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Will Google Kill Comstock Films?

A couple of weeks ago I noticed something distressing in our daily site statistics; our google search referrals, which over time had risen to about 300-500 visitors/day on 100-150 search strings/day started to vascilate wildly. One day that would be typical, the next the would fall to 50-100 visitors on a few dozen search strings.

Then on Christmas Eve they crashed completely, a couple dozen visitors on a handful of search strings. A month ago we were getting 40-60 visitors/day on ‘couples sex film’ alone. Yesterday we got one. Other search terms relevent to our art and business have been similarly effected. In fact, since the Christmas Eve crash, we haven’t had the number of visitors on a single Google search string climb out of single digits on our daily search referrals.

But even more distressing than dropping off Google on the sorts of search terms that might lead the people who don’t know who we are (but do know that they want what we offer!) to our site, Google’s reshuffling has dropped our site on searches like ‘comstock films’, ‘www.comstockfilms.com’, and ‘tony comstock’.

That means the next time we get a mention in Esquire, The Metro, Penthouse, Jane, Women’s Health, and other magazines (after each of those mentions our Google referrals on the search ‘comstock films’ rose astronomically) people will have to click through several pages of returns before they actually find comstockfilms.com. The DIY trip, especially the DIY distribution trip, is built on the premise that If You Build It They Will Come. But that only works if people can find you, and it doesn’t help if the 800 pound gorilla search engine starts making it harder for the people who are actually looking for you to find you!

Now as it turns out, this is not a Google vendetta against Comstock Films. Google’s re-sorted the way they rank the entire sex/adult world, and everyone from pussy.com to Babeland.com has been effected. (For more read Google Delivers a Lump of Coal to Babeland.) It takes the sting out of it to know this isn’t something we did or didn’t do.

But it is going to hurt us. Our Google driven visitors are some of our best traffic. Both before and after Google’s re-ranking, people who come to the comstockfilms.com site via a Google search look at more pages and buy more DVDs than almost any other of our visitor sources. (In other words, people who find us through Google find what they were looking for.) If the current Google traffic pattern holds (and associated sales), the re-ranking will all but errase the financial gains we’ve made with the release of our new title, MATT AND KHYM.

Will this actually kill Comstock Films? No, I don’t think so. But it will make things harder, and it’s distressing and discouraging to watch something Peggy and I have worked hard to build go up in a puff of algorhythm alchemy smoke

ASHLEY AND KISHA is nearly finished, and we had sketched out a little marketing and promotion strategy for the next year (perhaps you’ve seen the beginings of it on some of the interweb’s finer blogs and websites) that was to have been fueled by additional revenue that our new titles and (until recently) ever growing web-sales was to have funded. We’ll just have to see what the medium term effect on sales is and see if the plan still makes sense.

It’s also a bit of a bummer to be looking at Christmas gifts and feeling like it might have been better to save the money for a rainy day. I didn’t need the Shuffle that Peggy got me (I’ve been borrowing hers to go running,) and that’s a month of advertising on a popular blog that sends us a steady stream of visitors, and each month a few of those turn into customers.

As I said, Comstock Films isn’t alone. If you google our friend Violet Blue, you’ll get a link to her podcast feed on the the first page, but tinynibbles.com is no where to be found. But what’s worse, you won’t see tinynibbles.com on the first page of a google search for for tinynibbles either! (This morning the first link to tinynibbles.com on the fifth page.) Chances are your favorite sexually related site is similarly effected.

What can we do? Well for starters, you can tell Google you’re not happy with the search results their providing. Google comstock films or tinynibbles or whatever your favorite might be, and if it’s not listed where you think it should be, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Dissatisfied? Help us impove link. Will that actually help? Who knows. It probably won’t hurt. (I happen to think that if someone googles comstock films, they should see comstock films on the first page, if not at the very top!)

And so it goes, the business of making art (and trying to make a living!) at the margin of culture. (Which seems like an odd place for films about real sex between real couples, but what do I know?)

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9 Comments

  1. Matt and Khym
    Posted December 27, 2006 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    That smacks of passive-agressive censorship to us. We’ve both sent complaints in to Google, and we’re hoping others will do the same.

    cheers,
    Matt and Khym

  2. Posted December 27, 2006 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Atrocious. I complained. We’ll see what happens.

  3. Posted December 27, 2006 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I’m an engineer at Google. I just wanted to say that different people at Google saw this and were asking about it, so we’ll check out these reports from the sites such as tiny nibbles and others.

  4. Posted December 28, 2006 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    It seems to be working fine now. I just ran searches for everything you mentioned and its all back where it should be…
    perhaps it was just a glitch, or perhaps complaints made them change it really quickly.
    All the best & hope things stay fine.
    Trip Hazard, UK alt-smut-maker.

  5. Posted December 28, 2006 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, a Google search on “comstock films” now brings up Comstock Films, as it does for the other websites mentioned in the Boing Boing post.

  6. Posted December 28, 2006 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Let’s not turn every technical problem into a crusade.

    Write a post in Google Webmaster Help.

    http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing?tsc=1&hl=en

  7. Jason
    Posted December 28, 2006 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    “Let’s not turn every technical problem into a crusade.”

    Agreed. It’s interesting that of the five or so articles that described this “phenomenon”, none of the authors actually tried to contact Google. It was up to “teh big bad evil corporation” to go to the bloggers’ sites and comment (see above).

  8. Posted December 28, 2006 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Halfdeck’s advice is solid, but we also try to keep an eye on the blogosphere for issues to check out. I heard about this one from several people who read blogs, for example.

  9. tony
    Posted December 28, 2006 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks all for stopping by and leaving comments. Replies in the following post.

5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Just an early morning post about a Boing Boing post titled Google “disappears” sex blogs? Something’s broken. For the main dish, you can go read their post, but I did find an interesting trail left by Matt Cutts on Comstock Films comment section, dated Dec. 27, 2006: Hey, I’m an engineer at Google. I just wanted to say that different people at Google saw this and were asking about it, so we’ll check out these reports from the sites such as tiny nibbles and others. [...]

  2. [...] I hadn’t realized it until a couple of days ago, but Comstock Films had a celebrity visitor comment on my Will Google Kill Comstock Films post of a few days ago. [...]

  3. By The Google Conspiracy | SugarBank on April 25, 2007 at 7:48 am

    [...] Then the December purge took effect, almost exactly a month after the November purge (connection?), and remained in place long enough for Tony Comstock and Violet Blue to write up, Boing Boing to reference, and me to check. Then, the day after Boing Boing published, everything returned to normal once again. [...]

  4. [...]  Long time readers already know that our company has had an on again/off again relationship with Google. Back in late 2006 we broke the Christmas shopping season googlebug story with our post “Will Google Kill Comstock Films?” [...]

  5. [...] the last post in Google’s index of my blog is my post from Dec. 27, 2006 “Will Google Kill Comstock Films?” That’s two years of blogging and something like 300 posts missing from Google’s [...]

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