Many of us have been grinding along only to see our internet profits shrink. It can be frustrating to say the least but the good news is that many of the sites that have fallen on hard times can be rescued with a a bit of hard work and creativity. Of course YMMV and every situation is different. Here is a starting point to help you return a site back to profitability... 1) Ego
Check your ego at the door. None of us are perfect and there is always room for improvement. Would you rather be right and broke or discover you have been foolish and can make a few easy changes to earn big $$$$? SEO is so complicated, none of us remember every minute detail. Even Googlers sometimes get it wrong. Be smart enough to regularly revisit your SEO basics and hone your skills. Go find the latest version of Google's evaluator guidelines to help you get into Google's mindset. 2) Domain name
Is your domain name really a brand worth saving? No offense, just asking the hard questions that we all need to face from time to time. Does it show up in the autocomplete for Google's search box? If your domain name isn't part of Google's autocomplete than you might want to consider if it would be more helpful to switch to a fresh domain especially if your old domain is carrying around some legacy penalties. If your domain has multiple hyphens or is extremely long, you might want to upgrade to a better domain. Most older sites do not need to switch domain names but for some people it easier to start fresh with a clean domain. We want to balance usability, branding, & SEO demands when choosing the best domain name. If you do decide to switch to a fresh domain, you should think about if a 301 redirect will be helpful or not (this depends if the old domain was spammy or clean). 3) Site Design
You want to maximize value & minimize noise while delivering a good user experience for whatever platform the user prefers. This means your site design needs to provide great value to mobile users and desktop users. Are you using a responsive design? You want a good looking design for small phones, and smart pads, and large desktops. The design should empower users to easily navigate and quickly find your value without too much clutter with ads. Don't use auto play for video or audio. Less is more. Don't use any of the fancy add-ons like flash which have become security headaches and slow down your pages too much. Googlebot is still fundamentally a text retrieval bot so make sure your pages have a healthy amount of relevant text that will engage users. We want "sticky" sites that will keep the user's attention. Don't get greedy either. Some older sites that start losing money just double their ad placement which drives users away and triggers Google layout penalty. You can put affiliate stuff and ads on your pages as long as it doesn't drown out the value of your page. 4) Speed
Speed is very important. Faster sites make more conversions. Very slow sites get abandoned. You want to streamline your site code for a faster site. Use a CDN (it might even be free for your situation). Maximize your caching and compression. Spend a day to adjust the geeky settings to boost your site speed. You don't need to worry about every single millisecond so don't go overboard. Googlebot will reward faster sites with better & deeper crawls. Just keep it in context. Speed is one of many site factors and you only have 24 hours in a day so properly triage your site needs. Here are some free tools to help you diagnose your speed situation:
...] 5) Pages
The bigger the better... sorta. We are going to assume you already adjusted your site design so it is minimized and loads quickly and doesn't use any unnecessary design elements. We want to maximize the value for each page and that means bigger page size not from bloated code but due to great text descriptions, interesting diagrams and useful tools. A big problem with old sites is they are anemic. It is usually hard to argue a site with an average of 200 words on each page is providing great value to users. Just don't forget that probably more than half of your visitors are mobile users. So we want to intelligently trim the fat of page size without taking away its muscle of great content. To help you figure out which pages need your help, you can look at a "smart bounce rate". Your smart bounce rate could combine regular bounce rate with time on site to be more valuable. You probably wouldn't worry if a visitor only looks at one page but spends 8 minutes on it vs a page with a very high bounce rate & very low time on site. That is usually a good clue you might want to revisit that page. 6) Content
Strive to regularly add new content pages. Don't ask about an acceptable word minimum. Yes, you can have some short pages but remember we want to provide great value. So we should be thinking more about how to write even more engaging words and less about what is the least amount that is good enough. If you don't think there are enough good content ideas, look at the autocomplete in Google's search box, monitor your competition's new content, look at trending youtube videos and hot topics in social media, review the latest products/services, or mine your submitted contact form for content ideas. When you finish your new content ask yourself how could your competition copy it & improve upon it. Then stop being lazy, go back and produce content that is great and can't be improved upon.
If you can't find time to produce quality content then invest in a good writer. Don't think of the cost per page, rather think of how the revenue potential for the next 2 to 4 years. Good evergreen content can generate revenue for a long time. Great content can even generate backlinks so don't undervalue content.
