- SERP Insider
- What To Do When Your Site Traffic Drops
What To Do When Your Site Traffic Drops
So, you recently started blogging and just logged into your Google Search Console to see this..
Your impressions down 90%+, clicks non existent, you can’t find your site in the serps, your sanity and keyboard are in shambles, and you have no idea why.
It’s okay, it truly is one of those things that ACTUALLY happens to everyone, no matter how experience they are at SEO/marketing in general.
This happens more frequently for new websites, but old, established websites aren’t immune to this cold shoulder treatment.
It’s the most infuriating, gut-wrenching feeling one can experience in the field, but fortunately for you, despite what others say, you can actually fix this.
This guide is relevant to sites at all stages, and I highly recommend you just read it until the end first, and try to absorb the concept before implementing.
The old man and the sea, an introduction.
There’s many things that could have gone wrong, and it’s likely that almost no matter how much you research, you won’t actually find an individual answer.
In this situation, it’s best to step back, analyze the data, strategize, implement changes, and then compare the outcomes to your previous results.
Most people think this is due to AI content, or blacklisting, sandboxing, a whole bunch of industry words that don’t really mean anything, so let’s first break down the possible issues, and how to go about fixing them.
In reality, there’s no individual issue that causes this, and there’s no “one size fits all” approach, continuously testing and analyzing is your best bet.
If you want to do it yourself, you’re going to have to adapt to this and learn some concepts, which is my goal with this lesson.
I’m letting you know now, this is going to be a long journey, and you’ll probably learn a lot about your business and SEO in general along the way.
I highly suggest you bookmark this post if you find it useful and decide to implement, that way you can continually come back to it.
I also suggest you read it all the way through before making big changes.
Before we isolate the possible issues that would drop your rank, it’s important to have an understanding on what the game is about in the first place.
At its core, Googles goal is to match buyers with sellers, whether it’s information, products, services, the end goal is to have their users find what their looking, and rewards historically reliable and trustworthy websites.
To do this at scale, Google uses algorithms to sort through hundreds of billions of webpages and other content to present the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second.
The criteria and signals their algorithms use to rank websites are known as ranking factors.
Achieving Topical Authority is really your primary goal in this game. This means you want to become a trusted source and expert on your topic, and Google will reward you immensely for doing so.
This video explains the whole concept in a very simple to understand way.
Meaning of query
Google uses language models to understand the intent behind search queries.
This means that Google is able to understand exactly what their users are looking to achieve from their search, .
Informational Intent - The user is looking for more information on a particular topic, product, or event.
These searches are usually broad and can range from simple facts like "What is the weather today?" to more complex inquiries like "How does blockchain technology work?"
Ask yourself, do your pages answer these questions, or are your pages mis-intended?
If your pages aren’t targeting the correct intent, it’s very likely Google nuked you off the search results for that reason.
To fix it, go back and update the content by aligning it to your intended query.
Navigational Intent - The type of searches where the user's primary goal is to navigate to a specific website or webpage.
The user already knows where they want to go; they're just using the search engine as a tool to get there.
Here are some examples of navigational content:
Brand or Company Websites: When a user types in a specific brand or company name, such as "Nike" or "Microsoft," they're likely trying to navigate to that brand's official website.
Social Media Platforms: Searches for "Facebook," "Instagram," "Twitter," or "LinkedIn" are typically navigational, with users intending to log in to their accounts on these platforms.
Online Shopping Sites: If a user searches for "Amazon" or "eBay," they're likely intending to navigate directly to these e-commerce platforms.
Specific Articles or Blog Posts: If a user remembers a specific article or blog post and they type in a title or part of it, their intent is to find that specific piece of content. For example, "New York Times article on climate change."
Online Tools or Services: Searches for "Gmail," "Google Docs," or "Canva" are examples of users intending to navigate directly to these online tools or services.
Specific YouTube Videos or Channels: If a user types in the name of a YouTube channel or a specific video title, their intent is to navigate directly to that content.
Ask yourself, if your pages are meant to be navigational in nature, are they?
