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.
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.
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.
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.