things to do in saitama

I am sorry to say that after 13 rewarding years, its time to put Insaitama.com to bed. That is, I will not be renewing my self hosting website contract in September. I have learned so much about blogging, writing, search engine optimization and even some technical skills over the 13 years. And thanks to you, the reader, it has all been very worthwhile and enjoyable. Thank you so much, sincerely and deeply, for your readership and support over the years. Some of you have been with me from the get go, some of you only found the blog recently. And there within lies one of the many reasons I have decided to close this chapter…

English language information

When I started this blog in June 2008 there was very little, like practically NO, English language information about Saitama Prefecture anywhere on the worldwide web. It was the main catalyst for starting the blog at all. Nowadays, particularly in the last two years, there is plenty of information in English about Saitama online. Ironically, although insaitama was first, and dare I say often the most detailed, I just can’t get it to rank high on search engines anymore. Part of the reason for that is technical issues out of my scope of knowledge:

Google Core Updates

On the morning of August 14th I woke up to a notification from Google that 777 (oh the irony) of my website’s pages were deemed not suited to mobile users. Because I have an event calendar on the blog, insaitama actually has thousands of pages (one date in the calendar is one page for example). So relatively speaking 777 is not that bad. However, about 77% of the 777 pages (7 is not feeling so lucky anymore!) currently flagged are actually blog posts and some of my most important blog posts at that. I don’t have the know how or patience to try – once again – to fix these issues. And although I can “afford” it, I really don’t want to be throwing bad money after good, as they say.

The notification from Google Console was the latest in a loooooong list of notifications from Google since February 2020 deeming my website technically unfit in one way or another. You see it wasn’t enough for google that thousands of bloggers around the world had lost traffic due to, you know, the world crisis that’s going on right now. They decided this was as good a time as any to rub salt into our already soiled wounds and add insult to injury. They have been running a number of patches, fixes, core updates and all other sorts of bullshit since early 2020 and in earnest from April 2020. Recently every weekend they do one sort of update or another that either negatively or positively effects a website. One of the main ways it effects us bloggers is on how we rank on Search Engine Results Pages or SERP as its called in the SEO world.

SERP Rankings

I spend AT LEAST 20 hours a week updating the blog in one way or another. That might be drafting up blog posts or updating event posts or on the stuff you don’t see – like Search Engine Optimization; tweaking posts so that they will be more visible on Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). What’s the point of having all this information if people can’t find it right? On the last Google Core Update I lost my first place position on SERP for hundreds of my keywords. Worse still for some of them I slipped from not just the first place, but the first page. Very few people go past page one.

A 1000 things to do in Saitama

Just to give you ONE example, between pages, posts and events there are more than a 1000 things to do in Saitama on this blog. That is more than the prefectural English language website or any other travel website out there. Yet, for the search term “things to do in Saitama” this blog does not rank on page 1 of SERP and has not done for a long time. What is on page 1 are one off articles by large travel and / or magazine websites that list maybe 10, occasionally 20, things to do in Saitama. I ask you, what’s a girl to do!? Lord knows I tried to get it on page one, but with the way Google operates at the moment its just not possible. Yes, there are other search engines, but unfortunately Google has such a large chunk of the industry they are the most important.

Another example of just how bad it has gotten – I copy my own content on City-cost and Japan Travel and a few other websites where I write under a pseudonym! Except on City Cost and Japan Travel my posts are shorter and I use fewer photos. But guess what? Yep, Google ranks City Cost and Japan Travel posts above insaitama.com posts which are the original and the most detailed. How do you compete with that?

Readership and shares down

Obviously due to the pandemic less people are travelling. Hence, I have lost a good chunk of my international readers. There is a double whammy in that. International readers are more likely to share your blog posts, than local readers. Its just plain old psychology 101. Sharing is so important for a blog, it is one of the ways Google and other search engines know to rank your blog high. And obviously with sharing down so is readership.

The cost

To be honest, little of the above would matter so much if it was free or cheaper to host the blog. But my blog is just way too big for any of the free or cheap sites out there. I have realized over the years that most people don’t know that I pay a lot of money to maintain this blog. I spend upward of 800 euro a year (about 102,000 yen) on the blog. That includes the costs of the domain, self hosting, jetpack and various plug-ins and technical fixes etc. Until the pandemic I actually made in and around the same on advertisements placed on my blog. But since the pandemic my earnings have gone down. I wouldn’t mind paying out of pocket – after all every hobby costs money – if it was worth it, but recently for the reasons outlined above its too expensive for the time I put in and what I’ve been getting back in return.

