We've provided FREE EXPERT INFORMATION AND ADVICE FOR YARDENERS since the mid-1990s. In the early 2000s, we added our FREE PERSONAL YARDENING NEWSLETTER that allows subscribers to get monthly care advice for the specific plants they have in their yard. For many years we operated without any revenue. Eventually, we decided to use Google Adsense to earn revenue by displaying third-party advertisements on the Yardener website (we earn money when the advertisements are clicked by visitors). While we do not really control or endorse the Google Adsense content, the advertisements are distinguished from our content and, aside from Google Adsense advertisements, our content only contains information, products, and advice that we endorse and use ourselves. For several years our traffic and revenue from Google Adsense increased steadily and helped us "keep the lights on" and even grow our free services (e.g. the FREE QUESTION ANSWERING SERVICE).
Unfortunately, over the past year our traffic and revenue have dramatically fallen to less than half what they were the previous year, even though our free content and services remain outstanding. We believe there are likely several causes for this:
1) Google changed its search engine algorithms around the time of its launch of its social network services. Many information sites have been dramatically affected, perhaps most notable is about.com which the New York Times recently sold for a loss because of a severe revenue drop after Google changed its algorithms. We're not happy that a site which provides such great free information and services as ours can be so suddenly and adversely affected by Google's formula changes, and if the power of Google and other search engines gives you some concern you are not alone.
2) There are many many competitors who spend a lot of time optimizing their sites for search engines. Seach Engine Optimization (SEO) is used by legitimate and many other businesses to win search engine traffic and advertising revenue. Some of our competitors may not have great information or services, but may win traffic and revenue because they have figured out a way to gain higher search engine ranking. We don't like the SEO game, but we are working to learn more about it so we can continue to reach the people that want the expert information and services that we provide.
3) Unfortunately, we have discovered several competitors who have outright stolen our content and used it on their own website pages to steal our traffic and revenue with our own content! We are taking steps to use third-party tools and services, like CopyScape.com, to find and deal with such cases, but it is a cumbersome and perhaps never-ending battle and the resulting damage to our traffic and revenue will likely never be recovered. Since we've worked hard for many years to become gardening experts and writers, and to provide our free information services online, this copyright infringement has been a very disappointing discovery.
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