Is My Blog a House of Cards?

I’ve been blogging since 2012.

I started off contributing to a friend’s blog. I wrote about marathon training and did some random product reviews here and there. I liked writing, and it was nice to earn a little money and/or get free stuff. (Best free product = a really nice vacuum, which we still use.) But at the end of the day, I was writing for someone else’s audience. I wanted to cultivate my own readers — people with whom I had a connection, who actually cared about what I was writing.

I started Mommy Runs It in August 2013, and as with most new blogs, my audience consisted primarily of my family and other bloggers. More than anything, I was writing for myself. It was fun, but at the same time I was eager to grow.

It took over a year for my blog to see any real traffic. And then when it happened, it was practically overnight. A post I wrote in October 2014 picked up steam in January 2015. Between December 2014 and January 2015, my blog traffic more than quadrupled.

And it wasn’t a fluke. My traffic stayed that high for over a year. Of course, it was all thanks to that one post, which consistently brought in at least 75% of my daily traffic.

In May 2016, I had major spine surgery. My recovery was a long and grueling process, and blogging took a back seat for several months. I only wrote a handful of posts during that time. My blog traffic dropped — but not as much as you’d think. I was still skating by with the traffic from that one post. Even if I went weeks without writing a word, people were still coming to my blog every day.

Eventually my traffic leveled out. My stats weren’t nearly as high as they’d been in 2014, but that was okay. I figured I’d hit the sweet spot with another post sooner or later.

In July 2017, I went to a blogging conference and attended a session about SEO. Oh boy. I walked away from that session with the knowledge that my blog was terrible and that I’d basically been doing everything wrong since day one. I learned about Domain Authority and Trust Flow — mine were terrible, of course. I was in a panic, as was just about every other blogger in the room. (Looking back, I realize that much of the course material was a sales pitch for the instructors’ books and classes and consultations. D’oh.)

I decided that I needed to fix my blog. Like, now.

And of course by “fix,” I mean break everything I laid a hand on.

It was kind of like cutting your own bangs. You try to give yourself a little trim, but you make them crooked instead. So you cut a little off the right. Then a little off the left. Then the right again…until they’re practically chopped all the way up to your scalp.

To this day, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I did to mess things up. All I know is that my stats went crazy. My users and pageviews dropped, and my bounce rate was through the roof. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it seemed to get.

So I did what you’d do if you accidentally cut your bangs off — I asked a professional for help. Surely someone could fix what I’d broken and make it pretty again, right?

Wrong. No one could find anything glaringly wrong with my site. Over & over, I heard that maybe my traffic had just dropped organically. That the fluctuation in my traffic indicated nothing more than declining interest in my #1 post subject. Sure, maybe a little. But it didn’t explain the sudden changes that corresponded with the exact dates that I started messing with things on the back end.

Ultimately, the explanation that I had to accept was that I’d inadvertently done something to filter out spam/bot traffic — that the numbers I’d been seeing for the past few years were super inflated and that my current stats were a true reflection of my traffic. Ugh.

That was a punch in the gut. Not to mention a blow to my ego. I don’t really even know if it was true. But what can you do? I stopped trying to fix my site, and I started buckling down on my SEO. I took a class and learned some basic (but super useful) SEO tactics.

It took a while, but I finally started to see the fruits of my labor. I was ranking on page one of Google for a ton of search terms. And not just randomly, like had happened with my one popular post, but with purpose. I was covering topics that I felt passionate about, and people were reading (and liking) what I had to say. My traffic was growing, slowly but surely. And this time I knew it was real traffic. I had finally started to build an audience full of readers with whom I connected — the exact thing I’d hoped for when I started the blog in 2013.

But then August 1, 2018 happened. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Google had rolled out a new algorithm change. Honestly, I don’t know what that even means. All I know is that my organic search traffic dropped by 60%, literally overnight.

Since the algorithm change, I’m seeing stats that I haven’t seen since 2014. According to Moz, my search visibility has dropped by nearly 50% and my ranking for 60 keywords has dropped since August 1.

Quite frankly, it’s devastating.

Have the last 4 years been for nothing? How did I end up here? I thought I was doing everything right. And yet, like a house of cards, one little nudge and everything came crashing down.

It probably sounds like I’m being melodramatic. First world problems and all. But my blog is my baby. My heart and my passion. I was so proud of my work. I was truly making a difference. And now I feel almost as if I’m starting from scratch.

Who knows how many things I’ve messed up this time while trying to “fix” my blog. I don’t have a manual penalty, and it’s too soon since the algorithm change for anyone to have viable suggestions. What else could it be?

So what now? I honestly don’t know. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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