I dreaded end of month reporting. Why? Because the mechanical nature of collating data and reviewing monthly activities always interrupted my work flow and took me away from what I enjoyed doing, helping clients achieve results. This was until early May 2016. It was in this month where I really learnt and understood the importance of monthly reporting and the drastic insights they can produce relative to the overall SEO strategies for clients.
They are in the home improvement industry and had been contracted to Matter Solutions for a couple of months throughout the build of their new website. Their SEO strategy with Matter Solutions was only in its mere infancy. They had previously dealt with a competitor SEO company that had questionable methods in regards to their backlink strategy. The client’s new website went live on the 23rd of March 2016.
When I was doing the monthly report for this client, we uncovered a significant drop in traffic as well as a drop in keywords ranking in the top 20 for the month of April. Initial thoughts led us to believe the source of such may have been due to a penalty from Google (due to the backlinks built by their previous company). However, I needed to be sure and thorough before jumping to conclusions. I also had to consider the recency of the Easter holidays, meaning the anomalies may have been merely a ‘seasonal trend’.
As I like to be transparent and open when communicating with my clients, I got on the front foot and called to discuss the situation with the client. They made mention in passing that they had experienced a quieter couple of weeks. Unfortunately this passing comment completed what I call the Trifecta of Concern (decline of traffic, rankings and business). I was determined to find the cause of the problem and rectify the situation as soon as possible.
As part of our monthly reporting we provide our clients with a visual representation of traffic as well as a breakdown of the keywords of which are ranking in the top 20. Below are the two graphs for this client that sparked the investigation.
Researching the problem
It is a strong belief of SEO strategy that ranking keywords = traffic, so the first step of this problem was finding out what keywords were lost. As shown in the graphs above, we report on the keywords that are currently ranking in the top 20 for the month. Using the historical data we were able to compare lists of ranking keywords for March and April and subsequently determine what keywords we had lost. Throughout the month we had lost 20 ranking keywords. Given the fickle nature of the beast that is Google’s Algorithm, it’s not uncommon to see fluctuations in rankings from month to month. In this case, however, there were far too many to be considered a coincidence and we needed to find concrete evidence before resolving this matter.
How important are these keywords for the business?
As you can see in the table below, we organised the lost keywords in terms of previous rank as well as search volume according to Google’s Keyword Planner. After the list was made it became glaringly obvious what the problem was. Price based keywords made up 75% of the keywords lost from March to April. Given the average search volume, previously solid ranking position of the client and the Click-Through-Rate of these positions, it was a safe assumption that is was the cause of the lack of traffic.
We now knew what keywords were lost, but why did we lose them? Was it a penalty from Google?!?
What page(s) were these keywords driving traffic to?
To further understand why we lost these keywords we first needed to know what page was ranking for these keywords. To do this we used Google Search Console’s Search Analytics and filtered queries by ‘price’ and search by page. 99% of these lost keywords were heading to the Price Guide page.
We had since identified the page that this traffic was going to, but still hadn’t found out why we had lost the rankings/traffic. We went to find the existing page on the current site and uncovered that this page didn’t exist! Diving deeper into the situation we found that there had been a misinterpretation along the grapevine throughout the development process and account handover. This miscommunication combined a mix of the client’s request, best practice and implementation. Again, client communication is key! It was now on me to fix the solution as quickly as possible. We needed to get the page back live and indexed by Google ASAP to try and mitigate any ranking loss and to stem the ongoing loss of traffic.
Creating the New Old Page
The urgency to get the new page to life had reached high severity. Using archive.org we were able to find the historical price guide page that had previously been ranking and then replicated this page on the new website. Using SEO best practice we were able to make small improvements to the page whilst working with the our experienced copywriting team we made sure we added a strong call-to-action. After a quick phone call to the client to get approval for our work, we were able to make the page live!
From uncovering the problem, finding the fix and implementing the solution it was a 4 hour process.
It is important to note that the page came back to the same spot as soon as it was indexed by Google with improvement, despite it being away for a month. This is why speed was so critical because we didn’t want Google’s historical rankings to be lost. With the rankings bouncing back, traffic steadily increased.
With the improvements our web team made to the website, the average load time for the Price Guide page had decreased by almost two seconds and the bounce rate was halved. The traffic had recovered to around the same as before the website went live but with a significantly lower bounce rate. Since the alteration, the client has been experiencing more engaged users, resulting in an increase in conversions. The Price Guide page has returned to being the second most visited page of the entire website, and more importantly is generating strong leads for the business.
What I Learned
The important things that I have taken from this situation is the importance of communication between my client and our agency, as well transparency with the performance of the SEO strategy. With good communication being a two way street, it’s important for the client to tell us how their business is performing and for us to do the same. Communication is one of the key building blocks of trust and is critically important for the client/agency relationship to work and benefit both parties. From a technical side of things I learnt that it is critically important to ensure all of the important pages from your previous website are on your new website. If they aren’t the same URL on the new site it is important to have them redirected accordingly.
Oh, and monthly reports. Thanks to monthly reporting we are forced to take a step back and view the month as a whole. This, just like in life, is extremely important as it enables you to see ‘what you’ve done’ and how you can ‘improve’ moving forward.
Have recently had a website go live and have experienced a drop in rankings/traffic OR are about to go live and want to ensure you don’t experience a speed bump? Contact one our friendly SEO experts or give us a call on 07 3117 2300.