How to recover lost organic traffic with the help of keyword analysis
In digital marketing, few subjects are as complex as Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”). Since its inception many years ago and throughout its evolution in accord with Google’s algorithm (we explain why the focus is on Google, below), it remains a marketing cornerstone.
At its core, SEO seeks to increase organic traffic through improved visibility in search engine results, and in turn, to improve conversions and sales. It is a long, overarching, and challenging process, however, and improving the results takes time.
Thus, few things are as distressing for SEO-seeking website owners as lost organic traffic. The visits to your site and sales on the site are declining over time. Fortunately, keyword analysis can help discover and solve the underlying issues that may be causing this problem.
SEO and organic traffic
First and foremost, let us briefly touch on SEO itself and how its different types all relate to organic traffic.
SEO and its types
SEO, as the name implies, is a set of practices that optimize content visibility and understandability for search engines. It is no exaggeration that there are over 200 factors that affect SEO, and SEO audits seek to gauge them all.
These factors include:
● Page Authority
● Content quality, length, and engagement metrics
● Optimized images
● Web page loading speed
● Security certificates
These practices typically hinge on Google’s algorithm for a simple enough reason; Google dominates the search engine market. As of February 2021, Statcounter reports that Google’s global search engine market share was at 92.05%. The other search engines share the remaining 8%;
● Bing – 2.69%
● Yahoo! – 1.47%
● Baidu – 1.33%
● Yandex – 0.65%
● DuckDuckGo – 0.64%
Of course, optimizing one’s content for these search engines can also pay off. But Google has an undisputed lead, and this trend doesn’t seem likely to change soon. Further, what helps improve rankings in Google will typically improve rankings elsewhere, too.
Types of SEO
In an effort to hyper-focus on specific aspects of SEO, specialists will typically divide it into 3 types:
This focuses on on-page elements, such as image optimization and content quality. Landing page SEO optimization, perhaps the most famous type of on-page SEO optimization, belongs to this category.
This focuses on off-page elements, such as building backlinks from other websites and social media.
This focuses on websites’ technical health, such as structure and sitemaps. This type frequently delves into crawling and indexing concerns.
A website doesn’t rank high or low, in general. A rank is tied to a particular keyword or family of keywords, words that people search for in search engines. The site may have various ranks for various keywords; high for some, low for others.
All SEO, regardless of type, contributes toward increasing organic traffic to a website for particular keywords the site’s owner believes will be of value.
From following landing page SEO best practices to building quality backlinks to writing the content on web pages on the site, all strategies are selected to generate positive “signals” (the term search engines use for indicators of a site’s value to readers) boost visibility. But these optimizations and off-page activities are founded on the idea that keyword research is at the core of content creation.
It is easy to see why; ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is crucial for traffic. For years, the top 3 search results share 50% or more of all clicks. Getting into this elite “winner’s circle” hinges on proper keyword research, as Google won’t simply reward a website based on exact keyword matches found on the site. Instead, it will try to gauge search intent, and it uses the semantics of the keyword (or phrase) searched to do so.
To achieve a high rank, a site needs to contain more than the exact keyword phrase; it needs other content with related phrases, and enough of this other content to demonstrate that it has some authority in this subject matter area.
That’s, in part, where a reduction in organic traffic may arise. However, fortunately, keyword analysis may also offer a solution. Discover the whole “semantic domain” of the subject matter, and use all of these keywords in your content.
How to recover lost organic traffic with the help of keyword analysis
Keep in mind that even with all of the above taken into consideration, no strategy is infallible. You may know the statistics) and know the keywords that can help your SEO, carefully craft content around your keywords, and refine your website. Your content offers value, your backlinks are seemingly in order, and your online presence is secure. And yet, despite your best efforts, you notice that over time you have lost organic traffic. It can happen, and perhaps it will.
Let’s address this hypothetical scenario step by step and work toward a solution.
#1 Identify losses in organic traffic
First and foremost, you must identify that you have indeed lost organic traffic. With Google Search Console and Google Analytics, this is, fortunately, an easy process.
