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Magazine SEO: What to Do When Google Tries to Sink Your Ship

Your magazine SEO efforts will determine how much traffic arrives and eventually converts into subscribers – what are you doing to find and plug any holes in your website?

Google is the business we all love to hate. If you run a big website, one of your jobs is magazine SEO for your website. There will be times that Google will be rocking your ship, and won’t be sharing any details about why. Every day your website is online, you’re going into battle, and every once in a while you’re going to get a hole, and your traffic will plunge. Like a good captain, you need to find the hole, plug it, and pump the water back out.

One thing about Google is that any drop in magazine SEO traffic will be uniform. You won’t lose traffic in one zone of your website, it will be across the board. The ebb and flow of traffic is normal and not an algorithmic hit, it’s just the price of being online.

However, if your overall traffic drops more than 10% in a short amount of time, here is an analysis we use internally that you can borrow, including the tools we use to determine the answers:

First Analysis

  • Is the site is being crawled? (Google Webmaster Tools)
  • Is the site map in place? (Google Webmaster Tools)
  • What are the total number of page views & sessions? Confirm decrease in traffic, when it started and compare with historical traffic patterns (Google Analytics)
  • Are all caching options on (if not, why and when were they disabled) and is CDN validating against distro location (Rackspace only)
  • Does CDN usage match the traffic trend?
  • Does server response time correlate with a decrease in traffic? (Pingdom’s historical response time)
  • Does the overview match the traffic trend? (New Relic)
  • How does current performance compare with past tests (Webpagetest.com)

Google Analytics

  1. Is traffic drop is occurring in all channels or just a single channel?
  2. All Channels – if the traffic drop is occurring in all channels
    • has the site been down for an extended period of time?
    • have there been any changes or updates to the site?
    • is google tracking turned off?
    • is the server showing traffic to the site?
  3. Organic Search – if the traffic drop is occurring for just Organic
    • is the drop gradual (over several days/weeks) or sudden (over a few days)?
    • have there been any changes or updates to the site?
    • have there been any Google Algorithm updates?
    • is the drop occurring for all countries or just for domestic traffic?
    • is the drop occurring for mobile, desktop and tablet equally?
    • is the drop occurring for all search engines or just Google?
    • has there been a significant change to engagement metrics?  ie. better engagement/less spam
    • have there been a increased number of 404 errors
    • are all pages/posts being affected equally or just certain ones?
    • are there any common factors between the pages/posts that are affected?
      • are posts up to date?
      • do posts contain broken links?
      • are posts in the same category?
    • has there been any changes to the site speed?
    • have there been any warnings in the Google Search Console?
    • have there been any unusual fluctuations to the number of indexed pages?
    • Is the Google Search Console showing an unusual number of crawl errors?

4. Email – if the traffic drop is occurring for just Email

  • does Email Service Provider campaign data say that emails are being sent?
  • are links being properly coded so that Google classifies this traffic as Email or Other?
  • was there a spike in Google Analytics email traffic in the prior period?
  • if so, was this spike caused by legitimate subscribers or spam?

5. Social – if the traffic drop is occurring for just Social

  • was there a spike in Google Analytics social traffic in the prior period?
  • if so, was this spike caused by legitimate followers or spam?
  • has there been a recent change in any of the social algorithms?
  • are other clients experiencing similar decreases in social traffic?

6. Direct or Referrals – if the traffic drop is occurring for just Referrals or Direct

  • Was there a spike in Google Analytics referral traffic in the prior period?
  • If so, was this spike caused by legitimate referrers or spam?
  • Are other companies saying they are experiencing similar decreases in social traffic?

Beyond this list, there are software upgrades to keep in mind. If you’re on WordPress, are you running the latest version, and are all your plugins updated? Are you on HTTPS?

After adopting the Mequoda Method, one of our clients saw a 45% increase in overall traffic the following year. But then they took a huge hit which dropped them to 11% lower than their baseline, so we knew something was up. We ran through the checklist, and this was during a time when Google was beginning to advocate for all sites adopting HTTPS on their websites. After they switched to HTTPS, their traffic increased by 21% over the next five weeks, the largest climb of all our clients.

This client is in one of the three major Google-sensitive industries (health, investing, and news) where they’re particularly picky and want to list the most legitimate sources. So it’s no wonder that the switch to HTTPS was what made the difference.

Every sailor’s nightmare is taking on water faster than you can pump it out, and if you don’t have an audience development management team, what may happen in the best case is that you wallow for a while never figure it out. Or, worst case you die from it because ships with holes in them tend to sink.

If you’d like to discuss how we can manage your subscription marketing system while helping you increase your audience, revenue and profits please reach out to schedule a no obligation chat with our consulting team.

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