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Here’s What You Should Do When Your Search Rankings Drop

If you’ve ever done SEO, you know how good it feels to see your rankings go up.

You put a ton of hard work into moving up in the SERPs and it finally pays off.

But then the unexpected happens. Your rankings drop.

Few things in SEO are more discouraging than a fall in the rankings. It makes you feel like everything you did was useless.

You wonder what went wrong or if you made a mistake. You beat yourself up for not doing it right.

You’re back to square one again, and you have to start all over.

Or do you?

In my experience, that’s not always the case.

My rankings have dropped more times than I can count. At first, I panicked.

As I learned more, I found out that it’s not the end of the world if you go down a position or two. It’s obviously not ideal, but there’s a lot you can do to fix it.

That’s what I’m going to show you today. Even if your rankings are where you want them to be, you need to be aware of how to bring them back up when they drop (because they will).

Analyze the drop

Before you take action to raise your rankings, you need to track your rankings, ideally on a daily basis so you can see if they are increasing or decreasing.

The reason you want to track your rankings on a daily basis is that Google makes 3200 algorithm changes per year, which is a bit more than 8 algorithm changes per day.

Hence you don’t really have a choice but to track your rankings daily.

So how do you do that?

First, you’ll want to head to the Ubersuggest dashboard and click on “Add Your First Project”.

It’s as simple as adding in your URL.

Then select the locations you do business in and want traffic from.

Then add in the keywords you currently rank for or want to go after.

And of course, set up your traffic preferences. Make sure you select “daily” rank tracking and you turn on mobile rank tracking.

And then you’ll be good to go.

Then you will be notified via email when your rankings go down (or up) as there is no way you are going to have the time to manually check every day.

Or when you log into your Ubersuggest dashboard you’ll see an updated view of your site:

And then when you drill down into your rankings you’ll see a report of what is increasing or decreasing.

Now when looking at your rankings it is normal for them to fluctuate a few spots here or there… but if you see all of your rankings all of a sudden drop, then you know you need to do something.

Did you get penalized?

In most cases, your site has not been penalized and you don’t need to worry about this.

If you didn’t do anything fishy like “buying links” you don’t really need to worry about a penalty.

If you are unsure, read through this list and ask yourself if your site is guilty of any of these SEO sins. If so, identify the problems and take steps to fix them.

Even if you haven’t done anything on that list, you could still have gotten a penalty. Google’s algorithms are updated frequently, and they’re incredibly complex.

They take hundreds of factors into account when considering ranking. One day, your site might not deserve a penalty, and the next, it might.

It’s important to understand the types of penalties: manual and algorithmic.

Source: Slideshare.net

Manual penalties are given out by Google’s webspam team when they get alerted of suspicious activity.

This could be the result of having unnatural links, or someone could have filed a spam report against you.

If you’ve received a manual penalty, you should have gotten a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s an example of a message about unnatural links:

The other type of penalty is an algorithmic penalty.

These penalties are harder to track because there’s no definitive way of knowing you received one.

To determine if you’ve gotten an algorithmic penalty, you have to understand how Google’s algorithms work.

If you find that you’re doing something an algorithm doesn’t like, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a penalty. But you also have to think about new penalties.

If your rankings dropped randomly, check Moz’s handy directory of Google’s algorithm updates to see if there’s a new one at work.

A new algorithm could be the reason why you’re seeing lower rankings. If that happens, research the algorithm and find out what it’s penalizing.

One cool way to keep track of new penalties (and a bunch of other Google-related stuff) is to follow Gary Illyes, John Mueller, and Google Webmasters on Twitter.

Gary and John, in particular, give out a ton of awesome advice, and you can often find them talking with other Twitter users.

You can even ask them a question directly and get it answered… you may not get a response, but it is worth a shot.

Do you have link problems?

This is a big one.

Think of links as the currency of SEO. It’s essentially how you “gain” authority.

So it’s no surprise that a strong link profile is correlated with high rankings.

The flipside is that a weak link profile is correlated with low rankings.

