As tends to happen from time to time, with a few big Google algorithm updates each year, I have had a lot of business owners reach out to me in the last few weeks, trying to figure out why their traffic has dropped and/or their phones stopped ringing. Though digging into these issues does take a significant level of SEO knowledge, there are some basic steps you can take to at least narrow down what the issue is and build an intelligent plan to resolve it and get your business moving in the right direction.  Below is a quick step by step overview of how to identify issues and at least narrow down the potential issues.

Make Sure It Is Actually a Traffic Issue

Ranking Drop ConfusionThe phones have stopped ringing or the leads have slowed dramatically and you suspect it was Google the caused it. The first thing you need to do to make sure it is Google that is causing the issue is to make sure you actually have a traffic drop that corresponds with the timing of your issue.  If you aren’t sure and you bring in an SEO they should be able to tell you fairly quickly, if you have analytics that is actually tracking your traffic, if you have a traffic issue. Though it can take many hours and a lot of hard work to identify the issue once you have spotted a traffic problem it shouldn’t take too long to figure you if you do have a traffic problem. An SEO should be able to figure this out pretty quickly for a fairly minimal charge. If you want action items to correct the issue, that may take more, but it is good to know for sure that you are actually barking up the right tree, and a good SEO can check this pretty quickly and show you when your traffic or exposure dropped off a cliff so you can then move forward and figure out why. You don’t want to waste a lot of time fixing a problem that isn’t there if the real reason is you stopped running an ad campaign or your phone number was listed incorrectly somewhere.  You want to catch the problem as soon as possible.

What Has Happened With the Site During the Time Period?

Once we are sure there is a traffic problem, we need to find out what has gone on from the client side of things. Sometimes site changes trigger Google problems rather than a Google algorithm change itself. It is important to get any significant site work documented so you can compare it to blips on the traffic radar. Some important changes that may have happened that can cause significant issues if not done properly are below.

  • Switch from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Site redesign
  • Content Overhaul
  • Removal of pages
  • Installation of certain plugins o WordPress
  • Hosting change
  • Change in Web Developer

All of these things can trigger some issues to occur in different ways. Sometimes businesses do things that they think are helping, but can actually hurt tremendously, like removing content that has a lot of the sites linking strength or improperly switching to an SSL certificate without redirecting old URL’s. It is important to make sure the business hasn’t shot themselves in the foot so to speak before moving on to a potential algorithm hit from Google.

Compare Events to the Traffic Timeline

12 Month Google Search ExposureOnce you have documented site activity, you can now dig back into the analytics and see if traffic drops came in relation to this activity or a Google algorithm update. Moz has a nice timeline for Google updates, and you can Google what each one meant to try to determine what to do to fix it. Keep in mind when looking at the timeline that Google doesn’t necessarily immediately index and see your site changes on the day they occurred. There can be a little bit of a delay before the traffic starts to dip, but it should start to be fairly clear whether it happened on the date of a Google update (sometimes these roll out over a few days) or at some other time associated with something the business has done to the site.  If changes happened at the same time as a Google update, that may muddy the waters a bit more.  A good SEO consultant should be able to see some obvious red flags for big site mishaps though before digging into the Google update.

Come Up With An SEO Plan to Get Back On Track

Once you have pinpointed the cause, you can begin putting your resources toward correcting the right issues. With so many potential ranking factors to work on, you want to make sure you are focusing on the right thing as it is possible there will be a lot of work to do. With some of the issues I have seen sites encounter from the past few Google updates, it can involve re-writing or updating hundreds of pages of content.  At least you will know that that is the path to take and you can start doing it at a pace you can handle.  If it is something more simple, you can sometimes correct in a day or two. I once helped a site owner who had accidentally asked Google to ignore their site via noindex code. We simply had to allow the site to be indexed again and the traffic came back. When you know what the issue is you have a path to recovery.

If you aren’t sure, you can get a reputable SEO consultant like myself to come in and help, but if you can identify some of the early steps, you can save time in the long run. If you were hit by an algorithm, it can be several factors from that algorithm, and it is probably better for a professional to get you aimed in the right direction. Give us a call.