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Why Is My Website Losing Organic Traffic w/ Cesar Cobo

losing organic traffic

Ryan Stewart

I build, grow and sell digital agencies. Most recently, WEBRIS, a 7 figure SEO agency.

3rd November 2020

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Timestamps:

  • 01:05 Introduction
  • 06:34 User Behavior
  • 10:00 Algorithmic Update
  • 12:55 How do you properly communicate with a client about traffic not coming back and how do you pivot their content strategy?
  • 15:45 SERP Volatility
  • 20:44 Website Penalty
  • 22:25 You’ve got a template to show a little bit more behind the scenes, correct?
  • 30:00 Do you start your analysis based on what you see happening with the traffic?
  • 31:31 Are you using this checklist guide to formulate some thoughts or are you going right to pulling the data?
  • 37:23 Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about in regard to the traffic loss analysis?

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I was joined by Cesar Cobo, the Director of Operations in our agency WEBRIS. He first presents to us eight different reasons for what potentially might be happening from an algorithm change, to how Google is ranking and indexing different properties or competitors.

Then, he goes into a little bit more technical analysis and a spreadsheet, where he pulls keyword ranking data from SEMrush and compares that period over period to really understand what is happening with a website.

01:05 Introduction

When looking at a site’s historical traffic, the first thing to do If you’re seeing traffic is decreasing, is determining whether or not it’s related to anything technical. This could be something that can happen during some sort of a migration or a website redesign. Some of the points that would fall under the technical reasons for traffic loss would be a mishandling of redirects, canonicals, noindex tags, or robots.txt directives.

If you’re seeing that or you’re unsure, use Google search console to find which page has lost a lot of traffic. You can also run a crawl of the site to look for any sort of technical errors, that could be an explanation for why traffic is suddenly dropping.

Other things are the duplicate content (cannibalization), multiple pages that are competing for the same keyword, or syndicating content.

Furthermore, major changes to the content, like changed page titles, redesigns or changes in website’s architecture could also be an issue. Prevent this by having a constant crawl of your site and having some health check set up for once a month. So, the first thing is really determining whether or not this is a technical issue or whether it’s, something to do with Google and the change to the SERP.

06:34 User Behavior

Another thing is understanding user behavior. When you’re looking at analytics, you want to go back at least three to five years, just so you can see if you spot any sort of common trends that can explain if they’re in the middle of one of those downturns. Maybe there really isn’t a problem. They’re just not aware that they have seasonal traffic. Keyword tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs don’t account for seasonal trends.

Another place you want to look for in analytics is your audience reports. The Device and Demographics reports are going to tell you a lot about your audience. If you are seeing a decline, look to see if is device specific.

10:00 Algorithmic Update

The thing with the algorithm updates now is that they roll out periodically throughout the year. Some of them cause subtle changes, others cause major changes. And also, the big challenge is that they’re not all officially announced or recognized by Google. The change could be niche specific. An example of this was the “Medic” update affecting a lot of sites that were talking about medically related topics. In some cases, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. You may have to completely renovate the type of content and how the pages are created.

12:55 How do you communicate with a client about traffic not coming back and how do you pivot their content strategy?

The best way to break that news is to have the data to back it up. So, our recommendation is to find a way to pivot the content that we are creating in a way that we do have a chance at competing for. Another thing you want to do is just take a look at competitors to get ideas and see where the differences are.

15:45 SERP Volatility

Once you’ve eliminated that it’s a technical or algorithmic thing, then it could be that there are new competitors coming into the market. If you’re looking at a site that declines, you can use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush. Just pop in a keyword and it gives you a snapshot of what the SERP looks like.

20:44 Website Penalty

There are different kinds of penalties. The more common one has to do with links, unnatural or spammy links. And it could be specific to certain pages or it could be site wide. And it’ll tell you in the message that you get, whether it’s specific or site-wide, if it’s because of backlinks or because of spammy links, then you would want to disavowal and then submit a reconsideration request.

22:25 You’ve got a template to show a little bit more behind the scenes, correct?

Exactly. This is going through the possibilities. What are the possibilities for this? Whether it’s technical or whether it’s algorithmic or competitors?

This is a template that we use, the exact same deck that we’ve delivered to the client. When we signed them, they had a massive drop in traffic. It wasn’t due to some sort of analytics tracking code or anything like that. It wasn’t a technical issue. So now we’re showing the time period take the highest point and then we matched it to where traffic was already going up. You’re taking the peak time period to where it bottomed out and then doing a comparison of traffic and keywords.

We ruled out that it was a penalty or algorithmic update, and it was more centered around the search intent. We needed to update those pages because the keywords that they were ranking for before, weren’t ranking anymore. It is really not any sort of rocket science. It’s more about just getting the data into a spreadsheet and doing a comparison.

30:00 Do you start your analysis based on what you see happening with the traffic?

Yes. First thing when you’re looking at the traffic pattern is taking a look at the visibility as well and seeing if it makes sense. If you’re not seeing a correlation between keyword rankings and the traffic pattern, then it’s probably something to do with the tracking code. If you’re not losing visibility, then you shouldn’t be losing traffic or at least not losing a large percentage of traffic. The first thing is ruling out that it isn’t a tracking error.

31:31 Are you using this checklist guide to formulate some thoughts or are you going right to pulling the data?

The first thing is looking, starting with analytics, making sure that it makes sense. Once I know that it’s not any sort of a tracking thing, the next thing would be pulling the data. If it’s lining up with what I’m seeing in terms of sessions, then I can go into the keyword list and do a comparison. I would just do something as simple as sorting by the highest search volume and then grabbing a keyword that was in the highest.

Over time things change and you’ve just got to continuously adapt. The analysis is super important, but the ability to communicate this to clients effectively is equally as important. It’s important that you understand how to communicate it with data. It’s hard to argue with data. You need to pivot the strategy a little bit to go after more content-based keywords.

37:23 Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about in regard to the traffic loss analysis?

I would just suggest that if someone is coming to you specifically for this, if it’s ultimately what they’re going to hire you for, and because this isn’t always the case where you’re able to get analytics access upfront, it’s definitely something that you’re going to want to be able to look under the hood. Get all the access that you need to run an in depth and robust analysis.

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