I spend lots of time working with clients on SEO, and I’ve seen lots of sites that have numerous link problems.

Usually, the business isn’t aware.

That’s because weak links are the silent killer of SEO. That’s why you need to make sure your link profile is robust.

First, conduct a link audit of your site. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that.

For the short version, use a backlink analysis tool like SEMrush Backlink Checker to see where your bad links are.

When you find bad links, contact those sites and nicely ask them to remove the link. If that doesn’t work, use Google’s Disavow tool as a last resort.

However, I’ve found that about 90% of the time, conducting a backlink audit will help you find bad links.

But there’s a problem here. Often, the reasons behind link problems aren’t so obvious.

If your link profile looks okay after an audit, there could still be problems. Here are a few of the issues your link profile could be facing.

Losing links

Did you know you can lose links? Both internal and external links?

It could be the cause of your ranking drop as well.

Yep, you can lose internal links even if it’s to content you already own.

Let’s talk about those first.

If you often relaunch, rebrand, or redesign your site, you may lose some links along the way.

Why does this happen?

It has to do with redirects and transitioning your site over smoothly.

Let’s talk about site transitions first. If you deleted an old blog post, then links to that post aren’t going to work. In turn, this will weaken the internal linking structure of your site and compromise your SEO.

You’ll have one less link, which is removing a part of your internal linking network.

This isn’t optimal because it means two things:

  1. You’ll have to fix the link
  2. You’ll have less content on your site to link to. That’s why I recommend not deleting content unless you absolutely have to. You can always update it.

That’s just one example of a lost link.

Another reason you could lose an internal link is a faulty redirect.

This often happens with 301 redirects. I’ve talked about 301s before, but there’s a unique issue you need to be aware of.

Because a 301 is called a permanent redirect, lots of people assume that the redirect will always work.

But it doesn’t.

Here’s precisely how a 301 redirect works:

If you just set up a new site, you can 301 from the old domain to the new one without a hitch. The issue is when you revamp your site more than once.

That’s because redirects from older versions of a site are rarely passed on to newer ones.

On top of that, if you get a new domain and an older domain expires, it could cause a significant loss in traffic because the 301s will no longer work.

It’s messy.

If you discover a bad 301 giving you problems, you need to fix that.

First, you need to find the target links your 301s are trying to go to.

If those links are dead, you’ll most likely need to remove the link.

You could also put the old content back up or create new content to keep the link on your page. This is a good idea if the page in question gets a lot of traffic.

You need to do what’s best for your visitors. If they’ll miss out on great, comprehensive content, you should make sure that content is still on your site.

You should also check for broken links. You can use a tool like deadlinkchecker.com to do this:

Ideally, you want to see no errors:

But if you do see errors, you’ll be able to see the URLs that aren’t behaving correctly:

But what about outbound links? If you find an outbound link that no longer works, just remove it and replace it by linking to another authority site.

Finally, let’s talk about backlinks you’ve gotten from other sites.

Go here and type in your URL.

link growth

If you see your link chart going up and to the right, you are fine. If it is going down, then we have to fix it. For example, using Ubersuggest you can see which sites don’t link to your anymore.

And for those sites, you can use a template like this one to get those links back:

Hi [Name of site owner],

I hope you’re doing well!

You linked to my site a while back, and I want to thank you for that. However, it looks like the link is actually gone.

The link appeared in your [piece of content/page here], but it seems that it’s not there anymore.

Here’s the page on my site you linked to: [Link URL here]

If you could put the link back up, I’d really appreciate it. I’m a big fan of your site, and it’d be my pleasure to return the favor if I can.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Most people will ignore you, but a percentage of the people you email will link back.

Polish up your site

If all else fails, you might need to spend some time improving your site.

I’m talking about design, user experience, and speed. Each of these is integral to a site that performs and ranks well.

I’ll go over each category briefly:

Design

Having a mobile-friendly design is important as there are more searches on mobile devices using Google than there are for desktop.

If you’re not considering mobile users first, you need to start doing that.

Having a mobile-optimized site isn’t as simple as making sure your site is responsive. That’s definitely important, and you should do that, but it’s not enough by itself.

