How I ruined my web optimization

2023-01-15 08:00:32

In October 2022 visitors to my weblog dropped like a stone. What occurred? By some means I ruined my web optimization. Do not be me. I am going to inform you what I received as much as and hopefully you possibly can keep away from doing the identical.

title image reading "How I ruined my SEO" with an image of a tire fire in the background

What I did on my holidays

Naturally I blame all of this on a vacation to the British seaside. I used to be away for every week, and while I used to be away I didn’t have entry to a laptop computer. That is intentional by the way in which; I spend an excessive amount of time on computer systems a method or one other. I pressure myself to disconnect on holidays. However while I did not have the power to program, I had the power to ponder.

I discovered myself happening a rabbit gap on web optimization. I might by no means actually thought of it beforehand, and I believed “what would occur if I made some tweaks?” My expectation was that I might barely enhance my web optimization. Most likely not by a lot, however I might be taught one thing and it would be enjoyable. What really occurred was that in October 2022 (after my fiddling), visitors from search engines like google and yahoo roughly dried up. Not fairly the plan.

screenshot of google analytics demonstrating traffic rapidly tailing off

Odds are, the was most likely due to my actions. I am unsure what I did mistaken, however I will share what I did and possibly you possibly can inform me the place I pulled the pin out of the hand grenade.

Frustratingly, the suggestions loop on web optimization is something however tight. You make a change, after which weeks (or months) later you see the outcomes. And by then you definitely’ve forgotten what you probably did. So I will try to doc what I did and what I feel I did mistaken.

By the way, I am hoping somebody will learn this and inform me what I did mistaken. I did one thing. I assume I did one thing. Include me and embrace your inside Sherlock. I will share proof and possibly you possibly can draw some conclusions.

So what did I rise up to? Within the time earlier than my visitors fell off a cliff I did every kind of issues. Let’s start.

Upgraded to Docusaurus 2.2

My weblog runs on Docusaurus. I upgraded from 2.1 to 2.2. I am unable to see why that might be a problem. I do not suppose it’s.

Added fontaine

I started using fontaine on my blog. If you have not tried it out, you can find it here. It helps scale back Cumulative Structure Shift. The flash of unstyled content material jank you could see whenever you first land on a web site, earlier than fonts have loaded. I am unable to see why that might be a problem. It ought to enhance my blogs Core Net Vitals and assist stuff rank higher, not worse. I feel this can be a pink herring.

Google Analytics – sharing my g-tag with the Docusaurus docs

This is the place I believe we could have a candidate. I did a silly factor. You might bear in mind that Google are sunsetting Google Analytics as was, in favour of Google Analytics 4. I used to be utilizing Google Analytics to trace my weblog visitors and thought “oh effectively I finest migrate then”.

Migration concerned utilizing in a brand new plugin for Docusaurus. Nevertheless, the docs weren’t nice. I managed to work out how one can get it working, and I believed I might assist the neighborhood by submitting a docs PR. Are you able to see the place that is going?

screenshot showing me submitting my actual GA4 tag

Yup. I managed to land my GA4 tag within the precise Docusaurus docs… I do know, I do know. I am a mug. You may be questioning how I discovered. Effectively the true giveaway was that I’ve by no means written any blogposts in Chinese language.

Screenshot of search console insights with traffic from Chinese websites

I began seeing unfamiliar entries in my search visitors. I could not work out what was happening. It did not make sense. Then I remembered my PR and the horrible reality turned obvious:

It’s a reality universally acknowledged, {that a} developer in possession of a very good keyboard, should copy and paste.

Nightmare. Different individuals have been utilizing my GA4 tag.

I did attempt to roll this again; search GitHub for my tag and submit PRs to remove it. However not each PR was merged. In the long run I gave up and created a brand new GA4 property and began once more. On the market proper now, there are nonetheless web sites sending my previous GA4 tag visitors to Google. What a horlicks.

I do not know if Google tracks for websites sharing analytics tags and deranks them as a consequence, however I believe it is a chance. Who is aware of? (Possibly you do? Inform me!)

Googles new spam replace

After I began to see visitors tail off, I began to go searching for clues. It turns on the market’s a subculture of web optimization instruments on the market. I am unsure how I missed them earlier than. I discovered ahrefs and semrush; others too. This graph from ahrefs caught my eye:

screenshot of ahrefs demonstrating traffic rapidly tailing off aligned with google spam update

You may see every little thing going South for me in October. What you may as well see are Google search updates on the X axis. It seems Google recurrently replace their search algorithm. Interestingly, one of their updates coincides with my traffic tailing off.

