SEO: How to Perform a Flash Audit, to Restore Traffic

SEO: How to Perform a Flash Audit, to Restore Traffic

In the example below, the drop occurred from October 31 to November 2, immediately after the company migrated its website to full HTTPS. Organic Pages Losing Traffic To narrow the issue, we will identify pages that lost traffic. Then go to Add-ons > Google Analytics > Run reports to get the pages for the 2016 date range. Click on “Create Report” to get the 2017 landing pages. Again, this step is necessary only where you have URL changes between the comparison date ranges. Then export the list of final, 200 OK pages from Screamingfrog to a CSV file, and import that back to another tab in the Google Sheet. The custom script adds a new Google Sheet function called RANGEDIFF, which filters and returns the list of pages that have lost traffic, and the magnitude of the loss. If we set it to 1, we will get the set of pages where the traffic difference is positive; and if we set it to zero, we will get pages that have no change in traffic. You can also set it to 2, to get the pages that had traffic in 2017 and none in 2016. Now that we have the list of pages that lost traffic, we can proceed to spider them following the same steps listed in Step 4, and look for specific SEO issues.

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I’m often asked to help reverse drops in traffic from organic search. It usually occurs from major site developments, such as redesigns and ecommerce platform changes. Traffic drops can be frustrating. You need to get to the root of the problem quickly, to reverse declines in revenue.

For large traffic drops, I used to run a website through a full search engine optimization audit. The idea was to fix all issues identified in the audit, and hope traffic will return to normal. But that approach, I now believe, is not enough to uncover difficult issues. In “SEO: How to Quickly Reverse a Traffic Downtrend,” I explained an alternative approach to get to the root of traffic problems quickly.

But I’ve since found a simpler and faster approach, with good success.

The idea is that instead of checking the entire site for SEO problems, we only check the pages that lost traffic during the time period that we see the drop. In the example below, the drop occurred from October 31 to November 2, immediately after the company migrated its website to full HTTPS.

October 31 was a Tuesday, and in the Google Analytics graph, below, I am comparing with November 1, 2016, which was also a Tuesday. This client is a retailer with a highly seasonal business. Year-over-year comparisons are the best way to analyze traffic fluctuations.

Traffic went down for a bit during reindexing, and then back up.
Traffic went down for a bit during reindexing, and then back up.

The client’s overall traffic was down for three days during the reindexing from HTTP to HTTPS. Then it went up, and increased above previous traffic levels. But still, certain pages lost traffic, so we can narrow our investigation to just those pages.

Organic Pages Losing Traffic

To narrow the issue, we will identify pages that lost traffic. We will use the Google Sheets add-on that I introduced in my previous article to pull the relevant data we need from Google Analytics.

Step 1. Pull organic search landing pages from Google Analytics for the previous time period, which is 2016 in this case.

Create a blank Google Sheet, then go to Add-ons > Get add-ons > Google Analytics. After you complete the authorization step, you will see a pop-up, as follows.

After creating a Google Sheet, go to Add-ons > Get add-ons > Google Analytics to get this pop-up.
After creating a Google Sheet, go to Add-ons > Get add-ons > Google Analytics to get this pop-up.

Note that we only need Sessions and Landing Page to pull the data we need. Click on “Create Report.”

Step 2. Prepare the report that will fetch the 2016 data.

Enter the date using the YYYY-MM-DD format.
Enter the date using the YYYY-MM-DD format.

I named the report “2016” under the report configuration tab, and entered the dates using the format YYYY-MM-DD, where YYYY is the year using four digits, MM is the month using two digits, and DD is the day using two digits. Enter any date, and double-click on the cell to get a nice calendar like you see in the picture. Remember to include the organic search segment, which is identified above by “gaid::-5”, and also set the “Max Results” to 10,000. You can…

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