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How to Build an SEO Roadmap in 7 Steps (Template Included)

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How to Build an SEO Roadmap in 7 Steps (Template Included)

The SEO roadmap is one of the most important documents in an SEO campaign. Not only does it formalize your SEO strategy, but it’s also used as a tracker for actioning your SEO tasks.

There’s no set way to build a roadmap. For over four years, I’ve been working in SEO agencies building a ton of roadmaps. As a senior SEO strategist at Kaizen, I oversee the SEO strategy for all clients. So it’s fair to say I spend a lot of time working with SEO roadmaps.

I’ve leaned on this experience to share some top tips for creating your roadmap. I’ll break down the process into seven easy-to-follow steps that you can start applying in my Google Sheet template to create your first SEO roadmap.

An SEO roadmap is a strategic plan of action used to formalize and track key tasks within an SEO campaign.

This document is typically created within the first three months of an SEO campaign and will often set out the plan for a period of six to 12 months.

The SEO roadmap is often referred to as a “living” document, meaning updates and amendments should be made where necessary as the SEO strategy is adapted and developed over time.

Why should you build an SEO roadmap?

Building a roadmap will ensure all parties are clear on the tasks ahead. 

From development teams to content writers, the roadmap will provide an early indication of the workstreams they will be needed for, when they will be needed, and how much resource they’ll need to assign.

It should be treated as more of a “loose guide,” particularly at an early stage. Having the roadmap in place early on can help you get the ball rolling and start conversations with the people involved in bringing your strategy to fruition.

This will help you align priorities and plan the use of resource in advance. Some compromises may need to be made. However, getting on top of this early means you can set up your roadmap for the most effective use of resource possible.

Say for example, you are creating an SEO roadmap for a gifting e-commerce website. The development teams may advise against any plans to use development resource during the notoriously busy Black Friday and Christmas periods.

Coordinate action items with available resource

As a result, an action you could take is to move some all-important schema recommendations to an earlier stage in the roadmap to ensure they’ll be implemented in good time for Black Friday.

Another benefit to building an SEO roadmap is that it can help generate the buy-in for your long-term SEO strategy. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will naturally take some time to action and implement your SEO strategy. The SEO roadmap makes it easy to provide a visual view of what you’ll be working on over the next few months.

Gantt-style SEO roadmap
Screenshot from my SEO roadmap template that you can copy.

What you need to get started

When you are ready to build your roadmap, you should have an understanding of:

In step #1, I’ll be sharing some examples of how you can quickly build up this knowledge within your first couple of months of the campaign.

I like to produce my roadmaps around the end of month two to the beginning of month three of an SEO campaign.

By the end of month one, you can start to have a strong idea of the key areas of focus for your campaign. That being said, I often find that it’s too early to build the full twelve-month SEO roadmap at this stage.

By the end of month two, I tend to have a broad and in-depth enough understanding of the strategy ahead to build the roadmap. It does however greatly depend on how you spend your time in those first couple of months.

Creating your SEO roadmap (step by step)

Now you’re almost ready to start building your roadmap. Before it’s time to go through the steps, you may be wondering, “How much time should I set aside for actually building the roadmap?”

If you’re providing consultancy on a relatively small scale (e.g., fewer than three days per month), it could take around two to three hours to set up your roadmap. 

On the other hand, if you are working on a larger consultancy basis or on a larger scope of work (e.g., 10+ days per month), this could take anywhere from half a day to a full day and beyond.

Step 1. Have your key SEO insights ready

To create your roadmap, you’ll want to lean on initial keyword research to have a good top-level understanding of content gaps and low-hanging fruit opportunities

Starting your campaign with thorough keyword research is essential for making SEO projections and understanding where and how much time you should spend on your content. This can range from fresh content opportunities to existing content re-optimization.

A keyword gap analysis is an effective way to quickly gauge how much time you should spend on content.

To form your keyword gap analysis, use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool to easily see what keywords your competitors rank for where you don’t rank.

Find missed keywords in Ahrefs' Content Gap tool

In similar fashion, you’ll want to do the same for technical tasks by leaning on key actions from a technical SEO audit. Ideally, you should already have a technical backlog from this audit. This makes it easy to slot your tasks into this list.

If you run regular site crawls via Ahrefs’ Site Audit, now is a great time to refresh yourself on key issues that will need addressing in your roadmap.

