moon in particular I like to keep a close eye on the numbers. Over the last year the traffic has been increasingly steadily - I recently had my biggest month - with over 179,745 page views. That's a big number and I was understandably really pleased that my site is doing so well.
Because I constantly check the statistics - I know where people are coming from, what is most popular, and all the other things a good blog owner should know - which is why I was so surprised to see the change I did. It took me about 15 minutes of hunting through Google Analytics to work out what had happened.
It turned out some of my image attachment pages - which do really well on Google image search - had been removed from the Google search results.
Hmmm - not great.
Once I realised where the crisis had originated I was able to go into fire fighting mode and fix the issue, and now my rankings are starting to head upwards again. It turned out the problem had happened because I had read a 'tutorial' about the WordPress SEO (by Yoast) plugin and how best to optimise it. In following the tutorial I ended up delisting some of my content.
In working to fix this problem I learnt 3 things:
Lesson 1: Don't Blindly Follow Online Tutorials
This first lesson should probably be subtitled - 'especially if they involve SEO'.
I don't consider myself an expert at SEO, but I like to think I know more than your average developer - and so I feel a bit daft for making the changes I did. I was following a tutorial about the WordPress SEO plugin telling me how to 'optimise the settings' - and I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing.
In hindsight I probably should have ignored the tutorial entirely since I hardly changed anything anyway. The only elements I did change delisted some of my better performing content!
Lesson 2: Diversify, Don't Rely on a Single Service
I've not really considered where my traffic comes from before - I know which referrers are most popular, but that's about it. I get a lot of traffic from Google and Google image search - so what happens if I get hit by a Google search algorithm update that penalises my site for some reason? I've not knowingly done anything wrong, but that doesn't mean Google won't lower my rankings in the future.
It's something to ponder for sure, and I am going to think about it more in the coming year.
One quick thing I have done is add some Pinterest buttons on the image attachment pages. Perhaps that will encourage people to Pin my stuff a little more often. This is a small change but it is a first step in increasing the diversification of my visitor referral sources.
Lesson 3: Patience
Once I found the problem I fixed it quite quickly. And waited. And waited. The images were delisted about 3 weeks ago now, and it's only in the last few days that my website page views have been getting back to their old numbers. I was tempted to keep changing things, tweaking and improving, but if I had done that without waiting then I might have made things worse, or I might have broken something else and not realised.
Bonus Lesson: Don't Panic!
This whole thing was a bit of a worry. I know it's all vanity and the people who visit these images don't really interact or add to the website in any way - but it's important to me. By staying relatively calm, and approaching the problem in a methodical way - I was able to fix the issue and get things back to normal.
Tightrope crisis image from Shutterstock