Semantic Search: What Is It, And How Does It Apply To Your Website?

There’s a lot of talk about semantic search as it pertains to content marketing and SEO. We’re going to clear up some confusion you may have about it.

When people communicate, they do so with far more than words. There are myriad non-verbal cues, from facial expressions to vocal variants to tonality. Because it comes so naturally to us, we don’t really appreciate how difficult communication is without these contextual indicators. 

That’s where semantic search comes in. On a larger scale, semantic analysis is a process intended to make a topic or search result easier for artificial intelligence to process and understand certain concepts or ideas. In search, its applications are very similar.

Modern search engines are all about intent. They seek to understand not just the words a user has typed, but why they’ve typed them. But how exactly is this connected to semantics, and how can you apply that to your website.

Semantic search represents these efforts, generating results by understanding intent, context, and connections. It can be broken down into two primary concepts — semantic mapping and semantic coding. We’ll provide an overview of each. 

Semantic Mapping

Semantic mapping involves visualization of the connections between words, phrases, concepts, and entities. This is best exemplified by Schema, a semantic markup system created via a collaboration between Google. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex.  By analyzing the context of a search and how it may apply to different entities — something most of us largely do subconsciously — semantic mapping helps create richer, more relevant search results, especially where voice search is concerned.

Imagine, for instance, you’re searching for a mall. As a user, you’re likely looking for directions to the mall, or the hours/location of a particular mall within your city. A search engine will account for this, and deliver results based on your perceived intent. 

The search engine understands a few things in this regard. 

  • A mall is a place
  • You as a user are probably looking for a mall within your location. 
  • How your recent search history plays into what you’re currently looking for.
  • How certain qualifiers (near me, hours, size, etc.) influence intent. 

These are all contextual elements that we take for granted because we don’t really need to stop and think about them. Search engines do. AI isn’t as formidable as the media might have you believe and requires constant guidance, learning, and information in order to grow and improve. 

Semantic Coding

If semantic mapping is the foundation of semantic search, semantic coding is the application to a website. It explains to a search engine what entities, concepts, and information can be found on a particular page. This allows more efficient, effective indexing of the website, and helps a search engine better-determine if a website matches a user’s intent. 

With semantic coding, a search engine understands not only what a particular web page says, but also the meaning behind those words. 

Typically, semantic coding is applied via HTML. Don’t worry if you aren’t particularly experienced in that regard. Most content management systems like WordPress offer plugins that take care of the heavy lifting involved with Schema markup, and there are also professional solutions such as Schema App

Google also provides a structured data markup helper that basically provides you with a step-by-step process for adding semantic coding to your site, and a structured data testing tool to make sure you’ve added everything properly. 

The Power of Semantic Search

Can you still drive traffic to your website without using Schema? Certainly. But why would you? The easier you make your content for search engines to understand, the better that content will perform. 

And at the time of writing, remarkably few brands are leveraging semantic coding. This means that using it will likely give you a considerable advantage over your competitors. And the value of such an advantage cannot be understated.

Understanding Your Audience: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Customer-Focused SEO

Especially now, the customer is everything from a business perspective. Here’s how that impacts search engine optimization.

You’ve probably heard the term before. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. And you likely have at least somewhat of an inkling of what it is and how it works —that it involves keyword and topic research, content creation, and so on. 

Truth is, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about knowing your audience. Who they are, what they’re looking for, and why they’d be interested in your business.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with a more thorough explanation of SEO before going further. 

What Is SEO? 

SEO is, as you might expect, the optimization of digital content so that it displays at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), or as near to it as possible. Although keywords still play an important role in this optimization, a great deal has changed over the past several years. SEO as an industry is surprisingly mercurial and fast-paced, owing to Google’s regular algorithm updates.

