Tuesday, May 7, 2013
by Michael Garrity
Maybe it’s been happening over the past few weeks, or even months. Slowly, but surely, you’ve been watching your traffic numbers decline, despite not having changed much of anything about the way you publish content or optimize your website for the search engines.
Naturally, you’ll want to know exactly what’s going on and what’s causing this continual dip in traffic. For some problems, you may be able to look at your analytics platform to determine what content is seeing its traffic numbers decrease, which could help you clearly identify where you’re struggling.
However, in most cases, you’ll have to perform some kind of search result audit for your various keywords that will show you where you’re currently ranking on Google and its competitors for your most important keywords. Ultimately, this could reveal one (or more) issues that are holding you down in the SERPs and, thus, negatively affecting your traffic numbers.
But before you begin investigating, it might be helpful to know what you should be on the lookout for. So, here are the five most likely reasons that you’ve been seeing your website traffic decrease:
(Too) many website owners and SEO professionals tend to a take an “it’s all about me” approach to their work, and when they start to have an issue like declining traffic, their initial instinct is to wonder what it is THEY are doing wrong and what THEY have to do to fix it. However, few immediately consider the possibility of a new website (or sites) that have moved into their niche and are luring away some of their traffic by offering comparable products or content. This is one of the reasons why conducting regular industry assessments and search audits is imperative.
Content is Out of Date
Every good content creator strives to make something evergreen that will last forever, so that visitors will consistently come to his or her website to read it. However, over time, the majority of content will become dated, and its value will begin to depreciate at a regular pace. One way to tell if your content isn’t as enticing to searchers as it used to be is to monitor that page’s analytics, and if something that used to get a consistently high influx of visitors now gets less and less, it’s likely that the content on the page is decreasing in value to most readers. A method for correcting this issue could be to produce a new, updated version of that content, and then to link to the new page on the old one.
Shifts in Algorithm Values
This is another instance where your decreasing traffic isn’t actually your fault. Occasionally, Google and the other search engines will alter their algorithms to give more weight to certain types of content for specific search terms. When that happens, images, videos, wiki pages or other content that is slightly different from standard Web pages may be given prominence over your site, which can have an effect on how much traffic you get from that search engine. If you notice that Google seems to favor certain types of content for one of your keywords or targeted search terms, maybe that means you should consider making a video or infographic the next time you consider writing a blog post about a that topic.
Caught Red Handed Being a Black Hat
And other times, SEOs are knowingly or unknowingly participating in nefarious “black hat” SEO tactics in order to move their sites higher up in the SERPs. Once Google and the others bust you – and they almost always will – they’ll penalize your site and send you way down in the rankings, and that will obviously affect your traffic. If you genuinely weren’t intending to be shady and just made a mistake, it’s important that you find out what your exact offense was and correct it as soon as possible, so that you can start trying to garner some good will with the search engines and make your way back up in the rankings.
They’re Just Not That into Your Content
However, the unfortunate truth is that much of the time, consumers just aren’t going to be that interested in the content that you’re publishing, meaning it’s not engaging or valuable enough to hold their attention and keep them coming back for more. And without engaging content, your traffic numbers are going to suffer. To rectify this problem, you should be aware of the top sites and blogs in your niche or industry, and take note of what they’re regularly publishing content about (in order to understand emerging trends) and what their readers are saying in comments sections and on social media sites to see what they’re asking for, so that you have a better idea of what content will be engaging and valuable to the visitors you want to attract.