Think about making all of your content mobile-friendly.

There’s one big reason you should focus on this. Google has a mobile-first index. That alone should be more than enough to persuade you to focus on mobile-first design.

You might want to read my article on mobile usability for more information on this.

User experience (UX)

This is another reason why a responsive design is so important.

Your mobile users should have a great experience that’s designed for mobile devices. Similarly, your desktop users should have a great experience that’s designed for desktops.

If your UX is bad either way, you will lose visitors.

If you take a look at the most popular sites in your niche, you’ll notice that 9 times out of 10, they’ll have great UX.

Say you’re in SaaS. Without a doubt, Salesforce is one of the biggest SaaS players in the niche.

And sure enough, their desktop and mobile UX is fantastic.

Desktop:

Mobile:

This is what you should strive for when polishing your own site.

Speed

Search engines (and people) love fast-loading pages. In fact, 47% of customers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.

So if your site speed is longer than 2 seconds, you could lose traffic.

Yikes.

Making your site faster is a long-term strategy. You have to monitor your site and make sure nothing’s dragging it down.

Start by adding compression.

Next, make sure your server has adequate speed. It should be no longer than 200 milliseconds.

You can test your site speed by using Ubersuggest’s “Site Audit” feature. Type in your URL and click “Search.”

From there, click “Site Audit” in the left sidebar and scroll down to “Site Speed.” Here’s what you’ll see:

There are tons of factors that can cause slow site speed, so the best way to prevent slowness is to keep your site as lightweight as possible. And Ubersuggest will break down how to do that and what to fix.

As a rule of thumb, if you have anything unnecessary on your site, remove it so your speed is the best it can be.

Don’t forget about content

Through Ubersuggest we track millions of popular sites around the world to get better data insights on algorithm changes.

We know for certain that 641 sites we track are updating old content on a daily basis.

Can you guess how many of them saw a search traffic dip of 10% or more from the last algorithm update?

Only 38! That’s 5.92%, which is extremely low.

What’s crazy, though, is that 187 sites saw an increase in their search traffic of 10% or more.

So make sure you are keeping your old content up to date. Because why would Google want to rank old, stale content, when they can rank something fresh and useful for people?

Another strategy I love to deploy is to expand my content that is already ranking well.

For example, lets say you rank for the term “digital marketing”.

You’ll want to head to Ubersuggest and type in the phrase “digital marketing”. You’ll see a report that looks like this:

From there in the left navigation bar, click on “keyword ideas”.

You should now see a report that looks like:

This will give you a list of keywords that are similar, longer tail terms that also are searched frequently.

If you rank for the main term, it is easy to also rank for the longer tail terms. So make sure you add the relevant ones to your content.

It may seem tedious, but go through 100s if not 1000s of keywords in the keyword ideas report as it will allow you to get quick traffic gains.

When adding in the new keywords into your content, don’t just stuff them in there. It has to flow naturally and make sense for your website visitor.

And if you can’t make it make sense for a particular keyword, don’t do it… put the user first. Remember you are writing for humans, not Google.

Now the strategy I broke down here may seem simple and silly, but it’s one of the big reasons on why I am getting roughly 9 million visitors a month.

Conclusion

Going down a position or two in the rankings happens to the best of us.

It’s even happened to me.

If this happens, don’t panic.

Almost every client I’ve had who’s experienced a loss of rankings got really scared when it happened.

You probably felt this way too. But you don’t need to worry.

You can easily bounce back from a ranking drop.

Don’t believe me? Give these strategies a try. These aren’t just little tips. They’re tried-and-true methods that will help you reclaim your spot on Google.

No one deserves to lose ranking when they have an amazing site that users love. What’s more, it’s easy to fix.

Don’t let the initial shock stop you from getting your ranking back.

So, when was the last time your rankings dropped?

The post Here’s What You Should Do When Your Search Rankings Drop appeared first on Neil Patel.

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How to Rank Your Old, Outdated Content

What percentage of your search traffic is driven by your top 10 pages?

