There has been another major Google update, although it is likely that you didn’t notice it happen at all. Because Google made no announcement, it has been labelled as another “Phantom Update”, but thanks to SEO analysts, we already have a pretty good idea what has changed.
Following the update, which took place during the second week of April, many major publishers saw a sharp decline in Google search referrals. Jayson DeMers, writing for Forbes, was the one of first to talk about the changes, based on data released by SearchMetrics, who have now released their own take on the update: Google’s Phantom Menace: Publishers clean up your act by Jordan Koene.
We know that not only have several hugely popular websites been affected, but also smaller niche website that have been publishing for many years. The most high-profile upsets are:
- The Atlantic, which lost 79 percent of its Google traffic.
- WIRED, which lost 65 percent.
- Apple’s iTunes articles, which dropped by 63 percent
Other major brands to suffer include Nytimes.com, Newyorker.com, Vanityfair.com, Washingtonppost.com, Slate.com, Nymag.com. Motherjones.com. Salon.com and Thedailybest.com. From our own research, we have also noted that smaller UK based websites have seen losses of between 30 and 40 percent. So, why are these being affected, and not others?
Old News Articles Are Downgraded
Based on the insights from DeMeyers and Koene, we know that these sites have seen a reduction in search traffic to their older news pages. Not all keywords have been affected. SearchMetrics found that keywords such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Star Wars, Kim Kardashian, and Bill Cosby, have all been heavily affected, as has some high volume keywords, such as millennials, earth, movies, and world map.
This change is not only affecting news publications, but any website which has published stories about celebrities or the high-volume keywords. Apple’s iTunes subdomain experienced a big drop because these pages mostly talked about pop stars, which then linked to product pages.
In both cases, Google has seemingly decided that old content on high ranking websites should not be able to rise above more useful content on lower ranked sites. So, instead of iTunes being the best source for articles about celebrities, Google is now ranking Wikipedia, Facebook and official fanpages higher. SearchMetrics also pointed out that iTunes is, overall, better off at the moment, because Google has started indexing information from its app and this more than makes up for the losses to its web pages.
Small Businesses are OK
As far as we can see, small businesses are OK. Many of our clients have company blogs and there is no sign yet that older blog posts are causing any problem. For example, one of our customers sells conservatories, and they have been updating their blog for several years with news and insights into the industry, as well as tips and guides on how to enhance your home. Their blog is still going strong, as are other clients’ blogs.
How To Fix It?
So, if you have been affected, what can you do? Well, due to the nature of the update, it is unlikely that you will be able to make any quick fixes to overcome a sudden drop in visitors. If Google has decided to downgrade your old content there really is not a great deal you can do to recover that in the short term.
Will Changing the Date Work?
Before you decide to start republishing all your old content with today’s date in an attempt to make the articles look fresh and new, stop! Google not only indexes all web pages, but it also keeps a copy of the pages on file – the Google Cache is not Google’s only copy of your website. So, changing the date is unlikely to lead to a recovery, because Google has already determined that your content is out of date.
Something that might possibly work is repurposing content. This is purely theoretical at the moment, but it might be possible to salvage some old content and republish it on a new website. This could only work if the content is actually evergreen, so it assumes that Google has not been able to take this into account. The other big issue with this is that the new website will not necessarily rank well, so it may not actually benefit you at all.
Share Old News in Social?
Another idea is that the affected pages could be shared in social media pages. Much in the way Facebook and Google+ now encourage you to re-share old photos and stories, you could publish the older content to your social profiles with a “remember when” description. This is not going to improve the search traffic on those pages, but it could be used as a way to re-engage your social audiences with little effort.
Do Shake and Vac and Put the Freshness Back
If your site has been affected, then the flip side is positive – Google may consider your website a news outlet, which means that creating new content might actually boost traffic. This could potentially have two positives. Not only will fresh, new content bring in more searchers, it also allows you to highlight new products and services. It might be that your older pages were well read, but did not result in new leads or sales.
Our suggestion to anybody affected is to focus on creating new content and promoting this content through social media and email. Although this is not “SEO”, it might be the way smaller publishers need to operate in the future to compete with the big players in the market. This also has the benefit of ensuring your new content reaches a wider audience while it is still fresh and relevant, and this might have a positive knock-on effect in terms of SEO if bloggers and reporters pick up the story and share it.