Don't target the basic questions that can be answered in 10 words, Google is answering the simplest questions directly in the SERPs. You want to write insightful information that will engage users. We want to focus more on the quality topics and worry less about artificially inflating page counts with weak content. 7) Freshen Up
Google rewards fresh content. They even reward old content that has been refreshed. Google does not like to be embarrassed and when they rank old & outdated content it can be embarrassing which is why Google loves to see signals that your page is fresh. Don't be lazy and try to fake it. Each day revisit 3 of your top pages and make sure they are still up to date with no errors (broken links/images/etc) and make sure you have a noticeable "last edited" date in the content section of your page. Simply fixing out dated pages filled with errors can significantly boost rankings. 8) Keyword Density, Placement, LSI etc
Old school SEO keyword stuffing is dead. 20 years ago we didn't have smart phones or a crazy cheap hard drives so respect technology's advancement. Google is now using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Use bold, italics and heading tags to boost the readability and value of your page and not as a keyword stuffing opportunity. Don't worry about the obsolete metrics of density/LSI/etc. You can use keyword density, LSI & TF-IDF as a preliminary quality control for your content to make sure you didn't forget to mention any important concepts on that topic. These keyword metrics are not important ranking factors. Chasing a certain number or ratio on these obsolete metrics is not the best use of your valuable time. You want a title that conveys relevancy & value to the user and entices higher engagement. Usability and branding is more important than out dated keyword stuffing tactics. Make sure you use spell checking and break up the content into easily digestible sections to present your content in a friendly & professional way. If you are unsure about something ask yourself if it would help or hurt your site's pursuit to be seen as a trusted expert & authority. 9) Duplicate Content
Google does not like duplicate content. Who does? It is boring to have 100 pages all saying the same thing. If your site has been online for a long time, it probably has a good amount of duplicate content. Do not freak out. As long as the duplicate content is linking back to the original source on your site, you are fine. If it is not linking back, congrats you have a great link development opportunity. Send a firm but friendly email to that website, explaining their oversight and your willingness to let them keep the content if they acknowledge your copyrighted material and link back to you. If the nice approach doesn't work you can always fall back to using DMCA. You should also look at your own content to make sure all of your pages are sufficiently unique from each other. Content writing standards were lax many years ago and often content needs to be rewritten today to make it attractive again to Google and users. You can use [copyscape.com
...] to find duplicate content. 10) Synonyms & Natural Language
Remember Google has experienced over 20 years of being spammed and developing technology to spot relevancy. Google isn't perfect but it is much more sophisticated than it was. It has moved from direct matching (exact keyword match on page = ranking for exact keyword) and moved towards more fuzzy logic (user asks question = google shows answers). This means stop thinking about keyword stuffing which is very easy for Google to notice. Focus on synonyms and natural language. This will make for a better user experience which means better conversion and usage metrics. It also will help you avoid Google's penalties & filters. 11) Youtube & Video Content
Have you embraced video or are you ignoring this great opportunity? Youtube is the most visited site besides Google. There are people making fortunes with their Youtube channel. Don't you want a share of that traffic for your business? Even if you don't care about traffic referrals from YouTube, adding some videos to your website can greatly boost the value for users and give people a reason to link to your site. 12) Internal cross linking
Remember we want a "sticky" user experience and a good way to capture the user's attention is to embed relevant links to other pages on your site within your content. If you are writing a review about widgets, then link to the other page on your site about how to "repair widgets" or the page for "smart upgrades for widgets". On topic cross linking is important to increase usability and give another quality signal to the search engines. Exposing more of your great content will help gain backlinks, increase return visits and boost your user metrics. There are many free wordpress plugins that will automatically do this. As Google continues to decrease the value it places on links in your navigation bar, you want to focus on internal cross linking. 13) Inbound Links from External Sites
Think of links less as way to manipulate Google rankings and more as a way to develop new traffic sources. Yes, links can still greatly influence Google rankings but to maximize that impact you want good links which tend to be relevant links that actually send you traffic. Plus if you gain enough of these links, you won't care about Google rankings anymore which is where we all want to be. Look at social media and see what other websites people are mentioning. Explore the Google rankings for related search terms, if a site is ranking in Google it probably has traffic to send you. Google has rolled out link penalties so often that many webmasters won't exchange links. Instead talk about cross promotion and content exchanges. If you sell widgets then partner with a website that repairs widgets. If you are local business then partner with another business in a different county or state. You aren't directly competing since your service area isn't overlapping but you are both relevant and helpful to users that might not live close enough to your locations. It can be easier to seal the deal in person, so make sure to attend your industry's trade shows & conferences. To spot links that you have lost, or links your competition has gained you can use [majestic.com
...] or [ahrefs.com
...] 14) Poison Links