Even so, especially given the nature of 2020 thus far, mastery of SEO is imperative if you’re to succeed in the digital arena. If you don’t increase your brand’s visibility — if you don’t do everything you can to drive traffic to your website — you’re missing out on a ton of potential sales. And particularly if you’re a small business, those might not be sales you can afford to lose.

A flexible, workable SEO strategy requires more than slapdash content and keywords, however, and there’s much more to it than ranking and traffic. 

At any given moment, millions of people are searching for what they need online. Sometimes it’s information, sometimes it’s guidance, sometimes they’re looking to make a purchase — either way, these are specific, targeted queries. And with the advent of voice search and mobile functionality, these searches are increasingly conversational in nature. 

Where Does the Audience Fit in an SEO Strategy?

Your audience is at the core of everything. Familiarize yourself with their behaviors, habits, wants, and needs. Study your competition, and stay abreast of emerging trends, both within your own industry and within the SEO field. 

As for how you can get to know your intended audience, there are a few questions you can ask yourself. 

  • What content do they want or need? While both IT administrators and general hobbyists might be interested in tech articles, they likely have a different level of knowledge and require a different approach. 
  • What search engine are they likeliest to use? Google may be the reigning titan of search, but there are other search engines out there. 
  • Who is my audience? Demographic information such as region, income level, gender, etc. 
  • What does my audience value, what do they enjoy, and what are they interested in? You’ll want to align your brand with these interests, if possible.
  • How does my audience use social media? Look carefully at what kind of language your audience uses, ideally by studying the Facebook communities of your competitors. 
  • What does my storefront tell me? Some demographic details may be collected at the point of purchase, and you can use these (with consent) to inform your marketing decisions. 
  • What search terms do they typically use to find my website? Use Google AdWords. This can provide you with a general starting point for your content, though you’ll want to branch out and brainstorm further. 

How Do SEO and Content Slot Together? 

Armed with a better understanding of your target audience and with your keyword research in hand, it’s time to start writing. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about what you’d want to see on your website if you were them, and how you’d want it structured and phrased.

And remember that high-quality content is everything. Write what you know, and focus on your passions. Assuming you’ve done your research and applied it properly, you’ll do just fine. 

3 Things To Understand About Holiday SEO

This will be an unprecedented holiday season. Ecommerce is going to matter more than ever. Here’s what you need to know about SEO.

This Christmas is going to be a little unprecedented. We all know that already. Although there’s still snow on the ground, festivity in the air, and plenty of Christmas cheer, there’s also COVID to worry about. 

Even so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while to plan out some holiday-focused search engine optimization. It is, after all, an incredibly busy time of year, especially for consumer-focused retailers. Playing your cards right means you’re potentially looking at an enormous increase in qualified leads.

Ignoring the holiday rush, on the other hand, means missing out on a ton of sales. While it won’t necessarily kill your business, it’s also not something you want to miss out on. With that in mind, here are three of the most important things to understand about holiday SEO. 

Timeliness Is Key

First thing’s first, if you haven’t already started planning out your holiday content, you need to do so. Immediately. There’s a reason most brands start pumping up their holiday marketing campaigns in November — or even immediately after Halloween. 

Start by understanding and analyzing your audience, focusing on a few core areas. 

  • What gifts are especially popular in your industry at the moment, and which are realistic for you to carry? If you’re an electronics retailer, for instance, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are incredibly hot-ticket items, but you aren’t likely going to be able to stock them. 
  • How are current market trends impacting consumer search and purchase patterns? Many consumers are likely looking to spend a bit less this holiday season due to COVID, so you’ll need to be cognizant of that. 
  • What are people discussing on social media? How does your audience feel about the holiday season? How do they feel about your brand? 

There are a few places you can search out this information. First, examine keyword data from Google Trends. Look at both your social feeds and those of your competitors. And finally, see if there are any industry-specific analysts that you can tap for additional knowledge about your market.

Armed with this information, you can begin creating your content and figuring out your keywords (but more on that in a moment).