This latest change from Google means that older, established sites will find it harder to hoard search traffic. This is of course bad news for such sites, but it could help newer websites to compete in a search environment that has become saturated with a relatively small selection of major publications in recent years. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates went a long way to reduce spam and low quality pages from the SERPs, but the result is that the same higher ranking websites always come up first for many searches. The objective of this change may be to create a more level playing field again, which is great news for new businesses and start-ups who are looking to get a foothold on Google. The bottom line is, your news needs to be new.
How do you evaluate the success of your SEO performance? You measure it. Then you make some intelligent changes and measure it again to ensure it’s heading in the right direction.
KPIs are the indicators that you can use to determine the success, or otherwise, of your SEO performance. KPI’s are clearly defined, quantifiable measures that reflect the critical success factors (CSF) of a business. Typically, CSF should target those things that affect quality, cost, customer satisfaction, market share and increased revenues.
KPI’s should help companies understand how well they are performing in relation to their strategic goals and objectives, which means KPI’s need to be clearly linked back to objectives to enable stakeholders to determine if the organisation is on track.
Everyone knows it’s useful to track: What pages are viewed most, the average time on the site/page and bounce rates.
But remember, its far better to decide what is important to the business and measure those indicators, than measure data that is readily accessible but doesn’t provide any true value.
Typical examples of KPIs relevant to track a campaign’s performance can be:
- Sessions/visits – How much traffic is coming from each referral source?
- Leads – Total number of leads in a specified time frame.
- Sales Conversions – The percentage of visits or leads, which result in goal conversions.
- Revenue – For e-commerce site you would definitely want to know which traffic source is generating revenue.
- E-Commerce Conversion Rate – The percentage of visits which result in an e-commerce transaction.
Targeting these indicators, and monitoring them monthly, using KPI reports, and a graphically visual dashboard, will determine how on track the organisation is. And keeping goals at the forefront, and measuring how close you are to achievement, is the best way to ensure they are accomplished.
It is very frustrating when your main business competitors are always performing better than you in the search engines, however, with a little work it is possible to steal traffic from your competition. This may sound a little sneaky, but there really is nothing wrong with what we are about to suggest. In a way, it is no different from seeing a competitor’s ad in a newspaper and deciding to place your own alongside it. So, how is it done?
Target The Same Keywords
Keywords drive search traffic. There are several tools available to determine what keywords your competitors are currently performing well on. SEMRush is one of the best tools on the market at the moment, and it provides a reasonable amount of information for free (we have the fully paid version if you need it). All you have to do is enter your competitor’s URL into SEMRush and it will display the ten most popular search phrases that deliver traffic to their website.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re an architect in Chelmsford. A search for “architect in Chelmsford” brings up Chelmsford planning offices and Yell first, but then Glynnwilliamsarchitects.co.uk in third place, who is in Danbury. According to SEMRush, his main keywords include: Essex architects, Chelmsford architects, architects in Essex, architects Chelmsford, and architects in Chelmsford. Ensure that you have these keyword groups on your homepage and main service pages and you should notice an improvement in ranking.
More insights can be seen in the very competitive plumbing niche. For example, “bathroom fitters in Chelmsford” brings up several directory sites (Mybuilder.com, Checkatrade.com and Trustatrader.com) and then Barefootbathrooms.co.uk as the first independent company. According to SEMRush, the keywords that they are receiving traffic from include (not limited to):
- essex bathrooms
- bathroom shops in essex
- bathrooms complete
- bathroom fitters uk
- bathroom stores essex
- bathroom planner uk
- complete bathroom fitting service
- bathrooms porcelanosa
- bathroom installation essex
- ideal standard bathroom planner
It is interesting to note that although they rank well for “bathroom fitters in Chelmsford”, they are getting most of their traffic from searches for Essex, and even some for UK searches. You should be optimising your site for your local area, nearest large town and county already, but some of the other search terms are interesting: Stores, planners, installation, Ideal Standard, Porcelanosa, complete – these are all terms that they are getting business on, which may be missing from your own web site.
To steal their traffic, build some useful content around these keywords, either by enhancing some of your pages or creating new pages. Also, think about the products that you currently supply – you may not fit Porcelanosa products, but you may fit other brands, so create pages for these. People search for brands as well as generic terms, so create some pages to highlight which brands you provide and install.
