Website traffic naturally ebbs and flows. If you’re a webmaster or website owner, chances are you’ve noticed a general range within which your web traffic varies on any given day. However, if you’ve spotted a lasting decline in your website’s traffic across consecutive days or weeks, then you might have a problem on your hands.
On May 4, 2020, Google rolled out a new core update to its search algorithm. Since then, I’ve heard from many webmasters who have found their traffic declining as higher authority domains have usurped the top positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to remedy the situation and boost your number of daily unique visitors back into or above the normal range. I’ve spent nearly a decade helping small businesses and large enterprises alike rebound their traffic figures after Google updates by following these steps.
I’ve found that the introduction of this recent core update has resulted in larger brands and high domain authority websites taking the place of smaller sites that were “over-optimized.” In other words, websites that utilize high keyword ratios (i.e., keyword stuffing) to rank.
To put your web properties back in Google’s good graces, consider editing your existing content so that your rankable keywords aren’t used more than 10 times per 1,000 words at the absolute maximum. Instead, edit your content so that it reads more naturally and focuses on providing value and originality rather than pure on-page optimization.
Check For New Google Penalties
If your website has taken a hit in traffic, your first step is to diagnose the cause. Making a causal determination can be difficult, if not impossible, but often Google penalties are the culprit.
Google penalties are adjustments to Google’s algorithm that negatively affect a website’s search engine optimization (SEO) performance. Such penalties are given out as a punishment when a website owner utilizes black hat SEO techniques that violate Google’s rules. Common culprits behind Google penalties include:
• Duplicated blog content.
• Use of paid guest posting or private blog networks (PBNs).
• Invisible text.
• Internal 404 errors.
• Excessive link swapping.
To check if you’ve received a Google penalty, sign into the Google Search Console, and read your notifications. Alternatively, you could use free tools that track organic traffic over time, such as this one. If your Google penalty audit comes back positive, you must switch your SEO strategy and edit your content so that your website is compliant with Google’s rules.
Run A Backlink Audit
There are two driving forces behind SEO rankings: the quality of the content (i.e., on-page SEO) and the number and quality of backlinks that refer to your content (i.e., off-page SEO).
Since the quality of your content probably hasn’t changed (unless you’ve recently edited your content), it’s more likely that your backlink profile has been altered. Luckily, there are handy tools with free trial options that allow you to run a backlink audit in only a few minutes, such as SEMrush and Ahrefs.
If these SEO tools notice a drop in the number of referring domains that correspond with your drop in traffic over time, then you may have found the culprit. If you’re aware of which links you may have lost, contact the webmaster of the referring website, and ask them if there’s anything you can do to reinstate the link. Otherwise, you’ll have to start link building from scratch.
Analyze The Competition
Unfortunately, SEO is a zero-sum game, which means if somebody is losing, another is winning. Open your web browser in “incognito” mode, and search for your website using the keywords it traditionally ranks for. Notice how well your competition is doing in relation to yours. If your website’s ranking has recently slid, it’s likely because your competition is simply employing better SEO strategies.
If this is the case, check out their website, and see what they’re doing differently. If their blog activity has recently spiked, you may have to increase your content writing operations to compete with their heightened output. If you don’t have the in-house resources, outsourcing this work can help you match your competitors’ SEO operations and get you ranking at the top again.
Assess Your User Experience (UX)
Google is constantly refining its PageRank algorithm to penalize websites that offer poor UX and reward websites with simple, user-friendly interfaces. If you’ve recently made changes to your website’s front end, check to see if they coincide with your traffic drop. Some of the most common culprits behind UX-based Google penalties include:
• The use of intrusive interstitials (i.e., pop-up ads).
• Slow browser loading times due to large image file sizes.
• The use of multiple landing pages.
• Too many outbound links.
• Poor mobile device optimization.
• Content theft from competitors’ websites.
If your website has received a penalty for a UX/UI (user interface) violation, the good news is that there’s a simple fix: Revert your website back to its old layout prior to the update.
Google’s PageRank algorithm favours new, original content. If your website’s blog hasn’t been active in months, Google may now be prioritizing other, newer blog posts and videos. To keep your website competitive, ensure that you’re posting content regularly — ideally, no less than once per week. This can take the form of blog posts, infographics or videos.
Keep Your Website Clean, Active And Vigilant
To keep your website ranking high on SERPs, it’s crucial that you habitually audit your website for broken links, over-optimization, black hat Google penalties, inactive content publishing and on-page elements that make the user experience worse for your visitors. This is especially true in light of Google’s May 2020 core updates, which have reversed the fortunes of many small websites that used to rank for high-traffic keywords.
If you can keep these aspects of your website in check, you can start rebuilding your website’s SEO performance and, in time, retake your position at the top of SERPs.
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