Falling Organic Search Traffic Is the Symptom of Systemic Failures Across Marketing and Web Development.
We’ve been involved in auditing and correcting website search engine optimization (SEO) issues for over fifteen years. What almost always spurs the call to us for a website SEO audit project is a dramatic drop in website traffic (or product sales or leads that inevitably came as a result of the traffic drop). Many times these drops have come in waves as Google has made major updates to the search algorithm and websites didn’t keep up. Google has slowed major updates, so recently the problems are coming from poorly maintained websites that are being updated in a rush with little discipline and cooperation between marketing and the web dev team. Or websites that are not being refreshed at all and going stale with little content for Google to index.
When we start to look under the website hoods of clients we’re auditing, we will most often see issues in all three of the areas for which Google evaluates a site when thinking about offering it as a solution for a search: Technically not well maintained, not rich with searchable content, and few other sites linking to it signifying few others finding it to be authoritative. You would think that in this day and age of better education and awareness of Google search ranking factors, companies would do a better job. However we find companies are simply not keeping up. Why is this? We offer three possible reasons below that touch on lack of marketing management commitment, staff training, and lack of web dev group understanding of Google search.
Lack of Marketing Management Commitment, Direction and Understanding
Most often we see companies kick off an SEO initiative for some temporary improvement in results, but eventually fall back into bad habits causing the same old problems to drag down results. When we’re called in to do SEO training in a company, the directors and C-level staff often sit in. Good for them! Without them understanding and committing to what it takes for their team to effectively execute on SEO strategy, they will not allocate the resources, time or budget to make it happen consistently in the future. Let’s talk about each of those aspects for a minute.
- Resources: SEO requires resources. You need to have staff whose job it is to make sure that keyword research is done, updated, and the keywords are implemented across copy, social media and content creation. Who is going to do that? Put someone in charge of that. And makes sure it’s updated every time a new product or service is launched.
- Time: In order to do the keyword research and optimize for keywords, you need to allow time for copy to be written and maybe re-written or tweaked to make sure keywords are implemented properly. This often adds two to three days to the copy cycle.
- Budget: Remember that great, engaging copy makes a sale, but keyword rich copy will get them to the website in the first place. Who is going to write this keyword rich copy? Is your staff the best writing resource? Do you have a copywriting budget? Are the copywriters being given the keywords by page to use as a guideline? Who is assigned to review their work? We often find the weakest websites are written by internal resources and suffer from lack of objective review, convincing copy or keyword integration.
Marketing senior management can only effect an improvement in their web traffic, sales and leads by having a consistent, long-term, and disciplined view of search marketing. They will staff appropriately for the tasks. They will do keyword research and update it continuously as new products roll out. They will train their staff on how to write the meta content and the on-page content to be keyword rich. They will train their social media staff to incorporate keywords in posts and hashtags. And they will evaluate staff skills objectively and budget for copywriting or outsource SEO skills to augment where their current team is lacking.
The Web Development Group Often Doesn’t “Get” Google
The other area where SEO initiatives fail is a disconnection between marketing and the web development group. We often find web developers don’t understand Google ranking factors and don’t take them into consideration in web maintenance projects. In almost every SEO audit we do, we find these common problems: dozens if not hundreds of duplicate title tags, 404 errors, and broken links. These are signs of a poorly maintained site that Google will dock and move onto another site that may offer the same keywords but is better maintained. Combine that with a slow page speed or oversized graphics and Google could possibly pass right over you and never get around to looking at your content. We even find brand new sites launched with these problems and wonder how much our clients paid the design and web team to build it. Furthermore, website designers sometimes don’t design for mobile. Google indexes many websites based on their mobile version. Starting July 1, 2019, Google will require all newly registered domains to have mobile-first designed pages when launched. This new standard also focuses on the use of structured data and rich snippets.
The problem is Google search rank factors are not taught in design or website development schools and clients don’t ask whether the team has expertise in it before they hire them. We haven’t hired a web developer at our agency yet that we haven’t had to train ourselves.
The best solution is to pair the web development team with your SEO person in marketing and make sure the web dev team knows they need to meet marketing’s expectations. Or hire an outsourced SEO team to audit the site on a monthly or quarterly basis and provide a list of updates the web team needs to make. Sometimes having a technical SEO person talking to a web dev person is the best pairing. There should be a service level agreement from the web dev group to perform to marketing’s expectations. If not, then marketing should have full liberty to make wholesale changes that it needs.
Proactive Training Is the Best Medicine
It’s never too late to get your marketing and web dev team headed in the right direction. Training courses abound through Udemy, local university extensions, and exceptional live online courses in a program I run through the www.DMAnc.org. However, I think the best training solution is a custom training program for your company that blends some of the best content from the course work like we offer at the www.DMAnc.org with examples from your own website. For example recently we did a one day training class for the marketing content writers at the California Chamber of Commerce. In the morning, we discussed the general principles of keyword research, how to structure meta descriptions, and on-page content. In the afternoon they gave us five sections of their website and we did a live exercise showing them how to put those principles into practice as a demonstration. To me that is the best type of instruction. If we had the luxury of adding a second day of instruction, we would have had them tackle a section on their own and checked their work. Different training can be devised for the web dev team and provided in the same way in the form of instruction and live exercises.
By marketing management committing the right resources and setting the right direction for a long term SEO strategy, your company can dramatically improve organic search and gain more leads and sales. This takes the right resources, time and budget – and the right training.
Need help with your SEO or training? We offer free SEO and PPC audits and full search engine optimization programs and custom training. Contact Beasley Direct and Online Marketing, Inc., at www.BeasleyDirect.com.
By Laurie Beasley, Co-Founder and President, Beasley Direct and Online Marketing, Inc.