It's hard to believe that I'm coming up on five years here at Money Beagle. I remember when I first pitched the idea to my wife, we were sitting at the beach (it's nearby our house and at $25 for a seasonal pass, it was a great frugal value), and I pitched the idea of writing a money blog. She was enthusiastic and it was there that it was decided that I'd move ahead.
I've loved all of my five years of blogging, and I've learned so much, but one of the trends I'm seeing is that Google seems to be placing less and less value on blogging.
When I started blogging, I jumped right in and used WordPress, which is the most commonly used blogging platform. After a year, for a variety of reasons that I won't get into in this post, I actually switched to Blogger, which is owned by Google. Bloggers is considered a step back from WordPress, and with good reason: Google hasn't made any signficant updates in probably five years. They've made a few cosmetic features, but in terms of things like allowing detailed customization, allowing compatibility with external developers, mobile support, and a modern interface, there's been little to no progress.
It's pretty apparent that even though they spent a ton of money on Blogger, they really don't see the value of putting any type of significant investment.
One of the things that bloggers learn over time is that good content can get picked up by Google. I wrote a couple of articles over the years that actually ranked in the top five of pages for fairly significant search terms. This brought in some decent traffic to Money Beagle. Nothing that was going to put me on the map with any well known blogs, but enough to keep my traffic numbers pretty steady.
I added a few articles to this ‘Google likes me' list every now and then and traffic kept going up.
Until it didn't.
I noticed that I fell off the first page for items where I'd ranked in the top five, or fell to the bottom of the first page. Other bloggers noticed the same things.
Google rolls these things that they call Penguin and Panda in the name of algorithim changes that they claim are to provide better traffic, but I've noticed that for the searches where I used to appear higher, most of the ranked sites are commercial sites. I've also started paying more attention to sites that I do for my own personal use, and I've found that blogs simply don't show up as much as they used to.
A few months ago it was announced that Google was discontinuing their RSS reader, called Google Reader. Most blogs, news sites, and other sites where content is updated regularly, allow you to subscribe to an RSS feed, which the Reader program centralized, allowing users to keep track of hundreds or thousands of their favorite sites all in one browsing tab. I've used it for years, and I couldn't believe when I saw that they were discontinuing it. If you're reading this article on Google Reader, you have less than a week to find a different solution (for the record, I switched to ‘The Old Reader‘, which is another site that basically re-created the Google Reader interface of 12-18 months ago).
One of the things I read is that Google couldn't effectively monetize Reader. Obviously they want to make money with their products, but what I couldn't understand is why they couldn't just stop development and allow users to continue using it. The overhead was minimal, and I don't think it was creating much, if any of a net loss, so pulling the plug altogether made little sense, until I looked at my feeds.
And realized that over 90% of what I subscribe to are….blogs. The rest were deal of the day sites, some news sites, info from my library about new items, and a few other random tidbits, but most everything else was a blog.
It seems like Google is trying to push readers to read less blogs and more to commercial sites that they can partner with to make money, so if they have the opportunity to pull their own tool that made it easy to read blog content, well, why not?
Maybe I'm Paranoid
I don't know, maybe I'm paranoid about the whole thing. I participate in various forums and some bloggers have not seen a decrease in traffic. Some remain steady, and some are still seeing more and more search traffic come their way.
That's great and I'm truly happy for those bloggers, but the trend I notice is that for every person reporting that, there's maybe two reporting that they are untouched, and 3-5 reporting that their traffic is decreasing.
Meaning, that overall, blogs are getting less search traffic come their way.
I also realize that I'm looking primarily in my niche, which is personal finance. Though there are a lot of finance bloggers who also blog in other niches (cooking, travel, etc.) and I've seen some of those people report results that aren't all that encouraging.
If It's True
I really hope it's not true. Google is the powerhouse of search engines. They get 80-90% of the world's searches, so when they make a change, it pretty much changes your traffic, even if competing search engines don't make a change.
I would hope that it's not true because, by cutting down the number of blogs that appear high in search rankings (and let's face it, the majority of clicks come from the search results in the first page, and probably high up on the first page), you're eliminating the personal voice that bloggers bring to the table that aren't found as much in corporate driven sites.
While I guess Google shareholders might be happy with the results, if Google really is lessining their value on blogs, I think it's a big step back for the internet and for the digital age.
I'm going to keep blogging because I love to blog, I love my readers, and it's still fun for me to do (when it stops being fun is when I'll stop), but it feels like a little bit of a punch when you have a company that previously rewarded you for providing useful content coming out and effectively saying that it's no longer as useful.
Have you noticed information from blogs (either your own or others) slowly slipping down the search results window?