Focus On Performance

No, we aren’t talking about performance metrics. We’re talking about website performance. About the end-user experience — ensuring your site is quick to load, easily navigable, and usable on mobile devices.

See, people are already stressed enough as it is. Holiday shopping is just one more set of stressors atop everything else. This means, in no uncertain terms, that the people visiting your site aren’t going to want to deal with performance issues like long load times or poor navigability.

They’ll simply go elsewhere. 

Performance is important for reasons beyond it just being the holiday season. As you’ve likely already heard, Google plans to fully integrate its Core Web Vitals, metrics that directly measure the user experience of a web page, into its ranking signals by May 2021

It’s better for you to get on top of this sooner rather than later. 

Choose the Right Keywords (and Content) 

Last but certainly not least, tweak your website to tap into the holiday trends and habits you’ve researched. Use your keyword and sentiment research to inform your content marketing efforts, working to create specialized, themed blog posts around the season. Make sure these are geared specifically towards your audience and their interests and do what you can to tie in any holiday promotions you’re currently running.  

Given the current climate, however, you’re going to want to ensure a few things.

  • Don’t push anything too sales-y on your audience. The last thing people want right now is to be aggressively sold to.
  • Your content marketing efforts are integrated with your other marketing channels, including email and social media. Coherence and consistency are key.
  • Keep things specific. For your calls to action, focus on a single product or grouping of products. 
  • Keep your buyer personas in mind with everything you write. 

‘Tis The Season

The holidays are nearly upon us. It’s the perfect time of year to take a focused approach with your marketing and SEO effort. By understanding current events, your audience, and your brand, you can help ensure that your business has a very merry Christmas, marked by improved traffic and better revenue.

Why Algorithm Changes Should No Longer Be A Significant Issue For SEO

Everyone who’s spent even a little bit of time studying search engine optimization (SEO) knows about the dreaded algorithm update. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Tales of how Google’s Penguin and Panda updates destroyed traffic numbers for countless websites.

In one piece published by UK News agency The Telegraph, the author explains how Google Penguin almost killed their business

Because of stories like these, Google’s constant efforts to tweak and update its algorithm have come to be a source of dread for many. And maybe, at one point in the past, that dread was founded. However, in the modern-day, if you’re doing things properly, algorithm updates should have little effect on your traffic. 

The reason for this is simple and tied largely to how search has changed in recent years. Today, Google’s focus is no longer on keyword matching or website metrics. Certainly, these still play some role in the company’s mysterious, arcane algorithms.

But more and more, Google’s focus is on one singular factor — the end user.

Google now cares less about what a searcher is typing so much as it’s focused on why they’re typing it. It wants to deliver the best, most accurate, and most valuable content to the people using its search engine. The idea is that the first page a user clicks on should be the only one they need, and should provide them with exactly what they were looking for.

You see where we’re going with this, right? Just as Google’s algorithms are focused on user intent, so too should the content you create for your website. As such, you will at minimum need to know the answer to the following questions.

  • Who is your audience? 
  • What does your audience value? 
  • What is your audience interested in? 
  • Why is your audience interested in your brand? 
  • Why would your audience look for this specific page on your website? 

Beyond that, the search engine marketing publication Search Engine Journal recommends a content-focused strategy with the following pillars to serve as guidance.

First, that you focus on Google’s E-A-T Standards. What this means is that you need to create deep, original content that’s presented in such a way that it’s easy to read and digest. Cover each topic with as much depth and expertise as possible, and do so in a way that’s both entertaining and engaging. 

Second, you need to consider, at all times, what a user’s intent might be, and keep all content relevant to that. Consider why someone might be searching for your brand. Maybe they want to learn how to use your products. Maybe they’re interested in making a purchase.

Or maybe they’re simply doing research. 

Regardless, you need to be keyed-in to both what they think and what they want. And as long as you are, as long as you create content with intent in mind, algorithm updates should present no problem for you. They’ll simply provide new opportunities for optimization, new avenues through which you can bring in leads. 