Many older sites took too many shortcuts with link building. The good news is that most of those garbage links aren't poisonous, they are just worthless and being ignored. If you have an extreme situation, then you can use Google's link disavow tool. Honestly most people with a backlink problem don't need to focus on disavow. Their bad links are already being ignored and its better to focus on gaining good links that will be counted by Google. How do you develop good links, creativity. If an adult video website can be creative enough to gain thousands of backlinks with interesting infographics then you can also be creative. Honestly look at your backlinks and anchor text. Do the numbers seem natural? 15) Social Media Replaced Link Directories/Submissions
Link submissions are mostly dead. Do not waste your time or money. If it is super easy to get the link, then 99% of the time its going to be a worthless link. You want links from real sites that have real traffic to send to you. This is where social media steps in. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest and phew my fingers are too tired to list the many other social sites that are great opportunities. These social sites can provide you with direct traffic, backlinks and new revenue opportunities. It is not going to be easy. You will need to actively engage the social media users and provide them with value. This can be in the form of pretty pictures, weird stories or helpful how-to guides. This is not free money. You need to invest time and creativity for good results. Thankfully these results are very much worth the effort & can really help your Google performance. 16) Hosting
You want fast & reliable hosting not the cheapest hosting. To be fair many expensive hosting packages are also garbage with the extra insult of being overpriced. It usually doesn't matter if you are on a shared server or a stand alone ip. Does the site load fast and reliably even during a heavy surge from social media? To be safe sign up for an uptime monitoring service so if there are any problems you can fix them before losing too much money. Many of you can save money by using a free CDN to lower your hosting needs and also boost your site speed. 17) Analytics & Traffic Logs
Yes, you can use the raw server logs to gain smart data insights but IMHO many of you won't deal with it and you are a better match for Google Analytics. Sign up and actually use your Google Analytics account and Google Search Console. Unless you are ready to spend real money or real work. You need good data if you want to make good decisions. Sign up for a real-time uptime monitor to ensure your site is always up & fast. Once a month also check out your raw files with your hosting company. This will help you spot DDOS attacks, missing or broken content, and identify speed issues plus it will make sure you are not overpaying for hosting. 18) Replacing Lost Keyword Data
Google has basically killed the keyword referral data that was critical 20 years ago. You still have plenty of good data to use. Login to your search console to see the keyword data Google has for your site, also pay attention to autocomplete, look at the landing pages in Google Analytics, and track the search terms being entered into your site's own search box. It's not as good as it was 20 years ago but there is still enough data for us to make smart decisions on what content to prune/upgrade/add. 19) Traffic vs Rankings
Make sure you monitor your traffic & rankings. Look for trends and don't over react to short-term changes. Google is tweaking rankings on a daily basis and is personalizing all search results. So what you see is probably not 100% the same of what we see, and what you see today will probably not be the exact same thing tomorrow.
Traffic & rankings are also very different things. Your traffic can plummet even with your rankings rocketing to #1 since Google keeps adding more things to its universal serps. More advertisers, or local onebox, or snippets, or 30 other things can push your organic ranking off the screen and lead to less traffic. Google isn't going to stop adding things to the SERPs so you will need to evolve and expand your traffic sources. You can build out more pages for more keywords, go into new industries, or try new channels like social or video. This isn't going to be easy and will become more difficult. If you are smart & willing to work hard you can succeed but it is not going to be free money. 20) Bot Crawling
Get your own spider and crawl your site. This will help you find broken pages and make sure the entire site is crawlable. If you can't crawl your own site how do expect search engines to crawl it & index it? Strong internal cross linking will help Google to crawl your site. You want all of your pages to be linked from multiple pages and these should be relevant pages. The subfolder levels for your content isn't very important, though shorter urls are easier to type and less likely to get broken in an email that incorrectly wraps text onto multiple lines. There is another benefit of crawling your own site, you can find spam links. These links can be from unmoderated blog posts or hackers. Spam links steal from your own link power and risk triggering a Google penalty. You want to regularly monitor for these troublesome spam links. 21) Sitemaps
After you crawl your site, you can also submit the sitemap to Google. Google prefers to find content via links but submitting sitemap(s) will help you figure out which pages are not being indexed. You can then revisit those pages to make sure they have enough links pointing to them and the content is significantly unique & valuable. Google is becoming increasingly picky about which content it deems worthy enough. Don't get offended. Be happy that you can spot the indexing problem and fix it. 22) Email Engagement
Reinforce your brand with email engagement. Send out special discounts, downloads and other incentives via email sign up. Then regularly engage your email database with a useful email newsletter that will drive people back to the website. If you aren't talking with your industry, your competition will fill that void. We are not talking about spam. We are talking about providing real value that will make people want to forward your email to their friends and colleagues. This will drive more direct traffic making you less independent of Google, boost usage metrics, and increase your brand awareness. 23) Embrace HTTPs & Security