Again, if not, go back and fix those up, this is a make or break situation where you will 100% be removed from a SERP you don’t belong in.
Transactional Intent: The user is ready to buy and is looking to make a transaction. This could be anything from purchasing a product or service to signing up for a newsletter.
Here are a few examples:
"Buy iPhone 13 online"
"Order pizza near me"
"Download Adobe Photoshop"
"Sign up for Netflix subscription"
"Book a flight to New York"
"Purchase yoga mat on Amazon"
"Enroll in online Spanish course"
"Renew car insurance online"
"Download the latest version of Chrome"
"Register for a webinar on digital marketing"
To optimize your webpage for transactional intent, you need to ensure that your content, meta titles, meta descriptions, and overall website design align with the user's intent to complete a transaction. Here are some tips:
Content: Your content should clearly describe what you're offering, how it benefits the user, and how they can purchase or sign up. Include clear calls to action (CTAs) like "Buy Now," "Sign Up," or "Download Here."
Meta Titles: Your meta title should include your target transactional keyword and a clear indication of what the user can do on your page. For example:
"Buy iPhone 13 Online | Free Shipping - YourStoreName"
"Sign Up for Online Spanish Course | Start Learning Today - YourWebsiteName"
Meta Descriptions: Your meta description should further elaborate on what the user can do on your page and why they should choose you. For example:
"Get your iPhone 13 today with free shipping and a 1-year warranty. Secure checkout and fast delivery. Shop now at YourStoreName."
"Learn Spanish from the comfort of your home with our interactive online course. Sign up today and get your first lesson free at YourWebsiteName."
Transactional intent is super important if you’re trying to sell things, so it’s really important that you nail these pages, or you will 100% get nuked off the SERPs.
Commercial Investigation - The user is in the process of deciding to buy and is looking for information to help them make their decision. They might be comparing products, looking at reviews, or seeking other information that will help them make a purchasing decision.
Here are a few examples:
"iPhone 13 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 comparison": This search indicates that the user is considering buying a new phone and is comparing these two models.
"Best DSLR cameras 2023": The user is likely looking to buy a DSLR camera and wants to know which models are the best this year.
"MacBook Pro reviews": The user is considering buying a MacBook Pro and wants to read reviews from other users.
"Top 10 running shoes for marathon": The user is likely a runner looking for the best shoes for marathon running.
"Affordable 4K TVs with best picture quality": The user is looking to buy a 4K TV that is affordable and has the best picture quality.
In each of these examples, the user is not just looking for information - they're looking for information that will help them make a purchasing decision.
As such, content that targets these kinds of keywords should not only provide the necessary information but also guide the user towards making a purchase.
Optimizing a page for Commercial Investigation search intent involves providing detailed, comparative, and persuasive content. Here's a brief guide:
Understand User Needs: Identify what information users need to make a purchase decision. This could be product comparisons, reviews, or detailed product information.
Create Detailed Content: Provide comprehensive and unbiased information about the products or services being compared. Include pros, cons, features, and pricing.
Use Comparisons and Reviews: Include comparison charts, user reviews, and testimonials. These can help users make informed decisions.
Include Clear CTAs: Make sure to include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) that guide users towards making a purchase or taking the next step in the buying process.
Optimize for SEO: Use relevant keywords in your content, meta tags, and URLs. This helps search engines understand your content and rank it appropriately.
Use High-Quality Images and Videos: Visuals can greatly enhance user understanding and engagement, especially for product comparisons and reviews.
Remember, the goal is to provide users with the information they need to make a confident purchase decision.
If you can’t do that, why would Google rank you higher than someone who can?
It’s vital that you rectify this issue if it applies to you, and it’s extremely important that this is the first thing you work on before adding more content to your site.
Next, relevance of content..
Google's systems analyze the content to assess whether it contains information that might be relevant to what you are looking for.
This includes looking at keywords, as well as using aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries.
This doesn’t just mean if the content of your page is relevant, it also means if the content on your site is relevant to your core topic at all.