3 Ways to Tell an SEO “Expert” Doesn’t Know Their Stuff

They’ve gone by many names over the years. Charlatans. Snake oil salesmen. Politicians.

The one thing they all have in common is that they’re scam artists. They’re looking to pull the wool over your eyes and get something out of you with minimal effort. And like it or not, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is lousy with them. 

The problem is twofold. First, there’s how jealously Google guards its algorithms. Everything we know about how the search engine functions is based largely on observational guesswork — the only people who can say with certainty what the algorithm is and does are the company’s own engineers.

Second is the fact that, at least on the surface, SEO seems almost overwhelmingly complex. To a layperson, it seems like a highly technical field, one that requires years of expertise to grasp. This means that when someone comes along who claims to know what they’re doing, it’s easy to fall into their trap.

Here are a few things you can look for to help you tell the difference between a fraud and a genuine article.

They Offer Guaranteed Results

One of the first things you learn about SEO is that nothing is guaranteed. While it would certainly be nice if you could secure the highest spot on the search engine results page (SERP), that isn’t what SEO is about at its core. It’s right there in the name.


It’s about making your website better. About improving it so it plays nice with Google’s algorithms, and creating better, more valuable content for your audience. The real experts understand this, so they’re not going to promise you the sun and stars.

The “experts,” on the other hand, are likely to make sweeping claims and concrete guarantees, a sure sign they’re either clueless or scam artists. 

They Claim To Possess Insider Knowledge

Remember when we said the only people who actually know how Google’s algorithms function are its own engineers? While per The Search Engine Journal, a court case from earlier this year may require the company to publicly disclose its algorithms, for the moment, the inner workings of the world’s largest search engine are functionally a mystery. And anyone who claims to know those inner workings is full of it.

Everyone who works with Google’s search engine signs a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement (NDA). And anyone violating that NDA could easily find themselves on the wrong end of Google’s entire legal department. As such, if someone comes to you claiming they have insider knowledge from Google, disregard them.

They don’t. 

They Act Like Technical SEO Is All That Matters

There was a time when technical SEO was the be-all and end-all of search. When keywords and backlinks were all your page needed to perform well. But that time is well behind us. 

Savvy SEO professionals understand that. while technical optimization still plays an important role, a page’s content is infinitely more important. If your content doesn’t provide value to its audience, then it doesn’t matter how much technical work you do — you aren’t likely to perform. 

A scam artist, meanwhile, may try to downplay the importance of content creation and content marketing. They may try to talk about buying and selling backlinks or confuse you with technical jargon. Again, don’t listen.

Seek The Right Expertise

There’s no shortage of snake oil salesmen in the SEO space. Learning how to recognize them is the first step to guarding yourself against them. We’d also advise teaching yourself some of the basics of SEO, as well —all the better to recognize when someone is trying to fleece you. 

What SEO Professionals Can Learn From Facebook’s AI Issues

Facebook’s enforcement of its own community standards leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is that the social network relies too heavily on artificial intelligence, and not enough on human intelligence. There’s a lesson in there for search engine marketing.

Facebook recently rolled out a new(ish) feature to users on its social network: suggested comments. The idea is that in order to save time and energy, Facebook can offer you a set of predetermined, bottled responses to the posts you interact with and the content you see. The problem is that the feature…doesn’t exactly work.

Most of the time, the suggested comments are either irrelevant platitudes, bizarre animated emojis, or “spaghetti.”

Yes. Just that single word. Nothing else. 

The absurdity of Facebook’s suggested comments underscores something that’s long been a weakness of the social networking titan. By all appearances, it relies far too heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning, without putting enough stock in the human side of things. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its enforcement of community standards.

