Where Did My Website Traffic Go?
A client recently contacted me, asking why he has hardly any traffic to his site, and the little traffic there was, has taken a sharp downturn. The site in question is about five years old, using syndicated content to try and draw visibility to the services offered.
It’s a site where the owner opted to use content from sites such as Ezine@rticles, Articlesbase, and so on. These sites, and others, provide content which can be used on his site; with the common stipulation that attribution be given to the site providing the content and to the author who created it.
For many business owners, this appears (on the surface at least) to be a valuable resource. But is it?
A case in point, tier 1 search engines, such as Google, place high value on original content. Content used from one of the above sites is not original, when it’s the same content used on thousands of other sites worldwide! Irrespective of various search engine issues, common business sense teaches us; if we wish to increase the visibility of our sites, we need to stand out. Using the same content found elsewhere, is simply a matter of blending in with the herd, unseen and dull. Uninteresting! While this may be common sense for many, there are far more serious considerations at play. So serious in fact, that business owners would do themselves a benefit to stay informed.
I’m referring to Google’s search engine algorithm updates. They are updated so as to improve search results to their visitors, business clients, etc.
One of Google’s recent updates, dubbed “Panda”, addressed their announcement to “find more high-quality sites in search“. In fact, Search Engine land discussed the change, indicating that “Google Forecloses On Content Farms with Panda Algorithm Update“. In particular it was suggested by Search Engine Land that scraper sites:
“…Scraper sites are those widely defined as not having original content but instead pulling content in from other sources. Some do this through legitimate means, such as using RSS files with permission. Others may aggregate small amounts of content under fair use guidelines. Some simply scrape or copy content from other sites using automated means — hence the “scraper” nickname…”
It’s important to realize that the methodology of content copying, whether automated or manual, with permission or without, is still considered scraping – in search engine (and SEO) terms. As such, it’s not a good approach to populating sites with copied, scraped content.
I don’t intend to rehash the content in the above links (we can all read the content on those sites), however, it’s helpful to see some of the hard statistical data, that’s resulted from the algorithmic changes. For those of us not aware, Sistrix is often a good site to garner such information. Take a look at the screenshot below, from http://www.sistrix.com/blog/985-google-farmer-update-quest-for-quality.html
The results (to me at least) were extraordinary. Not so much in the sense that there were changes, each update often results in changes, no, what caught my attention was the accuracy (in my opinion), particularly in terms of weeding out what are commonly referred to as content farms. (Is the label deserved? I don’t know, as I don’t operate any of those sites). In particular was the huge drop 80-90%+ for many such and related type sites.
While many of us may view the large visibility drops (evidenced above by Sistrix) as quite acute, it very much appears to address the issues (additionally, of higher traffic sites, having low quality content). It’s not a stretch therefore to appreciate how other sites (large and small) could also be effected.
For many of us (freelancers, business owners, consultants and so forth), it’s apparent that we need to keep abreast of the changes Google makes to improve services. For many business owners, the motivation, time, etc. may simply be unavailable. My advice to them? Don’t just listen to professional advice and do your own thing anyway, regardless of the short and long-term consequences. Instead, hear what’s being advised and take appropriate action to safeguard your website and therefore business visibility!
After a lengthy discussion, I was asked what advise I could impart?
Visit Google’s Webmaster Central Blog and garner a better understanding of how content is evaluated:
In particular, it’s important to remember that your content address the specific niche that your business does. Google is not in the business of penalizing websites, instead they are focusing on improving the relevancy and quality of the search results provided. Would you continue to use a search engine that consistently fails to provide relevant and quality content? Therefore make sure your content reflects the content demanded by your niche.
Remember the old adage “Quality vs. Quantity”? Well… the same issue applies here. For the most part, many are aware that blog driven sites are better predispositioned to build more content and garner a greater number of pages indexed on search engines. Given the above, it’s even more apparent that quality content has become an increasingly more dominant component, in obtaining better visibility. As a side note, here’s some input from Matt Cutts: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/algorithm-change-launched/
I also suggested that writing guest posts on higher quality websites, may help him repair and improve traffic and visibility. How? A common practice for guest posts on other blogs is to include a back-link to the authors site. The higher quality the site you’re writing a post for, the greater value that back-link may be.
Speaking of guest posts, don’t engage in posting duplicate content. Why? If you have several posts on your website (and across others) that contains the same content, Google presents the most original and relevant, while suppressing the remainder from search results.
The negative issue of this comes into play if the content you create is obtained from the RSS feeds of other sites (again, this alludes to the issue of content scraping – don’t do it).
Finally, leverage social media! Why? Google provides real-time, “live” social search results. You can test this in action at: http://www.google.ca/realtime (see where it says, above the results: “New results will appear below as they become available” and there is the ability to pause the updates).
In particular, Google’s launch of the +1 (recommendation), wherein “…the +1 button is shorthand for ‘this is pretty cool’ or ‘you should check this out’…”: http://www.google.com/+1/button/
Additionally, it’s become evident that several other social media venues can also provide improved visibility of your site and business; not only to Google, but to others as well.
In closing, it’s important again to emphasize to remain aware of what’s happening in the online world, as that can have direct effects on your business opportunities. Phrase of the day? “Common Sense”…