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The Weekly Blague

What I Learned About Google This Week

When I launched this website three years ago, I was unfamiliar with the term "search engine optimization" or SEO. I put together robertrosennyc.com using a combination of common sense and my knowledge of editing magazines. I imagined the home page as a looking like a legal pad I'd keep on my desk and use to scribble down anything I felt was important. Whatever I was doing worked. From February 2010 to October 2012, the traffic to this site steadily increased. A good portion of that traffic came from Google searches. Then, last October, Google changed their algorithm and referrals from the celebrated search engine virtually ceased. It was only then that I learned about SEO, and the idea that, theoretically, certain things can be done to increase search traffic. It turned out that I was already doing all the things you were supposed to do--primarily updating the site frequently with original "content" that can't be found elsewhere.

What I wasn’t doing, however, was running Google ads. The ads, I thought, made the site look cluttered, slowed down its loading time, and at best provided a revenue stream that can be measured in pennies per day. This, I thought, is one big reason that Google no longer sends traffic my way. (My two Blogspot sites, Chapter 27 and Maiscott & Rosen, which I rarely update but which carry Google ads, both get more referral traffic than this site, which I update five times per week.)

So, I chose to live without Google ads, and to search for alternative ways to drive traffic to robertrosennyc.com. Then, the other week, I discovered that Google advanced search, which used to be able to find any combination of words or phrases on a particular site, no longer worked on this site. When I searched for information I knew was here, Google told me, “Your search did not match any documents.”

Yesterday I made the following discovery: Google advance search will still work, but only if your search terms include preselected “keywords.”

When I set up robertrosennyc.com, I included a limited number of obvious keywords associated with my books. For example, if you were to search for “John Lennon” and “Beaver Street,” regular Google search will direct you here, and advanced search will take you to specific pages where those keywords can be found. But if you were to search for “Missy Manners” and “Orrin Hatch,” which are not preselected keywords, Google will neither direct you here nor acknowledge the existence of those words in an advanced search, even though this is probably the best site on the Internet for information about the porn star and her connection to the anti-porn senator from Utah.

A partial fix for my Google problem is obvious and will probably take about a month to take effect. This may sound basic to an SEO expert, but to me it was a revelation.

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