Are you one of the growing legions of online businesses that has seen your website take a drastic hit in search traffic over the past few months?
You may have kept up with the Penguin and Panda updates and survived those without any issues only to come to the realization that your traffic and rankings have still taken a hit. So if you didn’t get penalized by Panda or Penguin, why is it that your traffic has taken a dive? Turns out there are plenty of recent changes from Google that could be impacting you…
- Big brand preference.
Not long ago, Google largely favoured highly specialized retailers. If you were a website selling college sports merchandise for a certain school, you likely were competing against highly specialized retailers who only sold college sports gear or some localized retailers like university book stores. If you do a search for your favourite university now, however, you’ll see retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Target among the top search results. Oddly, many of these stores only carry a small number of products but Google in many instances has given a huge boost to some of these larger known brands and by doing so has forced some smaller businesses down the rankings. As I’ve had to explain to several businesses lately, it’s not that your business was penalized, it’s that other sites have been rewarded by Google.
- Extra AdWords is killing you.
A year or two ago you’d never see more than two AdWords ads at the top of any search result. If you haven’t noticed, that has changed dramatically. Now it’s pretty standard to have three ads at the top of most search results and Google now allows expanded information like site links, phone number extensions and more. On many laptop screens there’s only one organic listing showing above the fold (meaning its visible without scrolling down). The amount of clicks going to paid listings has increased with this new layout which makes Google more money and certainly decreases your organic traffic listed beneath these ads.
- Google has changed your real estate.
It’s not just AdWords that’s eating up screen real estate lately. Google has also made a clear move to better personalize results with local listings and an increase in blended search results with images, videos, news results and shopping listings. When Google adds visual candy to search listings in the way of product listings, maps, images and videos, those listings not only draw the attention of a user’s eyeballs, but it also draws clicks. Even if you maintain a number one organic listing, if your search result starts showing thumbnails of videos or images you’re going to lose clicks to this eye candy whether you like it or not. The screenshot below highlights the one above the fold organic listing for the search term “pontoon boats”.
- Your users are on the move.
Slightly related to the previous point, but more and more people are using mobile search. Again, as Google tries to provide personalized results, more map listings and different search layouts on mobile can also affect your click through rates even if your rankings don’t change.
The moral of the story here is that Google is becoming an increasingly difficult beast to understand and tame! Expanding your understanding of where your traffic comes from and what type of results your keywords are returning will give you a better idea of where you’re losing traffic and why.
Adam Henige is co-owner and director of online marketing for Swimtown Pool Supplies, an online pool and spa retailer carrying more than 3,000 products.