The Decline of Dengarden

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  1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
    PaulGoodman67posted 3 months ago

    Despite being bad overall, the damage to the niches by the various Google algorithm updates over the past two years has been uneven.

    While Pethelpful has suffered relatively less, Dengarden seems to have taken a huge hit. I've attached a graph of traffic from SEMRush as an illustration of how bad the fall has been for the entire Dengarden niche over the past couple of years.

    The views for Dengarden climbed steadily after the niches were introduced. Then they kind of plateaued. Then, in 2021, they fell off a cliff.

    My Dengarden articles have lost 95% of their traffic.

    It's not just my own efforts that have been failing. Some of the success of my most-viewed articles came due to help from editors. Nowadays, it feels like the editors struggle to make anywhere near the same level of positive impact despite their best efforts.

    I'm not sure what can be done.

    1. Angel Jennings profile imageSTAFF
      Angel Jenningsposted 3 months agoin reply to this

      Hi Paul,

      It’s true that traffic has dropped on Dengarden and across the board on the HubPages verticals over the past few years. We are doing our best to address decreasing organic search traffic using a variety of approaches—increasing acceptance standards for niche sites to maintain higher quality, culling articles that are low quality or receive little traffic to improve crawl budget issues, keyword optimization/on-page SEO, and looking at technical optimization, among others.

      Many sites have seen declines in organic traffic over the past few years due to Google’s algorithm updates, Google’s promotion of sponsored results, and the placement of features like “people also ask.” More recently, SGE (Google’s generative search) has pushed organic search results further down the SERPs, which has also presented a challenge. CTRs have dropped, even on articles ranking in the 1st or 2nd position, due to these issues. But rankings have gone down, too, and it’s frustrating to see lower-quality, less authoritative articles ranking above the high-quality articles on our sites.

      The latest algorithm updates have been pretty tough on some of our sites, and we are continually working on new ways to improve traffic. Our best advice to authors is to hang tight while we try to improve the situation on our end. Take a look at your articles and research the primary keyword queries. See what’s ranking, make sure your articles match the search intent and include the content covered in those top-ranking articles. See what’s being asked in “people also ask” and “related searches” and address those questions. See if you can optimize for other relevant keywords or longtail keyword queries related to your article’s primary topic. Refresh your content; add new content. Interlink to other relevant articles on the site. Continually updating articles with very minimal changes just to refresh the pub date is unlikely to be helpful, as we have seen Google ranking older content (and they have expressed disapproval of this tactic directly).

      When you write new articles, make sure you use a short, keyword-dense URL. Make sure your content is original and you have experience/expertise, and avoid saturated topics/keyword queries. See what kinds of articles you’re having success with and emulate those. I know many authors are aware of these strategies, but I think it’s good to reiterate. This is not something our editorial team can do across the board, given that there are more than 70,000 articles on our Network Sites. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to improve traffic on our sites.

      Take care,

      1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
        Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Angel, Thank you!

      2. chef-de-jour profile image97
        chef-de-jourposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Dear Angel, I get what you say in your reply to Paul and I'm appreciative of all the hard work you guys as editors put in to try and improve our articles when it comes to pleasing mighty Google but can I also add that the reality of the situation to me is plain and stark - people do not like the basic page layout because there's too little continuous text and too many ill-placed ads. Hence the general decline across most of the niche sites.
        From my experience on Owlcation, where I've over 470 articles, the majority of which were top performers two and a bit years ago, tweaking articles just won't cut the mustard. We need radical action.

        I'm still writing fresh material but am adamant that when the page layout changed back then the rot set in which means that I'm not expecting my newest articles to perform as they once would have done.

      3. Solaras profile image94
        Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Well, you are, in fact, an Angel. Thank you for taking time to give us some input; it is appreciated.

      4. SerenityHalo profile image95
        SerenityHaloposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        I do think ads and the layout are a big part of the problem. I have had messages sent to me that things are unreadable at this point. Some readers have run into those unattractive white spaces where ads are meant to load. They don’t like it.

        It’s worth experimenting with the ads or different revenue programs to see if it can help sites regain traffic.

        SEO magic can only go so far, and if you write long enough articles you probably check off most of the boxes on what appeals to SEO.

        1. eugbug profile image95
          eugbugposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          There's just a huge traffic jam trying to load ads because of the number that try to load simultaneously if a reader scrolls fast to find information on a page. The lazy loading of images and ads can't cope with that. It's only suitable for slow scrolling. I wish they would at least load images first also, to lessen the number of whitespaces. Maybe they need to dump their servers in Say Media and get more up to date, faster ones.