Chances are, it’s a large portion.

Just look at the screenshot below. You’ll see that my top 10 pages drive 28.7% of my search traffic.

top pages current

That may not seem like a high number, but I have 5,441 blog posts. In other words, 0.1% of my pages make up 28.7% of my search traffic.

Typically, with smaller sites, the percentages are much higher in which the top 10 pages make up the majority of their search traffic.

So, what does that tell you?

You should just focus on your top 10 pages and ignore the rest? Or, even worse, just focus on cranking out more new content?

Quality over quantity

I used to have the philosophy of “more is better.” I was cranking out dozens of articles each week. At one point, I was publishing 2 articles a day on this blog.

And, over time, my traffic grew, but not by much.

I was spending all of this time writing and realized that the majority of the content I was publishing never ranked.

So, what did I do?

I started focusing on my old, outdated content to boost my traffic.

Just think of it this way: Every week I publish one new piece of content, but my team, on average, is updating 23 older articles.

When I used to write more frequently, my top 10 pages made up 33% of my search traffic.

top pages

Since then, I have increased my search traffic by 107% and reduced my reliance on my top 10 pages by 13%.

So how did I do this? Well, as I mentioned, I have my team focus on updating my old, outdated content while I focus on creating new content.

Here’s exactly what I have my team implement, step by step.

Look for pages that were once loved

With Google Search Console, you have access to data for a much longer period of time. You can go back up to 16 months.

So, I want you to compare this month’s results during the same period as last year.

You can do this by clicking on “date” and then “compare.” Next, select your older date period first (should be roughly from a year ago) and then select today’s date period.

date range

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I selected an older date range so you can see a better set of data before my team really focused on updating old content.

You should then see a report that looks something like this:

compared

What you’ll want to do is look for articles that used to get a ton of traffic and have less now. From the screenshot above, you can see that my article on Instagram used to perform really well, but no so much anymore.

Keep in mind that I selected the older date range first. I did this to see which of my old pieces of content used to rank well so I can see if any of them have dropped over the last 12 months.

This will show you old content that Google used to love, but no longer does.

Now, let’s find content that Google never loved.

Look for pages Google never loved

Log back into Search Console and look for pages that have a high impression count but never got any real clicks.

The easiest way to find these pages is to set your date range to the last 28 days and look at each page’s metrics from an impression, click, and CTR perspective.

Sort the CTR column in ascending order (lowest percentage at the top, the highest percentage at the bottom).

search ctr

Typically, the pages at the top of that list have the most potential. It means that Google is ranking you but you just aren’t getting too many clicks.

It usually isn’t just related to your title tag and meta description. It typically has to do with the content on the page.

Now it’s time to create a list of pages that have the greatest potential.

It’s time to prioritize

Typically, the pages that have the most potential are the ones that used to rank but no longer rank. Google used to rank and like them, which means if you give those pages a little tender loving care, you can easily get them loved by Google again.

The second group of pages that have potential, but not as much as the first, are the ones with a high impression count but an extremely low CTR.

These pages are harder to fix because they never really performed that well.

How to update your old content

Now that you have a list of pages to fix so you can boost your search engine rankings, I want you to log in to Google Search Console, find that article, click on it, and then click on “queries.”

queries

For the keywords that don’t rank in the top 5 or have a high impression volume, I want you to go to your ranking article and see if the article is relevant for that term.

If not, adjust the article to at least include that term and cover that topic.

For the terms you already rank for in the top 5 spots, head over to Ubersuggest and type in those keywords and click on the keyword ideas report.

customer acquasition

You’ll then see a report with all of the long-tail variations of that keyword.

If you adjust the article and include any of the long-tail phrases Ubersuggest gives you, you’ll see quick traffic gains.

In other words, if you already rank for the head term, it’s not hard to rank for the long-tail variation of it as well.

In addition to including the right keywords, you’ll want to update the post. Make sure all of the information is relevant, the pictures are up to date, and if you could include any multimedia (like embedding relevant YouTube videos) you’ll be able to increase the time on site of your visitors.