Find technical errors in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Depending on your approach to link building and team structure, you may wish to list out tasks relating to this too. That said, it’s perfectly fine to adopt a dedicated digital PR/link building roadmap if it suits your workflows better.

The Overview report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer is a great starting point for understanding your backlink profile. Simply enter your domain and note down key metrics such as Domain Rating (DR), URL Rating (UR), total backlinks, and referring domains. This will prove to be a useful benchmark for the future.

Key backlink metrics, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can also compare your backlink history (among other metrics such as traffic) vs. your competition via the “Performance” graph. Comparing by referring domains is a great way to quickly understand the rate at which backlinks have previously been acquired.

Historical backlink comparison vs. competitors

Step 2. List out your key tasks or workstreams

The best way to get the ball rolling is to simply write out a rough list of tasks and key workstreams that you feel could form part of your strategy over the next 12 months.

Note

If you haven’t heard of “workstreams” in this context, this may sound a bit confusing. This is simply the choice of wording we use at Kaizen to describe an overarching category of tasks.

You may prefer to call this “workflow” or another project management term. This is completely up to your personal preference.

Individual tasks as part of an overarching workstream

As you’re at an early stage of the campaign, you won’t have every detail covered, and that’s OK. Keeping with key workstreams and overarching tasks is a great starting point for your roadmap.

Say for example, you are working for an insurance provider that covers multiple verticals. Having “travel insurance article writing” is suitable at this stage as opposed to specifically listing out each article idea. It is a case of finding the right balance of detail, as going too broad (e.g., “article writing”) doesn’t provide a lot of direction.

If you’re fortunate enough to be working in a team, this is the perfect time to get everybody involved and to play their part in the creation of the roadmap. Get everyone together in person (or virtually) for an “ideation session” to brainstorm ideas for key tasks and workstreams as part of your strategy.

Here are some tips for an effective roadmap ideation session:

  • Book in plenty of time (30-45 mins work well)
  • Get everything down; even “bad ideas” help to get the ball rolling
  • Keep all ideas visible to the team, as this can inspire further ideas
  • Use post-it notes or retrospective tools like Metro Retro
  • Have everyone involved anonymously vote for their favorites

By compiling the roadmap at around months two to three of the campaign, you won’t be aimlessly plucking random ideas for your strategy. After an effective first two months, you should start to have a good idea about what’s required as part of your strategy.

Not your first rodeo?

If you’re looking to create a roadmap for an existing strategy or to renew a completed roadmap, you’ll have the luxury of looking back on what worked well and what didn’t to form your list. 

This is a great time to carry out a “Stop, Start, Continue” exercise. Be sure to pull together all relevant members of your team and extend the invite to key stakeholders and clients to ensure all possible feedback is taken into account.

The “Stop, Start, Continue” framework is simple:

Stop: What didn’t work and should not be included in future roadmaps?

Start: What didn’t we get around to but should be included?

Continue: What worked that we can do more of or nearly worked that we can improve?

Once again, post-it notes are great for this. If you are working remotely, be sure to utilize retrospective tools such as Metro Retro.

Tasks to stop, start, and continue in the next roadmap

Step 3. Review and refine your task list 

You may wonder, “How do I decide if a task should be included in my roadmap?” This aspect can certainly take a bit of getting used to. That said, the more strategies and roadmaps you build over time, the more you’ll develop a knack and instinct for what works for you.

As a general rule, I like to keep my roadmaps limited to tasks carried out by the SEO team only. Tasks for other teams such as developers and content writers should be kept in separate documents. 

For example, developer actions fit nicely into a technical backlog while actions for copywriters can be kept within a dedicated content tracker document. This prevents the roadmap from becoming too detailed and too long.

If however there is a technical task that the SEO team needs to carry out before assigning actions into a technical backlog, then it makes perfect sense to include this as a task item in your SEO roadmap.

Bucketing tasks that are too granular into a single, larger task is another great technique to prevent your roadmap from becoming too big.

Multiple tasks forming a singular task

On the flip side, you should also avoid having tasks that are too broad, as this can lead to the roadmap not providing enough useful information. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid having tasks that are too big, as this can lead to a “flat” roadmap.

What you can do is to review your roadmap and break tasks that are too big or generic into smaller chunks.

