- Reasons bloggers have control over
- Blogs are hard to organize, so bloggers are generally bad at organizing their sites
- Bloggers don’t have the technical know-how to deal with issues that compound as their sites get bigger
- Bloggers will be reactive when traffic drops, often creating more issues than they solve
- Google updated PageRank a few years ago
- Google is on a big E-A-T bender
- Put PageRank updates and Google’s E-A-T kick together and your expertise is getting treated like opinion unless you can back it up
- Google created detailed guidelines for how you operate your blog and then punished sites that didn’t follow them
- Reasons bloggers have no control over
In most cases, your traffic is down across the board even as you have more content than ever.
Even if your overall Google traffic is up, when you look at your “per-post traffic,” you will find that it is YoY down, or at the very least down from about three years ago.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of why your organic traffic on at least a per-post basis for most bloggers is going down:
Reasons bloggers have control over
Blogs are hard to organize, so bloggers are generally bad at organizing their sites
I wrote about this in a few posts, here are the most clear ones:
Bloggers don’t have the technical know-how to deal with issues that compound as their sites get bigger
I wrote about this a bit in a post called, Common issues hurting your site.
Bloggers will be reactive when traffic drops, often creating more issues than they solve
There is probably more detrimental information out there about SEO than helpful. This is because most SEO findings are context-specific, a lot of SEO advice is dated, and SEO is incredibly complex, so any simplification will result in misunderstanding.
People still talk about keyword density and stuffing (optimizing posts by putting more or better or higher search volume keywords in h tags and paragraph content).
Related, reacting to traffic drops (outside of just after a site migration) can signal to Google that you are trying to do spammy SEO things.
Google updated PageRank a few years ago
Probably worth a post in and of itself, but basically it considers your closeness to a larger body of “seed” authority sites across topics disproportionately more now.
Google is on a big E-A-T bender
Related to updates around PageRank: Expertise. Authority. Trust.
It’s talked about a lot in Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). A series of big updates, including broad core algorithm updates, over the past few years.
It has disproportionately affected Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) bloggers. Think topics like personal finance, health, medical advice, parenting advice, etc.,
Put PageRank updates and Google’s E-A-T kick together and your expertise is getting treated like opinion unless you can back it up
If you blog, your “everyday expertise,” as Google calls in its its QRG, is getting treated more and more like opinion unless you are associated directly or indirectly with highly authoritative sites (through links or other means Google can see). Eg. Mayo Clinic links to some research, that research mentions your medical/health site.
Related, we think Google has a much better idea of what is fact with its knowledge graph. So if you’re into alternative medicine that contradicts well-established and accepted NIH research, you are a target.
Related to Google increasing the importance of authority signals around certain subject matter is their increasing the importance of authority signals around topics at specific points in time.
The idea that Google will “boost” the importance of authority when its fighting misinformation around important news sources means it will be harder to “newsjack.”
Google created detailed guidelines for how you operate your blog and then punished sites that didn’t follow them
Called Google Webmaster Guidelines [Google], the specific “don’ts” are referred to as quality guidelines [Google list].
Of course, non-SEOs don’t know about them because they are highly technical. If they are being violated, they can and often do result in loss of traffic to your site either manually through “manual actions” or algorithmically.
To me, there are some good quality guidelines. There are hundreds of thousands of people trying to game Google. BUT there are also natural web things that bloggers have done since the 90s that Google doesn’t like, so you have to fall in line. The most common ones that have affected blog traffic are:
- “link schemes” what used to be a very natural part of the web, selling links, trading links, requiring links as part of a contract, doing link exchanges, e.g. you link to my blog and I’ll link to yours, etc., were creating problems for Google, ergo, millions of non-technical bloggers had to learn about nofollow or face manual actions
- Affiliate programs, where Google decides what’s considered “thin affiliate” content. Building authority and then recommending products to your audience as an affiliate marketing monetization approach to blogging created issues.
- Hacked sites – I would say about 30% of clients we have had at one point had their WordPress site hacked. This is incredibly common and most often can be prevented by paying for good site management, which of course, no blogger wants to do. You can also prevent 80% to 90% of hacks by:
- keeping WordPress version, plugins, and themes updated
- using highly random passwords
- limiting login attempts (most popular plugin here, and a “reloaded” and more maintained plugin here)
Google’s search engine doesn’t work as well when these guidelines are being violated, and Google is a search monopoly, so the web has to cooperate.
Reasons bloggers have no control over
But you should know about them anyway.
Google has even more market share
It used to be that you got maybe 60 to 70% of your organic search traffic from Google. Or at least that’s what people thought. Everyone was citing the same completely wrong data on the subject for years.
Google is a near-monopoly, with more than 90% of web search volumeJumpshot data via Sparktoro
It’s not just you, Google is taking everyone’s traffic
With more of Google’s own things like ads, featured snippets, knowledge panels, carousels, related question accordion blocks, and rows of image thumbs being put in search results pages, less traffic goes to your site.
Via the same source as above, for Q1 2019 for Google US:
According to Jumpshot*, in Q1 2019 Google’s US web search engine:Jumpshot data via Sparktoro
– Received 150+ Billion searches
– Solved 48.96% of those searches without a click
– Sent 7.2% of all search clicks to paid results
– Sent 6.01% of all searches (~12% of search clicks) to websites owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company
– Directed a click to non-Alphabet-owned websites (aka, the rest of the web) after 45.03% queries
So about 38% of searches resulting in clicks to the rest of us in organic traffic.
Google favors big brands in the SERPs
Google also favors big brands more and more. Big brands are big spenders. Google is a public company that needs to maximize shareholder wealth.
And users favor brands they are more familiar with when they choose a search result, many of which by nature are big brands, adding fuel to fire.
Not to mention, content competition
Mark Schaefer came up with the term to describe this problem: content shock. The content model assumed that you create free content and people will find and consume it. But there’s a growing problem with supply and demand. People’s ability to produce content is near infinite while other people’s ability to consume content is limited.
The amount of content on the web doubles every year or two.
Net effect? Your contents’ competition doubles every year or two.
That’s a lot of odds stacked against blogging for SEO. What to do about it next.
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