Increase Your Domain Authority
Domain Authority is the new PageRank. Google decided to stop providing new PageRank data to the public a few years ago, and stopped displaying archive data last week. This has made it hard to determine how well ranked a website is. Moz decided to create their own metric to rate websites, and they call this Domain Authority (DA).
DA is on logarithmic scale from 0 to 100 and is largely determined by the number and quality of links that point to a website. Sticking to the example given above, Barefootbathrooms.co.uk has a DA of 10.33. In theory, if you can get your DA above this figure, and provide similar content on your website, you will start to compete more effectively with them.
One of the key skills of SEO is link building – building quality links that are natural and support your business online is a time consuming and complex task, which is why you should consider outsourcing to an SEO company.
Replace Their Best Links
Now we are entering slightly shadier ground, as this is considered a more aggressive tactic. You can use tools such as Majestic.com and Ahrefs.com to determine who is linking to their website. You can contact the websites that are linking and suggest updating their link to that of your website.
If your site contains more up to date, of just better, information, then you could use this as a bargaining tool. A kind email or even a phone call might persuade them to update the link on their website to point to you instead.
Become an Influencer
By improving the quality and usefulness of the content on your website, and becoming more active on social media, you can become an “influencer” in your niche. By making yourself more visible across multiple platforms and interacting with a larger audience, you can increase the likelihood of people discovering your brand and business.
Sticking to the plumbing theme, a popular way to achieve is through the use of YouTube – add useful videos that show DIY enthusiasts how to fix minor problems. Forums are also effective in this manner – become a well-known name on a DIY forum and you may find that you develop some leads from your profile page.
All the above, as effective as it is, takes time. If you want to leap ahead of the competition quickly, use Google AdWords to ensure that your site appears above the competition in Google. If your competitor is using AdWords already, SEMRush will show what keywords they are bidding on – bid higher.
AdWords can be expensive to run, especially for beginners, but there are several ways to reduce click spend and increase conversions without compromising the best keywords. Speak to our AdWords managers to learn more.
AdWords is not the only tool though. Facebook can be very effective for brand building, which is especially important for local traders. If you create a post on your company page in Facebook, you can “Boost” it and target the local area. By targeting your local market you can quickly make more people aware of your business, and if you are sharing an interesting story, this will get Facebook shares and likes, to further enhance your brand.
As you can see, there are several ways to steal your competitors search traffic, and we are skilled in all these methods, so contact Freelance SEO today if you want to start beating the competition.
SEO For Small Businesses
If you run a small business every penny counts, so it is vital to ensure that every investment you make into your business will provide a good return. Traditional marketing still plays a vital role in any marketing strategy, whether it be leaflet distribution, local newspaper features or radio adverts. However, the area where small businesses can really perform well is online marketing and SEO. Let’s take a closer look at why it works so well for small businesses.
The Permanent Effect
The biggest advantage of investing in SEO is that it can provide you with a permanent boost in leads. While advertising, whether it be through traditional channels or online, can bring in instant leads, the moment you end a campaign the leads dry up. SEO, on the other hand, provides a constant stream of new business via Google and other search engines.
SEO for Your Website
The SEO that we perform is not just building links to your business. We will also improve your web pages in two ways. First, pages will be optimised so that Google can better understand what products and services you offer – this will help potential new customers find your website. Second, we will suggest improvements (or carry out the changes ourselves if we have access to your CMS) to help funnel visitors through to your sales pages. We often see business websites that receive a reasonable amount of traffic but fail to provide a “call to action”. Again, once these changes are made, the improvements are permanent.
It does take time to see improvements in SEO, but nowhere near as long as many people think. Most of our clients start to see significant improvements in traffic to their sites within three months of starting a new SEO campaign, and often within a year we are getting first page results (often at the top) for the most important keyword searches. It is therefore recommended that an SEO campaign lasts for at least one year for the best return on your investment, but reasonable gains are possible in a shorter period.
Focus on Search Queries With Purchase Intent
Understanding how people search is vital to doing well in the search engines, your most important keywords may not be obvious. For example, for a plumber, a search phrase for “emergency plumber in Chelmsford” is a term that will send customers who are eager to purchase, whereas a search for “best plumbers in Chelmsford” might result in a high bounce rate – people are more likely to be reviewing many websites. Both terms are important, but if you have a limited budget you need to focus where you can get the most important gains in search.