In spite of repeatedly announcing its intent to ban hate speech and crackdown on white supremacy, Facebook has done relatively little in this arena, reports The Guardian. Certainly, it has, as The Wall Street Journal notes, banned several of the most prominent sources of bigotry and vitriol. But elsewhere, white supremacists and other bigots operate freely and openly.

The problem appears to be with the AI that manages Facebook’s community standards. It frequently makes bizarre, often nonsensical decisions when determining what content is acceptable and unacceptable. Moreover, it’s incapable of recognizing context, often painting hate speech and the frustrations expressed by marginalized individuals with the same brush.

But what does any of this have to do with search engine optimization? 

Simply put, while AI-driven SEO tools can be an excellent tool for keyword and topic research and on-site SEO, it cannot replace human expertise. An AI platform can quickly discover keyword opportunities, carry out competitor analysis, provide you with information on searcher intent, and improve the content you create. I can even drive hyper-personalization, as noted by the marketing publication Search Engine Journal

But it cannot do any of this without human input and human insight. An AI platform is only as good as the effort you put into it. It is only as effective as the information it is fed.

Perhaps a day will come when AI eclipses human intelligence. Perhaps a day will come when SEO is handled entirely through machine learning, leaving content creators free to do what they do best. But that day is still in the far-flung future.

For now, AI should be treated not as a panacea for all your problems and challenges, but rather a tool that you can use to make your life simpler. 

Why Paywalls Are Damaging To SEO

In order to remain profitable, many publications have resorted to locking their content behind subscription fees. Unfortunately, from a search engine optimization perspective, this is one of the worst things you can do. Here’s why.

See if this sounds familiar.

Whether for professional purposes, academic research, or simply personal interest, you’re searching for something on Google — details on a news story, perhaps, or information on your industry. You find a website that looks promising on the search engine results page (SERP), click through, and suddenly, you’re hit with a paywall. Your research efforts immediately grind to a halt, and you bounce back to the SERP, frustrated.

Eventually, you find the exact same information elsewhere. 

Whether through a need to remain profitable or an effort to open up new revenue streams, more and more publications appear to be relying on gated content. Instead of allowing users free access to their site and paying the bills through advertising networks, they lock down their site and lock out anyone who can’t pay. The problem is that in most cases, their content is nowhere near unique enough to justify this approach. 

This is particularly pronounced, and more than a little ironic, where journalism is concerned. We’ve seen publications tout the importance of freedom of information in one breath, then stick out their hand and demand payment with the next. We’ve seen news agencies try to charge money for a story that is available essentially for free from multiple other sources.

In short, all a paywall does in most cases is alienate prospective users and drive them right into the waiting arms of your competitors. And Google will notice. It’s long been known that the search engine keeps track of how long a user spends on a particular website, meaning not only are you driving away your audience, you’re also potentially hurting your ranking on the SERP. 

We aren’t saying there’s no place for gated content on your website. Certain materials, such as case studies, webinars, or guidebooks, are completely acceptable to lock behind paywalls. Subscriber-exclusive content, like unique thought leadership pieces, can also be gated behind a subscription. 

Most users don’t expect to receive this kind of content for free, and so won’t be upset if you gate it off. The people who do want to pay to support your brand will do so. The rest will continue to drive traffic and share your content, potentially bringing in more paid subscribers.

Well-gated content also tends to be unique and valuable enough that people are willing to pay for it. That, more than anything, is the key differentiator. If you try to wall off content that’s freely available on a competitor’s website, your audience will simply go to that website and blacklist your brand. 

Paywalls are seen by many as a solution to the prominence of ad blocking software. But they are a clumsy, ham-fisted fix at best. Applying them across your entire website isn’t going to save you, nor will it bring in more revenue.

It will simply drive more and more people away from your content, and further drag down your brand.

The Biggest Mistake Most Businesses Make With Keyword Research

A major contributor to success in the business world means learning from your mistakes. In order to do that, however, you need to be aware you’re making them in the first place. And where search engine optimization is concerned, many businesses don’t, especially with keyword research.

