From slow website speeds to link spam, there are hundreds of reasons why publishers lost SEO traffic in 2021. As we head into the new year, it’s time to start thinking about how to recover your search rankings and navigate Google’s latest algorithm changes.
Google took a more aggressive approach with its search algorithm in 2021, launching three Core Updates, along with a number of other improvements. The result was a search product that seemed complicated to many digital publishers. A number of B2B magazines and other trade publications saw their search rankings drop in 2021, and it was sometimes difficult to understand why.
Webmasters have had their hands full trying to understand which updates are hurting digital publishers the most. Some of Google’s biggest updates in 2021 actually overlapped, making it even harder to identify the cause of decreased search traffic. If you saw your traffic decline this year, then this article is for you. We’re taking a look at the most common causes of lost SEO and explaining how to recover your search rankings in 2022.
Reasons Why SEO Traffic Declined in 2021
1. Page Experience Updates
Google’s Page Experience Update rolled out over a three month period during the summer of 2021. The update was designed to reward websites that load quickly on mobile devices. As a result of the update, however, a number of digital publishers in competitive verticals saw a decrease in mobile traffic.
If you were one of the many B2B magazines and trade publications that noticed a decrease in mobile search traffic starting around August or September, now would be a good time to review the changes made in Google’s Page Experience Update and ask your webmaster whether you should make improvements to your website’s Page Experience and Core Web Vitals metrics.
2. Lack of Quality Content
This can be a tough one to hear, but publishers with low-quality content (based on Google’s guidelines) noticed a steep drop in search rankings last year. This was largely the result of an update made to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines. Google is increasingly using content quality as a key indicator of how a website will perform in a Core Update. The update to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines primarily impacted businesses in the finance, healthcare, and e-commerce verticals, however digital publishers in other verticals noticed an impact, as well.
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithms can get confused and make mistakes when websites are not developed using the latest best practices in web design, and top-tier publishers can accidentally receive the “low quality” label.
If you were one of the many publishers that saw a drop in traffic in the months of June and July, then the changes made to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines are probably to blame. Your website was most likely flagged by Google’s algorithm as having a lack of content quality or a poor user experience.
What can you do to recover those search rankings in 2022? Begin by asking yourself whether the content on your website is written by experts (i.e. professional journalists). Having author profiles and bylines can help bolster your publication’s credibility. Another consideration is the potential for bias in the content you publish. Google is increasingly flagging editorial content that fails to show both sides of a story. If you want your content to appear higher in the search rankings, it’s time to take a more professional approach.
3. Excessive Advertising
Many B2B publishers need to run display advertising to pay the bills. We get it. Unfortunately, Google may flag websites for having excessive ad units, especially above the fold, and this practice may lead to a drop in search rankings.
As we head into 2022, take a look at the ads you’re running above the fold, along with pop-ups, overlays, and interstitials. Do the ads on your website complement your editorial content or do they distract from it? If the advertising on your website is making it difficult for readers to consume your editorial content, then it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your approach to advertising.
The past year has been a challenging one for digital publishers. Experiencing a drop in search traffic can be frustrating, to say the least. Many B2B publishers took a financial hit when Google’s updates led to a drop in search traffic in 2021. Taking a granular approach and educating yourself on the latest best practices for web design and SEO—focusing on content, links, speed, and other user experience factors—can put your publication in a better position to recover search rankings in 2022 and in the years to come.
To learn more about improving your publication’s position in search rankings for high value keywords, check out the following articles: