The amount of organic traffic coming to a website is an important measurement of SEO success, but several factors can mean fluctuations – or even decreases – while rankings are stable.
- Four Ads at the Top
In the last year, Google has removed text ads from the side of their search engine results pages (SERPs) and placed up to four at the top. For many competitive queries, this means less visibility. In many cases, the #1 organic position is now below the fold! That dramatic shift in position means fewer clicks. According to a 2014 study, these are the percentage of clicks a listing can expect in each of Google’s top 5 positions:
1 – 29%
2 – 15%
3 – 11%
4 – 7%
5 – 5%
The dynamics change considerably when more ads push a number 2 position down to where it might receive 7% or 5% of the clicks! For many competitive keywords we are tracking, this is the most dramatic shift we’ve seen for organic traffic. It is also possible to “cannibalize” your organic traffic with PPC where your site was already at the top. So be careful out there, and check your most important SERPs.
- Search Volume has Decreased
Another reason organic traffic can decrease is due to trends or seasonal fluctuations. Many businesses do have seasons, and Year-over-Year traffic is the better measurement. And don’t forget to check https://trends.google.com/ for trends in the queries your visitors might be using.
- Organic Traffic Counted as Direct Traffic
There are a few ways that organic traffic can show up as direct traffic. If it’s a mystery as to why organic traffic is decreasing, check direct traffic in Google Analytics. Where direct traffic is soaring, Google Analytics may not be seeing the true source (aka referrer) of the traffic. There may be a couple of reasons:
We’ve seen many strange redirects over the years, enough that this is worth mentioning. Referrer information can be removed when redirects are done via programming languages, or even in a chain of redirects that cross to HTTPS and back.
– Certain browsers block information
There have been periods in which Safari blocked referrer information. On sites with heavy IOS traffic, the effect is easier to spot. But for many sites, this can be a difficult blip to locate.
- Decreased Number of Pages or Products
For eCommerce sites that have dropped product lines for business reasons, eventually, a loss of organic traffic for those keywords will be seen. Pages that are redirecting or missing will eventually drop from Google’s index – and organic traffic can suffer. However, if you are trimming low-quality pages, that is certainly worth the short-term decrease in your traffic! Quality is still king, and Google can see if a page is being visited, shared or linked to. So don’t stop pruning your site.
These four situations explain the cases we’ve found where rankings might stay the same (or even improve) with no commensurate increase in organic traffic numbers. Be sure to check this list next time you find yourself wondering,”Where did all of the Organic traffic go?”
Page loading speed has great importance with Google these days. From mobile visitors to Googlebots, every visitor will appreciate a speedy experience. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
1. Rise of mobile
The importance of mobile can be seen in Google’s announcements the last few years. Mobile users are more impatient than ever, and Google provided stats last week regarding just how impatient mobile users are:
– The average mobile page takes 22 seconds to load, but 53% of users leave after 3 seconds!
– Even mobile landing pages in AdWords were found to take 10 seconds loading time.
There are many easy changes available for sites to make, as the answer isn’t always in purchasing a faster web server. Google’s own analysis found that simply compressing images and text can be a “game changer”—30% of pages could save more than 250KB that way.
2. Ranking factor
A few years back, Google made page speed a small ranking factor – or at least they were finally explicit about it being a ranking factor. Since page speed issues aren’t given the exposure of crawl errors and other items in Google Search Console, it can be easy to put them on the “long list” of items to fix. Its addition as a ranking factor is a great signal that this needs to be prioritized.
3. Bounce rate
Nice try, loading up your site with images that take forever to load. Unfortunately, that doesn’t increase the duration of site visits. It just makes people angry. According to Google’s analysis, every second of loading time, from 1 to 7 seconds, increases the chance of a bounce by 113%! Many SEOs believe that “engagement metrics” such as bounce rate could also be a ranking factor. And it makes sense: When Google sees a rise in organic bounce rate, they know human visitors are judging the content. How could Google not take this data into account?
4. Crawl rate
In one recent test, increasing page speed across a site dramatically increased the site’s crawl budget. Slower sites can be overwhelmed by crawl activity. But if you ever feel the need to put a crawl delay in your robots.txt, take that as a warning sign. After all, even reasonably fast sites can often need more crawl budget.
Tools and Fixes
Luckily there are remedies. Some can be quite easy, such as adding compression to your web server. Others might require a trip to Photoshop for your site’s images. However, some items will not be worth fixing. Try to concentrate on the easiest tasks first. Run an analysis of your site through these two tools and see what you need to fix:
Google’s newest tool:
GTmetrix.com features include a “waterfall” showing which page items load at which stage, history, monitoring, and more.
Good luck and enjoy optimizing the speed of your site!
Every year brings new SEO challenges and surprises. The year 2017 won’t be any different, but we do expect these topics to be important considerations in the new year:
Interstitials / Popups on Mobile Devices
We’ve all seen mobile sites with a popup covering the content we were trying to read. These popups will be punished by Google in early 2017. Like ads above the fold, Google feels these popups harm the user experience – and they do not want to send visitors to such sites. Many survey and tool vendors such as ometrics and surveygizmo have been proactive to make sure their clients are not at risk, but some vendors may not be aware.
SSL / HTTPS
Google is really pushing SSL, and this is the year they accelerate their plan to make the web secure. Having your entire website served over HTTPS used to be rare, and only credit card or health privacy transactions were secured. And even that was spotty. But Google has begun a campaign since 2014 to secure everything. Two years ago, Google introduced a rankings boost for sites entirely on SSL. Last year they provided better features in Search Console. And we started to see SSL as “must have”. But progress has been voluntary in many regards, with other business objectives prioritized first.
Next year, new developments will force your hand: Warnings will start appearing in Chrome. Come January 2017 the Chrome browser will show increasingly dire warnings for any site that hasn’t moved to HTTPS. Starting with pages that have credit card or password fields:
Initially, users will be warned:
With more dire warnings for insecure sites later in 2017:
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
AMP is the super-speedy loading of pages you’ve likely seen in some mobile results. After you setup AMP on your site, Googlebot places your content on it’s super-fast servers – but making it look like your URL. AMP was just for news sites, but now Google has opened AMP up to other sorts of sites – and 700k+ sites have been using it! If mobile traffic is important to your site, AMP will likely become vital over the next year.
Google just loves schema. We’ve seen over this last year as schema has helped increase pages indexed, and expect it to play a greater role every year. As artificial intelligence is used more and more in the “Rank Brain” algorithm, sites that can be easily categorized by Google will received more visibility. I for one welcome our new overlords… subject to future review.
Links are still an important part of Google’s algorithm. But sustainable, authentic link earning is always the best longterm approach in link building. So how can you get these links?
1. Content marketing
Produce great content, and reach out to authority sites and influencers in your space.
2. Business Development Link Building
All of those traditional activities such as sponsoring a baseball team, joining the chamber, or participating in online communities/forums are actually great ways to get links.
Publicity is that powerful branch of public relations that provides links and visibility from media sites.
These methods of earning links have the best longterm potential, and are quite powerful for building and keeping rankings.
The shrinking organic traffic (more ads at the top), increased competition, and ever-changing nature of organic search require more effort than ever. Gone are the days of getting your site “SEO-ed” and expecting free traffic. All traffic is either earned, or easily taken away. May you experience a great new year with SEO!