Developing an Online Presence
As well as building traffic to your own website we can help you build a better presence on multiple platforms.
Nowadays, business is driven through social media platforms, business directories, review sites and forums. By building a presence in all these areas we can generate more exposure for your business. This becomes especially useful as your brand becomes better known, as a search for your brand will not only bring up your website, but also social media listings, directory pages and featured pages on other sites.
Take our company as an example: a search for “Freelance SEO Essex” brings up our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter page and also our involvement in the Essex Digital Awards. This helps to build trust in the local community, which is vital for businesses in such a competitive industry.
New small business have the most to gain from an SEO campaign as it will help grow and support the business for many years to come. Contact Freelance SEO Essex today to learn how you can start making your website work harder for your business.
A new report by leading Internet analysts SimilarWeb has shown that search engines can drive up to ten times more traffic to ecommerce sites than social media. This trend is seen on both mobile and desktop websites and demonstrates that SEO is still the most important digital marketing strategy for new business websites.
The Global Marketing Report 2016 was written by Joel Zand and Pascal Cohen, SimilarWeb’s Digital Insights Manager and Marketing Analyst. The report available for download from their website.
It is clear that search traffic exceeds all other traffic sources by a considerable margin. The report divides referrals into six groups: Direct, Mail, Referrals, Search, Social and Display Ads.
As the table below shows, Search traffic accounts for 38.98% of all traffic to ecommerce websites, beating Direct traffic. We should explain what each traffic source means:
Direct traffic is when a person visits a website without searching or clicking on a link – usually either typing the address directly into the browser or using a bookmark. Mail refers to visits via an email newsletter. Referrals are visits from other websites, such as links in news articles, reviews and forums. Search is specifically organic search referrals (i.e. not AdWords in search). Social refers to all social media websites, and can include both organic sharing and social media advertising. Finally, Display Ads refers to banners, which may mostly be via AdWords, although this may include direct advertising and affiliate ads too.
As you can see from this table, Search, Direct and Referrals account for most traffic to shopping websites. Mail and Display Ads account for a very small amount of traffic. We would have thought that Display Ads would be a huge driver of traffic, but it is likely that increasing costs of advertising means that many businesses simply cannot compete and so have adopted a strategy that combines SEO, direct advertising and referrals. Overall, from Google, Display Ads accounts for 1.32% of traffic and Paid Search 1.97% – this means that paid advertising is only sending 3.29% of traffic to shopping sites from Google’s search engine.
Mail throws up another interesting result – however, this does make sense. People rarely buy products based on an email alone. What the report is unable to say is whether the direct visitors are also mail subscribers – many people will see an offer in an email and then visit a website days or weeks later to make a purchase.
The report also does not differentiate between brand keyword searches and product keyword searches. A bulk of the shopping searches could be as a result of people searching for “Amazon” or “Argos”, rather than searching for a product. This says more about how people use Google to find websites than it says about marketing trends – in the past people would bookmark their favourite websites, nowadays, people rely on brand searches in Google.
Some niches perform even stronger in search. For example, jewellery shops received around 51.64% of traffic from search. What is most striking is that a vast majority of searches are for brands, with Pandora, Rolex, Swarovski, Fossil and Tiffany leading the pack – people do not appear to be searching for “jewelry shops” (American spelling) – this makes a lot of sense really, as people shopping for jewellery online will already have a very good idea of what they wish to buy. Paid search accounts for around 6% of search traffic, and organic search the remaining 96%. Again, SEO is a major factor at play.
Social is Still Important
Of course, it is important to note that social media is still important – SEO may be the dominant factor in winning new customers online, but you should not ignore the fact that between 3 and 10% of all digital leads may be coming from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media websites. Ignoring social media may save a little time, but you will lose out on a significant part of the market.
Similarly, mail and display advertising are also important. The report only shows the amount of traffic being delivered to websites, it does not provide any insights into conversions. It may be that search traffic is converting at a much lower rate than display advertising, and email may help to bring back past customers and help promote deals which would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
It is important to utilise every digital marketing channel in your marketing campaigns. While is search is delivering the lion’s share of traffic to shopping sites, the other channels are responsible for the remaining 62%, so ensure that your strategy includes all channels.
Contact Freelance SEO today to learn how we can help improve your digital marketing strategy.