There’s nothing quite as freaky as watching your organic search traffic drop. You feel completely helpless. Your palms sweat, your stomach turns, and a million irrational thoughts go through your head:
What if this is it for my blog?
Do my readers hate me?
Does Google hate me?
Should I throw in the blogging-towel?
All sorts of irrational thoughts run through your head when you open your Google Analytics or Google Search Console and see a decline in pageviews. It’s true, the winds of search can turn the tides for seemingly no reason, leaving you scratching your head and searching for answers.
Chin up! While you can’t predict the whims of Google Gods, there are ways to shore up SEO (search engine optimization) to keep Google search traffic flowing.
8 Steps to Take When Your Search Traffic Drops
Here’s the deal—one post in decline isn’t such a biggie. Remember, SEO is a long game (a marathon, not a sprint). Keep your eye on the big picture before you stress out. Posts may experience a sudden surge in popularity (or a sudden search traffic drop), and it’s tough to say why. When one post starts to wane in status, it’s not always predictive of a more significant issue, even if it’s your prized pillar content.
On the other hand, if you’re experiencing steady search traffic drops across the board or losing pageviews fast, it’s indicative of a larger concern. Here’s what to do to help reverse a downward trend in organic search traffic.
1. Check Your Traffic Patterns and Recent Google Updates
So, like any good blogger, you probably regularly monitor your Google Analytics for traffic data and patterns. Even though Google Analytics seem a bit techie at times, it’s essential to keep an eye on your numbers. A drop in traffic isn’t always a bad sign. If you post a lot of seasonal content (such as holiday recipes, back-to-school printables, or fall décor), your traffic will naturally change with the seasons.
If you’re noticing declines across the board, you may want to check to see if there was a recent change or update to Google’s algorithms. After a Google core update, it’s normal to see changes to the way your content performs. Because there are millions of new pieces of content going up each day, it makes sense that older content may steadily go down in the ranks. It’s important to keep your content fresh and evaluate it regularly. After each update, Google uses raters to assess how well search results are meeting their intent. Quality raters use the criteria E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. You can read through the quality rating guidelines here, which can help you see how content is evaluated.
There’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent these changes to Google algorithms—they’re a normal part of search. Your best course of action is to keep up with SEO best practices (more on SEO in a moment).
If you’ve seen a search traffic drop and don’t suspect an algorithm change, check on the low-hanging fruit: did you recently make any significant changes or updates to your blog? Changes (like installing or updating a theme, running a WordPress update, or changing a chunk of SEO metadata) may cause shifts in traffic (or indicate a more significant problem your developer should address). If you see a sudden, rapid decline in pageviews, technical issues are a likely culprit.
2. Assess Lost Impressions and Clicks in Google Search Console
If a technical problem isn’t the answer, it’s time to explore further. While Google Analytics will show you drops in pageviews and organic traffic, it won’t get to the “why” behind the problem. To understand why you see a search traffic drop, you need Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is full of tons of helpful data. Access a wide array of reports, chockfull of useful data. The Google Search Console Performance Report will give you all the info you need to determine the “where” and “why” behind your search traffic drop. The GSC Performance Report shows you metrics about your site’s search performance. You’ll see the average position in search results, the clicks, and impressions (the people who see your posts in search results, even if they don’t click).
Focus on the posts that were doing well before but are losing impressions and moving down in search rankings. These strong posts are where you’ll make the most headway and shift the tides in your favor.
3. Look at Your Keywords
Once you’ve explored Google Search Console to determine which previously-popular posts are in decline, it’s time to check out optimization basics. The place to start is by looking at the focus keyword phrase you’ve selected for your posts.
Good longtail keywords are 3-5 words long. They should be extremely descriptive of EXACTLY what the post is about. Words that speak to your users’ query like, “how to build a birdhouse,” or “DIY mermaid-themed crafts for kindergartners,” are helpful.
Your longtail focus keyword should appear in the title of your post. Work it into the first paragraph of your post and in at least one <h2> heading. If your post is well-written, it should focus on a singular topic, and keywords should naturally occur throughout your post. Never force or “shoehorn” in keywords.
