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Keeping Ahead Of The Search Marketing Game: It Takes A Lot Of Work

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#1 earlpearl

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 05:31 PM

I contacted a webmaster a short while ago asking if we could meet.  One of our smb sites and his site cover complementary information.  We have reciprocal links and have referenced one another for years.   They address some of the same topics from different angles.

 

His site is a type of local directory.    His site had generated a healthy amount of referral traffic to one of our smb sites over many years.  When we last met several years ago I found out that our smaller site turned out to be one of the larger sources of referrals to his site.  Not that he got many referrals.  His traffic was mostly search.   

 

We probably last met about 5 years ago (or longer).  I believe his site used to get in a range of 30-50K/visits a month.   All basically local.  

 

I noticed that his referral traffic to our site had dried up.  When I checked serps for the types of phrases where he used to dominate it was apparent that his position in the serps had relatively tanked.  So I contacted him and here is his response with some specifics changed to keep it anonymous.....

Hey Dave,

 

I’m just catching up on my his website emails. I hope all is well with you.

 

My site took a massive hit at some point during the summer. It doesn’t help that google features their own venue content at the top of most of my top search ranking terms. Also, a large percentage of my traffic used to be from searches for individual certain industry b & m names. That has been totally eliminated. There are now yelp, twitter, facebook and google links taking up the entire first page of most smb sites. My top hit used to be  for “ city geo term/industry type”, where I was #1, with several sub-links featured. I’m now #6. Google search traffic has fallen by 90%.

 

My direct traffic continues to increase however. But total traffic is down about 60% from this point last year.

 

I'm very sure that "direct traffic" as defined in google analytics, which he used (and I presume he still uses) is probably significantly miscategorized and is to a large extent search traffic.   Regardless his traffic has taken a beating.

 

I looked at some search phrases in Bing wherein he used to dominate in google.  He still holds some #1's in bing for those phrases...but I suspect bing traffic is about 10% of google traffic.  For other phrases he has taken a beating in bing also.

 

I checked the source on one phrase and his on page optimization to get presence stinks.  I guess its so....2003, 04 05, 06.   Yikes.

 

I looked back at a number of years of referral traffic to us from his site.  It started to tank at the beginning of this calendar year.  It nosedived as of this summer as he referenced.

 

Staying atop of google is a tough nut.  Google changes, competition changes, etc.  



#2 TheAlex

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:33 AM

Indeed, there's so much to keep on top of that I bet 99.9% of website owners are unaware of. This is a post I remember about lost search traffic: http://www.blindfive...-search-traffic

#3 mrgoodfox

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 11:04 AM

Very similar thing happened to one of my sites (lost a bunch of search traffic in the beginning of 2013). What upsets me the most is that my site is easily one of the top 3 content rich websites (there are two large forums that have more content than us). We have been publishing two new, well written, relevant articles, with pictures and videos every week for a long time. But I don't buy links.

 

In the last 6 months I've focused on increasing my traffic from other sources. I get almost as much traffic from Twitter as Google now :); they spent more time on the site, have a lower bounce rate, and higher conversion rate too. My YouTube traffic is not much but its really high converting traffic. 

 

Long story short, being tired of relying on Google, I've focused on diversifying my traffic and it's worked out great. I also secretly hope that my efforts will end up getting back my large search traffic too. 


Edited by mrgoodfox, 29 December 2013 - 11:06 AM.


#4 earlpearl

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 11:52 AM

Indeed, there's so much to keep on top of that I bet 99.9% of website owners are unaware of. This is a post I remember about lost search traffic: http://www.blindfive...-search-traffic

 

@TheAlex:   That is a helpful article and one I had forgotten about.  I'm going to apply it to our own sites and I'll suggest this fellow applies it to his site.  My suspicion in his case is that he has a lot of traffic that lands on individual pages and it will reinforce that the direct traffic was actually search traffic.  

 

Regardless, in his case the bigger issue was losing overall traffic.   I look forward to meeting with him.   Its a peak into the "other side" of search;  as his site is a directory of sorts and our sites are the individual smb's that can show on their own, and are listed in directories.   He is facing a real challenge as google has dramatically changed quite a few serps signals.   

 

A while ago I had referenced this article on the Moz blog by David Mihm.  David suggested that there are opportunities for directories.  Obviously his lost rather than won.

