In July 2017 I decided that I had to put my nose to the grindstone and work on SEO for my blog Dads&Things. I knew that would be a large amount of work, but I also knew that it could not be put off any longer. As it happens quite often in life, I under-estimated how much work it would be. I had estimated that it would take me about a year. So far, it took already two, much but not all of that, as I had to do other things, but it took a major portion of my waking hours since I began SEO in earnest. The results look good. Unfortunately, in the greater scheme of things, SEO is a hairy ball of wax. It is laborious and tedious to come to the end of the thread.
At the time, I explained what I was about to do, and that I would report on the progress of the effort. Dads&Things contained about 980 articles or blog postings when I set out to subject it to my SEO efforts. I added a fair number of articles since then, but I also deleted about the same number (the ones that were no longer relevant or whose sources could no longer be found). The grand-total of articles, some short and some longer ones, still hovers around 980.
This report will be one of the longer articles, mainly because systematic SEO work was a journey of discovery for me. I discovered much but not enough and will attempt to report on my impressions of what I found. I will try to tie together what I had already reported on. Therefore, it will help to give this some structure.
SEO interests many people and should interest far more, but few will want to read all of what this essay states about it. The following index will help anyone who reads this to decide what, if any of it, he may wish to read.
The story told here is complex. The indicated links point to more details in each case. I will frequently come back to this write-up, to look for information, to refine and to add to it.
- Introduction : Whatever made me want to do SEO?
- History in the making : The emergence of the Internet
- Search engines and how they fit in
- SEO is important for page ranking
- Google Analytics web stats : Fraudulent or just seriously wrong?
- SEO produced unexpected, grossly counterproductive outcomes
- Are absurd consequences of SEO an artifact of revenue-splitting procedures?
- Impressions : This is the gist of it. SEO is great!
The Internet changed our lives, largely for the better, first for a few people, eventually for virtually everyone, that is, at the very least for a very large portion of humanity everywhere. Not many people can remember what life without the Internet was like. Far more people never knew life without the Internet. That is increasingly true even for people in developing and underdeveloped nations.
Virtually everyone uses the Internet today. I became interested through the work I did for my employer, in the 1980s, shortly after the break-up of my family and the subsequent divorce. I had been working in network planning for a telecommunications provider, largely as a work systems analyst with a background in telecommunication installation, maintenance and then planning.
I was never a PC technician or Internet technologist but was for a while, many years ago, the designated PC administrator for my department and did a fair amount of work as a representative for the Network Extension Engineering Section and the Network Planning Department of which it was part. That work involved largely the data modeling for the development of a number of data processing systems for circuit groups, network facilities, project management, and construction-program budgeting, tracking and management.
Most of my spare time involved the running of a small sheep farm, which I operated full time after I retired from my regular job. That intensified my interest in what could be done with a PC for some of the things I did at home: constructing a breeding record system and relational data base for keeping breeding records; doing farm accounting; searching for information on history in general and specifically on marriage and divorce, and for getting to know in fairly good detail what was going on in the world.
It was not possible for me to spend much time away from the farm, but, once I could afford to acquire a modem, I was set to become a fathers rights activist. A whole new world opened up. It was possible to get in touch with many people, and to start cooperating with them, who had a great interest in the need for families and fathers.
I tried to find the nearest fathers rights organization, spent a lot of time searching and asked many questions about it. After six months of that, a fathers rights activist pointed me to one that existed and had regular meetings right in the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at an address that required under an hour of driving to reach.
“How can that be?” I thought, and “There are listings in the phone book for all sort of organizations for women, if I just let my fingers do the walking, and I must spend six months of asking around the whole world to finally be directed to someone willing to help men in Edmonton. That is totally wrong! No one shall have that problem again.”
I set up my first website, FathersforLife. I figured that the information I collected and the knowledge I gained had to be made available to anyone who needed or was otherwise interested in it. First I used an MS Word add-on, available for free (Internet Assistant), and free web space. Soon I found, that was not the way to go. I rented web space through commercial web hosting services and bought a copy of Netscape. From that I went on to MS FrontPage, then to MS Expression Web. I hope to find a web editor to replace MS Expression Web (no longer supported) that will permit me to do upgrades for SEO needed by FathersforLife, but I am not looking very hard; first things first.