Time to say Goodbye

To be perfectly honest, I actually considered just letting the website go without writing this post. That was wrong of me and I am sorry. Because, I am and always have been, very grateful for your readership and support over the years. Some sempai and kohai helped me see that I owed you the reader an explanation as to why its closing down. But the thing is, I was worried about writing this. I was worried that if I wrote this post that one of three things would happen. One, that “saying it out loud” would make it real and I would regret my decision. (Plus there was that whole thing of once I wrote this, there’d be no taking it back!) Two, people would try and talk me out of it. Or three, people would thank me for my hard work over the last 13 years and tell me how my blog had helped them. And one or all would tempt me to keep the blog. Well, while asking advice from friends and fellow AFWJ members about how to close up the blog, all three happened. And unfortunately I still think its time to retire the blog.

The end

Insaitama.com as it is in its present state, will “end” / close / retire on September 15th! However, I still have 9 months left on the domain, so something maybe available at the web address insaitama.com after that. I’m still figuring out the technicalities of that end of stuff. But my host provider has confirmed it can’t possibly be this full blog of 500 things and 500 events in Saitama. For what its worth, I would have liked to have kept it forever, but its just not feasible anymore. My adventures will continue and I will continue to share cool places in Saitama on the In Saitama Facebook page and photos on the In Saitama Instagram. I will also continue to write for City-cost.com and Japan Travel.

So there it is – the explanation, my sincere heartfelt thanks and my goodbye.

For the featured photo on this post, I used the most recent photo on my phone. It was taken today, August 21st, at a sunflower maze in the Horigane area of Sayama City. Link to the location on Google Maps, flowers are expected to be in bloom until the end of August.

Check out the most read and shared post of all time on insaitama here!

22 Comments

  1. Oh, I am sorry to hear this.
    I have been enjoying your Saitama posts since I first followed this blog. However it’s your to decide.
    yes, I think the pandemic make it worse to the blog and the recent trend of how people using internet, especially for travelling. They love video, instagram, and stuffs more nowadays.

    To think about traffic on our blog it’s frequently exhausted.

    I wish you will write more in enjoyable state.

    I will follow your IG and I do have Japan Travel account.
    Try to get point there once, a few years ago and I stop for the lack of inspiration, however I still open that web once or twice.
    I will follow your story there, as well.

    So.
    Cheers and stay safe!

    1. Author

      Yuna ๐Ÿฅบ๐Ÿ˜โค๏ธ๐Ÿฅฐ thank you so so much. I really appreciate your kind words and understanding. I will continue to follow your journey too xxxx

      1. My pleasure.

        Stay safe
        and
        MCheer! ๐Ÿ™‚ <3

  2. Enjoy your writing and really sorry to hear your travails with Google. You may be surprised that even here at http://www.japantravel.com we have the same challenges. To Google we are just a small fish and not a very profitable one. Their tinkering with their algorithms is purposeful, commercially-focused, and not at all aligned with the capabilities of small but valued blogs like your’s (or ours).

    I really appreciate that you are contributing to Japan Travel and look forward to seeing more stories from you. I hope that you take advantage of the byline and that something good comes out of it. Among other things, you might want to take a look at the virtual tours that Japan Travel is getting into. Best regards, Terrie

    1. Author

      Hi Terrie,

      Thank you very much. I am surprised to hear that. I would have thought that Japan Travel is one of the big fish. It certainly deserves to be with the range of beautifully written quality content from every corner of Japan. I am excited to put my energy into Japan Travel next. I’ve always enjoyed writing for the site, but as you can tell, my own blog was my main priority until now. It will be really lovely not to have to worry about the technical side of things for a change! However, having written my own blog for so long I always make sure to make any post SEO friendly and to link to other posts within Japan Travel too.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment here. I look forward to connecting with you and the rest of the Japan Travel family more in the coming months… years!

      All the best,

      Lynda

  3. I’m sorry to see you ‘shut shop’ but good that you’ve worked out when it’s time to stop spending the money.

    I had a delusion about how successful I was going to be at blogging but the truth is, as another commenter said, there is so much competition.

    Will you still blog at all but using a free site?

    1. Author

      Hi Helen, thank you so much. I find the whole blogging experience has changed greatly over the years. You’ve been blogging a long time too – do you feel the sense of community has dwindled? Or maybe its because I went self hosting and although still WordPress, its not the same as the free WordPress. Although, WP is no longer completely free either – I was going to start another blog for event share only, but to use the plug in on a new blog you have to pay for it now. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ The world it is a changing! I think I may eventually start another casual blog, but for now taking a break. Thank you so so much for your support and your kind comment. Lynda xxx

      1. So, if I were to start a new WP I might find parts of it were no longer free. What is a plug in?

        Personally, I haven’t found a change in blogging, although ‘my’ community of bloggers has changed members. I dare say this is inevitable as people stop blogging themselves, realise they are on a different wavelength from me etc.

        I don’t blog as much as I used to myself. It started as a way to prepare for a book I was thinking of writing but then I discovered the community element. I’m a single parent and in 2012 my daughter was too young to be left so WP was my social life to some extent.