Each post on your blog should use a unique keyword. When you use the same keyword for multiple posts, you create cannibalizing content. When several posts on your blog are competing for the same position, it may damage your overall domain authority.
For more on selecting the best keywords for your posts, sign up to receive our FREE printable SEO Keyword Checklist! Not only will this guide you through the selection of stellar keywords, but you’ll receive more important SEO tips from the experts at Posts By Ghost!
4. Tighten Up Your SEO Metadata
Optimized content starts with strong longtail SEO keywords, BUT it’s not the only step to SEO. You must review your metadata to see what’s happening behind the scenes of your post.
WordPress users typically use an SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO, to optimize their blog content. This plugin is a great idea and highly recommended. If you’re already using Yoast, optimize each field including your SEO title (containing your longtail keyword), meta description, and focus keyword.
If your blog features recipes, make sure you’re using a recipe plugin that supports schema markup for recipes. (We recommend WP Recipe Maker or WP Tasty as our go-to recipe plugins.) Schema markup has tags and fields to tell Google exactly what’s in a recipe and details like prep time, category, and more. Checking your recipe schema markup will go far in making your recipes search-friendly (a.k.a. SEO).
Pay attention to any suggested fixes from your plugin, but don’t get too hung up on getting the green light across the board. Like, any data checker, Yoast, and other SEO plugins can’t tell you everything. First and foremost, good posts are in-depth, well-written, and tailored to your audience.
While DIY SEO isn’t always easy, it’s a vital part of successful blogging. Starting on basic SEO fixes will clean up your content and identify any gaps. Good SEO will help you better connect with your target audience.
5. Check Your Image Alt-Tags
Another critical part of the SEO process is checking your image alt-tags. Alt-tags (also called “alternative text”) are another piece of metadata to tell Google what’s in the image and how it relates to your post content.
Take, for example, your cute Labrador puppy, Mr. Chocolate Pudding Face. You decide to post a picture of Chocolate on your blog post, DIY Puppy Bandanas. The alt-tag should say something like, “My adorable Labrador puppy modeling a DIY puppy bandana made from recycled cotton fabric.” This alt-tag tells Google what the image is and how it relates to your post. “Chocolate Pudding Face in a scarf” conveys an entirely different idea and image.
Alt-image tags should be full sentences, correctly punctuated, and clear. These differ from your image name or caption. It’s best practice to consider what would happen if someone stumbled across your image in search; could they tell from the tag precisely what your post was about?
Each image in your post should get a different alt-image tag. Alt-image tags offer an excellent opportunity to work in related (semantic) keywords to really speak to searchers.
6. Schedule a SEO Audit
If you’ve covered all your fundamental SEO bases and you’re still experiencing a search traffic drop, the next recommended step is a SEO Audit.
A Posts By Ghost SEO Audit is helpful whether you’re getting your blog established or if you’ve been blogging for years. Experienced bloggers find that a Posts By Ghost SEO Audit helps navigate technical data, identify high and low performing content (LPC), and plan their attack. Newer bloggers appreciate the way the audit helps them start on the right foot for success.
During your SEO audit, we’ll cover areas such as your site speed, technical issues, and the overall health of your website. These are several areas we’ll explore, which could be contributing to your search traffic drop:
Top Performing & Low Performing Content: We walk through your Google Search Console data, clean it up, and help you see the opportunity for improvements. We’ll identify content that was ranking well but is now experiencing a search traffic drop. We’ll help you find posts with high impressions but few clicks (meaning people see it, but they’re not clicking it for some reason). Then focus your efforts on improving your already great content and cleaning up the LPC weighing you down.
Link Structure (Internal & External Links): Links are a big deal to Google. It’s how your site gains authority. Internal and external links are essential to your site’s SEO, your search traffic, and your pageviews. Several link issues may cause a drop in search traffic like toxic backlinks, broken internal and external links, and problems with link structure. Your SEO Audit will review all links and identify issues to address.
