Updated: Apr 29, 2020
I get asked this question quite often when I’m talking to a client for the first time, more often than not it is a combination of reasons that you have to tackle individually to solve the overall drop in traffic.
Google updates might have affected your site
I’ve often found that long term growth through SEO can help build your brand long term but if you aren’t opimising your site towards Google guidelines and they change the algorithm you can lose a lot of traffic and conversions.
Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times and it affects a large proportion of traffic, here are some recent updates that might have affected your site:
Featured Snippet De-duping - January 2020 - Google announced that URLs in Featured Snippets would no longer be appearing as traditional organic results, in line with Google's philosophy that a Featured Snippet is a promoted organic result.
January 2020 Core Update - January 2020 Google rolled another core update, which was quite significant when it eventually rolled out.
International BERT Roll-out - December 2019 - Google confirmed that the BERT natural language processing algorithm was rolling out internationally, in 70 languages. This announcement came after speculation from the SEO community, and the exact timing of the roll-out is unclear.
BERT Update - October 2019 - Google upgraded their algorithm and underlying hardware to support the BERT natural language processing (NLP) model. BERT helps Google better interpret natural language searches and understand context.
September 2019 Core Update - September 2019 - Google rolled out another core update with not a lot of detail released.
"Maverick" Update - July 2019 - Ranking trackers and webmaster chatter registered a week of heavy flux (MozCast peaked at 95°F on July 16) that was later dubbed the "Maverick" update by the search community.
Site Diversity Update - June 2019 - Google pre-announced a "site diversity" update, claiming it would improve situations where sites had more than two organic listings.
June 2019 Core Update - June 2019 - Sites impacted in previous core updates seem to have been affected, in some cases, and some major UK publishers reported heavy losses.
Indexing Bugs - May 2019 - The first bug reportedly was preventing new content from being properly indexed.
Deindexing Bug — April 2019 – affected entire sites that were accidentally not indexed in the search
Core Update / Florida 2 — March 2019 – affected all ranking factors (most of our clients were affected positively)
"Medic" Core Update — August, 2018 – affected all ranking factors (bigger brands seemed to have a boost at the time)
Mobile-First Index Roll-out — March 2018 – affected all non-mobile friendly websites (this is a website UX and dev requirement)
Hummingbird – September 2013 – affected the semantics and searcher intent as it gained more sophistication
Penguin – Multiple releases between April 2012 and September 2016 – affected poor link building tactics
Panda – Multiple releases between September 2011 and July 2015 – affected poor content and lack of depth
This is a good resource from Moz to give you more information about Google updates - https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change
Do an SEO audit with a reputable agency, generally they will offer them for free up front with no commitment (I can help :-)) then you can ask an expert to talk you through the detail.
From an ongoing perspective, you need to have someone in house or use an agency to optimise your site each month so you are keeping on top of these issues. SEO retainers like any service can vary in cost however a good price range for an SEO retainer would be £2k - £6k p/m with an agency and make sure you consider the costs over a 12 month period, SEO growth takes 6 months to start seeing effects.
Competitors in the market have taken market share
We have had a client who has recently been affected by 2 major brands in their vertical moving into to online and they have pretty quickly taken up attention from customers in the market. Their pre-existing brand awareness and established websites have meant that they just turned on a few extra categories and they are ranking plus they have deep pockets so the cost per clicks have increased across the channels.
Some of the signals that will let you know a new competitor has entered the market would be an increase in advertising costs (Cost Per Click), reduction in impression share in Google PPC campaigns, reduction in 1st page keyword rankings / positions from an SEO perspective and also you will notice a drop in sales as they take market share. It does take a fairly skilled and experienced person / team to spot this and identify the right data points to see the trend of decline.
This is more complicated that just doing an audit, first you must assess a number of factors against your new-found competitors and make some business decisions:
1. Go toe to toe – this might result in winning market share back however you will see a reduction in CPC efficiencies and also it will cost you – if you have deep pockets fine but most people don’t.
2. Pick your battles – select the channels you think you are competitive on and try to beat the competition with razor sharp tactics and performance. You will have to be agile (the big guys aren’t), take risks and keep a close eye on the return on investment for each channel. In theory it’s an efficiency game to really compete, Facebook & Instagram ads are a good tactic here as you aren’t bidding in a list – you are targeting the right audience, at the right time in the customer journey, with amazing content. (or that should be your plan!)
3. Review your entire strategy - Facebook and Google might have changed the rules I admit “Changes in algorithm” sounds so geeky it’s true however don’t take this buzz word lightly, Facebook and Google are fighting a tech war in the background of all of our lives and they are constantly making changes to improve the user experience. (Actually, what is happening they want to make more money – shhhh don’t tell anyone!)
When the algorithm’s change traffic fluctuates, it prompts the market to realise their “organic reach” isn’t working and start to pay for traffic through ads. Unfortunately, we are playing Facebook and Google’s game so sometimes you have to pay for clicks.
Lack of investment in evergreen SEO content
Investing in your SEO strategy does grow your business long term; the investment of content is a central part of that strategy and has been for a few years now. Not just writing 200-word blogs and hitting your blog post quota, actually creating meaningful content for your users to digest that has good search volumes behind it.
What are you doing to solve the problem?
Spending less money? Still got the same website? Not invested into content?
As well as considering the above you need to assess what you are doing now versus what you used to do in the “glory days”. I have a lot of clients who I talk to who expect to do the same things in 2019 that they did in 2015 and get angry because it stopped working – STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
Before you start complaining please do the work (or get someone to do it for you) in analytics and understand what channels used to drive traffic and conversions compared to now, they start a conversation with your marketing team or agency to narrow down the reasons.
Ultimately each website and sector is different and I might not have covered the exact reason why but if you need help contact me and I would be happy to have a look and help.
If you would like any help with your digital strategy or projects, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org