In last month's episode, traffic was plummeting and I had no idea why. I put out some theories on why that might be the case, but I didn't really have a good understanding of the topic. I've been busy this last month reading up on SEO, talking to a few people who know more than I do, and actually investing in some big boy SEO tools (I bought an Ahrefs subscription). I'm still "right" in thinking that the long term solution is going to involve building and growing Intro Maker into its own brand on a new domain, but what about the things I thought might be screwing it up?
Hired Out Posts. The posts I contracted out are totally fine. Guest posts are totally fine. The fact that random folks were emailing me about doing more guest posts probably has more to do with the overall visibility of the site on the web and not some kind of hidden content quality algorithm. As an engineer and engineering manager, I've pretty well internalized that "not how I would've done it" doesn't equate to "wrong." I don't know why I haven't been able to extend that to written content yet, but the articles I hired out are just fine and I'll probably finish formatting them and get them into my publishing queue over the next few months.
Business Blogging. I think over the next few months the type of post you're reading now will show up less and less on IntroCave. I suspected that these posts weren't doing me any good (after all, what do they have to do with making intros?)—and I've now had multiple other people confirm that for me. I've got an item on my TODO list to go and add a blog back to my personal site, at which point I'll probably move more of the "how's the business doing" kind of posts over to some combination of my blog, Twitter, and Indie Hackers. I'll still talk about product stuff here (new rendering systems, new content, product updates), but the more nitty-gritty aspects of running the business will probably just go on my personal blog.
Recap Repetition. I got mixed answers on this, but in general, folks agreed it was pretty harmless. Because the data doesn't move that often, I do think I'm going to stop posting them on the blog. The newsletter is a better venue for this type of material as a lot of people on there are brand new.
More Unknowns. Ding ding ding! I actually went down a few false rabbit holes here. Google releases updates to its search algorithm periodically, and their latest release matched almost exactly with my traffic drop. I chalked it up a bit to an "oh well, not in my control (in the short term)." Unrelated to that algorithm update, a few helpful folks at Indie Hackers called out the fact that I had some pretty spammy links in my backlinks profile. I'd seen these a few times in the Google Search Console, but I just assumed they were some kind of holdovers from previous owners (I'm owner #3 for IntroCave). After picking up some better tools and diving into the data a bit more, it turns out someone was running a negative SEO campaign against me. Apparently, negative SEO attacks are a thing! Hundreds of crappy links from spam sites started showing up just before my traffic dropped, which happened to coincide with the new algorithm release. I have a pretty good guess on which competitor is behind the attack (based on who else shows up on those same pages as well as who's shot up in the rankings in the last month), but no hard evidence.
Ahrefs has a pretty nice tool for filtering through your backlinks and disavowing the shitty ones. I've got about 150 domains in there now. Long term, there are (at least) three things that I can do to defend against someone else playing dirty. The first is the hardest—just be better. If I can keep adding good content to this site and keep improving the product, I can grow my backlinks "organically" and have enough history to defend against this kind of shady stuff. The second will be to just keep a closer eye on the backlinks coming in. If someone tries to pull this again, I can hopefully respond a little quicker and get that disavow list updated before too much damage is done. I wish there was a way to do that without paying $99/month for a professional tool (I'm learning, but I'm nowhere near an SEO pro), but that might just be a cost of building things in a competitive space.
The final priority will be more direct outreach. The best way to get people to link to your site is to just ask them. I need to start following more motion graphic professionals on Twitter, start following more blogs in this space, and start posting in the places where people talk about video templates and intro makers. If there are small blogs out there covering this type of content, I need to start working with those sites.
It's all a little new to me (other than that "make the product better" bit), but that's marketing in 2019!