The digital landscape is constantly changing, what with frequent updates from Google and user behaviour being constantly influenced by new and emerging technology. Organic Search can be infinitely complicated as a result of many moving parts.
Keeping a close eye on all aspects can be challenging, but there’s a number of key areas that SEO professionals really need to be on top of. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than seeing a downward trend in traffic. If this should happen, obviously, check your ranks. That’s a no brainer. But it’s surprising how rarely ranks are to blame for a dip in traffic.
Sometimes, the answer is not obvious – my investigations have taken me to some pretty unusual and surprising places. In order to find out what is wrong, some areas to explore might include:
- Data and tracking issues
- Brand or non-brand keywords
- What’s changed on the site
- SERP changes and algorithm updates
That’s just a few of the possible areas you can look at. If you just think about how diverse those areas are, fully understanding SEO performance can be really tricky and time-consuming.
Below is a selection of some not-so-obvious conclusions for SEO traffic performance challenges that I have witnessed and helped to resolve. I hope they give you some inspiration and a little hope during your own investigations – when all the usual roads lead nowhere!
As you can see below, the search results pages have become very busy (depending on the search term). To a large extent, it’s out of your control and plays a huge part in SEO performance. SERP changes can be hard to detect through conventional reporting because your traditional ranking reports will probably look fine. You can still rank number one, but when Google introduces elements at the top of search results, your number one position is suddenly less attractive, gaining fewer clicks.
If you have run a successful local SEO campaign, then you’re going to be appearing prominently on people’s mobiles in the Local Map Listings. This is a good thing. However, Google will give your customers everything they need right there on their mobiles – phone numbers, addresses, directions, and opening hours – preventing their need to click and have to wait for your website to load.
Learning – Don’t just look at ranks. Understand your customers and their complete “search experience” with your website. You never know, you’re traffic might be down because you’ve done a great job on your SEO!
The Impact of PPC
SEO and PPC have always battled for traffic. Logically, why would you pay for traffic when you rank well? Why would you bid on your brand term? The truth is, PPC traffic is incremental i.e. if you rank in position one and do PPC, you will get more traffic than if you don’t do so. Therefore it does pay to have both.
However, success via PPC will always come at the cost of SEO performance and this needs to be integrated into your data and reporting. Here’s some great reasons why.
Firstly, everyone’s on mobiles these days, and the PPC impact is that much greater on mobile devices. This is because the end user has to scroll that much further on a mobile device to find your number one organic listing. Most will just click on your PPC ad – especially for brand terms.
Secondly, the seasonal impact. It’s not just your own PPC activity you need to worry about. The major online players have huge teams dedicated to PPC. They optimise their spending campaigns like ninjas. Amazon and Argos aren’t going to be bidding for summer terms like “tents” in winter, but come summer, they’ll be all over Google and you may notice a sudden drop in SEO traffic as a result.
Thirdly, marketing managers often ramp up PPC. This happens for any number of reasons, but usually to hit targets. Unfortunately, this can have a knock on impact on SEO and cause unnecessary concern.
Learning – Integrate your PPC and SEO campaigns, reporting together as a unified “search marketing” team where possible. Also, keep your eye on the search results pages and be on top of all the latest industry news and updates.
Content Marketing is essential for a successful SEO campaign. However, blogs don’t always get reported against and they’re often seen as secondary to the main landing pages. This stands to reason after all, how many commercial businesses build an SEO campaign around a piece of blog content?
Well, depending on the size of the site and the competition of your industry, blog content may in fact be the biggest SEO traffic driver by far. As you can see below, this is no exaggeration.
So, if you observe an unexplained dip in expected traffic – the blog is a great place to investigate.
Learning – Regularly review your top pages. They might surprise you! Check out your top 20 non-brand keywords (easy via Search Console) and you will know exactly where your traffic is really coming from and where to investigate should you notice a decline. Without this insight, you may just assume the “big keywords” are down, when in fact, you’ve dropped for keywords that you never even knew you ranked for.
All in all, these tips really show that you cannot overlook anything, or take any element of SEO for granted. If you’re in any role within the industry of digital marketing, you need to know your data inside out. However, it really is one of the toughest areas of the field to figure out and so easily deprioritised in lieu of more tangible results.
At Distinctly, we’re obsessed with data. We strive to know our clients’ customers better than they do.
If you’re experiencing any performance issues with your website, get in touch. We can investigate all possible causes and provide a robust strategy to get performance back on track.