It became necessary to start a blog, Dads&Things (in 2007). That brought a new set of experiences. It was a bit easier to get information out, but the volume of information on the website and blog became ever larger. Some of the things that web editors allowed me to do with relative ease for my website could no longer be done with WordPress for my blog. A lot more maintenance had to be done to guard against viruses, intrusions by hackers and spammers, and to address the deterioration of links on the Internet. The high rate of link deterioration became a massive problem. The average lifespan of a link to information on the Internet is about five years. Until very recently, I did not have a software tool for detecting broken links. I have one now and fixed all broken links at the blog (at least, that is what I think).
When I had started FathersforLife, I expected that I would be doing good if the website would receive 30,000 visits a year. It was a great surprise to see the website become far more popular than I had anticipated. By 2007, its web rank reached and at times exceeded that of NOW.org. Then I saw its rank declining. In spite of that, the number of visits, especially the number of page views, kept increasing. There is a reason for that, direct traffic. That is, traffic that comes to FathersforLife and Dads&Things through links from other websites and through bookmarks that people make of individual articles.
Because the website and blog had become so popular, a lot of websites and articles began to link to it. Many surfers bookmarked articles. There are now close to 50,000 direct links to FathersforLife and Dads&Things. They bring a lot of traffic, close to 80 percent of the traffic. The volume of that traffic is still increasing, by word of mouth or keyboard-to-keyboard advertising, one could say. Still, the ranking of the website was in decline, in fits and starts, not due to anything that could be ascribed to trends in what interests people. Such trends would be more gradual.
Eventually I contacted Google, to find out why that was happening, I learned that SEO had become far more important than I had thought possible. I learned that it no longer mattered as much to keep a website functioning well than it did that Google was forcing people into optimizing their websites so as to tailor them to what Google dictated the format and even the nature of the information on a website had to be to please Google.
Google would penalize a web page and its website that did not measure up to what Google deemed good for Google. An offending web page would receive a low rank. Therefore, a popular but suddenly deemed offensive web page that had routinely ranked at the top of the first page of search-return results would now find itself much farther down on the list or perhaps not be listed at all.
Life is what happens when you had other plans. It was obvious that FathersforLife and Dads&Things required far more than merely casual search engine optimization (SEO). They needed far more than merely fixing, replacing or removing dead links and making pages findable through search engines. They needed a rigorous, thorough housecleaning and making them compliant with search engine standards. That became obvious but was not the cause of the serious heart attack I then had.
The heart attack and some other things that I had to focus on set me back. I could not keep up with the efforts of thousands of people working for search engine providers who kept producing algorithms that constantly required web designers to devote ever more efforts to keep up with what search engine providers dictated.
Over the years, search engines had grown. They grew, from being invented to be tools with which to find information that was accessible through the Internet to dominate and control what and whether information on the Internet can be found through searches. Not only that, interested parties and search-engine providers decided early on that a profit can be made through the finding of information (information that others worked hard to develop, compile, format, store and make available), through deriving advertising revenue, by using the information produced, presented and even owned by others.
Do my web pages receive ever lower ranks because they carry no advertising? How would anyone know? Google does not publish its algorithms.
Among search-engine providers on the Internet, Google had become the largest shark to feed on the harvest of revenues that could be derived from the accelerating spread of the body of information on the Net, but that was not all, and history repeats itself.
The evolution from being hunter-gatherers of food to becoming farmers and producers of food had benefited humans enormously. Trades emerged. Manufacturing and trading became important aspects of human existence in the context of an ever faster developing civilization.
Something comparable happened also with the emergence of the Internet. That produced, in addition to many, very constructive things and opportunities, the possibility of making a living from information that can be found and made accessible. When a living can be made from the finding of information and pointing out to others where it is (that is what search engines do), a far better living can be made doing so when specific, likable information can be cultured by those who make a living from the finding of information for others.
That would still give all producers of information a chance to make a profit. Nevertheless, a corporation that can force them to use the equivalent of genetically modified seeds that will produce the crop of information on which a profit on advertising revenues can be made stands to gain enormously. That is all the more so when a corporation making that sort of living establishes a dominating, controlling monopoly, even if only a virtual one.
No one but an insider in the board rooms of Google knows how Google came to use that principle for the farming of information and securing a controlling monopoly on the nature of information to be findable on the Net. Nevertheless, there is now no doubt that Google has a good and strengthening grip on not only all information that can be found through search engines.
Google, while it handles more than 90 percent of all search traffic, has the capability to determine what the nature and quality of the information is that can be found. Google exercises that power ever more, and I will come to that later, in more detail, but one thing is certain. Google and social media corporations control the production, spread and accessibility of information throughout the world, just as Monsanto controls the production of and accessibility to food.
Now to my observations on some of the things I became aware of since I began my SEO project in July of 2017, but context is always important.
