If, like me, you saw a big downturn in your search traffic from around the 1st August 2018, I bet you’ve been scratching your head as much as I have for the last month. Google announced the algorithm change but gave us nothing to go on. No clue as to why our content was the best in July, then suddenly in August it wasn’t.
This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 1, 2018
Looking at my data there was nothing obvious or major jumping out. It seemed like almost every post was just down a fraction. The really high-ranking big hitters, the ones that had been firm Google number 1 s for a long time seemed the least affected but my biggest traffic bringing posts are not these. The biggest traffic bringing posts were the ones showing the biggest effects, but why? Where was the drop? I’ve finally found some answers.
Looking at Search Console Data and Finding Where to Google Update Has Hit
It took some deep diving to find the answers and you need to start with Search Console.
Look at your top posts and compare the number of clicks for the last 28 days and the preceding 28 days. Make a list of say, the top 10 worst affected and note the drop. We’re going to continue to monitor this drop over the next days and weeks to see if we can claw some of this traffic back.
I’ve identified my worst affected posts and I’ve tried to “fix” them. If you look at your data in-depth, Google will tell you how.
As a control group I’m going to leave half of these worst affected posts untouched. They may just bounce back given time as everyone is predicting, but now I’ve found where the losses have occurred, I doubt it. But as we have this control group we should be able to say for sure.
Identify Your Worst Hit Posts, Choose One to Fix Then Look in Depth at the Queries
So let’s say that my worst hit post was ” London in Spring”
The post is still Google #1 for London in Spring, in fact, traffic is up for that term. But scroll down the list of terms for that post and see which ones have gone down in rank and clicks.
Let’s say this post was also ranking for “London in February”
The post was never about London in February but I’d used the word February once in the post.
Google has now figured it out.
SEO just got more precise and harder to fool.
Which is totally fair enough.
So 2 choices here, add a paragraph on “London in February” or write a whole new post precisely addressing that subject.
I’ve seen the same pattern in post after post. The terms that the post really should never have ranked for, are the ones that have dropped.
Does Traffic Dip in August Anyway?
No, mine never has. Last August I saw a traffic gain and the August before that also, traffic rose. So trying to explain away the August slump in terms of people being on holiday…nope. It’s just not true. If you look at your data closely you can see, clearly, that your rankings are down. It’s not because people are on holiday.
A General Drop in Overall Rankings Isn’t Usually a Bad Thing and Often Precedes a Rise in Traffic
I’m sure you’ve all seen this, a generalised drop in overall ranking either for a post or the site as a whole. When this happens we all know that Google has decided to show our post to more people for more diverse search terms and a change like this normally precedes rising traffic and rising rankings.
Well that’s clearly not the case this time.
Rankings are down, impressions are down, clicks are down.
Google got more precise.
I’ll keep updating this post and let you know if I can get some of my lost traffic back. It’s too early to say yet, but I know I’ve identified what has happened. To me it looks pretty easy to at least partially fix, but as always, only Google knows for sure.
Which Posts are Still Going Up and Which Posts are Going Down?
After the update my shorter posts that directly answer just one question are still going up.
Newer posts that were still on the rise are also still going up.
Google did not need to self correct on these posts.
The longer, skyscraper posts that cover a huge range of information, say a country guide, are going down. So are the days of long form content and taking a week to write a post over? Who knows? Maybe every bit of content creation advice on longer, fact filled posts being better than shorter ones is now obsolete. I’ll keep looking and learning.