SEO can be a mysterious aspect of how your website operates. It is everchanging and hinges on so many other elements, both on your site and off. Did you optimize for keywords or did Google’s algorithm change…again? When your traffic drops, it can be disheartening and overwhelming to figure out where to start looking for reasons why. However, by understanding your website and the tools you have your disposal, you can efficiently pinpoint the problem(s) and find a solution before turmoil ensues.
Get back to the fundamentals of SEO by revisiting your goals and your SEO style guide. This can help you stay focused on your overall strategy as you begin to diagnose your website’s problem. In addition, you may find that your strategy is a bit out of date. Here are a few questions to help you fine-tune your SEO strategy:
- Who is your audience and how have they changed over time?
- What is the mission that your company provides to customers? Is your content consistent in its alignment with that mission?
- How is content being viewed? Are you still consistently leveraging social media?
Deep Dive into Google Analytics
Now that you’ve got your mind right, it’s time to take a deep dive into Google Analytics. So many charts, numbers, and tabs! Start in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. This section tells you where your traffic is coming from. As a refresher, here are the various types of traffic:
- Direct – These visitors got to your site by typing your URL directly in their browser search bar.
- Organic – This type of traffic is comprised of visitors who use search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, to get to your site. More than likely, they’re finding your site by searching for a keyword.
- Paid – These visitors got to your site by clicking on an ad that might’ve gone out with a campaign.
- Referral – These visitors clicked on links to your website via another website (this is also known as a backlink)
- Social – These visitors come from various social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) because they clicked on a link that you shared on a specific platform. Remember to use UTM parameters when sharing content on social media so that you can learn exactly where social traffic comes from.
Update your date range to view the data over an extended period of time so that your line graph shows months or even a year’s worth of information. This will help you identify the moment that traffic started to decline. This is also a great way to see patterns in the data. For example, you may find that your traffic drops every weekend because users aren’t as active at those times. Or you may notice a decline in traffic during a certain time of the year, especially if your audience interacts with your website on a seasonal basis (this is pretty common for higher education institutions).
Pinpoint a specific type of traffic by clicking one of the sources. This will isolate a specific source to show you user behavior over time. For example, if you notice the data for your organic traffic dropped, it’s possible you may have a penalty against you. You can check Google Webmaster Tools to confirm and diagnose the issues that need to be resolved.
Check Your Keyword & Content Strategy
If you notice that direct traffic has taken a gradual dip, there may be an issue with how users are searching for your site. Another way of confirming this is to look at the numbers of new users coming to your site (Audience > Overview > New Users).
Find out what kind of content users are viewing as well as how they’re searching for it. A good place to start is on Google Analytics; visit Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. This will show you the top pages on your site. Take a look at the most popular content on your site. Are users looking at informational blog posts? Are they watching videos? Are they going to landing pages with CTAs? Knowing the user’s behavior can help you build a keyword strategy based on their needs. For example, if most of your users are visiting a page about managed Drupal hosting, you may want to create content that revolves around that topic, including relevant keywords.
Take it a step further by going to Behavior > Behavior Flow. This shows you how users move throughout your site and how they exit your site. Why is this important? When traffic comes into your site, they aren’t always going to the home page first. If they’re visiting your site by reading a blog post first, you can assume a lot from this. For example, if you’re sharing blog posts on social media, you may want to do more to engage your audience on those platforms. Check that against referral traffic coming in (Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals). Note that using UTM parameters really helps to capture this information in Google Analytics. Also, check out Acquisition > Social > Overview to find out which platforms are most popular amongst your audience.
What’s the second page that users visit? Are they bouncing from one blog post to another based on recommended reading? If so, you may want to think about how you can lead them to a conversion. Are they going from the blog post to and informational landing page and then dropping off? If so, maybe you need to add a Contact Us CTA.
Next look at where users are leaving. Are they reading one blog post and leaving? Are they dropping off after reading the About Us page? The goal is to keep users on your website and guide them to a destination (aka a conversion goal). Conversion goals are different for everyone, and it’s important that you find out what those are so that you can structure your site and your content around that. Conversion goals may include watching a video, sharing content on social media, filling out a form, or purchasing an item.
Now that you have a good idea of what content your audience is looking for and how they’re interacting with your site, it’s time to hone in on how they find your site in the first place. I love to take advantage of Moz’s keyword research tool, all you have to do is create a free account. Enter a URL, and you’ll find all of the top-ranking keywords for that particular page. Work these keywords into your content (without keyword stuffing) to improve your SEO.
Most CMSs offer modules or plugins that make SEO a bit more approachable and allow you to control the way your pages appear on search engine results pages. For example, we use the Yoast plugin for WordPress sites. This plugin allows you to create a title for each page listing as well as an excerpt and keywords. In addition, you also have the option to change the way your post looks on social media including images. Once you’ve set that up, you can just share a link to your platform and all of the information will populate correctly.
While it can be pretty nerve-wracking to see a drop in traffic, there’s most likely a solution. Knowing how to approach Google Analytics is the first step to diagnosing the problem. Lean on this platform to inform the way your audience engages with your site. It can be a great resource for user feedback without sending out emails or waiting on responses. Once you understand which metrics and conversion goals are important to your business, you can explore the data with more confidence.
Lastly, get ahead of the drop by reviewing your analytics on a monthly basis. Sevaa Group offers monthly SEO reports that condense all of the relevant information on Google Analytics and Moz into a readable report that you can review yourself or utilize for internal meetings. Sevaa Group can help translate all of that data so that you can spend less time diagnosing problems and more time engaging with your users.