Consistently creating new posts and updating existing content is essential if you want to rank well on search engines and attract visitors to your blog. That’s search engine optimization 101, something I was well aware of when I lost my desire to post and abandoned my blog in 2018.
The two-year rest was enough and now I miss my blog, but it’ll be a long way to make it successful again, as its Google ranking worsened and visits reduced dramatically. In this audit I analyze the damages and how to recover.
Our blog and why we abandoned it
I was travelling a lot in 2013, so I created Viajadora to write about my trips and share travel tips, and invited my friend Mariana to join me. We had fun working on the blog and its popularity quickly increased, with a growing number of visitors and lots of positive feedback—especially after I moved to Canada in 2015 and started documenting my experience as an immigrant. Our hobby became a source of income and brought us new friends, partnerships, free travels and products, and many other good things. The more results and feedback we got, the more excited we were to post.
But then Mariana had a baby in May 2017 and I had mine in February 2018. Being first-time parents was harder than we imagined, and even harder when we both went back to working full time. There was hardly any time to travel and even less time to write. And in my case, the bonus of a postpartum depression that consumed all my energy and made me lose any interest in sharing about my life. We started posting less and less and the blog just sat there, waiting for the love we were now devoting to our families. And it gets worse.
In the end of 2018, we wanted to resume posting and hired a web designer to update the blog. Although the guy had good references, he ruined it. He not only messed up all the codes but took forever to do so, and we couldn’t post while we waited. When he finished, his work was so poor that the blog got hacked, taken over by viruses, and went offline. We had to hire an agency to fix the problems and basically create a new site.
Long story short, after all this mess we resumed posting in June 2020 and will, hopefully soon, get the blog back on the successful path where it was before.
The SEO mistakes we made by abandoning the blog
What we did when we abandoned our blog—along with the awful web designer’s work—form a perfect list of what NOT to do if you want to show up on the first page of Google:
- We stopped posting regularly, then stopped posting at all.
- We didn’t update the existing posts.
- We didn’t notice that the SSL certificate wasn’t valid anymore.
- The mistakes made during the website redesign broke many links and messed our whole internal linking structure
- Since many of our links were broken, the links to our blog on other sites also stopped working
And the worst of all:
- Having the site hacked and infected with malware and not fixing it immediately. When Google detects malware, it immediately pushes down your rankings and shows the scary message below.
Other blogging mistakes that repel visitors
Besides evaluating the SEO mistakes, I also audited the blog to find other aspects that might repel visitors:
- The newest post on the homepage was from 2018 and there were even posts dating back to 2015
- There were outdated plugins showing broken-link images
- Our “About me” photos and descriptions were super outdated
Combined, these little things showed that the blog was abandoned and the information we offered was old, and signalized to Google that we wouldn’t be relevant in search results.
And there was also a petty thing that bothered me a lot: Copy on several main pages that the web design agency wrote with SEO in mind, but that didn’t match our style nor sound like our writing at all.
Bad ranking and fewer users: Consequences of abandoning the blog
Right before we stopped posting, in 2018, we had many pages ranking first on Google with keywords (in Portuguese) like “life in Canada”, “college in Canada” and “US visa for baby” They generated thousands of visits every week, lots of comments from readers, and referrals from other bloggers, which helped us build authority and kept our search engine rankings high.
As we gradually stopped posting, those visits, comments and referrals dwindled, and I hadn’t checked our Google standings for two years. Until August 22, when I did incognito searches with the keywords we used to rank well for and was floored. All our pages that showed on top of the first page were now showing halfway across the second page of Google searches, replaced by others with similar content but recent publication dates.
- We fell in average 13 positions on Google.
- The organic traffic (our main traffic source) shrank 82% between 2018 and August 22, 2020:
- The sessions decreased 84%:
- We literally had 0 users between September 2019 and January 2020, when the web design agency had to hide the blog to fix it.
The lines in the chart below show how our traffic varied between 2013 and August 2020. The gradual decrease in users, sessions and pageviews is clear on the right side of the graphs:
What I learned from abandoning my blog
Although I expected nothing different, it was still shocking to see how damaged my blog’s traffic was after two years of inactivity. It takes so much time and work to rank well on Google, but it’s so easy to lose it all—kinda like the 300 calories you must run for an hour to burn, but gain back eating a candy in six seconds. Here are my takeaways from this entire ordeal:
- Ranking well on Google is a matter of consistently creating new content and updating the existing pages. If you’re thinking of quitting your blog, consider what you’re going to lose and the hard work it’ll take to recover if you ever choose to resume blogging.
- If you do put your blog on hold but think you might get back to blogging at some point, at least dedicate maintenance-time to it. Back-up the content, pay for your server and domain, keep your SSL certificate valid, and always update the plugins and check for viruses.
- “Cheap becomes expensive” is a quote my mom loves, and something we learned damn well by hiring the cheapest web designer to revamp the blog. We spent money on him, then spent twice more paying a professional agency to fix the damages he caused. We also lost revenue from ads and affiliate programs when the site was offline and full of viruses—and will keep losing until our traffic increases again. So remember that if you ever need to hire someone to work on your blog—or to provide you any service at all.
The road to SEO recovery
Our blog’s decline wasn’t off-putting enough to make Mariana and I give up. I love coming up with content ideas and SEO strategies, and love me a good challenge, so I’m excited to create a recovery plan and monitor our progress over the upcoming months. On my next posts, I’ll describe the SEO strategies we’ll try, and the gradual improvement they’ll bring. Stay tuned!