        2. SallyTX profile image90
          SallyTXposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          Yes, I've wanted to explore content similar to mine from other Hubbers, and I've pretty much had to give up on it. The huge amount of ads slows my computer down so much that I cannot see any images or scroll smoothly through content at all.

      5. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
        PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Thanks for your response, Angel.

        I understand that Google constantly shifts the goalposts and keeps creating new challenges for editors and writers.

        I have no intention of walking away from the site. However, it is difficult to find the motivation to write and publish in the current environment.

      6. Thomas Swan profile image96
        Thomas Swanposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        OK, but you're ignoring the elephant in the room. The ads. Ever thought of running a quick visitor survey? Ask them what they especially don't like about the articles?

        1. Solaras profile image94
          Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          Better yet, ask the powers that be to try to read a few articles.  They should be required to read one article a day on the Niche sites, to see what their product looks like.

      7. Cloverleaf profile image95
        Cloverleafposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Excellent advice Angel, thanks for this. I recently stumbled across a free SEO certification course by HubSpot. It takes a couple of hours to do, but I would recommend it to any hubber looking to know exactly how to improve existing articles for better organic traffic, and to write new ones with Google’s new algorithms in mind. It’s a very well laid out course with instructional videos and I learned so much from it. I’m now applying the techniques I’ve learned to my hubs and already seeing some improvement in rankings and view duration.

        1. Solaras profile image94
          Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          Which course did you take? Content Marketing?

  2. theraggededge profile image97
    theraggededgeposted 3 months ago

    Would you check Exemplore? Mine has plummeted over the last few weeks.

    1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
      PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

      I actually wasn't actually affected much by the last core update. My traffic dropped initially but then went back to more or less what it was before.

      It may well be that certain niches were affected more than others. It's too early to tell from looking at SEMRush.

      Right now, I'm getting a few surges, often a sign that Google are doing tests before they launch another update.

      It's difficult to figure out what's happening nowadays as the updates are so frequent, they often overlap. They've gone from two or three per year to two or three per month!

      The only predictable thing is that updates are never good for HP, if the last two and a half years are anything to go by.

      1. eugbug profile image95
        eugbugposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        Which suggests that there's something about the sites that Google doesn't like and isn't being addressed. So either ads or slow loading. Hubpages know about the slow loading of ads or images since they've added the "content continues below" text. (Or maybe the function of that text is to avoid confusion amongst readers, differentiating between text and ads?)

        1. Solaras profile image94
          Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          I have an older computer, so when the ads are trying to load and the video is running, I get "This page is not responding" popups, which make it impossible to read the article.

          I close the popup and another pops up immediately.  I have this problem on Pet helpful, and occasionally on other sites, but always on Pethelpful.

          I tried reading another authors PH article and finally had to give up.  I had clicked close on the popup 25 times in a row, and was unable to scroll further down. That is a serious problem for folks with older computers.

          1. eugbug profile image95
            eugbugposted 3 months agoin reply to this

            It takes a minute for images and ads to load on my 6 year old phone, and I've got a 100 Mbs connection which is plenty fast, so it's not the broadband speed that's a problem. It would make sense to reduce the number of ads, but maybe they've no control and it's either all or none? I would have thought they could specify the number and they get distributed evenly.

            1. Solaras profile image94
              Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

              On Sports Illustrated it's 1 ad per 18-20 lines of text. here it's more like 1 ad per 8-10 lines of text.  So I would expect that they could choose the ad layout, but choose to burden HP readers with twice as many ads.

              1. Shesabutterfly profile image94
                Shesabutterflyposted 3 months agoin reply to this

                I think they can chose as well. I've seen ads every 3-6 lines of text, depending on the article/niche site. It appears they are experiementing with ads again. It would be great if we could have better consistancy and less ads.

                Have you seen the new "ads"/sponsored content floating around? Pethelpful is the most egregious one I think. It's huge and a sponsered story by IAMS and links out to a different TAG channel page (Parade Pets). They do a good job of hiding the fact that it's an ad. If you miss the small advertisement print, it's easy to think it's a recommendation from the author. The big blue print "sponsored by IAMS + PARADE should probably help make it known that it's an ad, but I was confused at first. Maybe being an ad makes it okay to essentially link out to a subpar site. As far as I can tell, it's not any better than HP ever was.

