The traffic to my astrology blog has dropped precipitously in the last three days. Drilling down into my analytics, it appears that I am getting less than half the Google search traffic I was getting just this past weekend.
Yes, I am worried. The blog brings in money. But it is also seven years old. It has over 5k fans on FB, over 2.5k followers on Twitter. I have a sizable email list (that I haven't been using since I ditched Mailchimp) that I can contact if I need to. Also, I have diversified my income streams such that I am not solely dependent on pageviews (i.e., ad impressions).
Nonetheless, I feel I need to keep bringing in "new eyeballs," because only a fraction of new visitors become fans. I feel helpless, and I don't want to try to divine Google's algorithmic intentions. ("What am I doing wrong, Google? Why hast thou forsaken me?") When I feel this way, I feel more determined to reduce my dependence on search traffic, yet Google is by far the biggest referrer to my site.
If Font Awesome had an unhappy face icon, I'd insert it here.
I just set up my own domain with Fastmail.fm and am going to start offering [email protected] as my primary email address instead of [email protected] It took opening tickets with both my host and Fastmail to correctly set up my MX records and my email alias, but now it is working.
The "straw that broke the camel's back" was this post on Groklaw about the author's choice to shut down the site (who knows how long this link will be active?) in light of recent disclosures about our current surveillance state, as well as numerous posts by Marco Arment about reducing his dependence on Google (particularly this one).
But privacy concerns aside, I would rather be a customer than a product. To Google, I am a product and the advertiser is the customer. The advertiser is paying for my attention. By choosing to pay Fastmail (by the time my 60-day trial ends) I am choosing to be the customer. They are serving me, not an advertiser. No software is reading my emails for the purpose of determining the most contextually appropriate ads to serve me.
I still rely on Google. I do searches while logged in. I use Maps; Calendar for my business; Drive to store some docs and spreadsheets that I frequently edit; and probably other services that are not coming to mind right now. I do not think Google is Evil, but I also don't feel that they have my best interests in mind. I don't want to just contribute to some Big Dataset in the Cloud.
I love the keyboard shortcuts and ease-of-use of Gmail, but Fastmail has IMAP, webmail, keyboard shortcuts, and other features. At this moment, I am willing to forego some convenience. I hope I stick with it.