Recently I wrote a big tutorial on how to audit your site and it’s SEO performance each month. If you followed that tutorial, it’s possible you completed it, saw all your site’s data, and said… “What now??”
This post is 6 of the most common issues you’ll find; things that are holding back your traffic or revenue that can be quickly fixed to see improvements.
Problem #1: CTR too low for your ranking position.
Remember this graph of the typical click through rates according to ranking position?
You can check your analytics to see where you have pages that aren’t getting the CTRs they should be, according to where they’re ranking.
What It Looks Like
Just like we did in Step 2 of the Audit, you log into your Google Search Console, and let Search Analytics tell you your top keyword ranking positions and their CTRs.
You might as well sort this table by the highest number of clicks so you know you’re tweaking the pages that will have the greatest impact.
You want to run your eye down the far right two columns, and look for places where the numbers don’t match the graph above.
Ranking between 1 and 2 (1.8) and only getting 10% CTR? The graph above says that even in position 2 I should be at about 12%. That’s a little off. Maybe something’s up. (NOTE: Usually here I’m looking for numbers that are way off, but this was an example that came up quickly so I’m running with it)
The “Maybe” is very important here. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why your CTR is low for your ranking position even if you’ve done everything right. For example, if the paid ads are really full and high quality for a keyword, your CTR can be lower.
But it could also be a sign that your Title tag and description aren’t exciting enough to the searchers of that keyword.
Solution: Adjust Title Tag and Description
Your CTR might be lower than usual because your Title Tag and meta description aren’t compelling enough. It’s a prompt to check them to make sure nothing’s being missed.
Here’s a quick example I found, searching for “best toaster ovens” from here in Australia…
I would be shocked to learn that the 2nd result there is getting the regular Clickthrough rate for it’s search impressions. I’ll list a bunch of reasons why, in case they’re mistakes you’re making too…
a) The keyword “best” isn’t in his title tag. It doesn’t look like it’s a page about the “best” toaster ovens.
b) His domain – rather than some compelling copy – is there in the title tag, just wasting space.
c) I can’t see any of my keywords in the URL slug. Could be that his URL is too long or that it doesn’t contain my target keywords.
d) None of my searched keywords “best toaster ovens” is in his meta description. You can’t always choose this and sometimes Google just does their own thing and shows what they like. But if, as above, my searched keywords are appropriately through the page, it’s less likely that Google will have nothing more relevant to show for your meta description.
e) The copy sucks. I assume this is something Google pulled rather than a meta description something wrote, but it’s not compelling in any way. Your meta description must speak to the searcher of that keyword and convince them that this is the best and only place they’re going to find the best quality information on this topic.
If I were writing a meta description for the keyword “best toaster oven” I’d use something like
“After 60 hours of research, here’s the undisputed, most informed list of the best toaster ovens in 2017, ranked for your budget & specific cooking needs”
I didn’t check the character count on that. But you get what I mean. It has to be exciting and authoritative.
f) Doesn’t have the date 2017 anywhere in it, so doesn’t look as timely. The first result there does this well.
There are plenty more title tag and description issues but making sure you don’t have any of those is a really good start.
NOTE: Record the date you make these changes, and check your Search Console again in another month to see if you made a difference!
Problem #2: You’ve got a great page that’s not ranking.
This is when you know you found a great keyword initially…
You know you created a great piece of content on it…
And you know you’ve been promoting it and building links…
It’s just not getting any traffic.
This one happens a lot to people who aren’t watching their stats closely. They finish an article, maybe build a couple links, and in a month or two nothing’s happened, so they think it’s all a waste.
What It Looks Like
First, you need to check your rankings for this keyword and see where you’re at. Open up Ahrefs, where you should have your site in your dashboard, and keyword tracking set up. If you have that already, you can go to this keyword of yours that you’re not getting traffic for…
There it is… despite all my efforts I’m only in position 21. I’ve got work to do before that’s getting traffic from that keyword.
At this point it’s worth looking at the graph for the keyword (little graph icon to the right of this screenshot) to see whether the work you did so far had any impact at all.
Next, you need to check that you can actually make the front page for this keyword…
It doesn’t count as a real opportunity for improvement if you’re ranking 21, and you thought it was a great keyword, but data says there’s no way you’re getting on to the front page for this thing.