● In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition>Overview>Organic Search
● Select Landing Page, and set the Secondary Dimension to Acquisition>Source
● Filter by organic traffic source and select Google
● Set the date range you’re interested in
Using this process, you should now have a clear overview of your landing pages’ traffic. Next, you can consult Google Search Console for more insights:
● In Google Search Console, go to Performance>Pages
● Set the date range you used in Analytics above
● Click on the queries tab for all pages whose traffic dropped
You should now have a list of keywords and how they performed in both periods. Juxtapose this information with your Google Analytics insights, and you can infer how well each of your keywords drives traffic.
You may also use this method to gauge your keywords’ impact on conversions through insights from the Conversion Item option. However, conversions also hinge on many factors beyond your keywords, so this should just be the first step. You may then examine your landing page templates, website navigation, and other on-page elements that may affect conversions.
#2 Diagnose the problem
There can be many reasons behind lost organic traffic. Keyword performance is absolutely crucial, of course, but you’ll need to diagnose the problem accurately. As such, you can begin by examining some other key factors that are possible explanations of declining traffic.
Attacks and Bad Practices
Initially, you should likely begin by investigating whether your site was attacked. Fortunately, this should be easy enough to identify. There will be numerous changes to your content.
Similarly, you should examine potential bad practices you may have unintentionally engaged in. These can include black hat SEO tactics and paid links but also suspicious backlink profiles. A heavy focus on either follow or nofollow links, unnatural amounts of links, and other factors may also contribute to this. Google may penalize websites that seem suspicious in these regards, even if there was no ill intent on their part.
Next, you may examine your content itself. For example, news articles and time-specific content like yearly “listicles” and guides will naturally lose traffic over time. This occurs both because audiences aren’t interested in outdated content and because Google itself values freshness. In this case, you may need to update your content to make it relevant again. Keyword analysis may also reveal that new keywords match your audience’s search intent, so you can update your content to accommodate these new keywords.
Poor Website Health
Another factor you may examine is your website’s health. Website health refers to how functional, secure, and easy to use your website is. For example, while checking the health of your website, you might find that there are some outdated plugins, which may affect its usability. Website health can also facilitate or hamper SEO efforts. Naturally, poor website health can also visibly impact traffic by devaluing your websites in the eyes of Google.
Indeed, lost organic traffic may stem from indexing and crawling issues that keep Google from understanding your site’s content. Examine your robots.txt, your sitemap, and other factors that may be making your site dysfunctional.
Similarly, your links may be underperforming, no longer sending traffic to your site. Organic traffic does primarily come from SERPs, but both backlinks to your pages and internal links also yield traffic.
For internal links, you may use link audit tools to locate broken or removed links within your site. At the same time, you may look for 404 pages that used to be live links and replace them with new content. For backlinks, you may use similar tools to pinpoint backlinks you’ve lost and begin rebuilding them.
Finally, it may simply be that your competition has outranked you for your keywords of choice. Google finds their content better than yours. In this case, you’ll need to analyze your competitors and create better content to overtake them in rank, as we’ll explain below.
#3 Work toward a solution
Having identified the problem more closely, you may begin to work toward a solution. This is where keyword analysis can help.
Perform an SEO audit
During an SEO audit, your website’s SEO is checked for many different optimization elements, including keyword research, internal and external linking, duplicate content, page speed, navigability, etc. An SEO audit will help reveal optimal, case-by-case solutions.
Still, not all business owners have the skills to conduct an SEO audit. In that case, you may begin with consulting SEO audit professionals. With the insights you’ve gathered from your analysis so far in hand, your audit will be easier for both parties involved.
Address content keywords
Here, your keyword analysis can offer a clear-cut solution. As highlighted above, your site may be outranked for some keywords by your competitors’ use of semantically similar keywords. It may be that your site is no longer performing well for a specific keyword variation, while others can still perform for you.
