Learn From My SEO Mistake: How My Website Traffic Dropped 90%

In case you missed it (unlikely, ha), I launched a new book last week revealing all of the secrets of OKCupid. What I haven’t discussed in detail since then is how I was in a panic mode for the entire launch day, all because of a stupid error on my part.

seo-mistake

Around three days before my schedule launched, I was Googling around for information on how to have a successful launch, improve CEO, etc. I cleaned up a few links on my blog, added a few things, and read some advice regarding SEO. One of the things that seemed incredibly easy (too easy, in hindsight) to increase search engine traffic was to change permalink settings within WordPress itself.

To explain with a permalink is, take a look at how this post is currently routed: thisistrouble.com/2015/02/21/seo-mistake

I changed my permalink settings so it would look like this: thisistrouble.com/seo-mistake

In my excitement to implement such an easy change, I failed to read the following notes (as well as failing to realize it myself, though I pride myself on being a technical person) stating that changing permalink settings without proper plugin support or planning would result in the absolute death of nearly all search engine traffic.

The evening before launch, I checked my stats and noticed that SEO traffic was maybe 20% of an average day. I chalked it up to a slow Sunday, and Google’s latest Panda update. Though I was worried, I figured all would go back to normal. The next day when I woke up and had a whopping twenty SEO hits eight hours into the day, I started to get pretty apprehensive.

I turned to Google searching for my answer, and finally realized that it was the simple act of changing permalink settings that spelled the death of my SEO traffic. I made the ten second change back to the previous settings, re-submitted my site to the Google Crawler through Google’s webmaster tools, and by the end of the day I noticed my traffic starting to climb, though still only about 15% of a usual day.

Over the next two days it seems Google reindexed my site and I’m happy to announce that things are running at normal capacity again. Thankfully, I was able to discover my error quickly, make necessary adjustments, and can now shift my attention towards more important matters regarding my book – which has sold well, but not quite as well as I’d like.

So, I’m really here as a warning to others to not make the same mistake I made, regardless of the timing – much less two days before you’re planning on launching something new.

In conclusion:

  1. Do not change your permalink settings on a whim, do some real research on the consequences of doing so. If you’re starting a new blog, set your permalink settings upon installation of WordPress. Not doing so will cause more headaches and heartaches down the road.
  2. There are numerous plugins that mitigate the impact of your SEO ranking upon changing permalink settings. Do the proper research to set these up and test prior to making a change.
  3. If you do screw something up, try not to panic too much. I know I said I was in a panic mode, and trust me – I was pissed. But I kept it together with a cool head, found the problem, and made adjustments.
  4. Google’s webmaster tools are fantastic, and I’d wager a bet that most websites could benefit from some of the tools they offer through it. To use this, just add your website to the tool, authenticate it through your host, and you’re in.

Thanks to everyone who bought the book this week, and I’m looking forward to sharing some success stories soon!

  • February 22, 2015
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