Site Speed: Site speed is a big concern for many bloggers. If your site takes more than two seconds to load, you may experience a huge dip in traffic. Tools like Google Page Speed Insights, Pingdom, and WebPage Test give you an idea of the speed of your site, plus suggested improvements. There are other factors (outdated plugins, lack of compression, slow server response time, and more) that contribute to slow page speed; it’s hard to pinpoint without an expert eye.
Your Posts By Ghost SEO Audit includes all of the following:
- A shared spreadsheet with initial findings and issues to address
- A customized Plan of Attack with our recommendations for improvement
- Personalized content and keyword evaluation
- A 1-1.5-hour shared-screen meeting (call) to review our findings in detail and reveal your best next steps
- In-depth analysis and evaluation of the following:
- Site Speed Assessment (mobile and desktop)
- Meta Descriptions
- Alt Tags
- Broken Links and Images (internal and external)
- User Experience
- Google Search Console Setup
- Google Analytics Setup
- …and more!
Basically, think of it as your blogging recovery road map. We’ll give you a Customized SEO Plan of Attack to follow. You can DIY your blog fixes, enlist our help with the repairs, or take a combination approach. It all starts with your FREE Consultation, where we’ll discuss the SEO audit process and see if it fits with your situation.
7. Revamp Your Posts
If a few of your posts look a bit…shabby, start with strategic improvements. Sprucing up content may mean taking your old, not-so-great content and updating or repurposing it. Use the data you’ve gathered from the steps above to polish up your post, so it’s bright and shiny.
When you revamp (or as we like to call it, “buff”) your posts, make sure they’re in-depth. Posts should focus on a single topic, be well-written, and grammatically correct. Long-form content is favored because it captures your authority and expertise. Bloggers often examine their posts with declining performance and find they’re a bit anemic.
Now, we’ve all seen posts where there’s a 2000-word essay about a trip to the farmers market, before you (FINALLY!) get to the recipe. While it’s tempting to go on a tangent to beef up your word count, don’t write words to fill space (remember—search favors authority)! Instead, consider helpful information your reader wants and needs. For example, storage and selection tips for the gorgeous kale you found at the farmers market, more descriptive information of the kale cooking process, and alternative ideas for the leafy green ingredient.
When you buff your posts, check spelling, grammar, and readability. Make sure your links are working and are helpful (not spammy). Add additional, insightful, useful information.
Most importantly, check all of the backend SEO and metadata. Use best practices for keyword optimization and ensure each post has alt-tags, a strong meta-description, recipe schema (if needed), and a SEO title.
If buffing up your content sounds like a lot of work (or you’re not sure where to start), the team at Posts By Ghost is happy to help whip your content into shape!
8. Keep Writing Solid, Authoritative Content
The biggest question to ask yourself is: Is your blog content up to snuff? It sounds like a simple question, but many bloggers experience a little slack after their first successful year. When you begin blogging, you’re bright-eyed, bushy-tailed (okay, maybe not) and chock full of great, fresh ideas.
After a year or two of blogging regularly, you may notice your writing gets better, but your content gets shorter. Your topics are less diverse. You stop writing well-researched, long-form posts with authoritative, targeted information. Other blogs stop linking to your blog as their source of authority.
Often, there’s a push to keep up with your publication schedule. If you’ve been posting weekly (or daily), you may create mediocre content. Instead of stressing yourself out to keep up a rigorous post schedule, focus on creating quality, long-form content.
It may also help to revisit your avatar and reconnect with your audience. Are you still writing to the same avatar? Have you changed? Has your target audience? For example, if your blog started as a guide for new moms, but your kids are entering middle school, your focus may have inadvertently shifted.
While the exact reasons for a decline in organic search traffic are difficult to determine without a crystal ball, there’s one area where SEO experts agree: search favors authority. Keep blogging about those topics you know and love. Google algorithms change frequently and seemingly on a dime, but if you’re connecting with your audience and producing great, search engine optimized content, you’ll reverse the trend.