This is a very hard post to write.
For the last year or so, Mary and I have been struggling with a persistent and troubling problem. We were experiencing a steady decline in our website traffic, and a consequent drop in leads showing up from our blogging.
For the entire time we have been on AR, we have been following a strategy of blogging long-tail topics and using back-links from AR to boost the visibility of our related IDX search pages. It worked like a charm - we dominated page 1 results for dozens of long-tail searches and got a lot of business as a result. That's not surprising - it's what AR was founded to do, and it was a beast at it. A lot of staff, energy and money went towards ensuring that AR maintained its status as the authoritative website for real estate with Google.
But times change and AR has too.
When it became apparent that the decline we were seeing was definitely a trend and not just an anomaly, we went looking for answers. We contacted a lot of SEO experts for help in figuring out what was wrong and it took us a while - most of those experts just wanted to sell us what they were doing, rather than help us troubleshoot what we were doing. And for at least right now, we have too much invested in our long-tail infrastructure to just abandon it and seek a new strategy. It may come to that, but not just yet.
We eventually did get some clues about what was happening, and it seems like our problem has two related causes.
The first is Google itself. No one really knows how Google works or what it's up to, but the consequences affect us all. As one helpful expert pointed out to us, Google is in the business of selling on-line visibility. What we were doing was gaming their system to obtain those benefits for free. And it seems like recent search algorithm tweaks have tilted the benefits away from bloggers like us. I don't mean to suggest that they targeted us specifically, but we seem to be affected by a wider trend.
The second cause is simply that AR isn't focused anymore on maintaining the authority with Google that it once had. And before I go any further with this, I'd like to make it clear that I don't have a problem with that. With the exception of some piddling dues for the first 18 months or so, most of the benefit of being here for us has cost only the time and effort to write some content, and that has been far outweighed by the benefits. AR belongs to Ben & Bob, and they have the right to do with it as they please. I'm sure that their business strategy for the site is a good one for them. But I don't think it's working for us anymore.
We did get some good suggestions, and for the next six months or so, our energy is going to be directed to seeing if we can find a way to recover. Those suggestions are all outside the realm of AR, so my participation here is going to change. I'm not going away completely - there are way too many reasons to still be here, and for me, most of them come down to friends and relationships. I'll still be posting, but those will be the half-dozen or so posts every month that I want to write - the ones that are fun, relevant (at least to me), or responsive to industry issues. And you may see my market reports posted here, but not as original content - they're going to be published elsewhere.
I'm going to miss being here every day. I do intend to make an effort to remain a part of the community, but you and I know how that usually goes. I cherish all of the wonderful and unique things about AR, and I'll always be grateful for the friendship, knowledge and wisdom you all have given me. These last almost seven years have been the best of my fairly long career in this business, and a huge hunk of that is because of you. So I'll end this with a very sincere Thank You - you guys are the best!