Analytics data showing losses of over 50% of Google organic traffic is not uncommon for afflicted websites:
And traffic that used to increase over time, suddenly took a huge dip:
These patterns certainly make it look as if SEO could be dead.
But Is It Really?
In order to answer that question I went back through the multitude of lost traffic site audit reports I’ve been doing since early 2011. I looked for website problems that were consistent through many of the sites I reviewed.
It didn’t take long for me to conclude that, while SEO was certainly not dead, SEO tricks and shortcuts were definitely on life support – if not already completely dead.
So if you relied on tricks and shortcuts, then yes, for you SEO is dead.
In fact, it’s likely that the very things that helped you before are the ones that are hurting you now. But even for those of us who have always used best SEO practices, some things have changed.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, SEO is much less about optimizing for specific keywords, and much more about technical issues, social signals, and the overall trustworthiness of a company and its website.
When I went through my lost traffic website audits, I found no less than 18 specific problems that had likely contributed to the huge losses of organic Google traffic and the subsequent loss in conversions and sales that so many companies have been facing.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Duplicate content
2. Keyword stuffing
4. Footer links
5. Auto anchor text
6. Spammy comments
7. Low-quality pages
8. Poor presentation
9. Content below fold
10. Technical problems
11. Poor writing
12. No content
13. Splitting link pop
15. Unnatural links
16. Semi-hidden text
17. Rich snippet abuse
While some of the above were deliberately done to or for the websites in order to increase organic website traffic (back in the day), others were more inadvertent – with some issues overlapping others.
For instance, duplicate content can be caused by technical issues, but it can also be done deliberately as an easy way to add more content to a website. And keyword stuffing is often done in conjunction with having content below the fold, but not always.