Task being broken down into multiple tasks

You are now in a great position to start loading your items into the roadmap. We’ve created an SEO roadmap template to save you from starting on a blank canvas. Feel free to make your own copy and edit the sheet to suit your needs.

Task list within the SEO roadmap

Step 4. Prioritize your tasks logically

Once you have your roadmap task items in place, it’s time to prioritize them. 

It’s highly likely after spending some time on this step that you won’t be 100% satisfied. That’s OK. It’s routine to continue to re-prioritize and make adjustments as you continue through the remaining steps and beyond. Remember to treat this as a “living” document.

That said, prioritizing effectively at this stage will reduce the amount of time you spend making adjustments in the future. 

Following a prioritization framework, such as the Action Priority Matrix (also referred to as the “Impact Effort Matrix”), helps with effective prioritization. This ensures you’ll prioritize tasks that offer a strong impact relative to the required level of effort.

With the Action Priority Matrix, you’ll be putting tasks into four categories:

  • Quick wins: high impact, low effort (highest priority)
  • Long-term projects: high impact, high effort (high priority)
  • Backlog: low impact, low effort (lower priority)
  • Not going to happen: low impact, high effort (lowest priority)
Impact Effort Matrix spit into four quadrants

The best of quick wins should sit at the top of your roadmap. These are your impactful and easy-to-implement tasks. Getting these actioned early on means that it won’t take too long to start seeing some organic growth.

Be cautious about “front loading” every single one of your quick wins ahead of longer-term projects. Although you won’t see the results from long-term projects right away, if you hold off from simply getting started with these for too long, you could be holding yourself back in the long run.

Balancing between high effort and lower effort tasks

Task items within the backlog category will typically slot in nicely toward the end of the roadmap. While they don’t offer the highest of returns, they still play a part in your SEO strategy and are easy to implement.

In almost all cases, you’ll want to avoid including tasks with low impact that require high effort (“not going to happen” category). These take up much more time than they are worth and, in most cases, there are usually plenty of actions to be getting on with from the high-impact categories.

To re-prioritize roadmap items as you go, simply drag and drop the rows within the Google sheet.

Moving rows to re-prioritize

The general aim here is to keep the items with the highest priority toward the top. It’s still no problem if you’re not 100% satisfied just yet. You’ll likely continue to re-prioritize as you naturally begin the next step.

Step 5. Assign time and resource to your items

By this stage, you’ll now be in a great position to start adding time estimates to your roadmap task items. This should be a relatively simple step, as you would have given this some thought as you began to prioritize your tasks.

This stage of the process may become a lot more difficult if you decide to include tasks that sit with non-SEO team members. This is because you’ll have to make a lot of assumptions on how long a task should take.

By only including tasks that are owned by the SEO department, you’re in a much stronger position to lean on your own experience and expertise to include time estimates for all items.

To include time estimates within the roadmap template, simply enter the number of days in the respective month column. 

I personally go with the number of days as an estimate for the total time a senior member of staff would likely spend on the task. If a junior member of the team takes this task on, it’s worth taking into consideration that it may take longer to execute than the specified number of days.

Entering in number of days

This step can be somewhat “fiddly,” particularly if you are working as a consultant toward a set retainer. This shouldn’t be too time consuming though, especially once you get used to the process.

It’s usually a simple case of making slight refinements and adjustments to make sure the number of days balances out to match your designated capacity for SEO tasks.

Balancing out total days per month

I like to keep to half-day or full-day intervals. Anything more specific (such as hourly) can easily over-complicate the roadmap, so don’t be afraid to round your time estimates appropriately.

If you feel rounding a task up to half a day is too extreme, it’s possible that you’ve gone too granular with your task list. Now would be a great time to reconsider bucketing smaller tasks into bigger roadmap task items.

Don’t forget to account for regular BAU (business as usual) tasks. This can range from regular monitoring to reporting, such as monthly reports and quarterly business reviews (QBRs). 

These regular tasks all take time, so don’t sell yourself short. Quite often, these tasks are forgotten about when it comes to creating the SEO roadmap.

Accounting for BAU tasks

You’re now in a great position to assign resource or task owners to roadmap items too. 

This part of the roadmap is far from essential and can easily be removed if necessary. It is usually more useful when working in larger SEO departments or enterprise SEO teams.

