How I Know Google Loves 'Content Churn' (aka I Did A Dumb Thing)
Hands up... Mea culpa... I did a dumb thing.
I did a small update to itunescharts.net and inadvertently broke the site.
iTunesCharts.net is my plaything. It's a site I like to play with from time to time. Mostly I like to change things just to see how those changes affect traffic or how I can improve site speed and performance. It's a site I built that I can leave burbling away without the need for constant maintenance. I release code when it's ready and there might be six months between code releases.
My intention had been to cull a few of the less popular charts. To do this I decide to keep existing URLs but not link to those charts in the main navigation and not import new data. I wanted my domain suddenly returning hundreds of 404 errors which seemed like a huge change that would freak google out and affect my rankings.
As it turned out, more charts stopped updating than intended. Oops. Not all charts were affected - UK and US charts were fine, two German charts remained unaffected but the German TV and Podcast charts stopped updating as did all charts for Australia, Canada and Spain.
The intricacies of why some charts broke and some didn't is too dull to go into, the interesting thing was the affect that this breakage had on traffic and, in particular, traffic referrals from google.
Whilst culling some charts (nine iPhone/iPad App charts if you're interested) I expected some drop in traffic, but what I saw was a massive drop off in visits. Huge.
The two graphs below show the dip in visits per day and then of referrals from google per day. The two annotations along the baseline relate to the breakage, followed a few days later by the application of the fix. Once the importer was fixed and new data was being pulled in, traffic returned to previous levels.
iTunesCharts.net - Visits per day
iTunesCharts.net - Daily Google referrals
I never previously considered how google might view "content churn". Turns out that it absolutely *LOVES* sites that have a high turnover of content. The site had gone from having 43 charts updated daily to having 43 charts, but only 10 updated on a daily basis.
The traffic plummeted.
A few days later I fixed the bug and the site return to having 29 charts updating daily. Traffic returned! And the only major change is the 'content churn'.
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