ARPANET (1970) was a digital packet switching network developed by the U.S. military. That was the birth of the Internet, of the baby that grew into the Internet we now use. It became a giant that, some say, grew into our master. At least it made many people, hundreds of millions of them, not only dependent but addicted to it, exercising their thumbs.
The U.S. military later permitted a few scientists and technology-oriented people in the developed nations access to ARPANET. They wished that they could exchange data with some of their colleagues and friends in other institutions and soon did (1981), some using acoustically coupled modems for the conversion of digital signals into analog signals that could be transmitted over analog transmission lines.
Personal computers came on the market (“the world’s first personal computer” in 1983), became ubiquitous, ever more powerful, ever smaller and cheaper. Modems became small enough that it was possible to build them into personal (or desktop) computers. Miniaturization progressed. Cellphones came out, the first one (a.k.a. mobile phone or simply mobile) was the size of a brick and weighed 2 kg (1973). They evolved and developed into smartphones (March 1996 to 2002).
All of those portable devices required something else that would enable their users to make easy use of the Internet, for displaying information through an interactive, graphical interface, a web browser (Mosaic, 1993, and Netscape Navigator, 1994).
Let’s not forget the mouse, to point to and click on what a user wants to interact with or access, of what is displayed on a screen. The history of the computer mouse goes back to 1946 and reached an important landmark with “the Xerox 8010” which then “was probably the best-known computer with a mouse” (1982). Touchscreens came later, fingers or thumbs being far more practical for interacting with the screen of a smartphone (1994).
How and why do search engines fit into the history of the evolution of the Internet? Access to all of the information accessible in the world will not do anyone much good, unless specific, desired information can be found.
Anyone who ever used the index of a library knows that no library would be much good without its index. Search engines index information accessible through the Internet. A search request will have the search engine check its index and display information from the index on the screen of the user who made the request. The information for each entry on a search-return list contains a link that the user can than click on and have the information at the end of that link displayed on the user’s screen.
The first truly useful search engines came into existence, beginning in about 1993. According to the Wikipedia article containing information on the history of search engines, AltaVista came into existence in 1995. I mention it here because I remember it being my favorite and that I used it a lot. I ran across a history of the rise and fall of AltaVista. It is a sad story, and important lessons can be learned from it.
Altavista was essentially the first practical Internet search engine (before Google got launched) and was originally used as a demonstration of the skills and capabilities of the Digital Equipment Corporation or DEC (also known by its trademark, Digital), who had designed, constructed and operated it.
ALTAVISTA: THE RISE & FALL OF THE EARLY SEARCH ENGINE
Learn how one of the web’s biggest accidental success stories evolved.
It seems odd that the Wikipedia article mentions virtually nothing of that story. The article mentions AltaVista only four times, and DEC not at all.
SEO is important for anyone who runs a website or a blog. Blogs are websites, too. Read this commentary, and decide if you should worry about SEO.
Believe it or not, I set out to make this a short article, but that was difficult. It relates to a complex issue: How to influence people, many people, through using the Internet. It also relates to some things that make it difficult to achieve that. I dropped the fleeting thought of keeping it short. By the way, SEO is a misnomer. It is not the optimizing of search engines but the optimizing of web pages, so that search engines get to like them and give them a high rank on account of it, but that is mostly what this blog post is all about. Read on and all about how I, an amateur, fought my way through SEO….(more, 2,200 words)
It would have been nice to have had Yoast SEO Premium much sooner, but, although I’m am now essentially finished with a good run of two years of hard work of using it, was it all worth doing? Yes, it was.
I found a large number of pages with problems, many different problems. I fixed them. More and more pages had their SEO scores upgraded from OK to Good (now only 16 remain with a rank of OK vs 979 with an SEO score of Good), yet, my page ranks kept falling and keep falling.
It seems that not even Yoast can keep up its efforts, and that those are being out-paced by the rate at which Google produces and installs its algorithms. I know that Yoast SEO offers no suggestions on what to do to fix a couple of major, general problems I need to address. I have had those problems since I started Dads&Things. They are not the cause of the continual downward trend of the page ranking. Before I get to that, I will show what happened to the WordPress site stats since before I began this SEO effort. Keep in mind that I began this SEO project in July 2017. (This is becoming too long for one blog posting, therefore, follow the subsequent link.)
- Search-engine censorship, socialism, ant hills, and female supremacism
- Google Chrome vs Firefox
- Is your website a “hate-site”? How do you know?
- Internet censorship affects all, censors and censored