|What are tips to improve a site's Google traffic in 2013?|
I am posting this out of desperation and what I'm realizing is a sheer lack of knowledge/understanding of what Google has been doing in the last year.
From what I can tell, this started around July of 2012. Our G Traffic stats were about exactly the same Year over Year. in july, they dropped 10% as the months went on it dropped 20%, 30% to December of 2012 at 50% and now January where we were at a 60% loss in Google traffic year over year. There doesn't appear to be a singular drop, it has been gradual.
We've made changes to the site over the past year for a positive effect but have not seen such:
-removing keyword heavy anchor text from right and left column navigation (it really looked like keyword stuffing before)
-removing old/empty categories and removing out of stock products that had no use (they had been out of stock for a long time, it was way over due)
-we rewrote a lot of our content so that it was more descriptive and has been good for the customer, without overusing keywords.
-we had a ton of soft 404's in WMT becasue we didn't have 404's in place to handle them, we implemented those, now after about 4 months we are showing 0 soft 404's and 12,000 or so 404 Not found.
-we updated our preferred domain in WMT so google would know what pages to index
-we put a noindex follow tag on all of our pagination pages in the category pages on our site (many categories have multiple pages, they would all have the same meta description so we noindexed them so that the 1st page would be the only page to index)
-we doubled the number of products that a user can see per page from 12-24 so there would be less pagination for a user to go through (we noticed that all of our competition had more products per page and they were outranking us so we followed suit.
To sum up, im not sure if there is something major i am missing becasue we keep losing ground. I dont know if it has something to do with how much our products are being used on syndication partner sites (social shopping sites where people post products like pinterest and wanelo among others) or if it abotu our site layout, or possibly a change we made that we thought would be positive is having the opposite effect.
I have posted before in the Site Review so paid members can check that out to see my website. I am looking for any advice I can get right now, I just thought my best bet would be to reach out to the community and hope someone could point me in the right direction. Please feel free to post a reply here.
We've worked so hard for so many years on this site and spent such a large amount of money investing in developing our site to be user and google friendly.. And trust me, I know were' not the only ones suffering. I truly do, I have been reading and posting in this forum for years so I understand, as we all do, the plight of the webmaster.
[edited by: goodroi at 5:45 pm (utc) on Feb 1, 2013]
In general, webmasters need to boost the value proposition of their websites.
-Seek out customer questions and answer them. If one customer had that question, another person is probably searching for the answer on Google
-Outpublish your competition. I'm not talking quantity, I'm talking quality. Provide a new content feature not found elsewhere.
-Prune weak content. I would rather have 100 high quality pages that are regularly updated than 10,000 automated pages that Google doesn't rank. Just remember that after you remove weak content, you add some good content to fill the vacuum.
New Site Features
-Add tools to help your visitors. Online calculators, checklists, reminder services etc. Brainstorm original tools that aren't available elsewhere. If you have something not found elsewhere, then people may link to you without even being asked.
-Add value to data feeds. If others are publishing the content on your site you better add something good. Add original reviews and pictures of the products from being used in real life situations.
-Seek out new marketing channels. It makes you less dependent on Google and can even help you rank better. An entertaining social campaign can boost your newsletter subscriptions and gain a few backlinks.
Check to see if any of your bigger changes in traffic coincided with Google's Panda or Penguin updates. If so that would give clues.
This site keeps track of the dates for Google Panda / Penguin
For example, we had a huge hit around March 24, 2012. Our main key words dropped from #2 position to the 3rd page.
That date coincided with a big Google change that I think had to do with over optimization and too many links to you with the same link text.
Also look to see which of your keywords dropped in the search engine rankings. In my case they seemed to have penalized me on specific key words, which also happen to be the keywords in many of the links pointing to us.
I would add to the above - check out who has replaced you, who's now getting your traffic? Are they doing something unique and wonderful that you're not? Ask everyone associated with the site to write down five reasons why they think your site/company DESERVES to get your traffic back - then read over all those reasons, and if they're all valid, make sure they're well represented on the site.
I can't tell you how many times site owners have called me up and said "of *course* we're the authority in the industry" and either they weren't, or they were, but they weren't reflecting it on their site.
Get some objective third party opinions on that site. Sign up for one of those testing services (you can do it for as little as $30 a session) where someone performs some task on your site, like looking something up or trying to complete a transaction and provides you with a running commentary so you can view the site how the users view it (I did that once with a client - we got a screen cam video back, and my client said "I kept wanting to move his mouse for him to the right spot" - that told us we needed to work on the navigation)
Why the removal of keyword heavy anchor text?
You state gradual decline, not an event. So why did you decide that removing anchor text was the solution to a gradual traffic decline?
If you think there's a filter/penalty issue, changing anchor text is perhaps understandable. De-optimizing something that isn't over-optimized really is an exercise in futility.
Backlinks - I'm not sure why it's not been mentioned yet but backlinks still trump all other SEO. In fact there is likely less that you can do on-page to impact results than ever.
Branding - The decline in traffic you describe vaguely resembles the traffic increase many big brand sites are seeing. Google likes brands and the CEO says "what's not to like about brands?".
bluntforce>>> we removed the keyword heavy anchor text becasue to me it looked really spammy.It was just about 4 different very similar versions of the same 2 or 3 word key phrase. I wasn't sure if that was hurting us, but i figured it couldn't hurt to change it so we at least wouldn't get dinged for it in the future.
Michael T>>> no major changes in traffic, no large events that coincide with traffic loss. I did however notice that the traffic decline began right around the time that Google rolled out Panda internationally. But it just didn't seem to fit together. There was no AH HA moment in there
Sgt>>> backlinks: we have started to get links from a new source over the years. WE used to have a large number of forums pointing toward us due to partnering with them or users just posting about our products. Nowadays all the links come from social syndication sites that post nothing but products from different websites. Different type of link, maybe the new ones aren't as valuable.
branding: ahh yes, big brands. and how must one become a big brand?.... (mostly rhetorical question)
thanks for all the input. With the way everything is changing we are really trying to map out a whle new way of thinking in 2013, albeit without having to change the layout and design of our site (its already so heavily invested in) but instead through smart marketing and really just basically doing what works instead of what doesn't work. Sounds simple, right?