Today marks the end of a month and a half of spring cleaning the site. Around 3,500 pages in total have been redesigned, corrected, and updated. Around 2,500 of those pages have been worked on twice over. Around 900 books have been purged from the site, and over 110 categories have been consolidated into a much more manageable 33.
So what has changed on the site?
No more scanned PDFs. I still had a lot of scanned PDFs on here, and I was never going to get around to transcribing all of them. I hated the way they ruined the look of the category pages, alongside my own editions, and also, I felt uneasy asking for donations for books that I really didn't do anything with. So I deleted all of them.
Then came the redesign. Nothing special I think you'll agree, but I'm forever thinking of ways to make the site faster on mobile phones (the majority of my visitors come to the site using them).
Author pages are the same, but unless an author has more than 5 books, they no longer get their own page. This is because Google see it as 'thin content' and throw up a warning to me.
Individual book pages don't, at the moment, have an image of the book cover on the actual page. There is a link to click to view it in another tab, but Google were marking my score down for the image that I had there before, due to a new set of benchmarks they have called Core Web Vitals. I DO plan on adding an image again to the book pages, but wanted time to figure out how to do it without affecting my score.
Categories have been simplified. It was getting out of hand, and there were way too many. So I have condensed them down by over a third. I have also added a category of 'all ebooks'.
Some other books have been purged - those that I doubt were ever downloaded. At the moment, the collections still include all the deleted books. In time, I am planning on creating a new set of collections.
Why all the changes?
The redesign wasn't just about the look of the site. Google have a set of ever changing rules and standards which websites must abide by if they want a chance of being seen in the search results. Sometimes, no matter how much you adhere to those standards, or try to - it doesn't help anyway.
I found this out last year during a core Google update. In one day, I lost about 50% of my traffic. Over the next couple of months, as is usual when these updates roll out, the site recovered somewhat. But not completely.
So it was even more devastating to me that I was hit again this year with another update.
I get that they need to do updates to ensure the user is getting the best search results - but it still sucks.
I know how blessed I am to be able to do this site - something I really do love doing, but honestly, there have been times when I have started to wonder if this is all worth it. Thanks to Google and the power they have over a websites traffic - I am now back at levels I was in 2016. Over the past month, I've managed to put this to the back of my mind as I worked on the site - but this morning when I woke up and checked my traffic stats - it really hit me how much I have lost over the past 12 months. And honestly - I had a good cry about it.
So what next?
Well, adding new books again is high on my list, as I've really missed doing them, and also, I kind of need to get a few out in time for the updates and newsletters (which I am sorely behind on - sorry!)
The submissions page is up and running with a few people already signed up. Hopefully that will grow bigger over the next few months.
The forum will also be going up soon - purely on a trial basis to start with though. If it doesn't gain traction - then I'll close it.
Google are doing another big update sometime in July. At the end of August, I will have to decide whether or not I can keep running this site as I do now. It's incredibly sad to think that it might become an archive site, instead of the ongoing project that it is now - but without traffic, there's no collections being sold, and very, very few donations (even less than before) - and like everyone else, I need to pay my bills.
So these next two months are really make or break time.
Anyone who is reading this (and I know that's not going to be a lot of people because my traffic is very low right now) - but if you are, then please do what you can to support the site, and right now, the biggest thing you can do is to share it. I don't care if you have one follower on Twitter, or Facebook or Instagram, or any of the other social media apps out there - please, share the site.
For my part, I'm going to work really hard in these next couple of months, adding new content, and improving the content that's already on here.
Hopefully the Google gods will reward me. If not - well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.