There are a number of reasons that your website may be losing its organic search visibility.
- Migration to a new domain – While Google offers a means for letting them know you've moved to a new domain via Search Console, there's still the issue of ensuring every backlink out there resolves to a good URL on your new domain rather than a not found (404) page.
- Indexing permissions – I've seen many instances of people installing new themes, plugins, or making other CMS changes that inadvertently change their settings and block their site from being fully crawled.
- Bad metadata – Search engines love metadata like titles and page descriptions. I often find issues where title tags, meta title tags, descriptions aren't properly populated and the search engine sees redundant pages… so they only index some of them.
- Mobile responsiveness – Mobile dominates many organic search requests, so a site that's not optimized can really suffer. Adding AMP capabilities to your site can also vastly improve your ability to be found on mobile searches. The search engines also adjust their definition of mobile responsiveness as mobile browsing has evolved.
- Change in page structure – Elements on a page for SEO are pretty standard in their importance – from title to headings, to bold/emphatic, to media and alt tags… if you change your page structure and reorder the priority of elements, it will change how the crawler views your content and you may lose ranking for that page. Search engines may also modify the importance of page elements.
- Change in popularity – Sometimes, a site with a ton of domain authority quits linking to you because they revamped their site and dropped the article about you. Have you audited who is ranking to you and seen any changes?
- Increase in competition – Your competitors may make the news and get a ton of backlinks that drive up their ranking. There may be nothing you can do about this until the spike is over or you ramp up promotion of your own content.
- Keyword Trends – Have you checked Google Trends to see how searches are trending for the topics that you were ranking for? Or the actual terminology? For example, if my website talked about smartphones all the time, I may want to update that term to mobile phone since that's the dominant term used nowadays. I may also want to observe seasonality trends here and ensure my content strategy keeps ahead of search trends.
- Self-Sabotage – You'd be surprised at how many times your own pages compete with themselves in search engines. If you're trying to write a blog post every month on the same topic, you're now spreading your authority and backlinks across 12 pages by year-end. Be sure to research, design, and write a single page per topic focus – and then keep that page updated. We've taken sites down from thousands of pages to hundreds of pages – redirecting the audience properly – and watched their organic traffic double.
Beware Of Your Organic Ranking Resources
The number of people that I have that request my help on this is startling. To make it worse, they often point to a platform or their SEO agency and struggle with the fact that those resources didn't predict the issue nor were they able to assist in correcting the issue.
- SEO Tools – There are far too many canned SEO tools that haven't been kept up to date. I simply don't use any reporting tool to tell me what's wrong – I crawl the site, dive into the code, inspect every setting, review the competition, and then come up with a roadmap on how to improve. Google can't even keep Search Console ahead of their algorithm changes… stop thinking some tool will!
- SEO Agencies – I'm weary of SEO agencies and consultants. In fact, I don't even classify myself as an SEO consultant. While I've assisted hundreds of companies with these issues over the years, I've been successful because I don't focus on algorithm changes and backlinking… I focus on your visitors' experience and the goals of your organization. If you try to game algorithms, you're not going to beat the thousands of Google developers and massive computing power they have… trust me. Too many SEO agencies exist built off of out-of-date processes and gaming algorithms that – not only don't work – they will damage your search authority longterm. Any agency that doesn't understand your sales and marketing strategy isn't going to help you with your SEO strategy.
One note on this – if you're trying to shave a few bucks off of your tool or consultant budget… you're going to get exactly what you pay for. A great consultant can help you drive organic traffic, set realistic expectations, offer marketing advice beyond the search engine, and help you attain a great return on your investment. A cheap resource will most likely hurt your rankings and take the money and run.
How to Increase Your Organic Rankings
- Infrastructure – Ensure your site doesn't have any issues that prevent search engines from properly indexing it effectively. This means optimizing your content management system – including robots.txt file, sitemap, site performance, title tags, metadata, page structure, mobile responsiveness, etc. None of these prevent you from ranking well (unless you're totally blocking search engines from indexing your site), but they do hurt you by not making it easier to crawl, index, and rank your content appropriately.
- Content Strategy – The research, organization, and quality of your content are critical. A decade ago, I used to preach recency and frequency of content to produce better rankings. Now, I advise against that and insist that clients build a content library that is comprehensive, incorporates media, and is easy to navigate. The more time invested in your keyword research, competitive research, user experience, and their ability to find the information they are seeking, the better your content will be consumed and shared. That, in turn, will drive additional organic traffic. You may have all the content you need, but if it's not organized well, you may be hurting your own search engine rankings.
- Promotion Strategy – Building a great site and amazing content isn't enough… you must have a promotion strategy that drives links back to your site for search engines to rank you higher. This requires research to identify how your competitors are ranking, whether you can pitch to those resources, and whether or not you can get links back from those domains with great authority and a relevant audience.
As with everything in the marketing realm, it comes down to people, processes, and platforms. Be sure to partner with a digital marketing consultant that understands all aspects of search engine optimization and how it can impact your visitors' overall customer journey. And, if you are interested in getting assistance, I do offer these types of packages. They start out with a down payment to cover research – then have an ongoing monthly engagement to help you continue to improve.