Does Google See Value In Bloggers?

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlatform

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.

Results

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.

Google Reader

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?

31 thoughts on “Does Google See Value In Bloggers?”

  1. I’m too small to really notice anything, but I hope it isn’t true for all of my blogger friends!

  2. This just brings up the point of traffic diversification. If we, as bloggers, rely on only one traffic method, then we are at the mercy of that one provider. All of us are getting traffic from Google, so we have to think of other ways to get traffic.

    My site took a hit with this last update and I still can’t figure out what they didn’t like. It would be nice if you could be told, but there just really isn’t much insight.

    • I think many of the changes take place now through algorithms, and they’ll never make those public since that would just invite people to game the system. Unfortunately, we may never know the ‘exact’ issue.

  3. Being a new blogger, I have barely considered where my traffic comes from, little that it is. Where else would you get traffic from if not the search engines? I’m sure people visit some site regularly, but how would you grow if not via search? Perhaps this is an opportunity for Bing to focus and grow their search?

    • Search and direct referrals from other sites are generally your two biggest growth opportunities.

  4. When you say that traffic is decreasing- are you talking about SE or referral/ direct. I find that the niche is saturated with sites and if you don’t produce content, people wont come back often.

    • My referral and direct traffic has remained relatively constant, but my search traffic has gone down dramatically, and since search used to make up 70% of my traffic, that’s made my overall traffic decline noticeably.

  5. Google does not care about bloggers and it is apparent every time they make a change. They do not want the blogging community to get too powerful because it may ultimately impact their brand (Google). I don’t blame them because they have so much more invested than I do.

  6. It definitely seems that Google is moving blogs down in the search results. Blogs don’t make them as much money as commercial sites so it isn’t surprising that Google ranks blogs lower.

  7. Google could care less about any one but G. Dealing with Digital marketing and SEO all day I see it. You don’t depend on google for your traffic. Google needs good search results but in the end they will find a way to make money off of it. Some results that are being shown will be information from sites but you still stay within Google to see/read it. While it really helps if you get traffic from Google you need to make sure that your Brand is whats the driving force behind your site. If someone types in Money Beagle they have to show up what majority people are looking for. Twitter, FB, other blogs, Web 2.0 platforms are all great ways to diversify traffic. I like google for the ability to search and find but 1st page today gone tomorrow is how I see it. What is okay today may just may be bad or gone tomorrow. Great content and multiple traffic streams is the way to go. And build a list!

  8. I hope this isn’t a continuing trend, but it might be. Companies exist to make a profit, and though Google owns the internet, they need to make it profitable more and more each year so shareholders stay happy. But you know, the internet is pretty wild, and people don’t put up with corporate controlling crap for very long. If they turn for the worse, rebellion will happen, and blogs or some other platform will explode. It’s the nature of the web.

  9. Oh I don’t think Google cares about blogs at all. I hate the monopoly that Google has over then entire internet, drives me crazy and isn’t fair.

    • But they did it fairly. I remember back when I used Yahoo for everything and never even had heard of Google. I thought it was weird, but obviously they got it right where others let them go by.

    • Honestly since so little of my traffic comes from them, I haven’t spent too much time looking at those two sites

  10. Thanks for the info on this. For someone who is thinking about adding a Blog to their existing offering, it pays to dig a little deeper out here.

    In a prior life I ran social media programs for a Fortune 100. In dealing with 500+ clients over my time there, I can say that the “creep” I noticed with Panda and Penguin has been steadily increasing. This never made sense to me, as I thought pageviews with relevant content were the name of the game.

    That being said, one thing I can add is that its 10x as hard these days to come up with a topic that is unique and timely. Rehash statements of old topics beaten to death actually hurts your ranking in the long run. I think Twitter is headed in this direction as well.

    I was speaking with a syndicated columnist yesterday, and she mentioned to me that even with her 9/10 times what she pitches to the editor gets canned. More of her time has been developing a niche around specific topics like “Financial Planning for Gen Y” and that at least has helped as it is a very limited area.

  11. As much as you are laughing it off Mr. Money Beagle, maybe we are actually running out of things to say 🙂 Nah, I believe creativity aint seen its peak yet. That said, its rather pertubing coming to this realization, as someone has aptly put it somewhere in the comments, as bloggers we should start diversifying our traffic sources and finding creative ways of attracting traffic because increasingly it will be hard relying only on Google.

    • I agree, I think we have lots more to say. I just hope that there are people to read it, which I’m not sure will be the case if Google has their way.

  12. I’m not sure that Google would particularly differentiate between a blog and a non-blog as… how would they truly decide which is which and determine that inside of an algorithm… perhaps they can or do but I don’t see why they would… I’m of the opinion, assumption and observation that they seem to just put all content against all content; I think the key factors, in fact THEE key factor (which they openly admit) is relevancy.