Google really wants your site to be HTTPs and there are many benefits to make the switch. If you are not comfortable with technical SEO, then hire someone but you do need to address it. Improving the overall security of your site is important to protect it from site hackers. These hackers are looking to steal your data, and/or infect visitors with malware, and/or drop hidden links to steal your link power, and/or steal your affiliate commissions, and/or insert their own ads on your pages. Security has unfortunately become a necessary headache that we all need to address. 24) Penalties
The good news is most older sites do not have a significant Google penalty besides being under optimized. If you really think you have a penalty, log into your Google account and see if there is a warning. If there is a warning you need to handle the situation. That means becoming extra clean. You need to convince Google that you are worthy of a second chance and Google will act like a jilted lover so they wonít make it easy. If there is no official warning, it does not guarantee you are penalty free. There are many unannounced penalties. You will need to do a thorough analysis. Your analytics can provide some clues. If your trouble happened on a certain date, look to see if there was any big update. Also look to see any pages are hit harder than others so you can start reverse engineering those first. Many penalties are automatic penalties and they can be removed automatically once you address the offending issue. 25) Redirect Technical Issues
SEO has become much more technical and you need to make sure your site has kept up. Do you have any redirect loops or chains? Are you using 301 or 302 redirects? Are your pages properly using canonicalization? Are you correctly handling www vs non-www? What about http vs https urls? Each time you redesigned your site, you might have added a new layer of redirects which wasn't a problem until you now have a bloated htaccess file forcing a chain of 8 redirects using a 302. Needless to say that is not optimal. If you aren't a master of redirects, then hire someone to write some dynamic redirect commands to streamline the process and give your site the best performance. 26) Accelerated Mobile Pages
It is annoying but it is another thing that you should be using because it can greatly increase the page speed. Most sites have over half of their traffic coming from mobile users, so it is hard to argue why you wouldn't want to provide the fastest experience for more than half of your audience. It stinks because it places a bunch of restrictions on us but it is usually well worth the headache. Just remember to double & triple check that it is error free. AMP indirectly boosts your Google rankings and there is a good chance moving forward that will become a significant direct boost. 27) Monetization
Without money you canít afford to make the improvement so we need to address monetization in a smart way. Ad blockers can be reducing your ad revenue by over 50% so we need to adjust to this new reality. Simply adding more advertisements will damage your value vs noise ratio and we donít want that. Once again we will need to be creative. Forget about the past when you could have made a fortune with just Adsense. You need to work harder and will earn less but you can still earn. Maximize your revenue with a multi-prong approach. Use Adsense or some other display ad for the non-buyers, then sprinkle in some relevant affiliate links for the buyers and top it off with an in-house revenue stream like selling ebooks or doing your own lead generation and privately selling it to smaller companies that donít know how to set-up an affiliate program. Also revisit your content and keep your eye open for niche content opportunities. The traffic is lower but so is the competition and it converts great. 28) E-Commerce
E-commerce is so big we are going to separate it from the other monetization tips. You want to provide a better experience than Amazon. Amazon has product pictures, customer pictures, product descriptions, specifications, common questions & answers, customer reviews and so much more. Do you? Be honest, why would someone buy from you and not another retailer? You can hate Google & Amazon as much as you want but unless your e-commerce site can provide a better experience you are going to lose. You need to develop a special edge. That can be superior customer service, or amazing how-to videos, or engaging tutorials. It is not easy and the difficulty level continues to rise so get creative and start working smarter. 29) Consistency
You really need to embrace this philosophy. At a more granular level we are talking about making sure each page is consistent. Is the title, headline & content all consistent and revolving around the same concept? Google is a bot and bots can be stupid so make it crystal clear what each page, section and website is about. On a wider scale, we want to be consistent with our effort level. The opportunity to resurrect old sites is closing. If you keep going through a lazy phase and letting your competition overtake your site, eventually you will not catch up with their lead. The competition wonít be lazy and they will be consistent with their effort and innovations. 30) Evolve Faster
If you want to win a race you need to stay ahead of your competition. Make sure you evolve and adapt your business to keep up with the ever changing landscape. Don't waste time getting angry over a door closing, focus your energy on the windows that are opening. 20 years ago we had many sites making fortunes from selling ringtones. Well that opportunity has dried up for most of those sites but today there are new opportunities with music and video streaming. Crytpocurrency didn't exist 10 years ago and now its worth billions of dollars. Some niches aren't worth resurrecting but thankfully there are many new ones popping up. Don't let your emotions lead you into a bad business decision. Nothing stays exactly the same and so make sure your business evolves. Good Luck!
Please remember this list is intended to be more of a starting point and not your finish line. We did not address every SEO situation. There are many different issues that can need attention and there are often many good solutions for each issue. Be smart and adapt these solutions to best fit your own specific situation. If you have multiple issues that need your attention so be strategic and triage it. The harsh truth is that profit margins have shrunk and the difficulty has increased. Some people that were successful in the past will unfortunately just not survive moving forward. It's not just about working harder. You need to also work smarter and do the right things that will deliver the biggest impact. For most of you there is still plenty of internet profits for you to capture!