Your SEO is firing on all cylinders. There’s unique, fresh content on your Web site. It’s mobile-friendly and well-organized. You’ve cleaned up all broken links, messy code and weird redirects. Your backlink profile looks good. Keyword rankings are thriving.
But your organic traffic has flatlined. Or worse, it’s slowly trending the wrong way with no clear reason why and no algorithm update to blame. What’s going on? Why are organic referrals so anemic when all SEO best practices are firmly in place?
Welcome to SEO in 2016. You’re no longer just contending with competitors for search engine result page (SERP) visibility; you’re now going head-to-head with the search engines themselves.
About Those Mobile Search Results
The explosive growth in mobile usage is one big factor. Consider current device use for most Web sites. Chances are the balance has shifted -- mobile has caught or surpassed the once dominant desktop referrals.
Now take a look at what’s on screen on just about any Google mobile SERP. Mainly paid listings. To find the first organic result, you’ll need to scroll.
Unless your search query has local intent, then the 3-pack of map results is next up, which means even more scrolling to get a first glimpse of organic.
Suddenly, getting clicks from that coveted top-spot ranking is not even a sure thing.
About Those Desktop Search Results
At least organic search still has more screen time on the desktop, right? Wrong. Paid and local results are doing a pretty good job of keeping organic below the fold here, too.
Not to mention Google’s own content assets like Knowledge Graph and Answer Boxes, which can be really effective at chipping away at your click-throughs.
Even the days of getting visits for basic info like hours or directions are gone. Granted, these queries may not have contributed to lengthy Session Duration or Pages Per Session, but they did help maintain healthy year-over-year performance trend lines.
Four Steps When SEO Trend Lines Aren’t Cooperating
This doesn’t mean that organic is no longer important. Just the opposite -- it’s still one of the most reliable, targeted and cost-effective sources of Web site traffic.
But Google isn’t going to stop throwing these types of curve balls. So here’s what we’re doing to keep driving organic search results.
1. Educate and Set Expectations
It’s not about making excuses or playing “Let’s Blame Google” (as tempting as that may be). It’s crucial to keep all stakeholders up to date on the latest SERP changes and their potential impact. This “early-warning system” can help win buy-in for new strategies to course correct or offset the changes.
2. Revisit Your Success Metrics
It’s always a good idea to track multiple metrics when evaluating SEO performance. One measurement never tells the entire story. In this case, you may be getting less total traffic, but what if those visitors are more engaged or converting at a higher rate? Or maybe you’re getting more links and shares on your content? That’s something to cheer about.
3. No More Business As Usual
The other narrative behind that traffic trend line should hit closer to home. What worked to generate traffic even one or two years ago is no longer cutting it, so now’s the time to pivot. Investing time and resources into areas like mobile strategy, user experience and content development are all good places to start.
4) SEO Is Not Just For Google
Mobile is changing a lot more than the SERPs; it’s changing where people start their search. More users are going straight to the source, whether it’s YouTube, Amazon, Facebook or other news, e-commerce and social apps. Wherever your content appears in these platforms, it’s still searchable and can still be optimized. Video titles on YouTube, board names on Pinterest, descriptions on App Stores or category structure on Amazon… these are just the tip of the iceberg for third-party SEO.
Organic search marketing has always evolved with its environment. As discouraging as those traffic trend lines can be, it can also provide the push needed for a fresh and forward-looking approach to SEO in 2016. Time to get going!