So go to Keyword Explorer and take a look. I’ll show you two kinds of things you might see next…
a) Too hard and you shouldn’t bother just yet.
If your keyword was “best toaster oven”, and you saw this on Keyword Explorer
Ok, so Ahrefs thinks you’re going to need at least 14 backlinks to rank. If you only built 3 so far, that’s a hint as to the problem.
But if you look at the SERPS at the bottom of this page, and positions 7-10 look like this… (click to see full size image)
I had to cut out the top of the table, but that says the result in position 7, has 39 links from 13 domains and it’s an authoritative domain with a quality piece of content.
If that’s a number of links you don’t know how you would get, this keyword probably isn’t an opportunity for now.
But if it looks more like this…
b) You could get to page 1
And 7-10 look like this…
where it’s nothing but 2nd tier e-commerce pages with no links… Maybe you could rank!
Solution: More Backlinks To That Page
That’s the only solution to this problem. You can’t just improve the page or publish more content and hope for rankings to increase. You need relevant, quality backlinks to that page.
Let me be blunt on this one: If it’s a commercial page, you have fewer options for getting quality links that will really move the needle. And if it’s a commercial page and you have no budget for promoting it, you have even less.
If it’s me, and I need links fast, I use a service like Posirank.com (aff). If you have zero budget, your next best bet is to use your outreach to find a targeted site that accepts guest posts, that will allow you a couple of links if your article is high value. Write an article that allows for a natural mention of the topic of your commercial page and it should work.
The consolation here is that you’ve chosen a keyword where it won’t take many of those links to rank. If you’ve done your commercial analysis and keyword research properly, you should be able to approach this link building with the confidence that WHEN you get ranking for that keyword, it will pay for itself with your sales, then tick along generating revenue into the future.
Problem #3: You’re Ranking On Page 1 But Not Seeing Any Traffic
What It Looks Like
You can see (via your Ahrefs, or Search Console) that you have a page that’s definitely in the top 5 for the keyword you were targeting. You worked hard to get it there…
But when you look at your Analytics, the page that’s ranking isn’t getting visitors. At least not as many as it was supposed to be getting.
If you checked Problem #2 above, and you can see that for it’s position on page 1, it’s getting about the right CTR… but the traffic’s still not there…
Solution: Give up on this keyword.
The traffic isn’t there. If you’ve committed effort for such a small reward, there will be better, more fruitful opportunities waiting elsewhere in your market.
Let’s say at position 9 you were getting 5 visitors a day. Well at position 1 – if you can even get there – you might get 50 or 60 visitors a day.
Ask yourself: Is that going to move the needle? If not, it’s time to move on.
** EXCEPTION ALERT **
If this keyword and this page sells a really high end item, where an extra 50 visitors a day really would move the needle on your sales… ignore the last paragraph and promote that thing til it’s in position 1. Just remember to spend an amount promoting it that’s wise given the likely commissions it could yield. Ideally you’d only do this in a situation where your small amount of traffic was still making a sale or two per month, so you knew the traffic was definitely valuable.
Problem #4: Time On Page Disproportionately Low
This is a situation where you’re getting traffic to one of your pages, but the traffic isn’t sticking like it’s supposed to and you’re losing sales because of that.
What It Looks Like
In your Analytics, go to your Behaviour >> Site Content >> All Pages (like we did in Step 1 here)
You want to use a long date view if you can here (a month perhaps) to smooth out possible irregularities. Here’s what you’re looking for…
Nothing else on my site has an average time on page below 3:30. Why are people spending a minute on that page?
It’s only worth digging into this if that page gets enough traffic that changing it could produce a meaningful result. If you think that’s the case…
Solution: Improve The Start Of That Page
The first step of the solution is finding out where that page’s traffic’s coming from. This will let you improve the page in a way that’s meaningful to that group of people.
In your Analytics, you can click the URL of that page in that table, and do the little “Source” trick I talked about in the Audit post…
That’ll tell you whether it’s Google or something else.