        On the other hand, I feel my handful of regular readers are actually genuinely interested in reading my posts, so now I write for them when I feel there is something newsworthy. However, I no longer have as much time or inclination to write as I am able to lead a life more outside cyberspace now that my daughter is nearly 15.

        One way or another the world is definitely changing ๐Ÿ˜Š

        1. Author

          From what I can tell, unfortunately so. I started a new one and I wanted to add some events from the event plugin but it said I would have to pay extra. It also specifies straight up that you only get 3gb of memory for photos. So I definitely couldn’t convert this site to a new blog ๐Ÿ™ A plugin is like an App I suppose. On the old WP admin dashboard its under “Appearance”. They allow you improve appearance or technical appearance of the blog. They used to be free, but looks like most of them are charged now. ๐Ÿ™

          1. A shame for you that you can’t transport your site.

            I’ve noticed an increase in emails offering me a deal on a paid site. I am resisting but it is possible that eventually it will be pay or go ๐Ÿ˜ž

  4. An understandable decision.

    Is it possible for you to migrate your posts over to blogspot? Then you are only paying for the domain, not the hosting. Just a thought.

    I’ve always loved your stuff and you are always welcome to crosspost over at r/Saitama !

    1. Author

      Oh my gosh… so simple, yet I didn’t think of it. This might actually be the answer. I will lose my followers probably, but at least I can keep the content, maybe even the ads too!! Going to check it out. Thank you so so much for suggesting it. And thank you for your readership and support over the years and the invitation to share on Reddit, I appreciate it.

  5. Hopefully you can export your blog and import into Blogspot, once completed then you just need to re-direct the domain and Bob is your proverbial elder family member.
    At worst, copy and paste all of the blog entries. The advantage of this is that you can review and edit things before you re-post.
    And if you take your time to do the move, you can find a nice template that works for both Desktop and Mobile.

    One other tip for moving to Blogspot, create a new Google Account for it. Then you have an extra 15GB of storage for free with your new account. But there may be problems with advertising if you do this.

  6. G’day Terrie,
    If you have posts that are Saitama related, I’m happy for them to be posted to r/Saitama on Reddit. Say once a week or so?

  7. I’m very sorry to hear this. I have followed your blog from the very beginning and look forward to the ping in my mailbox to say a new post is in! Best of luck with your next endeavors.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much S. I really appreciate it… I meant everything I said in the PM xxx

  8. So sad to see your website go๐Ÿ˜ข
    I am managing a few websites and have the same problem with google!
    The Japanese Garden website is still doing quite ok in ranking but we also lost arouns half the visitors, probably because travel isnโ€™t possible.
    My personal blog is to itโ€™s half not being indexed anymore and I have no clue why. Itโ€™s annoying and my visitors went down around 90% by now..
    Itโ€™s frustrating!
    I really understand your feeling and decision to stop working on this website. Especially when you can write for other websites and earn money with that.
    However, maybe it would be possible to transfer the articles with text only to a free wordpress? Then at least all the information would be still available for people who like to explore Saitama. Even though there might only be a few (like me).

    1. Author

      Hi Anika, thank you so much for your warm and supportive comment. I have been weighing up the options (a lot of them) over the last few weeks and I am currently trying to move things to a really cheap website – its not going well so far, but I remain optimistic!! I am so sorry to hear you have had the same problems. Its really frustrating and upsetting isn’t it. After all the work we put in and Google can just do whatever they please without a second thought for people like us ๐Ÿ™‚ I can see your Japanese Gardens website link through this comment and have opened it in another window to check out after writing this comment! At first glance it looks really so professional and appealing. I will write a post tomorrow or the next day about the fate of the content – I had planned to close “insaitama” tomorrow the 15th but thankfully I have the site to the 18th as I am not ready for it to disappear totally quite yet! Especially as the last minute decision to share the content to a cheaper website isn’t working out as easily as hoped! Thanks again and hopefully this isn’t quite the end!!

  9. One of my daughters was working in Japan last year, and was fun to follow your seasonal reports, as she was sharing her own.
    Best wishes for your future endeavours!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much Irene. I really appreciate it. I thought I’d figured out a way to move the blog to a cheaper website, but its not going very well so this maybe truly goodbye to my blog. But I will keep following yours ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. It’s so sad ๐Ÿ˜” . Could you archive sections in several free websites (in Saitama 1, 2, etc.) and refer to them from a new, low cost, site, and then keep moving as you fill it? I imagine it would be a lot of work ๐Ÿ˜ฃ. Thank you for following mine, I’ll look for your articles and check your other social media ๐Ÿ˜

  10. Hi Anika, what is your personal blog about?

    I’ve bookmarked the Japanese Gardens blog, looks great.

Comments are always appreciated...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.