Have you logged into analytics and seen a sharp decrease in your organic traffic? Have you seen a significant decrease in the number of enquiries you are getting from your website? If you are a webmaster or website owner, you want to know what happened? How do I regain my traffic?
The first step in rebuilding your traffic is understanding what happened in the first place. As Google is by far the most dominant force in the search market and will account for the vast majority of your organic traffic this is where your focus should be. Google have been rolling out major algorithm updates known as Penguin and Panda since 2011 with the aim of lowering the rank of “thin or low quality sites” whilst displaying higher quality sites nearer the top of the search results. In September 2016 the last ever penguin update was introduced which now runs as a real time filter as part of the core algorithm. This means pages will be penalised or released from a penalty much quicker than in the past and it is more page specific so site wide penalties should not be so prevalent.
1. Does Your Webmaster Tools Account Tell You Anything?
If Google has identified your site as spammy and not compliant with their guidelines you will see a Manual Action message in your webmaster tools account. If your site has got a manual action it will receive a severe demotion or in the worst case removed entirely from Google search results.
A common reason for a manual action is ‘Unnatural Links to your site’ (there are plenty of others such as the site has been hacked, hidden text or keyword stuffing and thin content) What you find here will determine your next course of action. Hopefully you will find the following message: ‘no manual actions’ so you can move on.
2. Do you have thin content on your site?
Thin content is content that is very low value and does not satisfy the question the searcher is asking. The content may have low content to html ratio and is probably well under 300 words. The main intention of this kind of content is to send the user to another website or destination. Ensure your content is quality, search engine optimised and offers value to the customer.
3. Do you have too many sitewide links to your website
One of the factors Google takes into account when evaluating links is the revelancy of the link on a given page. Sitewide links used to seem like a good idea, get a lot of links back to your website in one go but as these are often keyword rich you are potentially facing a double whammy from Google for having lots of links from pages that are not relevant to your website theme and a large number of keyword rich links.
4. Do you have too many keyword rich links to your website
Keyword rich links are seen as bad if you have too many as you are trying to inflate your ranking for a specific term. It used to be standard practice to use commercially valuable keywords when getting links to your website. Using cheap Majorca holidays as the link text to your Majorca holidays web page was acceptable once upon a time but too many links of this kind could lead to a penalty. A more legitimate method would be to ask or insert your website name in the link text.
5. Do you have too many negative or low quality links to your website?
The sheer volume of directory, article and other low quality sites swamped the internet to satisfy the demand for webmasters trying to promote websites in the 2000’s. At one time it was acceptable to continually apply for links to free & paid directories whilst continually churning out articles with 1 or 2 links to your website. The vast majority of these types of sites have been deemed low quality and could be negative for your site. You will need to contact the sites to remove the low quality links and/or disavow the links. When contacting sites, it is important to keep a record of your activity as this can be presented to Google
6. Have you disavowed low quality or negative links to your website?
You may not be under a penalty but you have a number of links which are cause for concern. If you have identified these low quality or negative links to your website, you can use the Google Disavow Tool which asks Google not to take the links into account when assessing your site.
7. Is your site as slow as a snail in superglue
If your website is cluttered with large images, widgets, unnecessary html, too many ads and is limited by your hosting arrangements it may be turning off your users who are not very patient and want the information they are looking for immediately. If it is extremely slow it will be marked down by Google. A check on Google Page Speed Insights will tell you how fast your website is and make suggestions to make the page faster.
8. Is your website mobile friendly
If your website is not mobile friendly you are missing out on a huge market which is growing month by month. Google will prioritise websites that are mobile friendly ahead of those that are not for users who are searching using phones, tablets and other devices. If your website has been built using Responsive web design (RWD) which is aimed at allowing desktop pages to be viewed in response to the size of device one is viewing it with it should be ok but you should check to be sure. You can check your mobile friendliness using the Google Mobile Friendly Test.