Very similar thing happened to one of my sites (lost a bunch of search traffic in the beginning of 2013). What upsets me the most is that my site is easily one of the top 3 content rich websites (there are two large forums that have more content than us). We have been publishing two new, well written, relevant articles, with pictures and videos every week for a long time. But I don't buy links.

 

In the last 6 months I've focused on increasing my traffic from other sources. I get almost as much traffic from Twitter as Google now :); they spent more time on the site, have a lower bounce rate, and higher conversion rate too. My YouTube traffic is not much but its really high converting traffic. 

 

Long story short, being tired of relying on Google, I've focused on diversifying my traffic and it's worked out great. I also secretly hope that my efforts will end up getting back my large search traffic too. 

 

@mrgoodfox:   Good work.  I think I need to contact you.  ;)



#5 earlpearl

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 02:25 PM

@theAlex:   Just applied the AJ Kohn suggestion.   It really shows the difference and impact especially when the IOS 6 came out.  

 

I suppose it will be even more revealing for this other guy w/ the directory.    tx for the message



#6 glyn

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:27 AM

I've on more ocassions than one completely forgotten to factor in mobile searches when compiling client totals! D'oh!



#7 earlpearl

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:38 AM

There were two aspects of this email that struck me:

 

One is addressed by the A J Kohn article referenced by theAlex.  It enables one to discern the estimated miscategorized sources of traffic by google analytics by identifying IOS traffic and then comparing pre IOS6 data from post IOS6 data.

 

That is helpful.  And its interesting.

 

The more alarming part of the email, IMHO was that the webmaster had lost a tremendous amount of traffic.   I can see that he no longer ranks first for his predominate search terms.

 

Ultimately that is the real struggle.  In his case he lost some traffic to how google redesigned the first page of search and substituted its version of results  for the older ways.  That is analogous to web results with google's knowledge graph and its own answers supplanting web results from sites in the visual serps.

 

In the other case he simply lost rankings.  That has crushed his search traffic.   Take those two together and its  a dramatic drop.



#8 earlpearl

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 01:22 PM

Just looked at one of our accts where we had a mobile site than tanked it as it wasn't working for the smb for some reasons that we've never bothered to uncover.

 

We applied some of the AJ Kohn methodology.   For the year before the IOS 6 was introduced overall direct traffic was about 6%.  In the 15 or so months since the IOS6 came out, direct traffic per everything shot up.  IOS traffic reported direct at 25%.  Non IOS traffic reported direct at 5%.  

 

Also for this smb, to the extent there is variety in landing pages (which there isn't).  In virtually every case where traffic landed on a relevant search generated interior page rather than the home page...the IOS traffic had a higher percentage of landing on interior pages than the overall traffic.   That simply implies to me that IOS traffic, dramatically presented as significantly direct was in fact dramatically more search oriented.

 

Its nice data but its the tip of the iceberg of critical information, simply telling us that G analytics has been seriously misrepresenting and misreporting data.  (I understand there is a "fix".  We haven't applied it yet.



#9 mrgoodfox

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 08:54 AM

Its nice data but its the tip of the iceberg of critical information, simply telling us that G analytics has been seriously misrepresenting and misreporting data.  (I understand there is a "fix".  We haven't applied it yet.

 

What fix? 



#10 earlpearl

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 02:50 PM

What fix? 

 

Universal Analytics.  an upgrade to analytics



#11 EGOL

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 08:18 AM

Hey earl... did you see Rand's prediction?

 

#2: We Will See Google Test Search Results with no External, Organic Listings

http://moz.com/blog/...g-world-in-2014



#12 earlpearl

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:25 AM

Gee.   I hope that doesn't occur at all.  Rand's comments below the title:

 

As Google continues to get more and more aggressive with things like knowledge graph, visual ads, and instant answers, I suspect we'll see some of the first result sets that have no traditional, external-pointing, organic links whatsoever. Google may keep some links as references to the source they're bringing in, but they won't be in the classic organic results format we've seen from them over the last 15 years.

Side note: This will scare the poop out of many marketers, but it probably (hopefully?) won't expand much beyond the experimental/limited release phase.

That is ugly.  It would make google the Assad of the internet imho.   If there were internet savvy "wise guys" in Jersey reading this they would vouch to get google to sleep with the fishes.   that is a scary notion for webmasters.   

 

I gotta ask.   who made google master of all without any constraints?





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