It’s been fixed now, but for a few weeks in July, Lucire’s online-edition hits took a dive. Not in the main part of the website, but the news section. Luckily, because of an abundance of feature stories in the main part of the website during July, thanks to Julia Chu’s design work, our total was never affected that greatly.
Normally, whenever someone like Lady Gaga or the Duchess of Cambridge gets mentioned, you’d expect a rise. But all that did was take the news section from a lousy day to a normal day, rather than a very good day.
Various theories went around, mostly surrounding Google’s Penguin updates. Could Lucire have been hit by sploggers, the victim of another site having duplicated our pages and fooled Google to the point of believing that ours was the content mill, and theirs was the original? There was one odd day in June when an article we never expected to rate highly got a lot of hits—as did those linked from it. Was that the entry point of a bot?
It wouldn’t be the first time that Google’s bots erred and took out a legit site. One upset webmaster noted:
They are penalizing those who have been careful to only follow their terms and conditions and only practice white hat SEO (just like myself … see where I am coming from yet?). But still I was ranking #1 for multiple keywords and almost 90% plus was from actual natural links that people around the globe built (Ie; without my help or any form of payment). Yet what do I get for doing everything in the right way?? A massive ‘bitch slap’ from the “Big G”. I mean seriously I really wonder how much of Matt Cutts Wage that my Adsense campaign’s have payed for him over the years.
Or was it because of sister sites, Lucire Men and Lucire Home, which occasionally ran the same article—but you don’t see news sites get penalized for doing so, if they syndicate from AP, Reuter or AFP?
Or was it simply summertime in the other half of the world, which meant that people were out enjoying the sunshine and not surfing?
Of the three theories, the last could be easily discounted. We have summer dips, but not to that extent. So I tried examining the first.
It seems Google’s Penguin updates affected a few webmasters, and one piece of advice was to let Google know. A form is available, and we duly filled it out. But the general advice was that Google would only really go after you if you had questionable anchor link text, and Lucire had largely gone about anchor links in the same way for the past 15 years. It seemed unlikely that Google was out to kill the basic idea that the web was founded upon: links.
To be on the safe side, we cut down the number of duplicate articles on the newer sites, though it did seem a bit silly for Google to permit them for large news organizations but not the little guy.
Traffic has returned to normal, but we made one other change that was never considered when we first began investigating the issue: we got rid of Wordpress Mobile Pack. And it’s Wordpress that drives the Lucire news section.
We should have thought of this earlier. If traffic to the non-Wordpress parts of the site were unaffected, then we should have figured out it might have been a Wordpress-related issue. And Wordpress did update during that time, perhaps creating some incompatibility with the way we had set up our installation and the plug-in.
I had never considered this would be the source of the problem, however. The Mobile Pack had worked without issue for years, but I had found it curious that various people were hitting 304 errors when using their cellphones to access the news section. Maybe it was a temporary technological thing? Or the cellphone carrier?
I also never spotted any extra entries in Google, but according to this link, the Mobile Pack may have created duplicate pages.
One webmistress notes:
But last month on 25th of June, my site was hit by the Google Panda Update 3.8. Since then, I am on a cleaning drive to phase out duplicate content from my website.
And to my surprise, I found that my site has thousands of duplicate pages, just because of this plugin.
For instance, if I search for site:mysite.com inurl:wpmp_switcher=mobile, I find thousands of pages, which are exactly duplicate of the original pages. Google considers them all duplicate pages, since all of them present the same content and accessible through two different URL’s.
Duplicate pages will definitely do it when it comes to Google giving you a black mark.
I can’t prove whether it was the Mobile Pack at fault, or Google’s algorithms. The traffic headed north after Mobile Pack was removed, but, it’s hard to know what the cure was since we went about various possible solutions at the time. But I know that the cellphones are no longer getting 304s, even if the display is less than ideal, while for Iphones, we are using another plug-in that seems to work fine. The total traffic also seems normal now, as are the search terms people are using to find the website again.
Lesson: go beyond the everyday wisdom of what the 99 per cent are talking about (no intent in connecting this post to the Occupy movement). Sometimes, the solution is in the 1 per cent—and in our case, we may have discovered it completely accidentally.
A final technological note: my Intopic keyboard (left) that I bought in Mongkok in 2009 doesn’t sound right. Or, it sounds the same as when it was new, but it doesn’t sound as good as a Genius keyboard I had before, which was subjected to an unplanned science experiment involving Glaceau Vitamin Water. I’ve been learning about the difference between these membrane keyboards (which I initially learned about by taking apart the aforementioned Genius after my experiment) and mechanical ones, and what Cherry MX Blue switches are all about.
This Adesso keyboard looks (and potentially sounds) right, but can I get one in New Zealand? Not where I checked. And the prices Stateside vary wildly—from the $60 mark to nearly twice that. The places that sell them cheaply won’t ship outside the US.
I’m happy to find a competing one as long as it has the right switches: I make plenty of errors with the Intopic because the keys are a trifle too sensitive, and I make fewer on my many laptops or the old Genius. I’m also sure I was more accurate on keyboards of old—we are talking about the ones that were around in the 1990s.
Therefore, I’ve decided that I need a mechanical keyboard, which at least helps with my accuracy. However, New Zealand does not seem to be the country where one can find a mechanical keyboard that is 400 mm wide featuring a numeric keypad at a reasonable price, or, looking around at some of the usual dealers, an unreasonable price. Surely I can’t be the only one who does not want to reach so far for a mouse with a standard-width one, giving myself RSI in the process, and find merit in a narrower one? And if I am not, why on earth are our shops full of those wide ones?
It all comes back to my mantra about technology: that it is here to serve us, not the other way around. I still see little reason that we must adapt to technology and what it offers when, in fact, we should consider our usage patterns and find things to suit our needs. I’ll keep searching, or I’ll splash out on a very expensive keyboard for productivity’s sake. (It won’t be the Adesso, based on the keys’ placements—Amazon reviewers helped on that front—but it will be something like it.)