This is a long post but if you're suffering from a traffic drop, please read.
I am writing this post in order to gain more information on what is happening in the SEO space with Google right now, and to help members get a better grasp on the state of SEO in 2019.
After being active in this forum for a few months (lurking mostly), I have come to the conclusion that in 2019 the way our sites rank in Google have less to do with us making SEO changes and more to do with factors outside our control. This is why.
Here you can find screenshots of my site traffic from December 2018 to present day: [imgur.com
Here you can see the biggest algorithmic change to my site by month: [imgur.com
...] Some background
: After the big medic update in October my site lost 30% traffic
I took a deep hard look at my site and I had to agree with Google, my site wasnít as optimised for SEO as it should be and my rankings lowered. I wasnít paying attention and was just coasting along while others sites were improving.
I waited a few months to see if things would change but they didnít. So in December I joined Ahrefs/SEMrush and took action on my site.
I did all of the following:
* removed 35% of pages from my site that were causing bloat and no organic traffic
* created a whole internal link building strategy to ensure every page had at least 3 relevant internal links to each article (you can see the results of this below)
* upgraded to HTTPS
* installed a CDN with cloudfare
* got my website load time down from 3 seconds to less than 1 second
* got my Google Page Insights up from 60 to 85 on mobile and 60 to 99 on desktop (see photo)
* changed web host to reduce my TTFB from 2.2 seconds to less than 400ms.
* decreased bounce rate by 10.40% (photo below)
* increased average session duration by 44% (photo below)
* Increased pages/session by 23% (photo below)
* updated older articles
* wrote articles about super relevant things and during these months I got quite a few relevant backlinks from high quality sites.
I did not hire anyone or do any black hat marketing. I have no manual penalties and never have on any of my sites.
After making all these changes in December and early January I made no other major SEO changes to my site.
You can see my on-site website performance increased after these changes were made: [imgur.com
Here is my Page speed insights: [imgur.com
I could post my TTFB and response times to show they are under 500ms but I think you get the point.
You need to ignore sessions/new users/users/page views as the comparison is from current day to November before changes were made, and at current day Iíve lost quite a lot of traffic. As you can see my site has -22% less users NOW after making the changes above.
Since making these changes the following has happened to my site:
December = 34% increase
February = 11% increase
March = 22% increase
April = 14% decrease
June = 46% decrease (and going lower)
After doing all that my website is 22% lower than before
I made any of these changes and its going lower. Today is not over and Iíve lost another 20% on yesterday which was a 40%- down.
Iím not here to bash Google because for the past 5 years Iíve been able to make an income because of their platform and Iím thankful.
But for me after listening to what Google has been saying for the 9 months, following Ahrefs/SemRush/Brain Dean and the other big players in SEO, after the improvements I've made to my site, I don't get how I'm doing worse. My site today is better, faster, updated, more relevant and has more relvent backlinks today than pre 2019.
How can I have 4 months of great increases followed by a huge thud that knocks me lower than before I improved my site? That doesn not make sense unless Google is using something to rank sites that I don't know about (if I missed anything do let me know).
Iím an info site and I run no adsense, I donít sell products and less than 1% of my entire site has affiliate links. No pop-ups or email forms.
Iím not doing any of the newb things like having dozens of external links on the home page or anything like that. Itís just an info site that is 6+ years old. Of all my competitions I rank #2 in terms of PA and DA for my site overall. I'm the second oldest site in my niche with the second best backlink profile based on Ahrefs and Semrush.
With these experiences, I believe something wrong with the Google Algorithm, or they are ranking sites using new metrics that nobody knows about, in which case it would be wonderful of them to tell us.
When I search on Google today I do get directed to the right pages so I donít think Google is broken totally, but something is going on with their algorithm and updates that doesnít make much sense.
This drop has killed my siteís revenue by 90%, the revenue it made would be enough to cover a family with 2 children. I am lucky that I still have other income steams (a digital marketing agency) so I can still put food on the table and Iím fairly young with no children. But now I need to get more clients as Iím living pretty thin if things stay the way they are.
But thereís are people out there with children and bills to pay and this has is how they feed their family. I cannot imagine what they are going through.
Iím not saying Google should not make changes to search, they have to do become better and stay #1.
But in the eyes of most web masters (based on the comments in this forum, SEOroundtable and other SEO forums I donít think I can mention) most people have a negative perception for the Google Search term.
And that should not be the case, admins and Google should be on Good terms because they need us just as much as we need them.
I think this can be resolved by Google letting us know what their algorithm changes are focusing on so people like me and others who depend on their website to feed their family, a chance to make a living.
Saying itís a board update which doesnít relate to any one thing doesnít help a single webmaster, and pretty much leaves Google off the hook, which is why they say these types of things.
As a web admin I am sitting here thinking what can I do to improve my sites rankings, I honestly think the best thing I can do is to do nothing and see what happens in the next update, based on all the comments of websites going up and down on this forum.
If the level of communication between web admins and Google does not improve, I donít think Google is going to dominate search in 10 years.
Google is isolating the people who made their search what is it, I think when you start burning us without advising us on how to improve our sites with better information youíre in a dangerous place.
I donít want Google to roll back the changes or give me my traffic back, I know I'm not entitled to the traffic and I don't want it give to me, I want to do the best I can with my site so I get the traffic I deserve. But in order to do that I need to know what caused this huge drop of and how I can remedy it.
I don't think I'm alone in this either. So Google, can you please start communicating with us better and become human being rather than being cryptic and distant.
I have the following theories based on what I've seen and experience in the last 9 month:
1. Google is using something to rank sites that most of us including the expert don't know about.
2. Google search is broken. This is based on my site seeing high surges in traffic after making positive SEO changes, only to be at record lows today
3. Google search is fixed. The past updates that shot my website up were algorithm update that made search worse, and the latest algorithm update fixed them. But if this is true that means Google made errors in past updates.
4. Roll out is not fully rolled out and everything will go back to normal. This is the least likely theory based on how many people are seeing huge drops based on sentiment online.
It would be great if more people posted what they did and what changes they have saw so we can get a better idea on what we are dealing with. Feel free to ask me any questions and I'll do my best to answer.