When auditing and optimizing a website, the last thing you want to deal with are pages that are ranking poorly, despite best SEO practices.
As you check your analytics over weeks and months, you may find certain pages are starting to drop in rank and traffic. It’s important to properly analyze why a page may be ranking poorly and then take quick action to resolve it.
You can do this by taking steps to finding your problematic pages, identifying the issue, and making the fix as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at what this looks like.
Find the Problematic Pages
The first step is to narrow down to the problematic pages as well as the pages they are connected to. If your website is particularly large, section off your pages by content and category to break it down for investigation.
For example, categorize by all the pages under “Service”, and all blog post pages, and so on. Look into each folder and subfolder of that section. When investigating these sections you want to be certain there was actually a negative ranking change before you start to put in all this effort diving into hundreds of pages of SEO.
A good place to start when looking into rank issues is the traffic your page is receiving over time. You need to dive deeper into your Google Analytics and look for traffic that is coming specifically from search.
Make sure that you are digging into the subsections of your site as well, and not just the main URLs of your navigation. These are the pages beyond just your landing page, or about page, and are nested further below your main categories.
If you don’t, it might seem like your overall site is doing just fine, and you’ll miss out on the pages that are actually tanking in a search.
You should search the URL string of the pages you think are not doing as well; so search with a string like “site:/mysite.com/section/page.”
This should give you information on if Google had indexed that page. It will also let you know how long ago it was crawled. If it hasn’t been crawled in recent weeks, this may lead to other issues like a crawl issue, a robots.txt issue, or another reason why Google can’t seem to get to the page to index it.
Lastly, check your tools. Any current tools you use to check ranking, like our ranking tools at AuthorityLabs, should be confirming your suspicion of pages that are dropping in rankings. You should also check Google Search Console to double check the site issue section.
Identify the Actual Issue
Now that you have all of this information, how do you figure out what the actual problem is? You need to take a look at both ranking and traffic data. If your ranking and traffic is down, this could be due to a few problems.
A lack of original or low-quality content can hurt your site in both ways. If your content seems too “thin,” it may be time to buff up your pages. This means everything from blogs to landing pages.
You may also be losing out ranking to competitors. Take the time to search for the keywords and topics on your website. Dig into who might be ranking above you and determine your competitors.
Do your competitors have smarter keyword usage? Is their content more robust? Maybe their UX is easier and cleaner. Take notes on what they are doing and make similar changes to your own pages.
If you find your ranking is up, but traffic is down, it could be less of an SEO issue and more how your site is coming across to it’s users.
Consider your branding and current reputation. Ask yourself if something has gone public or been written about on your site that might deter people, such as bad reviews or compliants.
Consider the search habits of your consumer, as well. Are they changing in any way? Is what you are offering as a company or brand as in demand as it was 6 months ago, or a year ago? This kind of data and looking into search trends can help you pivot and be relevant again.
Take Steps to Resolve the SEO Ranking Issue
Take a look at on page and technical issues first. Run your site through an easy SEO tool (like SEOptimer.com) and check for broken links or issues with your robots.txt. Broken links are something Google flags and docks your site for, so this should be your first task as it is the easiest fix to make.
Secondly, take a look at your content on the pages that are lacking in rank and search. Consider how you can better flesh it out. Whether that’s beefing up your about page, or combing over your home page and peppering in 2-3 more keywords, find areas where you can improve content without it coming across as too forced.
You should also check to see if you’ve lost any good backlinks. You’ll want to cross check and see if you’ve lost any backlinks within the past few months.
In some cases, it’s unavoidable as older sites change links, get archived, and overall make their own changes over time. If you are lacking the amount of backlinks you had before, then you need to put more effort into link building. This should always be an ongoing process, but you should double down on it if you find that your links are lacking.
The last change to make is to optimize your design. Check how your page is loading on desktop, mobile, tablets, and any other device people may be finding you on. Also check that images load properly and clearly, the text isn’t running off the screen, and that the load time is quick and efficient. Small optimization tweaks can make big gains in getting your ranking back up.
Remember that if you are making changes to smaller subpages to increase their rank, it can take some time before you see a change in search. It’s important to continue to monitor how rank changes over time and test search keywords to see how things progress.
Keep on Top of Your Analytics
The key to making sure you don’t drop rank and traffic in the future is to keep on top of these same analytics, week in and week out.
Even if you can only pull a report once a month, take 30 minutes every 30 days to review any changes, drop off, or issues. It’s better to catch these issues as soon as possible than let pages drop off rank and not realize it for months at a time.