If you’ve spent a lot of time and money making sure that your SEO is up to date and strengthening your presence in the organic search listings – only to find that you are sliding down the page instead of staying where you are or getting closer to the top – then here are some common causes that might be to blame.
Optimizing a website for better organic search positions can be highly challenging at the best of times – even for experienced SEO professionals – and trying to work out exactly what is happening when the number of site visitors you attract each day begins to fluctuate and fall presents its own set of problems.
A good place to start is by using Google Search Console and Google Analytics to see what is going on – although they will only take you so far.
If you really want to get to the bottom of things then first of all check the following:
Are your pages cached and indexed? – The quickest way to check if your site has been indexed is to carry out a Google search using the “site:” prefix. By using “site:mywebsite.co.uk” (use your own domain here) you can see instantly whether your pages have been crawled or not. If you find that your main pages are missing then something is wrong! You need to check the “robots.txt” file in order to make sure you haven’t told the search engine algorithm to skip any of your pages or directories when crawling your site and you should also check to see if any of your pages contain a “noindex tag”.
Have you recently updated your site? – If you have recently given your website a bit of a shake-up, adding new content or changing existing copy and moving things without using redirects, then remember that you site needs to be crawled again before it is re-indexed. This can take at least a couple of weeks to happen and will also affect the amount of traffic to your site arriving through the search engines – so if you have moved things around then be sure to put the required 301 redirects in place.
Bot and spider filtering – It’s not just Google that crawls your website. There are all manner of spam bots and other algorithms that make their way through your website if you are listed on the top pages of the search engines. To stop these from entering your site and wreaking havoc with your search metrics, you need to filter them out via Google Analytics (there is an option to filter known bots and spiders). If you have only just enabled this feature – then you can expect a significant drop in monitored traffic.
URL Strategy – Are you using multiple URLs to access similar content – and is your sitemap working efficiently? If you are using similar search terms as different URLs then you are weakening the flow of traffic for specified search terms.
For example – if you have two pages as follows:
The search engines will be directing traffic to both pages for the same product and this will affect ranking positions. Ideally, you need to sort things out so that traffic arrives at just one URL destination.
Things Beyond Your Control
There are other issues that can have a detrimental effect on search positions which are typically outside a webmasters control. Perhaps you have launched an affiliate program and your resellers have started to outrank you on some of the brands you sell. The new Google ad placement scheme may also be keeping you from appearing on the first page – with more and more paid ads taking up the organic positions since being removed from the side of the search results. You might even be suffering from the effects of a small recession.
Whatever the cause of your ratings drop – taking care of your SEO should always be a carefully considered process which involves constant monitoring and tweaking whilst always trying to discover why things aren’t working as they should be if the results are beginning to fluctuate.