What Happens When SEO Stops Working?

SEO or search engine optimisation is the act of altering certain key aspects of a page to help the various search engines understand what the page is about and rank it accordingly.  Each page needs to have a specific focus and there are various elements on each page which need to be fine-tuned in order to ensure the web page is found, and ranks well, for specific search queries.

Some companies feel that this is a one-time job and once done, it should last forever.  There are several reasons why this is not true and why as a business, you need to ensure you are keeping up with the changes your site undergoes.

The algorithm Google uses changes daily in little ways but frequently in big ways.  All search engines running their own algorithm (Ask, Yahoo, Bing and Google) change the way they calculate rank associated with keywords to combat spammers.  This means that a sudden dip in orders or visits may not be due to seasonality, but in fact a shift in where your site ranks for its desired keywords.  There are programs to help monitor ranking on keywords both free and paid for.  When changes happen, being immediately aware will help you recover more quickly and save thousands in lost sales.

The delicate balance that is maintained by the search engines regarding ranking relies on several factors.  For a number of years, one of the factors with most importance has been incoming links and their anchor text.  The act of “Google bombing” was when numerous links with specific anchor text were pointed at a page, and that page ranked for the anchor text.  One famous example is the White House ranking for “miserable failure”. Since this exploit was discovered, the value of links has been steadily diminishing.  If your site suddenly stops ranking for a specific term, it could be due to changes to the way links are handled.

Search engines often reward freshness and so keeping your website content fresh and constantly changing could benefit your rankings.  These changes need to be carefully managed and should be overseen by an expert.  Simply adding content is not enough.  The content needs to be targeted, with proper optimisation.  Adding the wrong content in the wrong way could harm your rankings.

Mistakes are sometimes made when changes are rolled out and it can often take an expert significant time to fix the mistake of mere seconds. This can affect rankings and depending on the frequency of your site being spidered, the damage could last months.  Monitoring ranking is essential whether through searching manually, or using a software package.

There are several things you can do without incurring significant costs to your business to monitor your site and be alerted when more SEO is needed.  For a roadmap of necessary changes, it can be beneficial to invest in a technical site audit however these can cost thousands.  They will often supply a roadmap of required changes as well as a severity ranking and guidance on what and how to make changes in the future.  For the long term, these are a solid investment.

Register your site in Google’s Webmaster Tools.  If you receive a penalty or if Google has a problem with your site, this is where they will leave a message for you.  It is free to register and validate your site and the interface is relatively simple.  Once your site is validated, Google offers helpful pointers to dead/missing pages, problems it encountered or other issues.

Check your web analytics at least once a week.  Ideally you should be spending an hour a day with your web analytics to assist with the understanding of flow, conversions, bounce and related information.  Your web analytics may be where you first discover a problem.  Google offers an excellent free web analytics package.

Read, if possible, publications available free online which communicate important news and information about search engine changes.  As an example, a recent article alerted readers to a possible change to Google’s search results that may include “favicons”.  These images, seen when bookmarking or surfing to a site, can be made for free.  If search result pages include them, it could have significant impact on click through rates in organic results.

Awareness of changes to traffic and associated ranking changes for targeted keywords can alert you to changes as they happen.  These changes still need to be countered by professional search engine optimisation experts however by monitoring and having a roadmap of necessary changes in a site audit, you will be better placed to keep your SEO, and your site, always at the top.

Tags: decabbit, Google, google analytics, SEO

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