Posted by: Jim Adcock | February 2, 2012

Blacked Out – An SEO Problem?

I have a problem.

I participated in the SOPA blackout on January 18th, locking down my blog posts so that nothing was visible except a notice that the site was down because of SOPA.

WordPress.org created a tool for self-hosted WP sites to use to black out their sites, but didn’t post a solution for their hosted sites at WordPress.com (like my sites) until the morning of the blackout, by which time I had already blacked out my site.

I probably wouldn’t have used their solution anyway, because I wanted to say my own thing about the blackout, which WP didn’t offer as an option – their solution blacked everything out, even any statement you made on your blog about the blackout. But it was moot anyway, I had already blacked my site out at midnight.

I did it by marking all my posts as “private” (except my statement about the blackout), which means that only invited users would see the posts… and I hadn’t invited anyone. While somewhat laborious, it was an effective solution. Then, the night of the 18th I re-enabled my content. Everything went smoothly.

Except, over the next few days, I noticed something strange. Four of my top 10 pages stopped getting traffic.

Not entirely, but the drop was obvious and significant.

Page Average daily page views
Before After
Error: SharePoint List – Cannot Edit in Datasheet, Export to Excel, or Import Spreadsheet  10  0.57
Publish an InfoPath Form to Multiple SharePoint Sites   6  0.07
Use Calculated Columns to Close Technical Gaps in SPD Workflows – Another Solution   4  0.21
Error: The website declined to show this webpage HTTP 403   4  0.07

In the two weeks following the blackout, each post got fewer total views than they got on an average day before.

Something happened, but only to those posts.  Other top posts did not show any drop off, and have in fact increased their daily page views.  Most other posts have stayed about the same.

Much of my traffic is driven by search results.  54% of the page views on my site this past quarter were from search engines, and 68% in the last week.  So it seems fairly obvious that the pages are no longer showing up in search results.

I’m not sure why this happened, especially since the results for these four pages are out of line with all of the other pages.  If anyone can offer clarity (or help fixing the problem!) I would appreciate it!

(In the meantime I am hoping the links on this page will help the pages get re-indexed, or bump up their visibility on the search engines).

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