According to the online statistics database Internet Live Stats, Google processes approximately 40,000 searches a second. At the time of writing, the search engine has already completed over five million searches. By the time this piece is written, that number will likely be closer to six. 

The sheer volume of search data processed by Google on a daily basis is overwhelming. And more than anything, it speaks to the importance of effective search engine optimization. Unless you do everything in your power to maximize the visibility of your brand, you’re likely going to end up lost in the noise.

Keyword research is arguably the most important aspect of SEO. It forms the foundation of every piece of content on your website, informs you what your audience is searching for, and helps guide the evolution of your brand. Unfortunately, in spite of its importance, it’s also the thing businesses most frequently get wrong.

The most common mistake we see is that they focus too much on raw numbers, without considering intent. Rather than making the keywords the foundation of their content, they simply try to target whatever keywords they think will bring in the most people. This is a fool’s game.

It doesn’t matter if a particular keyword associated with a page has incredibly high traffic if that keyword isn’t relevant to your audience. Higher volume keywords also tend to be far more competitive, as well, often making it next to impossible for your business to rank effectively. That isn’t to say search volume isn’t still important. 

It’s just not the only factor you should consider. 

The first thing you should do when brainstorming keywords is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What do they want? Why are they interested in your brand, and why are they seeking you out? 

What language are they using to do so? 

If you’re having a bit of trouble conceptualizing this, you may consider taking a look at your competitors on the SERP and within your wider industry. Use your keyword research tool to examine what phrases generate the most traffic for competing websites. While you may not necessarily want to copy them entirely, this can nevertheless provide you with an effective starting point for your efforts. 

Keyword and topic research should be the foundation of your SEO efforts. Combined with demographic data, they should inform everything you do, from the content you create to the copy you use to describe your products and services. Maybe it was in the past, but today, SEO is not a numbers game.

Rather, it’s a measure of how well you understand your audience, their intent, and their desires. 

What Is It That Makes Questions So Effective for SEO?

Although they’re still important, keywords aren’t as valuable as they used to be. Questions are gaining ground. Here’s why, and how you can leverage them.

In many cases, it’s now more effective to answer a question directly rather than focus on a specific keyword. The reasons behind this shift are largely tied to an increased focus on natural language and conversational queries. Over the past few years, search engines have increasingly narrowed their focus, aiming squarely at understanding user intent above all else.

Figuring out exactly what a searcher wants, and why. Understanding not just what someone is searching for, but the context behind that search. And ultimately, delivering the best possible website on the Internet to fulfill the searcher’s needs. 

For anyone who’s been paying attention, this should come as no surprise. Sentiment-based search has always been the desired end state of search engines. The previous, keyword-based approach was really just a patchwork attempt at that.

There’s also the fact that, as voice search grows more prominent, we’re seeing a large-scale shift towards conversational queries. People aren’t just typing in short phrases anymore. They’re asking questions, especially on mobile devices. 

Q&A content aligns directly with this evolution towards natural language searches. You are directly addressing your audience, answering their question as if you were speaking with them in the same room. No doubt as a result of this trend, Google debuted featured snippets a few years ago. 

Located at the very top of the search engine results page — colloquially known as position zero — featured snippets have a single goal in mind. Their intent is to provide a simple and immediate answer to a user’s question. As you might expect, this means they can have an extremely pronounced impact on traffic. 

Because they typically only contain a small selection of text, and because many search queries require more than a few sentences for a full explanation, people will often click through to your website to learn more. Not to mention what they can do for brand recognition. Being positioned in a featured snippet is an indication that your website provides one of the best possible answers on the Internet.

People recognize that. 

Now that we’ve established how drafting up Q&A content can improve your SEO, let’s talk about what you need in order to actually put that into practice. First, content quality is critical. Your answer to a question needs to be the best, the perfect blend of thorough and concise. 

