Traffic Doesn’t Change During Core Updates? Congrats!

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what to do when your site does gain or fall during google updates

If your traffic never seems to grow or shrink during a core update, congratulations, you’re likely doing things right.  SEO isn’t always about gains and losses, sometimes it is maintaining your current market positions so your company doesn’t lose on revenue, branding, and exposure.  Maintaining positions isn’t easy, and even the big brands and media houses have to constantly update and test.

If you’re an independent publisher, or if your boss is asking why they’re not seeing gains, don’t stress.  This is your opportunity to open the door to testing new ideas that would normally be off the table, or to stop bad tests from happening.  Here’s how we approach this with clients.

Set Up Control Groups

The first step is to create a control group or something that won’t impact the current stability.  If you test on pages that are working and drive revenue, you could lose that traffic and it may never come back.  Instead, find pages that get some traffic but aren’t vital to your business or the site’s architecture.

  • Categories that are in the 2 – 4 range of pages in Google
  • Your homepage if it is only meant to rank for your brand
  • Individual posts that used to do well, or are on the low end of traffic and have the ability to show up for bigger phrases with medium to high-intent

By having control groups and test groups that won’t impact your current SEO efforts or revenue, you can begin collecting data by implementing new ideas with the goal of gaining during the next core, spam, and HCU updates.  In these conversations I break the tests into two groups, Guru Theories and New Niches.

Guru Theories

Some clients and bosses believe things they read in magazines, industry publications, or because a social media Guru says it is correct.  As a practitioner you know that most of what is published is nonsense or outdated, and doesn’t work in the real world.  We call it gimmick marketing.  Like trusting AI to write your content as a way to save time or scholarship link building.  In many cases it can cause you to get penalized and lose part of or all of your business.  Now is the time to debunk the myths.

Once the Guru theories are brought up, find sites implementing them and track which sites climb, fall, and remain stagnant, and keep the trackers going.  But you want to be accurate with your data. Here’s an easy way to do this.

  1. Set up an account with SEMrush, Sistrix, SimilarWeb, Moz, etc…
  2. Create themed groupings of
    1. specific pages
    2. websites or URLs
    3. categories or folders on the websites
    4. keywords and phrases
  3. Next track and record as the positions and visibility climb and fall.

When the person that likes gimmick marketing comes to you, show them what happened to the sites and why you’re better off for staying the course.  Many times they forgot why you didn’t do what the gurus recommended, and this report is what may stop them from making a bad decision.

Pro-tip: Sometimes there will be gains, and that can further ignite their interest in gimmick marketing, so track over time and show the eventual falls.  That is one of our secrets to success with keeping clients on the course for the long game.  SEO and affiliate marketing are long game channels, if you use gimmicks and shortcuts  you’re going to pay the price.

If you aren’t being asked to try gimmick marketing, great!  Now you can begin new tests from revamping the architecture of the site to expanding into new niches and high-intent categories.

New Niches

Talk to both the PPC and paid social media teams once you know what the test will look like.  Get their data on phrases you don’t currently rank for, affinity groups that engage, and demographics that convert at a strong rate (or even not so strong but have high AOV (average order value) or LTVs (life time value)).

Pro-tip: A talking point is that the phrase converts based PPC data but isn’t profitable.  Because we don’t pay for SEO traffic (outside of the costs of doing SEO) we don’t have to worry about the CPCs (costs per click) so the PPC team can invest the money into more profitable phrases.

Once you have the niches, affinities, and new categories, its time to begin finding ways to reach them via SEO.  Each site is unique, and so is each company.

Publishers can add a category and create a content calendar, while ecommerce stores will need to focus on their blogs or revamping their categories to match the needs of the new target audience.  Service providers may need new landing pages too.  But each can use a similar starting process.

  1. Do keyword and topic research (entities, questions, complaints, trends, etc…)
  2. Map your sites architecture and find where it fits naturally within
  3. Outline the new pages, content calendars, and themes
  4. Create a roadmap of cross over between the new audiences and current audiences
  5. Find ways to cross promote new topics and ideas making sure the new content is relevant to encourage adoption
  6. If the response is positive, you’re likely going to get activity from current customers including reviews to build confidence as the new audiences come in
  7. Share with email, SMS, PPC, and social media as they can get traffic to start hitting the new pages immediately and give you data as you do the SEO work on them

One of the biggest mistakes I see when companies expand their SEO is trying to force irrelevant content and topics onto their current audience.  By doing the seven steps above you can test the waters and have a good idea of the right balance.  This way you are better prepared with tests to increase engagement and revenue as you expand into new markets.

If Google updates are happening and you remain stagnant, stay the course and use questions from your bosses or clients to begin getting new tests live.  And try not to feel imposter syndrome as you see others posting their gains.  You’re doing great, focus on your projects, not theirs.

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