My advice is to remove fluff/irrelevant context from your active pages, draft content about topics you haven’t covered in depth yet, and delete content that adds no value to your topic.
For example, if your blog has 100 articles, and 60 of them are about a core topic, 30 are about a new topic you’re not known for yet, and 10 articles about a completely different topic:
Fix the 60 core articles
Draft the 30 articles about the new topic until you have more
Delete content that has no relevance to your core topic
There have been countless case studies on Twitter about how people have gained more traffic by pruning irrelevant content.
Canva's SEO - since Feb 2020 they've:
- Removed 90% of their pages
- Doubled the remaining 10% of pages
- More than doubled 1st page rankings
- More than tripled organic traffic
- Ranked first for 'red' in the US
- Done this to their robots file, because why not?
— Joe (@joecowmanwd)
May 23, 2023
Quality of content
Google's systems prioritize content that seems most helpful. They identify signals that can help determine which content demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
For example, if other prominent websites link or refer to the content, it's often a good sign that the information is well trusted.
Usability of webpages
Google also considers the usability of content. For example, it looks at page experience aspects, such as if content is mobile-friendly and if it loads quickly.
Context and settings
Information such as your location, past Search history, and Search settings all help Google to ensure your results are most useful and relevant for you in that moment.
For instance, if you’re in Chicago and you search “football”, Google will most likely show you results about American football and the Chicago Bears first.
Clearing the myths about AI Content
If your site is laden with SEO content, your first thought may be that you’ve been penalized, or something has happened because of your content, and many times, people simply blame AI content for their drop in traffic when it’s always not the case.
Google has stated many times that it does not give a shit about AI content, what it cares about is USEFUL, human-readable content, that displays expertise, authority and trustworthiness of the publisher.
This has very little to do with AI writing content, and more to do with the type of content that you’ve used AI to write with, your topical coverage, and much more.
If you’ve been using AI to pump out content mindlessly, or have some AI content you’re not sure about, continue reading this section, if not, skip.
I mention this because I’ve been seeing so many people just taking ChatGPT prompts from complete dumb fucks and using them to mass produce thin, useless content, posting hundreds/thousands of pages of content thinking it’ll just work.
This is a coin-toss situation with a few technicalities.
First of all, if it’s a new website, it’s actually likely that all these clicks and impressions are literally just Google bots crawling your new site, and the rankings you saw are just temporary ranks given to you by Google automatically.
However, given time, if your content is thin and shitty, Google easily takes notice and revokes your un-earned ranks.
You see, I’ve said this phrase about “SEO doesn’t take 6 months to work”, but here’s where nuance comes in.
What happens is, with new sites, when you start indexing and seeing some results, these fast results are what these people call the “sandbox” period, where Google is shuffling you around the serps, and not really sure where exactly to place you.
This process can take months to settle, but there’s ways to solidify your legitimacy to Google in the short and long term, which will ultimately actually fix this problem.
This issue is super common for sites that are 1-3 months old, and lots of Twitter beginners come to me with this issue, and actually, most people just straight up give up here, when this is where you should be taking note.
So what’s going on..
9/10 times, your new sites impressions/clicks will drop within weeks, and the 1/10 times it doesn’t, it’s because the site is just that good, or competition is just that low, that your site just stays there.
Here are a few things you should REALLY focus on in the first few months of posting, however, since the drop has already happened to you, this is what you need to do.
The very very first thing you should do is check your robots.txt, and to make sure you’re not actually just discouraging search engines from crawling your site.
You need to go to your Google Search Console, Performance, then Pages, and mess around with the sorting here.
Try to find pages that have the most impressions and clicks like so.
There are likely the pages Google liked the most, and the ones that drove the traffic to begin with.
You need to re-visit these pages one by one and do the following:
Check meta titles, descriptions, H tags on the page as these are usually low hanging fruit.
When you initially launch a site and spam post content, it’s likely you neglected meta descriptions (which aren’t super important), meta titles (super important), as well as header tags on the page (very important).
Click through is a big aspect of where your page lands and stays, so if people aren’t clicking your search result, Google knows and will rank you lower, so it’s worth going back and updating these.