In time-sensitive content, it may simply be that your keywords became outdated. For example, the keyword “1996 Olympics” no longer is searched as much as it was in the past. You either need to radically refine content with outdated keywords or simply leave it in place and create new content with up-to-date content. Keyword research is thus an excellent step toward refining your content and recovering lost organic traffic.
Finally, as stressed above, lost and broken links (links that no longer point to your site) may contribute to lost traffic. In this case, new off-page link building can help bolster your SEO strategy and make up for losses.
In building these new links, you may want to consider the broken link strategy:
● Locate broken outgoing URLs in other websites. Other sites have the same problems you have (content you and they link to tends to disappear over time), but they may not have noticed their broken links.
● Craft related quality content that relates to the page where their broken link appears
● Suggest they replace the broken URLs with links to your content
This strategy benefits both parties involved, so it’s a viable option that’s likely to succeed.
#4 Analyze your competitors and improve your content
Finally, in terms of solutions, the loss in traffic may be attributed to your competition. Here, competitor keyword analysis is your best ally.
Identify your competitors
Initially, you should identify your competitors. These naturally include your direct competitors in your field and industry, but there are other factors to consider as well. Most importantly, your competitors can be those who simply rank for the same keywords as you, even though they don’t sell competitively.
If your keywords aren’t industry-specific or interest in these keywords applies across multiple types of products, your competition for keyword ranking can be particularly fierce because so many other sites want to rank for the same keyword.
You may thus find your competitors in any of the following:
● Listicles and “top” lists
● News outlets and blogs
In the case of local businesses, your competitors are typically within your industry. In this case, however, you compete with them in terms of “local SEO”, where location is part of the search term (such as roofer in New York).
In this case, to compete, you’ll need to have local value, local visibility, and relevant products.
Identify your competitors’ keywords you don’t rank for
Next, you’ll need to examine your competitors’ success. Fortunately, there are many keyword research tools that can help in this effort. Such tools will allow you to compare ranking keywords across domains so that you may compare your keywords with theirs.
You should now know which of your keywords your site underperforms for. With this knowledge, you can create a plan to outrank your competition.
This kind of competitor keyword analysis will likely present you with two options for improvement; keywords you need to improve content for and keywords you don’t rank for at all. Your path to improvement in both is similar, although more effort will be needed if you don’t rank at all.
Craft quality content around these valuable keywords and ensure a healthy SEO foundation, and you should begin to recover traffic.
Explore competitor keyword overlap and bolster your content
Simply search for your terms of choice and select the top results from each search results page. Make note of the sites that outrank your site in these results. Then, identify which keywords they use to rank as high as they do. Your search term will be one keyword, but there will likely be related keywords, too.
Frequently, there will be some overlap among these keywords (for example, “skin care” and “skin products”); these are keywords you may safely work to rank for.
Most likely, these will be the keywords that Google matches closely to search intent for your related term. So, instead of targeting a vast array of keywords from the beginning, you should trim your initial scope to this limited group of related keywords your competitors find useful.
Ranking for these keywords will, of course, be difficult since competition is likely fierce. Among other content creation and marketing strategies, you may consider the skyscraper technique, a term coined by Backlinko’s Brian Dean:
● Identify pages that host or promote popular content in your industry
● Craft content that offers more value
● Promote your content strategically until it ranks higher than your competitors’ pages.
Notably, this technique also works for local SEO efforts. This basic concept of focusing on quality is universal.
#5 Continue to monitor your organic traffic
Finally, continue to monitor your organic traffic and your SEO performance. As with all digital marketing endeavors, a watchful eye can help you react proactively or quickly. Whether through internal tools and labor or professional help, vigilance is always an asset.
In conclusion, no two cases of lost organic traffic are exactly the same. Many stem from the same underlying problems, however, and keyword analysis can offer invaluable help. From identifying and diagnosing the problem to crafting a solution, keywords are at the center of the process. With one eye on your content and another on your competitors’ successes and failures, you can ensure continued success. And, fortunately, both software solutions and professional agencies can help every step of the way.
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