You’re keeping up with your SEO, right? Google is the world’s largest traffic referrer, so you want to take advantage of every click they can send you.
Unfortunately, many bloggers have seen their referrals from Google drop in recent months. Most of us think we know the reasons why: Panda and Penguin.
Yet there are other factors at play here that have a wide-reaching effect on your referrals from Google.
The Penguin and Panda SEO Effects.
Yes, there is a good chance that your blog has been affected by Google’s recent updates. Google Panda, which dropped in 2011, put the kibosh on short, low-quality content.
That did affect many bloggers, but it hit the low-quality blogs the hardest. As long as you created lengthy, high-quality content chances are Panda didn’t hit your blog very hard.
If, however, your strategy was to write two dozen one-paragraph posts per day, chances are you saw your Google referrals drop significantly.
The Penguin update, which Google dropped earlier this year and has since released a few updates, hit more bloggers — and harder. They penalized unnatural links, both those existing on sites and sites with incoming links from questionable sources. This affected bloggers in two ways.
1. It penalized bloggers with unnatural links on their own blogs. They had to go through their blogs and remove those offending links before applying for reinstatement from Google.
2. It hurt backlink profiles. Bloggers with unnatural incoming links no longer received credit for these links, since the sites they originated on were devalued. That is, what used to be three links from a PR3 blog became three links from a restricted blog. Google even went so far as to penalize those blogs with incoming links from these sites until they had those links removed. It became a long, arduous process for many bloggers.
Yet these are just surface explanations. They don’t touch on a gadget trend that has changed the way SERPs appear.
The Mobile Friendly Revolution.
What percentage of your blog’s overall traffic comes from mobile sources? If you don’t know the number off the top of your head, that’s the first problem.
How about this: One of my blogs now sees a full 40+ percent of its traffic coming from mobile sources. That’s a huge, huge number compared to what it used to be — we’ve seen it grow 150 percent in the last year and over 400 percent in the last two years.
It is of the utmost importance, then, to take advantage of this burgeoning trend. Many bloggers have responded in kind, creating mobile-friendly websites and mobile apps for their readers.
This is a great start.
If you haven’t gotten this far yet, you can bookmark this article and come back to it once you have a working mobile-friendly site. You should probably develop a mobile app, even a simple one, as well.
Now it’s time to talk about why mobile and SEO don’t mix.
It’s a topic I haven’t seen explored frequently, yet it’s hugely important for every blogger to know.
Smaller screens = fewer results
Grab your smartphone and open up the browser. Now run a search for one of your money keywords. Now take a look at the SERP. Notice something funny?
Chances are it doesn’t look very pleasing at all.
No, it’s not the design of the SERP. It’s what the SERP contains.
Most money keyword searches will feature at least one AdWords spot. The top keywords will feature up to three AdWords spots. Those spots, of course, appear above the organic results. On full-sized desktop monitors that might not mean much. But with the steep increase in search coming from mobile, it means a lot.
That is, even if you rank No. 3 for a term, you might not show up above the fold on a search. That is going to drastically reduce the number of clicks you see.
Go ahead and run the same search on a tablet. You’ll see a few more organic results, but still not many. Those PPC ads dominate. The same even goes for laptop computers. I’m constantly dismayed when running searches on my 13 inch Ultrabook. It sounds like a large enough monitor, yet I still only see three links above the fold. Whoever ranks No. 4 is going to see far fewer clicks than they once might have.
The recent trend of smaller, higher resolution screens has greatly affected the human aspect of search. Even if you managed to preserve your rankings through Panda and Penguin, you still might have seen your referrals drop.
If your rankings dropped from No. 1 or No. 2 to No. 4 or No. 5, you might have seen a disproportional drop in referrals. Chalk it up to the mobile revolution, which has introduced these small screens that leave only a select few links above the fold.
How to Fight Back this Mobile Friendly Revolution?
So how can we act against these forces? The answers aren’t simple. They require time and money that some bloggers just don’t have. But if you want to recover your referrals and traffic, here are a few suggestions.
- Hit Twitter heavily. One of my blogs put a heavy emphasis on Twitter interaction earlier this year, and we’ve increased twitter followers by 2,000 in the last three months. We’ve also seen our referrals from Twitter grow rapidly. By early 2013 we expect they’ll exceed Google’s referrals, which will help offset the lost traffic from Google.
- Buy PPC ads. Many bloggers will scoff at this notion. Spend money to increase traffic? Pshaw. Yet it’s a proven method. Put yourself front and center, even on small-screened mobile devices by buying ads against your best keywords. It will cost you a few dollars, but it will pay off in referrals.
- Start a mailing list. It might be time to completely wean yourself off Google as a traffic source. Newsletters are great, because people give you permission to contact them directly. Newsletters also spread well via word-of-mouth, meaning you won’t be as dependent on Google for subscribers.
- Create a mobile app (publish it to Google Play Store, Apple Store) and mobile website. Attention is valuable, and when people download your mobile app they’re giving you their attention for as long as the app is open. There’s no reason to pass up this opportunity.
- You should learn about AMP and AMP WordPress plugin for faster delivery of pages on slow devices.
- Use a mobile friendly WordPress theme.
- I prefer Avada theme.
The move to smaller screens, whether it be on a smartphone, a tablet, or even a laptop, has changed the way SEO works. Previously you’d see many organic links above the fold. Now that number is reduced to the point where only the top one or two sit above the fold. There isn’t much webmasters can do about this.
Awareness is a good start, though. Once the issue is clear, then you can develop your own action plan. You’ll need it, too. We all know Google is going to make our lives more difficult again and again.