Simply fill in the “Owner” column as and when you see fit.

Entering task owners

Step 6. Assess and format in Gantt style for ease of use 

At this stage, the SEO roadmap is nearly complete. Before shipping the document off to clients or sharing it around the company, it’s well worth spending a little time reviewing the roadmap to make any final adjustments or formatting changes.

Spend some time reading through the roadmap items to ensure everything aligns with your SEO strategy and vision. 

I usually share my roadmaps with a senior SEO colleague to have everything sense-checked. If you have any internal QA processes or SOPs for reviewing key projects, now is the perfect time to apply these to your SEO roadmap.

I also spend some time making final adjustments to format my roadmap so the times and priorities flow in true Gantt chart style. 

Ensuring the roadmap flows in a neat diagonal (from the top left to bottom-right corner) is not only aesthetically pleasing, it also makes the roadmap a lot easier to follow. It won’t always be perfectly straight and may deviate a little, but that’s expected.

Neat diagonal, Gantt-style flow

You may have a key workstream that you plan to work on in different phases. To avoid disrupting the flow of the roadmap, don’t be afraid to break the workstream into two separate roadmap workstreams.

Breaking tasks into parts one and two

Now that you’ve made those final adjustments to the roadmap after receiving feedback from your team, you’re ready to start sharing your roadmap with your client (agency SEOs) or around the company (in-house SEOs).

Step 7. Regularly revise and update your roadmap

Although you’ve now “completed” and shared your roadmap around, it’s not the end of the road here. 

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the SEO roadmap is a “living” document. This means that edits or revisions could and should be made over time.

Be sure to update the status column as and when necessary so everybody is in the loop for when tasks are in progress and completed. Feel free also to add notes as you go to provide extra context. This column is the perfect place to link to any documents too.

Adding notes to the dedicated column

Don’t be afraid to make major changes or edits in the future too. SEO is an ever-evolving industry, and this is often reflected in planned strategies and subsequently your SEO roadmap. 

You may also need to re-prioritize as you go based on learnings. Perhaps a certain task turns out to require more effort than anticipated. In this instance, you may wish to re-prioritize and favor a task that is more of a “quick win.”

When it comes to re-prioritizing your roadmap, simply adjust the number of days to suit.

Say for example, we need to move “Car insurance keyword research” from January to February and move “Travel insurance keyword research” to January. Simply remove the number of days entry from January and re-enter the number in the February column. I personally like to use cut-and-paste shortcuts to do this efficiently.

Re-adjusting number of days required by month

The same principle applies should you wish to add a whole new item into the roadmap. Simply add the new task as a new row and then adjust the day counts across the roadmap accordingly.

Perhaps you’ve been hit by the latest Google algorithm update and, as a result, you need to add a new task in and delay the existing tasks. (Fingers crossed you won’t need to do this.)

Final thoughts

Creating the SEO roadmap is one of my favorite tasks as an SEO consultant. I love to strategize and feel this is where I really thrive. Hopefully, this step-by-step approach, along with the template, makes setting the SEO roadmap an enjoyable process for you too.

What’s great is you don’t necessarily need to have several years of experience to give building your first SEO roadmap a shot. Starting out a roadmap is a great way for junior staff to put their knowledge to the test and have substantial input on a key document.

Key takeaways:

  • Plan to build your roadmap at around month two to three of an SEO campaign
  • Ensure you have a well-rounded, top-level understanding of the state of play first
  • Use this as an opportunity to pull the full team together to collaborate on strategy
  • Prioritize effectively by using the Impact Effort Matrix
  • Treat the roadmap as a “living” document by keeping it up to date and making adjustments where necessary

Have any questions? Ping me on Twitter and let me know.



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How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them

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How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them

Google Search Console is an essential tool that offers critical insights into your website’s performance in Google search results.

Occasionally, you might observe a sudden decline in organic traffic, and it’s crucial to understand the potential causes behind this drop. The data stored within Google Search Console (GSC) can be vital in troubleshooting and understanding what has happened to your website.

Before troubleshooting GSC traffic declines, it’s important to understand first what Google says about assessing traffic graphs in GSC and how it reports on different metrics.

Understanding Google Search Console Metrics

Google’s documentation on debugging Search traffic drops is relatively comprehensive (compared to the guidance given in other areas) and can, for the most part, help prevent any immediate or unnecessary panic should there be a change in data.

