SEO is a long-term online marketing strategy to improve brand visibility and attract greater traffic. Many of the benefits from SEO are qualitative in nature, which makes actual measurement rather difficult. Even quantitative metrics e.g. inbound traffic may feel the effects of random variation, making objective interpretation difficult.
Usually, a few months of monitoring should give you enough data to make meaningful inferences depending on your site. If you’re not sure what to look for, these three signals could indicate that you are headed for trouble:
- Sudden and dramatic decline in organic search traffic – you can track this from ‘Acquisitions’ in Google Analytics, which gives traffic numbers from different sources. Further delving can provide details on your organic search, which must receive monitoring at least weekly.
- Stagnation or decline over a period of 8 weeks or more – SEO is long-term, hence the extended timelines. As you go along, your traffic should be slowly but steadily increasing. Occasionally, some external factor could cause a decline or stagnation for about a month. However, if this goes beyond two months, there could be a more serious problem.
- Sudden and dramatic drop in rankings for target keywords – while keywords have become less important in SEO, replaced by high quality content, ranking is still a valuable metric since it directly affects organic traffic. Monthly or bi-monthly monitoring is advised – if you rankings fall for more than half of your target keywords, there could be a problem
Why is it happening?
Identifying the causative agent is important if you are going to fix it and restore/improve previous performance trends. A few sources of SEO performance decline include:
- Over-optimization of content – don’t’ recycle old content just to push keywords and increase content volume. You need new regularly-posted content of different topics.
- Bad link-building – unacceptable link building strategies could lead to Penguin or manual penalties, and these are the most common causes of decline.
- No/Bad reviews – information about your brand should be readily available on local directories e.g. TripAdvisor or Yelp. Bad reviews may tank your ranking and traffic.
- Absent peripheral elements – concentrating on one internet marketing technique too much could lead to poor performance in the long term e.g. not having social media marketing or content marketing.