                I've seen them on Delishably and Dengarden as well, but they are much smaller, surrounded by a bunch of white space, and not on every article. They go to Men's Journal and Powder, both are TAG channels per the Arena Group's website. The ones on Delishably create so much white space it keeps pushing the page farther down and it's impossible to read the rest of the article.

        2. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
          PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

          Anybody can look at the ads and say: I don't like the ads. But what if a certain level of technical know-how is needed to understand the underlying SEO problems?

          A lot of SEO is not even on-page and requires specialist knowledge because it's focused on things such as how sites are structured and how they're geared towards search engine crawling.

          I don't know much but I think I know that much.

          While I can see the appeal, it doesn't seem logical to assume that the issues must be obvious and understandable to someone with little or no advanced computer or advertising experience.

          If anything, I think the opposite is actually more likely and the problems and solutions probably aren't simple.

          Figuring it out also likely also requires going "under the bonnet/hood."

          That's why I keep an open mind.

          Plus it kind of doesn't matter anyway, because none of us are involved with the technical and advertising side of the site. We just write and publish.

          I suspect that the staff who do that stuff don't even read these forums.

          1. SerenityHalo profile image95
            SerenityHaloposted 3 months agoin reply to this

            SEO is likely a part of the equation. It's hard to think the ads and layout aren't hurting traffic at this point. I know most people won't stay on sites that are littered with ads, and it doesn't make you want to come back. When ads are too intrusive, they can make a page seem spammy rather than helpful.

            1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
              PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

              I actually believe that it's extremely unlikely that they'd deliberately reduce revenue. That's not how businesses work.

              So we're left with the incompetence explanation. That just doesn't seem likely to me either. I think TAG will have people with the necessary skills and expertise to do their jobs to a certain level of competency when it comes to maximizing revenue.

              That necessarily means taking into account SEO considerations when adopting an advertising strategy.

              Ads are pretty easy to experiment with. You can try things out and get stats on how readers respond. Using the statistical feedback is always a better assessment method than anecdotal evidence in my experience.

              More broadly speaking, I think I'm also cautious of the ads argument because I'm acutely aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

              There's a human tendency to look around for something obvious and easily understandable to blame when things aren't going well. People don't want to consider that the cause of a problem may be something that they don't understand or even see.

              1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
                Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

                That is a typical theory for the psych industry. That’s how psychs hoodwink most of the population with their DSM. In actuality, its numbers (statistics) speak louder. HP was a success a couple of years ago. TAG implemented actions that didn’t work. We are suffering today. Sure, Google plays a role in this, but as you said, Paul, you’d think they had the know-how to fix it and fix it well.

                1. Solaras profile image94
                  Solarasposted 3 months agoin reply to this

                  They know not to overstuff ads on their flagship properties.  That says it all to me.

                  1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
                    PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

                    "That is a typical theory for the psych industry"

                    Kenna - I think it's really an old idea that came out of science and the scientific method.

                    Charles Darwin, for instance, said that: "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."

                    It can be easy to be confident that you fully understand something when you have little or no information or expertise. You’re unable to gauge what your limitations are or even the difficulty of a problem faced.

                    It's usually better to resist that tendency and try to keep an open mind.

                    I suspect that if restoring the revenue was as easy as just taking a few ads away or tinkering with the layout, it would have already happened by now.

                    I don't believe that they're deliberately trying to lose revenue.

                    Not that it matters much what I think. They will do what they do regardless. smile

                  2. Kenna McHugh profile image93
                    Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

                    I believe there is a remedy. It's not a pollyannish idea. It will take due diligence on HP/TAG's end. As writers, we have no control over what they do and do not do. We can only keep asking.

  3. eugbug profile image95
    eugbugposted 3 months ago

    Same here. Google seem intent in making it extinct.

  4. Solaras profile image94
    Solarasposted 3 months ago

    Right now, I am experiencing blue traffic down arrows on 10% of my articles. 

    Perhaps it has to do with holiday travel, in anticipation of Thanksgiving, or this is the Google rollout that Eugene fiddlesticked over.  IDK, but it is concerning.

    1. eugbug profile image95
      eugbugposted 3 months agoin reply to this

      Mine drops at the weekend at this time of year, but that's because I lose traffic from students reading Owlcation articles. Dengarden used to give a big surge at the weekend during the summer, but everything has flatlined for the past two years.