Finally, when updating your content, make sure your article is more thorough than all of the other sites that rank for the terms you are trying to rank for.

Remember that keyword ideas report I had you check out on Ubersuggest? On the right-hand side of that report, it shows you all of the sites that rank for that keyword.

keyword rankings

You can quickly see who’s currently ranking in each country, visit their web page, and make sure you create something better.

User metrics

User behavior is one of the biggest factors with Google’s algorithm.

Once you update your old content, you’ll want to optimize for user signals as that’ll help boost rankings.

A great example of user metrics is optimizing your title tags and meta description.

For example, if everyone searched a keyword on Google and clicked on the second result instead of the first, it tells Google that the second result is more relevant and that it should be ranking in the first spot instead of the second.

And Google eventually would make that change.

If you can use persuasive copy and convince people to click on your search listing instead of the competition, eventually your rankings will climb. And you can do so by following these 2 articles:

  1. How to Craft Amazing Headlines
  2. How to Write Copy like Apple

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of title tag and meta description tests and I’ve also found that these keywords help increase clicks:

  • What is
  • Best
  • Amazing
  • [lists]
  • How to
  • Free
  • You
  • Tips
  • Why
  • Tricks
  • Great

You can also use tools like Clickflow to A/B test your meta tags.

Don’t forget to promote (again)

Now that your content is up to date and you’ve optimized your meta tags for clicks, it’s time for you to promote your content.

I know what you are thinking… why would you promote old content, right?

Well, technically it isn’t old anymore.

First of all, you should update the published date or last updated date within your WordPress.

published

That way search engines know your content is changed, more relevant, and up to date.

Secondly, you need to promote the article. It’s new now, so why wouldn’t you share it with the world?

The simplest thing you can do is share it on the social web. I typically share my content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn… but you can pick whatever social profiles you have.

Although Google doesn’t really look at social signals, Bing does. Plus, some people who visit your page from the social web may decide to link to your article, which does help rankings.

And if you want to go above and beyond, check out Meet Edgar. It’s what I use to continually schedule my old content to be promoted on the social web. That way I don’t have to manually do it or set reminders.

In addition to social shares, you should consider sending out a text-based email blast to your audience promoting your content.

It’s a great way to get a quick boost of traffic and breathe life into your old content.

Here’s an example of a text-based email blast that I send so you can copy my format.

Subject: How to Generate 10K visitors from a Brand New Blog in Under 6 Months

If I tell you to do 100 things to grow your traffic, I know you won’t do it.

Heck, even I wouldn’t. It’s just too much work.

In the spirit of simplicity, just do this and you’ll get to 10,000 visitors.

I’ll even make a deal with you. If you follow it and don’t hit 10,000 visitors and you can show me you followed it, I will help you for free.

That’s how confident I am that it works.

Cheers,

Neil Patel

email stats

As you can see, simple text-based emails are generating 30% open rates and 6% click rates for me. Not too shabby.

You can also use tools like Subscribers to send out a push notification. Every time I update a post I send out a push. Look at my stats… I can easily generate an extra 7,000 visitors from a single push.

push stats

And don’t forget to build links

The last step you want to leverage is link building. You can use Backlinks to see who is linking to competing articles:

backlinks

All you have to do is put in a competing URL and select “URL” from the drop-down menu and you’ll see every site that links to that page.

From there, you’ll want to reach out to each site and ask them to link to you.

The easiest way to do this is to leverage the skyscraper technique and the steps in this article.

Conclusion

Once you hit the 150 mark in the number of pages on your site, you should consider focusing the majority of your time to updating old content instead of creating new content.

If you have over 1,000 pages, you should definitely spend 80-plus percent of your time updating old content instead of writing new content.

The key to ranking your old, outdated content is to first focus on the content that used to rank but doesn’t anymore.

Once you fix those pages, you should see results within a month or two. From there, you can then focus on pages that have a high impression count but a low click count.

So, are you going to focus your time on ranking your old content or creating new content?

The post How to Rank Your Old, Outdated Content appeared first on Neil Patel.

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