Despite this, I often find that Search Console data is misunderstood by both clients and those in the first few years of SEO and learning the craft.

Image from Google Search Central, May 2024

Even with these definitions, if your clicks and impressions graphs begin to resemble any of the above graph examples, there can be wider meanings.

Search Central description  It could also be a sign that…
Large drop from an algorithmic update, site-wide security, or spam issue This could also signal a serious technical issue, such as accidentally deploying a noindex onto a URL or returning the incorrect status code – I’ve seen it before where the URL renders content but returns a 410.
Seasonality You will know your seasonality better than anyone, but if this graph looks inverse it could be a sign that during peak search times, Google is rotating the search engine results pages (SERPs) and choosing not to rank your site highly. This could be because, during peak search periods, there is a slight intent shift in the queries’ dominant interpretation.
Technical issues across your site, changing interests This type of graph could also represent seasonality (both as a gradual decline or increase).
Reporting glitch ¯_(ツ)_/¯ This graph can represent intermittent technical issues as well as reporting glitches. Similar to the alternate reasons for graphs like Seasonality, it could represent a short-term shift in the SERPs and what meets the needs of an adjusted dominant interpretation of a query.

Clicks & Impressions

Google filters Click and Impression data in Google Search Console through a combination of technical methods and policies designed to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and integrity of the reported data.

Reasons for this include:

  • Spam and bot filtering.
  • Duplicate data removal.
  • User privacy/protection.
  • Removing “invalid activities.”
  • Data aggregation and sampling.

One of the main reasons I’ve seen GSC change the numbers showing the UI and API is down to the setting of thresholds.

Google may set thresholds for including data in reports to prevent skewed metrics due to very low-frequency queries or impressions. For example, data for queries that result in very few impressions might be excluded from reports to maintain the statistical reliability of the metrics.

Average Position

Google Search Console produces the Average Position metric by calculating the average ranking of a website’s URLs for a specific query or set of queries over a defined period of time.

Each time a URL appears in the search results for a query, its position is recorded. For instance, if a URL appears in the 3rd position for one query and in the 7th position for another query, these positions are logged separately.

As we enter the era of AI Overviews, John Mueller has confirmed via Slack conversations that appearing in a generative snapshot will affect the average position of the query and/or URL in the Search Console UI.

1718702762 996 How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console AndSource: John Mueller via The SEO Community Slack channel

I don’t rely on the average position metric in GSC for rank tracking, but it can be useful in trying to debug whether or not Google is having issues establishing a single dominant page for specific queries.

Understanding how the tool compiles data allows you to better diagnose the reasons as to why, and correlate data with other events such as Google updates or development deployments.

Google Updates

A Google broad core algorithm update is a significant change to Google’s search algorithm intended to improve the relevance and quality of search results.

These updates do not target specific sites or types of content but alter specific systems that make up the “core” to an extent it is noteworthy for Google to announce that an update is happening.

Google makes updates to the various individual systems all the time, so the lack of a Google announcement does not disqualify a Google update from being the cause of a change in traffic.

For example, the website in the below screenshot saw a decline from the March 2023 core update but then recovered in the November 2023 core update.

GSC: the website saw a decline from the March 2023 core updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

The following screenshot shows another example of a traffic decline correlating with a Google update, and it also shows that recovery doesn’t always occur with future updates.

traffic decline correlating with a Google updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

This site is predominantly informational content supporting a handful of marketing landing pages (a traditional SaaS model) and has seen a steady decline correlating with the September 2023 helpful content update.

How To Fix This

Websites negatively impacted by a broad core update can’t fix specific issues to recover.

Webmasters should focus on providing the best possible content and improving overall site quality.

Recovery, however, may occur when the next broad core update is rolled out if the site has improved in quality and relevance or Google adjusts specific systems and signal weightings back in the favour of your site.

In SEO terminology, we also refer to these traffic changes as an algorithmic penalty, which can take time to recover from.

SERP Layout Updates

Given the launch of AI Overviews, I feel many SEO professionals will conduct this type of analysis in the coming months.

In addition to AI Overviews, Google can choose to include a number of different SERP features ranging from:

  • Shopping results.
  • Map Packs.
  • X (Twitter) carousels.
  • People Also Ask accordions.
  • Featured snippets.
  • Video thumbnails.

