This has been an ongoing problem whenever Google attempts to improve its search algorithm, as it just did this month. As always, there are always some winners and some losers. After last year’s update, my own website was hit by a perfect storm. If your website has recently seen a fall in traffic, see if any of these things that happened to me also apply to you.
In February of 2018, Google announced that from “July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure'”. In other words, Google search would show (recommend) no web sites with an old HTTP address. Any HTTP site remaining could only be accessed after the person trying to access it was given a safety warning. This warning was expanded in October of 2018, which caused WordPress to give free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates to its users to make all of their sites HTTPS compliant.
On the surface, this sounded good but this caused many who kept sites on WordPress numerous problems. You can go here to see just a few of the problems users encountered. In most cases, it meant editing the htaccess file and remapping the site. One article on this was entitled, “Redirect HTTP to HTTPS for Managed WordPress Sites – NIGHTMARE”, which, I suppose, says it all.
I worked through all of the steps involved in editing the site for HTTPS, but the problems did not end there. Google Analytics had to be edited so that the Google Search Engine would recognize the HTTPS change. In effect, the search engine thought that the updated HTTPS site was a completely new site being added to the internet. For many, and this included me, they had to build their site’s reputation all over again. Many sites experienced a sharp drop in traffic. Google claimed that it only meant that the traffic was of a higher quality, but that didn’t satisfy many users. I had almost nothing coming via Google Search for months.
At the same time, I was notified by WordPress that the theme for my site would no longer be supported and I would need to change to another. Doing this messed up a number of links and added to my woes with Google Analytics. Those similarly affected claimed it would be at least 8 months before things approached anywhere near normal, and, actually, that turned out to be the case.
Then came this year’s June 4th algorithm update and everything changed.
Google claimed it was focusing on quality and diversity. I hope that applied to me. Here is the change I saw in my site’s performance.
It’s still not back to where it was but the trend seems to be in the right direction. Others, however, were not so lucky. Here are a few of their reactions.
“Google update cut my o. traffic by ~60%. After years my financial blog is not trustworthy anymore acc. to Google.”
“what the heck is happening with Google? it is deindexing our web content without any reason.”
“Our website content was showing up in Top Stories of Google search for the last 3 months, all was going good and then after the recent June update, all of our keyword rankings dropped, the posts are not showing up in Top Stories anymore and we have lost over 60% of our traffic.”
“hundreds of webmasters (myself included) had their sites completely removed from 1st SERP page and are diving into pages #3, #4”
These badly affected sites created a large confused and angry contingent. Others in this group include these major sites. (The chart is for the UK.)
Gambling sites, news sites, health sites, and cryptocurrency sites seem to be the biggest victims. Cryptocurrency news site, CCN, saw a 90% decrease in traffic and actually closed for a while figuring they could no longer make a profit with such results.
The site magically resurrected a few days later.
Some sites were winners.
Notice that news sites dominated the winners. But why was the Daily Mail such a loser. You really can’t ask questions like this because there are no answers, only guesses. Some say the Daily Mail has quality content problems as well as too many ads.
Even Google can’t answer these ‘why’ questions. The reason is that their search algorithm is self-evolving. That is, their algorithm sees user search patterns on the internet and adjusts itself accordingly. If it looks like people are searching for more reliable, in-depth content, search results will highlight this. It’s not just page views but the amount of time a visitor spent on a particular site that would be important in this case.
If this is, indeed, the case, then Google cannot offer advice. The algorithm is finding the patterns on its own without any input from Google’s humans. The only advice Google’s John Mueller could give was that there was not advice he could give. “There is no specific thing where we’d be able to say you did this and you should have done that and therefore we’re showing things differently.” He does, however, allude to the following points and questions each web site operator should ask themselves. These are:
Can the site’s articles be trusted?
Is the topic explored in depth by an expert?
Is the article unique and not simply a repetition of other articles?
Is the site secure enough for you to feel safe giving it your personal information?
Are topics on the site attempting to pander to search engines to get higher search result placements? (My guess is that this means articles on trending topics explored in little depth.)
Are you getting more value for your time in visiting this web site as opposed to similar sites?
Now, I realize that many web site developers may believe they meet all these criteria but still saw a fall in traffic. They may be right, but they must have done something that triggered the algorithm to downgrade their websites. Google will always suggest that a loss of traffic is due to problems with content, but it could be something in the site’s design. Maybe it opens too slowly because of a heavy graphic or media load. Maybe it has too many ads. Nonetheless, you can tweak a site only so much.
In many cases, you may have to do what I ended up doing: Bite the bullet and wait for Google to ‘rediscover’ your site. This may take a while but sometimes trying to adapt your site to get a higher search result position may do more harm than good. Make sure to register with other search engines. They proved invaluable. But, in the end, you may just have to sit back and wait for the next core algorithm update and hope that it solves the problem, but I offer no guarantees.