Search Engine Optimization: Guide to Solving Potential Problems

When it comes to search engine optimization within marketing-type companies, we’ve all been in that spot where ranking for a term isn’t as high as we expect it to be, or traffic is down at a low. We’re sent into a frenzy searching for the said ‘issue’ when there may not be an issue at all. In the least amount of time, here are a few things to check out on your SEO program for potential problems.

Granularity is Key

The organic search engine traffic as a whole probably showed a decrease, and SEO was seemingly an utter failure.

Surface level analytical review is quite pointless and doesn’t lend itself well to understanding the direction of where your SEO efforts should lie. Digging deep in analytics is where good SEOs stand apart from the rest of the pack.

Digging In

The following steps are based on Google Analytics.

First, check out the current trends at the Source level. We want to get granular but need to know where to get granular. This can often indicate the presence of a large-scale problem.

If you do see a problem here:

  • Is the decrease only happening in one search engine?
  • Is it a robots.txt issue, or site penalty due to current linking practices?
  • Do you need to go look at Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Toolbox to assess any URL restrictions or evaluate current backlinks coming into the site?

Again, this often won’t provide an answer unless it’s a huge problem.

Segmentation

This is one of the best ways of accessing issues only appearing in certain site sections or for certain terms.

Utilize the filter at the bottom of the page to filter out branded terms or filter to only include terms containing the brand name. Make sure you separate brand terms with a pipe and also ensure that no words are used in the filter that may inappropriately add non-branded terms to the branded list or vice versa.

Branded traffic is way down. The likely culprit here is a lag in offline marketing.

Type your brand into a search engine. Take a quick glance at Google Insights for your brand and see if it is moving downward as well.

  • How are conversions for branded terms?
  • Have conversions dropped or increased substantially for branded terms?
  • Have there been any recent site revisions to design or layout, removal of call to actions or a change in the sales funnel?
  • Is time on site pages per visit changed recently?
  • Does the offline marketing message correlate with the theme, look and feel of the website or are users getting confused?

Let’s flip the switch and filter for non-branded terms. Let’s first look at what terms are slagging in referrals.

After reviewing your analytics for these terms, filter only to contain terms fitting your overall keyword theme and subthemes.

  • Are you suffering for a wide variety of terms surrounding a keyword theme?
  • Is this search behavior or have we altered our information architecture enough to not appear as an authority for this overall keyword theme and subthemes?

Take a look at what pages brought these keyword referrals. Now we can attribute what pages may be suffering in the rankings.

Look at historical traffic data.

  • Did a certain term succeed in the past because a different page was ranking for it?
  • How is time on site?
  • Even if traffic is down for a particular keyword/landing page relationship, how are conversions?
  • What is the bounce rate?
  • Ultimately, is this the right page to be focusing this term(s) on?

Categorical Review

It may also be imperative to know how sections or keyword sets are performing to see if a trend presents itself at a folder level or if it’s truly at a keyword level.

You may have seen some keywords that stand out as having an issue. But if you have 50,000 terms referring visits you may have to step back and look at the categorical of folder level to assess if a landing page is hurting one/few keywords, or a whole lot more.

Take a look at your analytics by Landing Page. Also ensure that you utilize the filter function at the bottom of the page and separated by pipes, add your main or most important folders to the filter.

What do you see?

  • Are there certain folders that are experiencing large referral swings?
  • Have you recently added a lot of content to one site section or removed/redirected content away from this folder?

Dig a little deeper now and similar to the above graph choose to view your analytical data by landing page filtered to only include top sections/folders of importance and also view by Keyword:

  • Are there landing pages that decreased for several terms?
  • Are you trying to target to many terms to one page of a site section?
  • Judging by conversion and user behavior, are these the right terms to be concerned about anyway?
  • Have recent changes been made to this site sections from the front or back end, new page elements, new content?

Now that you’ve (hopefully) found certain keyword related to certain sections/folders, you can see how this data matches up by search engine or Source. Once you’ve defined exactly where your problem areas are, you’ll be able to create a definitive plan of action.

Taking the above approach to assessing potential SEO issues leaves you with more time, and in fact, more time to be working on your SEO campaign instead of worrying about what is seen as potential problems.

Read Full article by Josh McCoy “Analytical Measurement & SEO: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss” http://searchenginewatch.com/3642200

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