All of these not only detract and distract users from the traditional organic results, but they also cause pixel shifts.

From our testing of SGE/AI Overviews, we see traditional results being pushed down anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pixels.

When this happens you’re not likely to see third-party rank tracking tools show a decrease, but you will see clicks decline in GSC.

The impact of SERP features on your traffic depends on two things:

  • The type of feature introduced.
  • Whether your users predominantly use mobile or desktop.

Generally, SERP features are more impactful to mobile traffic as they greatly increase scroll depth, and the user screen is much smaller.

You can establish your dominant traffic source by looking at the device breakdown in Google Search Console:

Device by users: clicks and impressionsImage from author’s website, May 2024

You can then compare the two graphs in the UI, or by exporting data via the API with it broken down by devices.

How To Fix This

When Google introduces new SERP features, you can adjust your content and site to become “more eligible” for them.

Some are driven by structured data, and others are determined by Google systems after processing your content.

If Google has introduced a feature that results in more zero-click searches for a particular query, you need to first quantify the traffic loss and then adjust your strategy to become more visible for similar and associated queries that still feature in your target audience’s overall search journey.

Seasonality Traffic Changes

Seasonality in demand refers to predictable fluctuations in consumer interest and purchasing behavior that occur at specific times of the year, influenced by factors such as holidays, weather changes, and cultural events.

Notably, a lot of ecommerce businesses will see peaks in the run-up to Christmas and Thanksgiving, whilst travel companies will see seasonality peaks at different times of the year depending on the destinations and vacation types they cater to.

The below screenshot is atypical of a business that has a seasonal peak in the run-up to Christmas.

seasonal peaks as measured in GSCScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

You will see these trends in the Performance Report section and likely see users and sessions mirrored in other analytics platforms.

During a seasonal peak, Google may choose to alter the SERPs in terms of which websites are ranked and which SERP features appear. This occurs when the increase in search demand also brings with it a change in user intent, thus changing the dominant interpretation of the query.

In the travel sector, the shift is often from a research objective to a commercial objective. Out-of-season searchers are predominantly researching destinations or looking for deals, and when it is time to book, they’re using the same search queries but looking to book.

As a result, webpages with a value proposition that caters more to the informational intent are either “demoted” in rankings or swapped out in favor of webpages that (in Google’s eyes) better cater to users in satisfying the commercial intent.

How To Fix This

There is no direct fix for traffic increases and decreases caused by seasonality.

However, you can adjust your overall SEO strategy to accommodate this and work to create visibility for the website outside of peak times by creating content to meet the needs and intent of users who may have a more research and information-gathering intent.

Penalties & Manual Actions

A Google penalty is a punitive action taken against a website by Google, reducing its search rankings or removing it from search results, typically due to violations of Google’s guidelines.

As well as receiving a notification in GSC, you’ll typically see a sharp decrease in traffic, akin to the graph below:

Google traffic decline from penaltyScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

Whether or not the penalty is partial or sitewide will depend on how bad the traffic decline is, and also the type (or reason) as to why you received a penalty in the first place will determine what efforts are required and how long it will take to recover.

Changes In PPC Strategies

A common issue I encounter working with organizations is a disconnect in understanding that, sometimes, altering a PPC campaign can affect organic traffic.

An example of this is brand. If you start running a paid search campaign on your brand, you can often expect to see a decrease in branded clicks and CTR. As most organizations have separate vendors for this, it isn’t often communicated that this will be the case.

The Search results performance report in GSC can help you identify whether or not you have cannibalization between your SEO and PPC. From this report, you can correlate branded and non-branded traffic drops with the changelog from those in command of the PPC campaign.

How To Fix This

Ensuring that all stakeholders understand why there have been changes to organic traffic, and that the traffic (and user) isn’t lost, it is now being attributed to Paid.

Understanding if this is the “right decision” or not requires a conversation with those managing the PPC campaigns, and if they are performing and providing a strong ROAS, then the organic traffic loss needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Recovering Site Traffic

Recovering from Google updates can take time.

Recently, John Mueller has said that sometimes, to recover, you need to wait for another update cycle.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active in trying to improve your website and better align with what Google wants to reward and relying on Google reversing previous signal weighting changes.

