SEO Rankings Falling for a Great Piece of Content? Here Are Five Questions to Ask

Published on January 26, 2018

If you’re interested in content marketing, then it’s important to keep track of your successes – and consistently determine where your marketing efforts are coming up short.

This is particularly true when it comes to SEO, where victories can require plenty of time and patience, and a lot of small gains or losses can translate into a pretty dramatic difference for your bottom line.

We’ve discussed our favorite methods for evaluating the SEO success of your website and blog content before; generally, we evaluate based on three criteria:

  • Overall organic traffic
  • Keyword ranking
  • Conversion rates

So, let’s say you’re monitoring these factors, using a combination of Google Analytics and a keyword tool, such as SEMrush or SERPstat, when you notice that one of your most reliable pieces of content has started to falter. Its keyword ranking has dropped on your SEO tracker, maybe. Perhaps it’s bringing in less traffic every month.

When it comes to SEO, this is part of the game. But it’s not the end of it.

As Aja Frost points out over at the Hubspot blog, there are “ways to avoid that big, scary traffic trend… or to prevent it from happening again, if you've seen it before.”

Inspired by Aja’s excellent article, "Why Did My SEO Ranking Drop?" – which you really should read in full, here – we thought it might be helpful to break down the “whats” and “whys” behind your under-performing SEO posts.

Hopefully, armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to more successfully diagnose the relevant problems and get your content back into fighting shape…  before it costs you.

So, how does the Geek Chicago team react to a faltering piece of SEO content? We start by asking ourselves these five questions:

1.) What’s Happening With the Search Term?

Believe it or not, search terms can go in and out of fashion, just like slang words, clothes, or hip bars.

Some searches are seasonal; for instance, searches for hangover cures tend to spike around New Year’s Day, while queries about taxes peak in the days running up to April. Other terms simply lose heat over time, as the virtual conversation heads in a new direction.

The best way to gauge the “heat” around your search term is to dive into Google Trends. Search for the highest performing keyword that your declining post still ranks for on Trends. You may notice a downward trend in search traffic overall, which would, naturally, lead to a drop in hits for you. Fewer searchers equals fewer readers. From here, it’s time to re-evaluate strategy. Perhaps you can tweak the post to make it more relevant for a higher-trafficked keyword? Bite the bullet and focus your efforts elsewhere?

On the other hand, if Google’s tools suggest that the heat around the topic is steady – or even increasing – you know that it’s your post itself that is to blame for any dips, rather than an organic drop-off in audience interest. Which means it’s time to dig in and tune up that post.

Which brings us to…

2.) When Was the Last Time You Updated the Content?

While it’s true that building up credibility with search engines and their bots takes time, it’s also true that, sometimes, fresher is better. If there’s a shinier, more relevant piece of content out there, it could be surpassing you on search engine ranking pages (SERPs).

Fortunately, making your once-stellar post reach great heights again may not take too much work. Something as simple as refreshing the date on your old post could improve its search ranking.

You’ll also want to make sure that every element of your post is still functioning properly, particularly if it’s more than six months to a year old. We’re big fans of updating and repurposing older content here at Geek, and sometimes it’s a must-do.

You see, the internet is an ecosystem, which means that it’s in a constant state of flux. Images can stop working, caching issues can develop, sites can go down and leave you with dead links (or reduce the number of backlinks pointing toward your own content)… Stuff happens. Staying on top of it can help make your post more functional and user-friendly, increasing the odds that users will spend more time on it, or click through to other parts of your site. These actions, in turn, will help boost your ranking once again.

3.) Has Your Ranking Been Supplanted By a Higher-Quality Post?

In other cases, it isn’t the age of your content that’s holding you back, but the quality.

Conduct your own Google searches and see what other posts are out there and ranking highly for the keyword you were trying to capture. Think about them objectively. Is the writing more comprehensive? Are the listicles longer? Do they feature more images, or multimedia such as a video?

All of these elements could be allowing your competition to get the leg up on you. For one thing, if their content seems better, fuller, or more complete on a rankings page, they may be snatching up more clicks based on headline alone. For another thing, users who do end up there may well be spending more time, reducing the other site's bounce rate and driving up its credibility rankings. And, finally, those brighter, better posts may well be getting more shares via email or social media channels, which can make a major difference for results (more on that in a second).

The bottom line here? If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Learn from what your competitors are doing. Write more interesting, longer, or more informative posts, diversify your multimedia content, and make sure that your content marketing materials are always beautiful to look at and super-responsive on mobile devices.

4.) When Was the Last Time You Promoted the Content On a Different Channel?

SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, there is pretty substantial evidence that blog posts net the best results when they’re shared across multiple channels.

Specifically, we’re referring to email marketing and social media. When was the last time that you included this link in a digital newsletter? When was the last time you put it out in front of your social media audience for shares, engagements, and clicks?

All of these factors add up! Outside traffic and third-party shares make your post look more relevant and credible to search engines, and can help elevate your search ranking – and recapture some of that lost traffic.

5.) Has the Look of the SERP Changed?

While you may have a pretty set image in your mind for what a search engine results page looks like, it may surprise you to actually search out your term and see what you find.

In recent years, Google has massively changed the look and feel of its SERPs, featuring all sorts of new multimedia elements – including featured snippets, knowledge graphs, carousel results, and a “people also ask” menu bar – that have dramatically affected SEO results for all sorts of brands.

The reality is that individuals may not be scrolling down far enough to see your page – even if you’re ranked number one or two organically – because they’ve found what they were looking for in the snippet. Maybe people are relying on voice searches on your target keyword, which may cut down on potential traffic (in the form of clicks) for you.

Oh, and don’t count out ads. Whether your target keyword is a competitive one or not, there may well be a number of PPC ads listed at the top of the SERP. Bought and paid for, these ads may be diverting searchers away from organic results, and towards brands who have shelled out more for a spot at the top of the table.

In some cases, you may have to accept the dip in traffic and put your attention elsewhere. In others, you may want to consider jumping into the Google Ads game yourself; we’ve found that a healthy combination of SEM and SEO tactics can lead to total domination of the SERP, resulting in higher rates of traffic and higher conversion rates than if only one method were used.

Sound a little complicated? Looking for help with any or all aspects of content marketing, including SEO, social media, or email marketing? Geek Chicago is here to help! Drop us a line today to see what our team can do for you!

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