I think meta descriptions aren’t a main focus here, because Google automatically rewrites them, but Meta Titles can actually improve your ranking.
I recommend making sure you have your target keyword in the title, try to entice people to click by using high conversion words, include your intent, and maybe a number/date, these things all seem to have some small effect on click through in my experience.
You’ll often find that these pages that performed best still continue to gain some impressions even though the rest of the site gets literally zero.
From here, click on the page itself in Google Search Console, and see what keywords have been detected on the page.
In this case, Google initially reacted well to my page, it ranked well, got lots of impressions, however, got zero clicks, so Google removed it from the first page.
It also only picked up 3 keywords for that page, which is low, because this topic has dozens of keywords I should be ranked for.
What you’ll need to do here is isolate these pages first, and make sure these are your top priority in the recovery phase I’ll explain next.
In this example, I picked “best survey sites for moms”, I searched it on Google and entered the top result into SEMRush and found 22 keywords on that page, versus just 3 on mine.
This means that my pages are thin as fuck, and Google has found value elsewhere, and hidden my results.
To fix this, we’re going to have to go over that page, word for word, optimize the content to include more sections and coverage on the topic, including keywords and key phrases that my competitors have that I don’t.
This process takes time to perfect, but these are the shortcuts you took coming back to bite you in the ass.
There’s a few ways to simplify this process but you’ll have to spend some money.
ChatGPT is one way I’ve been doing this recently, and hear me out, because there’s a lot of shitty, misleading ChatGPT prompts and advice out there that’s just complete bullshit.
For this to work, you’re going to have to need a ChatGPT Plus subscription, because it includes using ChatGPT + Browsing or Plugins.
If you have ChatGPT Plus but don’t see Browsing & Plugins, go to your settings and enable them, dummy!
The Browsing method:
In this method, you’re going to feed ChatGPT + Browsing your links and data, then your competitors links and data, then you’re gonna ask it to analyze and report missing keywords, FAQs, and more.
A prompt for that would look something like this:
‘We are going to improve content on ‘serpguides.com’, we’re going to do this over multiple stages. I’m going to give you a link to content that needs improvement, as well as my current focus keywords for that page, as well as keywords I’d like to see on the page.
Assess my page, and then request my competitor URL, assess their page, and help me update my article by providing an outline for the new blog.
Link to my blog post: [your link]
Keywords on my page: [enter the keywords that appear on Google Search Console]
(optional) Keywords I want on the page: [enter keywords you want to add to the page]”
It should give you some generic result and ask you for your competitors link, at this point, give it a competitors link, and it should spit out an outline and some suggestions to the new blog.
Use this outline to improve the content on your page to add content with more keywords and context for that page.
SurferSEO is another tool you can use to expedite this process. Their platform is built around doing this at scale too.
To do this, create an account, enter the link to your page, target keyword, and wait for it to spit out all the missing keywords on this page.
You can take that data and rewrite the content on your site, use ChatGPT or whatever other tool you use to add more BEEF to your page.
I don’t like to give out specific numbers on how many words a page should have, my tip is to go scroll the top ranking articles in your keyword, and average their word count.
Some pages take a few hundred words to rank, some take thousands, and it’s important that you identify which.
For example, if your blog articles all have 3500+ words, but your competitors are ranked with only 800 words per post, I’m inclined to think Google might assume you as spam and therefore punish you.
SEMRush Keyword Gap is another tool you can use to find missing keywords and content to add to your page.
This is a paid tool but works great, you enter your link and some competitors, select keywords and bam, hundreds of missing keywords.
Next, let’s look into pruning irrelevant content from your site, because this might be another issue you’re likely facing if you just pumped content on your new site.
Firstly, what you want to achieve is authority on a topic, and to do that, you need to consistently post and interlink relevant content on your blog that shows Google that you’re about that life.
To do this on WordPress, I’d use a plugin like Sheets Editor to manually look over the posts and simply draft ones I wasn’t sure about.