It’s critical that you start doing all the right things as soon as possible. The earlier that you identify and begin to solve problems, the earlier that you open up the potential for recovery. The time it takes to recover depends on what caused the drop in the first place, and there might be multiple factors to account for. Building a better website for your audience that provides them with better experiences and better service is always the right thing to do.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Ground Picture/Shutterstock

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Barriers To Audience Buy-In

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Barriers to audience buy-in with lead generation

This is an excerpt from the B2B Lead Generation ebook, which draws on SEJ’s internal expertise in delivering leads across multiple media types.

People are driven by a mix of desires, wants, needs, experiences, and external pressures.

It can take time to get it right and convince a person to become a lead, let alone a paying customer.

Here are some nuances of logic and psychology that could be impacting your ability to connect with audiences and build strong leads.

1. Poor Negotiations & The Endowment Effect

Every potential customer you encounter values their own effort and information. And due to something called the endowment effect, they value that time and data much more than you do.

In contrast, the same psychological effect means you value what you offer in exchange for peoples’ information more than they will.

If the value of what you’re offering fails to match the value of what consumers are giving you in exchange (read: their time and information), the conversions will be weak.

The solution? You can increase the perceived value of the thing you’re offering, or reduce the value of what the user “pays” for the thing you offer.

Want an exclusive peek into tactics we use when developing our own lead gen campaigns? Check out our upcoming webinar.

Humans evaluate rewards in multiple dimensions, including the reward amount, the time until the reward is received, and the certainty of the reward.

The more time before a reward occurs, and the less certain its ultimate value, the harder you have to work to get someone to engage.

Offering value upfront – even if you’re presenting something else soon after, like a live event, ebook, or demo – can help entice immediate action as well as convince leads of the long-term value of their investment.

It can even act as a prime for the next step in the lead gen nurturing process, hinting at even more value to come and increasing the effectiveness of the rest of your lead generation strategy.

It’s another reason why inbound content is a critical support for lead generation content. The short-term rewards of highly useful ungated content help prepare audiences for longer-term benefits offered down the line.

3. Abandonment & The Funnel Myth

Every lead generation journey is carefully planned, but if you designed it with a funnel in mind, you could be losing many qualified leads.

That’s because the imagery of a funnel might suggest that all leads engage with your brand or offer in the same way, but this simply isn’t true – particularly for products or services with high values.

Instead, these journeys are more abstract. Leads tend to move back and forth between stages depending on their circumstances. They might change their minds, encounter organizational roadblocks, switch channels, or their needs might suddenly change.

Instead of limiting journeys to audience segments, consider optimizing for paths and situations, too.

Optimizing for specific situations and encounters creates multiple opportunities to capture a lead while they’re in certain mindsets. Every opportunity is a way to engage with varying “costs” for time and data, and align your key performance indicators (KPIs) to match.

Situational journeys also create unique opportunities to learn about the various audience segments, including what they’re most interested in, which offers to grab their attention, and which aspects of your brand, product, or service they’re most concerned about.

4. Under-Pricing

Free trials and discounts can be eye-catching, but they don’t always work to your benefit.

Brands often think consumers will always choose the product with the lowest possible price. That isn’t always the case.

Consumers work within something referred to as the “zone of acceptability,” which is the price range they feel is acceptable for a purchasing decision.

If your brand falls outside that range, you’ll likely get the leads – but they could fail to buy in later. The initial offer might be attractive, but the lower perception of value could work against you when it comes time to try and close the sale.

Several elements play into whether consumers are sensitive to pricing discounts. The overall cost of a purchase matters, for example.

Higher-priced purchases, such as SaaS or real estate, can be extremely sensitive to pricing discounts. They can lead to your audience perceiving the product as lower-value, or make it seem like you’re struggling. A price-quality relationship is easy to see in many places in our lives. If you select the absolute lowest price for an airline ticket, do you expect your journey to be timely and comfortable?

It’s difficult to offer specific advice on these points. To find ideal price points and discounts, you need good feedback systems from both customers and leads – and you need data about how other audiences interact. But there’s value in not being the cheapest option.

Get more tips on how we, here at SEJ, create holistic content campaigns to drive leads in this exclusive webinar.

