One of the worst things that can happen to your website is seeing it start to drop through the rankings and have no idea why. Losing a coveted page one position for an important key term isn’t just a blow to the ego, it’s also sure to have a tangible effect on site traffic and sales figures, particularly for smaller enterprises that rely on their search presence for their marketing and sales efforts.
It’s natural to cry foul when the worst happens, especially if you know that you haven’t made any big changes to the site or tried any drastically different optimization techniques that may have strayed in to black hat territory. One of your first recourses is to fire off a reconsideration request to Google, right? Wrong. By all means, fill in the form and formally request that Google take another look at your site, but don’t make the mistake of relying on this course of action as your first and last effort to remedy your rankings issue.
Google will sometimes let you know if a penalty has been applied to your site, but that does make it even harder to know when to file a request as you can’t always be sure that you have been penalized. It’s because of this that you should never just sit back and await Google’s response. There are always other things you can do to work on falling keyword positions…
1. Enlist An SEO Or Use Google Optimizer To Test Your Site
A direct consequence of falling rankings is less traffic and subsequently, fewer sales or conversions through the website. Use this situation positively and a drop in keyword placements can also work as a wakeup call and may be the nudge you need to enlist the help of a search engine optimization professional. They may be able to identify areas on the website that need extra work or be able to identify possible causes for the rankings slide.
If your budget doesn’t run to outsourcing SEO until your sales pick up, the free Google Optimizer tool is a great place to start. The application has been developed by the search engine to allow you to test different web site text and designs in order to convert more visitors in to clients. The interface is very easy to use – simply tell the app which pages and what content to test. Optimizer will then intelligently show content and design alternatives to visitors, monitoring which combinations generate the best conversion rates. You simply study the data and then decide which incarnations of each page have resulted in the most sales or sign-ups.
2. Conduct a usability study
Very often when you look at a problem for too long, you become over familiar with it and can no longer try to find an objective solution. Conducting a usability study means asking others to look at and assess your site. You’re likely to be over familiar with it and may overlook issues that are apparent to others. A usability study can be informal – simply ask colleagues from other firms, suppliers, friends and family to cast their eye over your site and give you some constructive feedback. They do not have to be technically minded to be useful all you need to know is if they find the site easy to browse – can they find information easily? Was the site easy to navigate – is the information organized and navigable in an intuitive manner? Was it easy to add an item to the shopping cart? Or find contact details to make an over the phone purchase?
While a usability study’s findings won’t necessarily uncover secrets of ranking problems, it will allow you to fine tune your website to the user experience, helping you to maximize the visitors and visibility that you do enjoy.
When your web site positions go south, your online visibility takes an unavoidable hit. Waiting for a response to your reconsideration request can take a while, so working on your networking skills and building other avenues in to your website in the meantime is a strong, pro-active approach that will pay off almost immediately. If you haven’t participated in forums or dipped a toe in social media, this is a good time to start. Social media in particular is a useful exercise when positions are falling as there is just as much traffic going through a site like Facebook or Twitter as there is searching on Google for your particular clutch of keywords.
If sales have suffered with the loss of positions, you’ll want to include some calls to action in your online networking in order to incentivize visitors. Think about giveaways, special social media discounts or prize draws for those who retweet, follow or join your group. This is a powerful way of countering a loss of rankings because you’re also encouraging your existing viewers to recommend you to their friends and family, thereby giving you a wider net of coverage.
4. Research your competitors and non rivals
Competitor research is the cornerstone of any decent link building or search engine optimization campaign. But, it can also be a useful way of filling the time while you wait for Google to respond to your reconsideration request. By comparing your site with those of rivals, you can see what makes their site ‘stickier’ and incorporate some of the same ideas into your own domain. It’s also worth looking at sites that you frequent because you enjoy them. These sites don’t have to be about your product or industry, they can be sites of peers or friends, personalities or publications, you’re simply looking for what gives them the X factor and makes them interesting, readable and enjoyable. Again, adapting these best ideas for your own brand can counteract some of the ranking issues by providing a more enjoyable experience for those who do find and visit your website.
Try some of the above tips if you see your site has taken a dive in the rankings and see if they help, while you wait for Google to get back to you with the results of your request.