That means getting straight to the point. It means using high-quality media, and ensuring every single corner of your site is optimized for performance. And it means constantly examining, evaluating, and tweaking your content for maximum effect. 

Second, you’d do well to explore your industry to see what questions people are asking. Q&A sites like Quora are a good place to start, though you might also want to examine industry-specific community websites. There are also several tools you can use for this, such as Also Asked. 

Finally, it’s important to note that question-based SEO and featured snippets are not ideal for every single organization. According to SEO software developer Ahrefs, nearly 100 percent of featured snippets are pulled from pages that are already near the top of the SERP.  Per SEO expert Moz, this means that the types of search queries/industries that are likeliest to make it into the snippet are as follows. 

  • DIY processes and how-tos. 
  • Small businesses in highly niche industries.
  • Health.
  • Finance.
  • Math.
  • Guidelines/requirements.

So does that mean that if you aren’t in a niche field or already at the top of your industry, featured snippets and Q&A pieces aren’t worth writing? Not exactly. Conversational search is still incredibly frequent, and showing audiences your thought leadership by answering their questions can be an excellent way to strengthen your brand. 

As such, the next time you’re doing keyword research, it may be invaluable to examine what questions are associated with each keyword you choose. That way, you know what your audience is asking. And more importantly, you can figure out the best answer possible. 

3 Factors That May Cause a Decline in Website Traffic

Has your website seen a sudden and unexpected downturn in traffic? While that’s certainly concerning, it’s not the end of the world. Here are some of the most common causes of traffic decline, and what you can do about them.

Traffic might not be the sole indicator of whether or not your search engine optimization efforts are successful, but it’s certainly a good benchmark. Similarly, a sharp decline in traffic is a sure sign that something has gone wrong. However, provided you’re following all the SEO best practices, it might not be your fault.

The Search Engine Results Page can be a volatile place, after all. From algorithm updates to shifts in your industry’s marketplace, there are a lot of external factors that can cause a traffic drop. Fortunately, you have more control over these than you might expect.

It starts with knowing where to look. 

An Algorithm Change Has Hit You Like a Truck

If you’ve noticed a sudden and alarming drop in your numbers, the first thing you should do is check Google. Specifically, check what people are saying about Google’s algorithms. Has there been a recent update that could account for the decline? 

As noted by freelance marketing consultant Martin Wilson, Google does tend to have a history of pushing out algorithm updates that directly penalize websites that use outdated or spammy SEO techniques. Of these, the 2011 Panda update has arguably been the most devastating. Marketing publication Search Engine Land reported in 2013 that the algorithm update forced some businesses to change their names, change their business model, fire staff, or even close their doors altogether. 

This could be what’s happening with you, in which case you need to figure out how to fix things and fast. 

You’ve Lost Some Major Backlinks

While the jury is still out on whether or not backlinks are a major ranking factor, what is clear is that a backlink from an authority site can work wonders for your web traffic. It also means that if that site shuts down or the page on which your backlink was hosted is deleted, you’re likely to see a sharp drop in traffic. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to figure out if this is the case.

Most SEO tools, including the Google Search Console, allow you to track backlinks to your site. Have a look and see if there’s anything missing. Also, check to make sure you haven’t had any suspicious backlinks directed your way.

As explained by Social Media Today, toxic backlinks can get you saddled with a penalty by Google. These can include links from obvious link farms or spam sites, links from multiple mirrors of the same page, or links from low-quality websites. You can use the Google Search Console to disavow these links and remove the penalty from your ranking.

Your Competitors Are Killing It and Leaving You Behind

A sudden traffic drop isn’t always connected to an algorithm change or an issue with external links. Sometimes it’s just a sign that one of your competitors has upped their SEO game. Don’t be too upset about this, though.

Look at it as an opportunity. Your competition has revealed a weak spot in your SEO strategy. You can use this to grow, improve, and ultimately surpass them. 

You did it once, you can do it again.