5. Lead Roles & Information

In every large purchasing decision, there are multiple roles in the process. These include:

  • User: The person who ultimately uses the product or service.
  • Buyer: The person who makes the purchase, but may or may not know anything about the actual product or service being purchased.
  • Decider: The person who determines whether to make the purchase.
  • Influencer: The person who provides opinions and thoughts on the product or service, and influences perceptions of it.
  • Gatekeeper: The person who gathers and holds information about the product or service.

Sometimes, different people play these roles, and other times, one person may hold more than one of these roles. However, the needs of each role must be met at the right time. If you fail to meet their needs, you’ll see your conversions turn cold at a higher rate early in the process.

The only way to avoid this complication is to understand who it is you’re attracting when you capture the lead, and make the right information available at the right time during the conversion process.

6. Understand Why People Don’t Sign Up

Many businesses put significant effort into lead nurturing and understanding the qualities of potential customers who fill out lead forms.

But what about the ones who don’t fill out those forms?

Understanding these values and the traits that drive purchasing decisions is paramount.

Your own proprietary and customer data, like your analytics, client data, and lead interactions, makes an excellent starting place, but don’t make the mistake of basing your decisions solely on the data you have collected about the leads you have.

This information creates a picture based solely on people already interacting with you. It doesn’t include information about the audience you’ve failed to capture so far.

Don’t fall for survivorship bias, which occurs when you only look at data from people who have passed your selection filters.

This is especially critical for lead generation because there are groups of people you don’t want to become leads. But you need to make sure you’re attracting as many ideal leads as possible while filtering out those that are suboptimal. You need information about the people who aren’t converting to ensure your filters are working as intended.

Gather information from the segment of your target audience that uses a competitor’s products, and pair them with psychographic tools and frameworks like “values and lifestyle surveys” (VALS) to gather insights and inform decisions.

In a digital world of tough competition and even more demands on every dollar, your lead generation needs to be precise.

Understanding what drives your target audience before you capture the lead and ensuring every detail is crafted with the final conversion in mind will help you capture more leads and sales, and leave your brand the clear market winner.

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Google Answers Question About Toxic Link Sabotage

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Gary Illyes answers a question about how to notify Google about toxic link sabotage

Google’s Gary Illyes answered a question about how to notify Google that someone is poisoning their backlink profile with “toxic links” which is a problem that many people have been talking about for at least fifteen years.

Question About Alerting Google To Toxic Links

Gary narrated the question:

“Someone’s asking, how to alert Google of sabotage via toxic links?”

And this is Gary’s answer:

I know what I would do: I’d ignore those links.

Generally Google is really, REALLY good at ignoring links that are irrelevant to the site they’re pointing at. If you feel like it, you can always disavow those “toxic” links, or file a spam report.

Disavow Links If You Feel Like It

Gary linked to Google’s explainer about disavowing links where it’s explained that the disavow tool is for a site owner to tell Google about links that they are responsible for in some way, like paid links or some other link scheme.

This is what it advises:

“If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove the links from the other site to your site. If you can’t remove those links yourself, or get them removed, then you should disavow the URLs of the questionable pages or domains that link to your website.”

Google suggests that a link disavow is only necessary when two conditions are met:

  1. “You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
    AND
  2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.”

Both of the above conditions must be met in order to file a valid link disavow tool.

Origin Of The Phrase Toxic Links

As Google became better at penalizing sites for low quality links and paid links, some in the highly competitive gambling industry started creating low quality links to sabotage their competitors. The practice was called negative SEO.

The phrase toxic link is something that was never heard of until after the Penguin link updates in 2012 which required penalized sites to remove all the paid and low quality links they created and then disavow the rest. An industry grew around disavowing links and it was that industry that invented the phrase Toxic Links for use in their marketing.

Confirmation That Google Is Able To Ignore Links

I have shared this anecdote before and I’ll share it here again. Someone I knew contacted me and said that their site lost rankings from negative SEO links. I took a look and their site had a ton of really nasty looking links. So out of curiosity (and because I knew that the site was this person’s main income), I emailed someone at Google Mountain View headquarters about it. That person checked it and replied that the site didn’t lose rankings because of the links. They lost rankings because of a Panda update related content issue.

That was around 2012 and it showed me how good Google was at ignoring links. Now, if Google was that good at ignoring really bad links back then, they’re probably better at it now, twelve years later now that they have the spam brain AI.

Listen to the question and answer at the 8:22 minute mark:

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