To double check on whether you need to do this or not, take the link to the post and plug it into Google Search Console.
If the page stats look like this, then Google likely crawled it and maybe ranked it at first, but then deemed it irrelevant, or simply de-ranked it due to low click-through, which is something we’ll discuss later.
On the other hand, a page you don’t want to delete would look like this.
Notice significantly more impressions, higher rank, and the impressions dropped but still come in.
You can see how Google initially gave it rank 15 when it first indexed the page, this was a new site at the time.
After almost 2 months, Google decided for some reason, that the site deserved rank 39, and dropped it, this is VERY COMMON PRACTICE.
Don’t take it personally when things like this happen, you have to identify the issue and correct it, Google will actually love you for it.
This can take time, but does correct, note below that in the case of this client, it took almost 4 months to start seeing ANY impressions back on the site.
Obviously impressions and clicks are still down compared to before, but the site came back to life after we improved the content and pruned over 80% of the content on it.
This means you need to analyze all your published content and simply draft (don’t delete!) content that’s simply not relevant to your main topic, or sub-topics that you’ve not perhaps dived into yet.
Draft unfinished content too, if you have articles that are thin or can use more content, just draft them and come back to them later.
Now, since you’re going to be rewriting and adding content to existing posts, I want you to take note and work on a few things.
Firstly, if you don’t have any internal links, you’re probably making it hard for Googlebots to crawl your site, and even worse, not linking contextually relevant content to each other.
Here’s a few things you can do to fix that.
If you use WordPress, you can use a plugin to automate this internal linking to where you can assign individual keywords to pages, and it automatically links back to the page throughout the site.
This free plugin is called Internal Links Juicer, and here’s a quick demonstration on how to use it.
On SurveysToCash, I have it set up to where it can create internal links to my money pages, which all have country names in them.
For example, I’ve added the words “USA, America, United States of America” to Internal Link Juicer here:
Now any time those keywords appear on my site, it’ll automatically create internal links to it, now look at how many internal links are in this block of text, all leading to contextually relevant content for that specific page.
This is straight forward enough, and has a massive impact on your site, because now not only can Google crawl to these links and contextualize them, but this is a huge user experience boost that Google recognizes and rewards.
This is the equivalent of customer support asking you if you’ve reset your router, it’s one of the more obvious things that could be wrong.
Whether by error or malice, sometimes your Robots.txt file might be edited to make your site uncrawlable.
You should review your robots.txt to see if you or someone else has blocked crawlers, or noindexed your posts, as these things can also happen.
So what’s next..
If you’ve reviewed all of these aspects and fixed/planned for the future, my advice moving forward is to continue adding content.
In the coming days, I’ll be adding part 2 and 3 of this lesson, what you should do after you’ve addressed all these issues.
This will include how to find keywords and write content that improves your authority on your topic.
I’ll also be teaching you how to build reputable backlinks all by yourself.
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SEO Challenges are Universal: Experiencing drops in website impressions and clicks is a common issue, affecting both new and established websites. It's a part of the SEO journey and not a cause for panic.
Understanding Google's Goal: Google aims to match users with the most relevant and trustworthy information, products, or services. Achieving Topical Authority, or becoming a trusted source on your topic, is crucial for SEO success.
User Intent is Key: Google uses language models to understand the intent behind search queries. Your content should align with this intent, whether it's informational, navigational, transactional, or commercial investigation.
Quality and Relevance Matter: Google prioritizes content that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It also considers the usability of webpages, including mobile-friendliness and load speed.
AI Content is Not Penalized: Google does not penalize AI-generated content as long as it is useful, human-readable, and displays expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
Content Improvement is Essential: To improve your content, analyze top-performing pages, optimize meta titles, descriptions, and header tags, and add more relevant keywords and context.
Pruning and Linking: Removing irrelevant content and improving internal linking can help improve your website's rankings.
Robots.txt Check: Ensure your site is crawlable by checking your robots.txt file.
Continuous Improvement: After addressing these issues, continue adding content and building reputable backlinks. SEO is a continuous process of testing, analyzing, and improving.