    Regardless of whether you have a static niche site, something like Wikipedia which can be routinely changed, and is, or a blog which posts a regular stream of conscious content… they’re always trying to serve the searcher the more relevant information – and actually, I actually see bloggers routinely claim the top few spots for ‘how to’ and very common quests for knowledge that I go on myself, so from what I can see, there doesn’t seem to be any devaluation or judgement against blogs and like I say, I’m not sure how they would even have a way of automatically determining what is a blog… I mean they could check to see if a site is WordPress but I seriously doubt they’d put any kind of sanction against a them, that’s verging on libelous considering Google are a public company…

    Google certainly have been putting more emphasis on social discussion and interaction to serve as factors and indications of relevancy in regards to sites, comments and articles… so I mean, from that perspective, I would think an active blog would actually have an advantage over static content due to the inherently social nature of blogs.

    • As you pointed out, they could easily determine the platform during their crawls. While I don’t necessarily think they penalize a site for being on WordPress, I do think that if you have a blog vs. a commercial site, especially one that Google does business with, that the blog comes out lower in the rankings more often than not. There’s nothing libelous about that, it’s just their algorithms which they have the right to tweak as they please. I just think it’s becoming apparent that they’re tweaking them in ways that are not favorable to bloggers.

  13. Congrats on the 5th anniversary!

    I just crossed my 3rd year in blogging, I have seen a tons of ups and downs (I am talking from 150k pv a month to 10 pv a month within the span of 2 months). First time I was upset, had the why-me reaction and all sort of stuff. Then it is business as usual. Google is a business, so are the blogs. Blogs do a lot of things that Google doesn’t like (like gaming their search results) and Google does things that bloggers don’t like. In the end, everyone is looking after their own interest. We just have to understand no matter what, we are interdependent (if Google took away the organic search results, there won’t be a private ad market).

    As far the recent changes, Google is moving away from solely relying on their metrics – page rank and such which can be gamed, to putting more responsibility on the searcher – authority, +1s, etc. It really is a step in the right direction but it does put the burden on the content creator to make their content an authority. We can no longer just write good content and expect traffic, we have to reach out to general mass in whatever way (I still have not figured out how though) and make them “vote” for our content. Traffic will eventually return as we do our part and Google tweaks their algorithms to bring in blogs too. Just my 2c.

    • Interesting theory, though one could argue that if people can’t find the good content, it becomes even harder to get the social vote. Chicken and the egg I guess 🙂

  14. Well it depends on the blog. If you are premium adsense publisher like top bloggers then google is also eager for you as they want you to publish their adsense as you bring lot of traffic for their ads, if that is the case then why they would degrade blogs in search results. But you may be right in case of new blogs which may struggle. Having said that how can google differentiate the blogs is debatable but i guess its more about quality, authority and traffic your blog can drive which will determine your position in SERP. So you have to grow and build your blog to get into better position.

  15. Yeah, it kinda sucks but it does seem to be the case, I had a few highly ranked posts but they have dropped down. Search is key, Direct links and referrals are great, but you are never going to hit the real big time like that, you need to be the expert that google pulls up – which is unlikely to happen the way things are now…

  16. i have not analyzed the difference between blogger and commercial sites but when ever i search anything in google i find most of the sites are commercial……………may be you are true..

  17. If I was google, I think I would do the same thing. If you think about it, blogging platform is really social platform, kind of like facebook and twitter. If I’m in the network, I’ll probably come across your postings, but probably not in my google search. Maybe, that’s how google wants all blogs to be… just to stay within their little circle. But who know… just a thought.

    • I don’t know, I think bloggers offer a voice and thoughts concerning various topics, products and ideas. I see a lot of value in there which would make it worth keeping blogs ranked higher in certain cases.

  18. I’d go further – there has been a decline in the quality of search results over the last 5-10 years. It’s been a slow decline (and maybe it’s just the types of searches I’m making), but the most reliable results I usually find lately are on discussion boards and blogs. I’ve definitely noticed said forums (fora?) and blogs further down the rankings, too.

    I hope your theory is wrong – yes, some blogs are absolutely painful to read, but forums and blogs will often cover things in detail that mainstream sites wouldn’t touch.

    • I agree, though I have found that many forums contain both useful content and spammy/unuseful content. In that case, I see where Google would have a hard time separating that. But, many blogs have owners who keep their content high quality and keep the spam at bay. This would eliminate the problem I just described, but it seems Google has lumped blogs and forums in the same category, by and large.

  19. Interesting post. I’ve started blogging back in February. A few posts appears on the first pages of the site and that draws traffic. I’m finding the importance of creating more content that other places would want to republish and link to. That has brought significant traffic back to us.

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