October 2022 Spam Replace

Spam updates goal websites that do not observe the webmaster pointers. Websites impacted by these updates could also be searching for brief time period positive factors whereas ignoring finest practices. This replace was accomplished on October twenty first.

Google Search spam updates and your site ↗

“Bingo!” I believed. “That is it!” However as I dug by the main points, I turned uncertain. Nothing on my web site seems to be spammy. In my view clearly. However strive as I’d, I could not see it every other manner. My content material is not spammy. Except I am lacking one thing? Am I?

From PNG to WebP and again once more

Many of the photos on my weblog have been PNGs. Lighthouse would recurrently recommend migrating to a more moderen picture format. I learn round and the suggestion typically was that WebP was the way in which to go. So I did. However I feel I made a little bit of a mistake. As the pictures have been transformed, their filenames modified.

As a result of I did not suppose it mattered, I did not implement redirects. My view was “the weblog posts have references to the brand new picture names – that is doubtless all that issues”. I might lay cash that is a mistake; that I ought to have applied redirects and the location is being penalised.

Once more, do inform me if I am working with a false assumption right here.

Oh the “and again once more”. I make use of Open Graph sharing previews on my blog – so individuals utilizing my hyperlinks on social media get a pleasant preview of the content material. I learned from Steve Fenton that open graph doesn’t always support WebP. Which sucks.

So I made a decision to revert my Open Graph photos again to being PNGs; with totally completely different names. Once more I did not implement redirects – no marvel Google loves me!

As I did my deepdive into web optimization, I realized that backlinks and referring domains are essential. I had quite a lot of them; I have been running a blog for a very long time. Nevertheless, I believe I had quite scorched the earth by failing to implement redirects. This chart from ahrefs reveals the influence:

See Also

screenshot of an ahrefs graph showing a drop off in the number of referring domains around mid 2022

My assumption right here is that by failing to implement redirects, I’ve misplaced quite a lot of backlinks. Earlier 200s had transitioned to be 404s and Google had seen.

I discussed that I have been running a blog a very long time. Consequently I’ve quite a lot of weblog posts. I even have Atom / RSS feeds on my weblog. I did not realise that there are limits on the scale of those feeds. It would not look like standardised; however once I took a take a look at my feeds in varied feed readers, I discovered they have been erroring because of the dimension of the feeds.

I made a decision to begin truncating the variety of entries in my feeds. It isn’t so onerous to do, only a submit construct step which reads, amends and writes the XML.

With this in place RSS readers appeared to be happier. And given quite a lot of publications learn my RSS feeds, it is doubtless that this may enhance my backlinks over time.

I additionally contributed a PR to Docusaurus that may enable everybody to configure and regulate the variety of entries of their feeds immediately by Docusaurus; versus afterwards in a submit construct step.

Dynamic redirects – too little too late?

As I’ve talked about, I broke hyperlinks by not implementing redirects. It may be closing the secure door after the horse has bolted, however I made a decision to return and implement redirects. In December 2022 I implemented dynamic redirects on my blog using Azure Static Web Apps and Azure Functions.

I applied redirects for:

  • photos
  • weblog posts (from my previous Blogger URLs to my new Docusaurus URLs)
  • RSS / Atom feeds (Blogger had each of those however at completely different endpoints)
  • renamed weblog posts (I renamed quite a lot of weblog posts over time to be extra web optimization pleasant)

I additionally determined to do a little analysis. I plugged Application Insights into my blog and began logging out when redirects have been being hit. I additionally began logging out when 404s have been being hit. I wished to see if I used to be lacking something. I have been checking the logs daily since, and including new redirects as I’m going.

Will this assist over time? Solutions on a postcard please. Or toot / tweet / e mail / DM me.

As an apart, trying on the logs in itself has been a lesson:

many redirects from WordPress URLs

Somebody on the web is all the time attempting to hack you. And normally below the belief you are working WordPress / PHP.

Assist me Obi-Wan, you are my solely hope

As you possibly can see, I’ve finished quite a lot of tinkering. I am not fairly positive what torched my web optimization. It could be one factor, it might be a mix of issues. I do not know if there is a street again.

I am hoping somebody will learn this and inform me what I did mistaken. I did one thing. Or no less than I assume I am the trigger. Possibly I am not? Possibly I am lacking one thing totally. If you recognize, please let me know. I actually wish to perceive!

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