Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Organic Search Drops Over 10 years

We have had the current website for over 15 years and have had joy and pain with organic search results. This will be a few thoughts on all this from what I can uncover and what seems to be basic trends.

10 years ago Organic Search results meant we did OK doing Freelance illustration just onLine from our website. Customers could find us, and kept us busy enough.  It was all very encouraging that this online world helped guys like me.  We had Google ads and they helped pay our hosting fees. All was good.

Then 9 years ago Google rebooted their database after some design change. That is that BIG dip in the above graph on the left.   We dropped off  the planet and our site was only displayed on the 3rd or so page. We hadn't changed anything and we just have what Google always recommended you do. Content with the keywords and phrases people would search for.  Customer numbers contacting us really dropped.

It proved to me then that I couldn't rely on Google or the Internet to "do the right thing" for people with Illustrator sites like ours, which mostly has samples of our work with text describing it, or articles describing how we do what we do.  Mostly meant we had to that traditional "other job", or "other jobs" as well.

At the time we determined there wasn't anything we were doing, or could do to fix our lack of find-ability.  But after 9 months, it jumped back to close to what it was before. This was good, but meant we didn't always have time to do the jobs customers wanted because of those "other job" commitments we had taken on, and needed for financial stability.

Since that time Google made many random changes that contributed to that download slope, and there is nothing you can do about them, but not be reliant on Google.  One that lasted some time was other sites effectively displayed our images and gallerias via exploiting something in Google Image search. Watermarking all our images with our URL helped a little, but not being able to click the image and go to our site had a surprising large impact at the time.

About this time, Facebook become popular, and my theory (backed up with research from others findings I must add) is that many people stopped using Google search to do something useful and just filled in time watching their Facebook time line instead, and posted photos of their lunch to it.

Many people now pretty much just use Facebook, and don't have any other email or messaging. Facebook is also a great time waster. That infinitely scrolling page is designed to keep you looking for something interesting even when there isn't anything and exploits the "fear of missing out".   Stopping myself from doing that is really hard to do, as it is designed to be addictive.

At the same time, Google decided to prefer sites local to the searching customers location. So being in Australia really hurts us in that, even if the way we work means our location is irrelevant.  We do everything with email.  In reality we have only ever had customers from America, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

We went to Facebook too, but it didn't take long for Facebook to lock out the rest of the Internet, and stop showing your posts to your followers.  Facebook only shows something you post to 1% of your followers  (without paying to BOOST it) , and they may not see it anyway in the scrolling time line anyway. Indications are that any link to an outside website is shown to even less.

Even the way things are now, our website has been far better at getting customers than ANYTHING on Facebook or Twitter we have ever tried.   I just don't believe anything I hear now about Social Media benefits. It is good for celebrities, but not me.  Have heard that an artist with 6,000 followers on Twitter had only 1 customer from Twitter.  Have equally found Facebook Likes to be worthless.
Our YouTube channel has some 170+ subscribers, but have only every had spam comments, so those things aren't working the way you would expect either.

I can be found easily on Google with normal search for "car caricature logo"  or something like that and probably at the top of the first page at the moment in 2019. BUT, You will see that current levels of site visits are about what they were during the big drop 9 years ago.  And this isn't just me, but a general trend for websites like ours from everything I have found.

But if I look at my sites "how did they find us data"  in Analytics, it comes out like this:

56% was Organic Search and 25% was Social Media for this interval. Not sure how that fits into everything else.

I have seen that YouTubers have found that Google changing the recommending algorithm has punished longer detailed content and favours "click bait" published often.  They are also doing the same as Facebook, such that a subscription to a channel does not mean you will actually be informed of new uploads. I assume these same attitudes  have been implemented in standard search and recommendation in the results and so punishes long lived , consistent but only slowly updated content websites, such as our art samples pages.  Makes the web a more trivial place.

It has meant that Google Adverts aren't worth the effort and website clutter, and I removed most of them, and replaced them with  links to my own eBook, T-Shirts and Mugs.  Seen others also say they have done this too, years after I did it.

I get contacted by SEO companies wanting to redesign my website (that I code myself ) 5 times a week, so it isn't that I cannot be found. People just aren't searching, they don't like my Art style, or they find some one else local to them instead, rather than me.

This all just reflects a change in the use of the Internet, and it will only get worse if Internet Neutrality is lost.  Not relying on just the Internet seems to be the safest thing to keep those customers coming and coming back.

Blogs like this also get far few accesses these days.  So when will Google pull the plug on Blogger I wonder?   My analytics show these posts are mainly accessed by Internet Bots and not people anyway. Post a link on Twitter and 9 bots access it in 800 milliseconds!

Love to hear your thoughts on this.  I can be contacted at ArtAndTechnology

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