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Why You Need an SEO Triage Plan – Here’s Why #142


SOS! Your organic search traffic has hit an iceberg and is sinking fast…what do you do now? DON’T PANIC!
In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge explains why having an SEO triage plan in place can help you locate the problem’s source fast and take the right steps to fix it.

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Mark: Help, Eric. It’s a disaster. My site was doing great, but all of a sudden it’s losing traffic. What do I do?
Eric: Calm down, Mark. If your site loses traffic, the first thing to do is don’t panic.
Mark: Okay, I’m breathing again.
Eric: Good. Now, do you have an SEO triage plan in place?
Mark: Triage plan? What’s that?
Eric: Well, in the medical world, triage is a predefined plan for assessing injury or disease severity and prioritizing treatment when many patients present themselves all at once.
Mark: Okay. So I assume an SEO triage plan would involve knowing what to do first when it looks like your search traffic has fallen off.
Eric: That’s correct. So here’s what should be in your SEO triage plan. First, don’t assume that this is a penalty or even an actual loss of search traffic.
[Tweet “Sudden loss of organic search traffic? Don’t assume it’s a penalty. Find out why at”]
There could be other explanations.
Mark: Like what?
Eric: Well, check to see if you have seasonal fluctuations in years past that match up with the current dip in traffic you’re seeing. Also, cross-check with your ranking reports. Have any of your most important traffic-driving keywords dropped in rank? And don’t forget to check whether something has gone wrong with your analytics.
Mark: Okay. Let’s say that I’ve checked those things and it appears I do have a real organic search traffic loss that I can’t attribute to any of those causes.
Eric: The next suspect might be any major algorithmic changes by Google or other search engines. Check news sources such as Search Engine Land and Barry Schwartz’s SEO Roundtable to see if they are observing any major fluctuations in search rankings.
If you think it may be an algorithm change, dig deeper into your analytics to see if it’s certain keyword groups such as branded versus non-branded, or short tail versus long tail that are affected. And also check your pages that get the most search traffic to see if the effect is on individual pages or categories of pages. Google algorithms usually don’t affect your whole site all at once unless you’ve been hit with some major algorithm that’s penalizing you.
Mark: Penalties, ugh. What about those?
Eric: The first place to check for that is in Google Search Console. If your site has been assessed a manual penalty, you’ll see a warning message there. On the other hand, algorithmic penalties such as Penguin and Panda are a bit harder to detect because they go through on a real-time basis, meaning you can no longer match up your traffic drop with an announced penalty update. They also are more granular now and tend to affect just certain sections or pages of your site rather than the whole site.
Mark: Thanks, Eric. You’ve given us some good first steps to take if we see a sudden loss of traffic. Where can we get more information on addressing this problem?
Eric: I’m going to recommend an excellent video by one of our senior marketing consultants, Brian Weiss titled “What To Do When Your Website Traffic Drops.”
Mark: That’s great.

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Thoughts on “Why You Need an SEO Triage Plan – Here’s Why #142”

  1. Very good. Already lost organic traffic and unfortunately I panicked. The tips are good and that’s what I should have done to try to recover the traffic I lost.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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