I feel for people who own websites that need to make money. They really are at the mercy of the internet giants that push traffic. A great example of this is Upworthy that saw its traffic go down by 25 percent almost over night because Facebook made a change to one of its algorithms. Late last month, Google made a change in its ranking algorithm: Penguin 4.0. And the results have been dramatic.
The change is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s been great for Frankly Curious. Traffic has increased by about 10 percent. That doesn’t matter that much to me. For one thing, the site doesn’t really make any money. But more important: I’m focused on the regulars around here. It is nice when a particular article gets a lot of attention, but that’s not what keeps me grinding out content every day. I like the community here, even if it is small. (There are about a hundred regulars, but only a couple dozen who ever comment.)
For other websites, Google’s changes have not been welcome. Search Engine Roundtable ran an informal (non-scientific) poll and found, Only 12 Percent Said They Saw Ranking Improvements After Google Penguin 4.0. But mostly, people aren’t seeing any change. (Of course, it’s hard to say because traffic is noisy.)
Weirdness at Google
But there is one thing that has been going on with Google that driving me crazy. A month and a half ago, I wrote an article I’m rather proud of, Dean Spanley: Film and Book Comparison. It’s more the idea of it that I like. No one has written about this and the film and the book (novella) are really different. So I knew that I would get traffic for it. But I haven’t.
So I went to Google and I did a search: “dean spanley book film comparison.” That’s almost the title, so I figured it should be at the top of the search results — or close enough. But the search produced this:
Okay, so it isn’t at the top of the rankings. But when I looked, I found it was nowhere. That is to say: Google didn’t even have the page in its database. This was horrifying — not for me but for the world. The best thing about Google has always been its enormous database. That’s why it has always been better than Bing.
What was going on? Frankly Curious is a small website, but its been around a long time and it has a lot of unique content. What’s more: it isn’t that small. Anyway, I went to show a friend. I entered the same search into Google and I go this:
Now the page was the top ranked. In fact, just “dean spanley book” ranks at number 11. So I was pleased. And, as usual, I just figured I had imagined the other search or that it was a glitch.
Flipping a Switch
But no! The truth is that the search flips back and forth. It seems that my article isn’t in the database during the day and it is during the night. Or something. I haven’t studied it closely. But it is the case that for days, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. Of course, maybe Google has always been this way and I simply didn’t notice.
I’m just glad that it doesn’t really matter to me in a practical sense. But it is driving me crazy!