If it’s organic traffic, you can then go to your Search Console, also like we did in the audit post, go to Search Analytics, and get the keyword ranking details for that URL specifically…
Then you see…
Now you know which keywords people are searching before they land on this page, and only stay for a minute.
Now you load up the page in your browser and specifically look at the first 100 words and the whole space above the fold.
How does the page look, if you put yourself in the mind of someone searching that keyword? Almost definitely you’ll find that something’s off. You’ll find that something… some bit of information that group of searchers were looking for isn’t being communicated on your page… or if it is, it’s too hard to find.
Do exactly what I did in Step 4 of the Audit post and make the appropriate changes.
Problem #5: Traffic From Search Is Decreasing
This is a common one, but when traffic decreases people often make the wrong decisions for what to do about it.
There are a few versions of this problem so I’ll give their identifications and solutions individually.
What It Looks Like Part #1: A Few Pages Lost Traffic
When you go to your Google Analytics >> Behaviour >> Site Content >> All Pages where you see this…
From the list of your pages, click each one individually, focusing on your top 10-20.
When you look at the graphs for each page individually, you’ll see some that move on the same curve as your main graph when all the pages are included. Those pages didn’t move much.
But some you’ll see go the other way.
This was a nice little page of mine earning good revenue, but while the rest of the site’s traffic was going up, here the traffic suddenly dropped…
The next step (after repeating the advice from Problem #4 and knowing where this traffic was coming from… which really for your important pages you should know already) is to go to Ahrefs and see what happened to the rankings for that page.
It turned out for this page, for the main traffic generating keyword, I had dropped from Position 3 to position 5.
For this drop, a reduction in traffic of about half seemed about right.
The next step is to look at the sites ranking around you in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. Look at this graph from above again…
If you were one of those sites, and you saw yourself drop from 7 to 10… It wouldn’t be a shock. The metrics for all the sites around you are pretty close, and any small variation in one factor could cause a few places of movement.
That’s what I saw when I looked the traffic drop for this page.
Solution For Drop Situation #1: If only a couple pages dropped, & the sites around yours look close, promote your pages harder.
Find places to link to this page internally. Build more links to this page. Expand the content of this page. Update the post and reset the “published on” to be more current. Share the page on your social media channels.
There are exceptions here, like if your site is new and your rankings are jumping around everywhere, but in general, that’s how you’ll move forward.
What It Looks Like Part #2: Most or All Of Your Pages Lost Traffic
If you follow the same steps as in “What It Looks Like Part #1” and you notice that all the individual pages you clicked on have a downward graph, you’re in this situation.
This is where Google has decided it doesn’t like your site as much as it did for some reason.
Solution To Drop Situation #2: If All Your Pages Lost Traffic, You May Need Site Wide/Structural/Relevance/Quality Improvements
There are many possibilities for why this kind of drop might occur, but let me discard a simple one:
If Your Site Is New…
I mean under a year even: This happens all the time. Don’t stress. Keep building content and links and auditing your progress. Things recover.
If Your Site Isn’t That New…
You should start by asking questions about the relevance and quality of your pages to the keyword searchers who are ending up on it.
Is your navigation sound?
Are there broken links on the page?
Is your site structure somehow making an unusually low amount of link juice reach this page?
Is there a problem with the page’s load time?
Do you have too many affiliate links or ads on the page?
Do you have no external reference links on the page?
Have you got thin pages? (Lots less than 500 words)
Have you got duplicate content (even snippets of more than 100 words of text that are regularly repeated across your site. Even duplication in your meta tags?)
Does Search Console tell you you have HTML improvements to make?
Do you see a manual penalty in Search Console?
There are too many possible causes and fixes for this type of problem to list here. If you see this problem, it pays to look at the pages ranking around you (load up the pages themselves I mean) as well as the sites ranking around you and ask “What are they doing that I’m not?” Often it’s clear, but sometimes it requires a lot of digging.
I’ll leave this section frustratingly incomplete, but it’s something we can expand upon in future posts.
Individually, these 5 problems will come and go throughout the life of your site, as you add new content, improve your monetization, and do new promotion. Improving your ability to identify and fix these problems will not only make you a better marketer, it will keep your traffic and revenue growing too.
Let me know if you have any questions and we can discuss them in the comments.