There’s more than one road to finding the “10 Things To Do When Your SEO Rankings Tank” article online, but the chances are good your situations are similar. Traffic is down, the wrong keywords point your way, and no one seems to be linking to you. Your keyword research and analytics point to one indisputable fact: while a search engine is probably not capable of hate, there’s a good chance Google, Yahoo, and MSN simply don’t like your site.
We’ve all been there. Whether you’re a newbie blogger who just learned the what WordPress means or a long-time publisher who just got slapped by the wrong end of a Google stick, this article is for you. Here are ten suggestions for getting up when you’re knocked down.
1. Ask Yourself Why You’re Getting Google Slaps
This tip especially applies to the long-time publishers aware of the ever-present “Google slap,” a quasi-punishment in decreased search engine rankings or Pay-Per-Click performance due to a violation of Google’s terms.
It’s all to easy to blame Google in these situations, but you’ve got to take responsibility for what’s on your site. Your SEO might be the issue, but if it’s as clean and spam-free as possible, it’s time to look at your own content and wonder how much value you’re really providing your visitors. Are your visitors better for having visited your site? Ask yourself some deep, penetrating questions and the answers might surprise you.
2. Pull a P.T. Barnum
If, upon asking yourself the questions mentioned in #1, you find that you really are doing your best to provide value to your visitors, then maybe your problem isn’t the show, but the promoter. Sometime it’s pays to toot your own horn. Online self-promoters like Tim Ferriss are able to gain large followings if they can maximize both the show and the marketing, so don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Directly ask bloggers for links, release press releases, and use some ad credits – hey, life is short.
3. Ask Someone Else
Sometimes, the problem needs an outside perspective to fully reveal itself. Take your site and find someone with the know-how and honesty to give you the straight dope. Whether you’re posting online and asking for help from SEO forums or asking good friends who have successful sites, it can help to take a step back – especially if you’ve already optimized your site up to its ears.
4. Build the Basics
Sometimes, SEO isn’t a matter of optimizing, but building. Google-friend pages like sitemaps, “about us” pages, and privacy policies help send out an “authentic” signal that shows you aren’t a site built by a spammer looking to scam as many people as possible.
Look at successful, professional sites and make a mental note of what makes them different from you. Sure, maybe you can’t hire a team to build a site like that, but you can build the basics.
5. Diversify Your Portfolio
In stocks, you constantly hear the advice to “diversify your portfolio.” This can sometimes be a great way to boost your success in search engines, as the high competition for Google keywords often leads us to ignore high amounts of traffic from other sites like Yahoo or Ask. Avoid having a preference for any one engine. Take on the attitude that traffic is traffic, and if you can bring in highly-targeted readers from Jim’s Search Engine Deluxe rather than Google, why not run with it?
6. Get controversial.
Failing blogs, take note: if you haven’t been able to build a following, it might be because you’re not dangerous enough. In order to have a successful SEO strategy, you need one crucial element that you cannot overlook: blog posts worth linking to. Seems basic, right? So why isn’t anyone linking to you? Maybe you haven’t gotten controversial enough.
Being “controversial” isn’t about trying to invoke a reaction, but writing about that which invokes a reaction in you. What are you passionate about? What can you offer your reader that will make them think, my friend cannot afford to miss this and click “share with friends”?
7. Unify, don’t divide.
A common SEO mistake people make is spreading themselves too thin. For example, a URL on your site might read “About Us” while the title of the page reads “Meet Our Company!”
So what’s wrong with that? Nothing, unless you want to build your way back up the SEO food chain. Why not unify your URL and headline both to say “About _______ Incorporated” – you’re more likely to show up for searches regarding your industry and will have a more direct keyword presence in the major search engines.
8. Look at your competitors.
No, I don’t mean the binocular-through-the-window type “looking,” I mean checking out your competitors and seeing what’s working well for them. Any chef will tell you that a great way to learn how to cook is to get a handle on some great recipes. Look at your competitor’s “recipe” and see what ingredients you can incorporate into your own site.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should steal. You don’t want to do that unless you want to go from “SEO basement” to “SEO mantle lair.”
9. Tighten your niche.
It’s well and good to start a “news” site, but the competition is so massive that you’re making it really hard on yourself. While you’re on your quest to become the next Matt Drudge, you have to keep thinking about the ever-elusive visitor and wonder why they would even want to come to your site. What makes you different and unique?
In answering this question, you might tighten your niche, going from “news” to “sports news,” or even all the way down to “bowling news.” If that doesn’t sound like a great strategy, consider that one of the world’s most popular sites is built around cats and bad grammar.
10. Start over.
If all else fails, and none of the search engines have changed their poor opinion of you, it may be time to cash in the ol’ “old-domain-advantage” and start over. The beautiful thing about the Internet is that it’s always possible to start fresh and stage a Mickey Rourke-like comeback.