Oh God, what an idiot I've been!
Around the second week in August I began to notice a decline in visitors to the Travel Lists site. I wasn't too bothered. August, and particularly the second half of August, is the least likely point in the year for people to be looking at travel websites.
But then the figures began to get worse. I checked over a basket of keywords I use at Digital Point to keep tabs on how the site is ranking on Google, and found a load of red numbers - indicating Travel Lists was slipping down the rankings.
"Help!" I thought. We've got caught up in the purge that Google has been having this summer on scraper directories - directories that are all broadly similar having taken their content from Dmoz, the Open Source Directory. But that didn't seem likely. The falls weren't that dramatic and they began to slow up. And most importantly of all, Travel Lists is entirely 100% original & unique content.
The decline kept up all the way into Sept.
I can't even say for certain that is has bottomed yet.
What I can say is that I've realised what has happened and it's all my own fault!
In the immediate aftermath of the site relaunch in June we were left with a hotpotch of files with .htm suffixes and a large number of .html files that had been converted from .aspx.
Under the old subscription system there were two version of every list; a short extract (.htm) which the search engines could see, and the full list (.aspx) which could only be seen by logged in subscribers.
As a housekeeping excercise I've been tidying up these suffixes, turning them all into .html in small batches as I'm working on the individual lists... without realising that when they were labeled .htm they had several years of search engine legacy, which they instantly lost when I added the 'l'!
You can see the difference in the few remaining .htm lists.
For example lk2villa.htm has a page rank of 2 on google and hasn't dropped at all in search results. While lk2ig.html, which used to rank highly, now has a PR of zero!
How could I have been so stupid!
Nothing for it, now. I'll just have to be patient while the renamed files slowly re-establish their credibility.