Basic SEO: Why Doesn't My Site Rank Anymore
I always say my customers make the absolute best blog ideas and the best training experiences for the minions. Case in point, one of our very old customers called me today to tell me that their site isn’t ranking any longer and wanted to know why. Now they on and off had employed us to do SEO, at least two tours of duty on this site. I think the last time we touched the site was maybe in 2011. And we all know how much time had passed and how rapidly Google continues to evolve.
As I like to say, SEO is no longer a stand-alone event. And, I really don’t think you can do ‘just’ SEO any more. The proper term is Digital Marketing. I will keep saying it. But for someone calling on the phone to look at a site that hasn’t been properly maintained in about half a decade, how do you encapsulate that?
So I put together a list that may offer some solutions. Understand that this is written for a site that used to rank but doesn’t any longer, so it assumes there is proper title tags.
Well, of course, you had to know this was going to be my first item. But, it’s not sufficient to just say add content any more to a website. It has to actually be good content, written properly, and not just keyword focused. I know many of my old timers heard about keywords and adding keywords. And, why keywords are important, but I’ve had to adjust that over time. Just like the writing you see here. I dare to say none of it has been keyword oriented, but more thematic and helpful.
To my mind, this is how you pick up links properly. It also is a great way to build engagement and get people clicking on your site.
#2. Google Analytics
Yes, this may be a little of an odd thing to put on this list, but you would be surprised how long-time site owners still do not have Google Analytics on their website. The old log file readers like AWStat and Webalizer just don’t go far enough anymore to make a reasonable guess at what really is happening with your website.
If someone asked me now, I would not say I was overly concerned with the pure number of visits, and I’m more concerned with how those folks got there and what is the intent of the user. Am I meeting the needs of the user, and are they doing what I want them to do, like buying or contacting me? I can’t adjust pages people are landing on if I don’t understand. And if I don’t have my conversions set up, I’m not able to track the success or deficiencies of my website.
Overall I don’t see how it would be conceivably possible to run a website without Google Analytics at this point in time.
#3 House Keeping
I know, another very odd duck to see on a list, but if you don’t keep up with the security of your website, you may just find out that people are exploiting it. That can happen from various directions, but it’s incumbent on the customer, not the web host to patch WordPress installs. I can’t tell you how many times people call me to tell me their website isn’t working, and it’s because they have not patched a plugin or WordPress core.
Lots of bad things happen when you don’t keep your site up to date. And that just doesn’t go for WordPress. Magento has a bad record, and Joomla, we tell people yes we will host it, but you are on your own because of how insecure it is.
The problem with not monitoring or maintaining your website properly is that as things happen to it that you are unaware of, the site becomes damaged. Just like house neglect is never a good thing.
#4. Webmaster Tools aka Search Console
Why they changed the name has yet to be made apparent, but if you do not have a webmaster tools account set up, set it up. It tells you all sorts of neat stuff about your website, so when you’re wondering why it is not ranking, it will help you understand if the site is hacked, or if the site has bad quality because 404s are not handled right. Often it can help you find improper use of 301s and 302s. Frankly 302s are devastating and should NEVER be used, and someday I will address that too. It also will help you make a list of links and then allow you the opportunity disavow bad links (which is the next topic). Also, make sure you set up proper sitemaps in WMT.
Not keeping up with your once-ranking website also may be caused by bad links. We now live in a world where links can hurt you just as much as they can help you. Here we audit our sites constantly to unearth bad sites linking to us. It’s not easy, however, it needs to be at least checked. If you see a bunch of Chinese sites linking to you and you have no business in China, it’s a safe bet there is an issue with either bad link building, bad webmaster or neglect.
#6 Bad Webmasters
Yes, bad or incompetent webmasters can really screw up a site. As I was talking to the minions on this topic, Christina minion said to me this is why you tell us ‘know who you’re getting into bed with.’ Yes, that is the exact reason that you don’t just trust your website to anyone. Understanding how to run a website and understanding how to care for a ranking website is often an art form. Unless your webmaster has extensive tech skills and understands how to structure and work on a ranking site, they can do a lot of damage.
I admit this is one of those things that rub me the wrong way. If you don’t think our company is the right company for you, we are fine with that, but more times than not I have the new, less qualified and often cheaper webmaster standing on my doorstep asking me how to perform the job they were hired to do. If you find yourself in that position, it probably means you have the wrong person for the job.
Bad web designers are very hard to spot. But they are lethal to a website.
#7 Social Media
So this person that called me yesterday asking why her site wasn’t ranking anymore, and telling me how she hired a PR Firm to do her content also hasn’t posted one single item since 2014. For the seasoned Digital Marketing pro, you may have rolled your eyes. For the rest of you, social media is imperative, and far too often social is not done properly or overlooked.
I admit that I’m not a social person. I could sit in a house by myself for hours and read or play video games and not interact with another human and be perfectly happy. But when it comes to the health of my website, what I know is that I can no longer ignore social media, and I’ve been really pushing Twitter in my Houston SEO classes. Yes, I typed that right. In fact, I have a 2-hour seminar next week that explains how to do social properly. Gratuitously, you can see our class schedule here.
Yeah, so this has now changed. Blogging for SEO used to be way different, but now, to have a sustainable site, it is not possible to avoid this or not do it right any longer. One blog every 6 months really isn’t going to cut it, but neither are BS blogs that just reiterate a keyword, which is how we used to teach blogging.
Now blogging must be real. Blogging must be authentic, and it must be relevant. I used to prescribe to a short and punchy blog, but now, if you have something to say, say it. For example, this post is at 1336 words right this second. It is not set in stone, and there are some time considerations with this post, so it’s not an article. It’s also got my opinion throughout it.
When I teach I often say the blog is like the op-ed page of the newspaper or your website. It lets your readers see how you think and how knowledgeable you are. You know those bad web designers, they could never have a blog like this, one reason is because they don’t know enough.
#9 Old Brown Sweater
One last reason to have issues is not to have a modern web design. Old date websites telegraph bad things to your end users. This will lower your engagement and really stop people from doing business with you. Millenials are particularly suseptible to this.
So, 1518 word story short, if you are not actively working on your website daily, or at minimum weekly; if you are not doing the things outlined here in their totality and every facet then you are at a severe deficit, and if your site ranks it’s probably a fluke or a niche in the modern age.