What happens when your website goes in to hibernation?

Hibernation

So today I'm looking at what happens to a blog when you let it lie dormant for years and a warning to those statistically squeamish, it's not pretty.

While this blog may have gone in to extended hibernation there were some fairly significant changes on the world wide web than influenced who and how people accessed this site. Over the hibernation years, the greatest impact felt on this site was as a result of the changes made by Google. Whenever Google tweak their search algorithm it's usually a big deal for anyone maintaining a website. You could argue that the changes introduced by Google in the past five years - the Panda, Hummingbird, Pigeon and the mobile friendly updates - are some of the most significant changes Google have made to search in the companies history. The period between 2011 and 2014 were when there appeared to be the most volatility in search world. It's definitely a period where I saw traffic to this site take a downward trajectory as you can see in the graph below.

The numbers

Over the five year period this site saw approximately 331,472 unique page views, which I think is probably pretty decent given the amount of effort (ie. none) I put in over that time and even the 2-3 years leading up to the hibernation for that matter.Swollenpickles pageviews

In hindsight I should have spent some time working through the recommended changes/fixes that Google published and definitely could have switched to a mobile friendly template earlier. This may have helped address some of the slide. Standards and styles also changed quite significantly in the five year period and as browsers updated, this site didn't move with them. Cracks appeared and things just flat out broke in some cases.

The spammers

While Google have spent - and will continue to spend - a great deal of time tweaking their search algorithm, spammers too are continually coming up with ways to promote whatever they can. During the hibernation years referrer spam seems to have really stepped up a notch, to the point where it can be difficult to get an accurate snap shot of how your site's performing from an analytics point of view. For those that don't know, referrer spam is a technique spammers use to make repeated web requests using the referrer URL they are wanting to promote. You'll also see spam referrers referred to as ghost referrers. So if you look in your analytics and notice a lot of seemingly random referrals from generally spammy sounding URLs then you're being hit by referrer spam and your analytics are being inflated. There are a few online tools I've found that can help you filter them out and I've used Referrer Spam Blocker recently and it appears to have helped a lot (it's free so that's a bonus).

Comment spam was also huge. One thing I've learned is that while your site may be dormant, spammers are anything but!

Bottomline on the bottomline

Try infolinks ands make money blogging todayRevenue wise, swollenpickles.com was not a dormant revenue making machine. Without adsense, I was totally reliant on infolinks. Infolinks was/is most definitely a viable alternative to Adsense - for context I was averaging $50-100 USD per month up until mid 2013 - however sometime in 2013 I must have broken something as my revenue flat lined. Lesson learned: if you break something, take the time to fix it!

Bottomline, you can't expect a website to survive and prosper without maintenance. Even if you're not updating content, the site itself will still require maintenance and patching - unless you've hard coded it all in static html without using a CMS. Effort equals reward. You might get luck and things roll along nicely for a year or two - as happened to me - but sooner or later the world wide web will move far enough ahead that you'll be left a broken shell on the side of the digital highway.

For interests sake here are five of the most popular posts that continued to bring in traffic during my absence:

Clearly 'inappropriate' is always sought after!