  5. Jodah profile image91
    Jodahposted 3 months ago

    Thank you for taking the time to share this information, Angel. It seems the team are doing their best in difficult circumstances created by Google. It is disheartening though.

  6. Bills Place profile image85
    Bills Placeposted 3 months ago

    I've got a couple articles on Dengarden, but they never did do "great". My best one was on Toughnickle, but even its dropping since the latest Google update. Sad times. sad

    1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
      PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

      I had Dengarden articles that at one time were getting over a thousand views per day and now get thirty-something.

      I was never naive enough to think that there wouldn't be fluctuations, including falls, it's just mindblowing how big the drops have been and their relentless nature in recent times.

      There seems little grounds for optimism apart from the fact that HP are still trying to turn things around and haven't given up.

      I still maintain and try to improve my existing articles but am publishing far less new material than I ever used to.

      1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
        Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

        It appears so severely low now that HP/TAG must have done something wrong.

        1. eugbug profile image95
          eugbugposted 3 months agoin reply to this

          Paul Edmondson said years ago he asked or was going to ask Google what the problem was with ranking and traffic decline. I wonder did he ever get anywhere with that? My topmost ranking article on Owlcation is now down from 2000 views per day to less than 100. traffic today is the lowest its been since 2016, but I had a lot less articles then.

          1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
            Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

            That's proactive!

            1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
              Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

              All in all, I think it's more than Google affecting HP at this point.

              1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
                PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

                It can be difficult to say that something has been done wrong. We’re in a game where the rules keep changing. What was right one week can be wrong the next.

                What’s definitely true is that HP used to be very good at playing the game and getting our articles high rankings. As time’s gone by, it’s generally struggled more for a variety of reasons, many outside of its control.

                1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
                  Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

                  Yet, according to Patel, the sites that are doing well on Google have a lot of high-quality backlinks, great content, an excellent user experience, a fast-loading website, and content that matches the user’s intent.

                  1. PaulGoodman67 profile image96
                    PaulGoodman67posted 3 months agoin reply to this

                    For sure, but Google essentially defines those things, at least for the purposes of ranking.

                    Over time, their definitions change. What counted as a high-quality backlink in the past may not qualify now. The way they measure user experience is constantly evolving. Everything is constantly shifting.

                    And the changes are accelerating. When I joined, there were only a handful of big Google updates per year, now there are several each month.

  7. Bills Place profile image85
    Bills Placeposted 3 months ago

    Kenna, it could be more than Google. Regardless of whether it is Google or many other factors, I haven't had the motivation to continue working my way down the list of topics I had ready. I'm hoping it is a temporary setback, but with all these comments, I'm debating if I should start considering posting elsewhere instead for a while.

    1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
      Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

      For the last month, I've written more articles. Some go right to a niche site. The editor sends a form email rejecting a few articles arbitrarily. When I query the form letter, asking for specifics, the reply is unfounded. It gives the impression that HP doesn't know what they are doing.

  8. Solaras profile image94
    Solarasposted 3 months ago

    I have posted this before, but in an effort to be redundant, before Google makes me completely redundant, I will say it again.

    When we went to the Maven/Whistler convention, the pitch was to join Maven, in order for the Maven websites to become a kind of Mecca of information, that is independent of Google and Facebook, which had become a king maker and king killer (think Little Things that was killed in one month by a Facebook algorithm change).

    Through the merger with Say Media, HP and Maven plus the acquisitions of Sports Illustrated, Parade and The Street, they claimed to have as much written knowledge/articles as the New York Times with is archives etc. 

    The idea was to eventually form a subscription model, where people got all their info in the Maven bubble.  SI has a subscription model and I would guess The Street does too. You get 3-4 free articles a month, then you need to subscribe to read more premium articles.

    Having said all that, The Feds needs to bust up Alphabet, and something needs to be done with AI to credit the creators of the information they are pinching from sites across the internet. Hollywood got its protections in place, something needs to happen for the rest of us at large.

    1. Kenna McHugh profile image93
      Kenna McHughposted 3 months agoin reply to this

      Yes. Hollywood has two strong unions. In any case, we need something in place for the freelance writer.

  9. Bills Place profile image85
    Bills Placeposted 3 months ago

    Cloverleaf - I know the basics of SEO, but apparently with these Google updates the basics just aren't cutting it anymore... sIgh. I didn't know they had free courses though!

    Kenna - Thanks for the link. smile


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