Where can I learn modern white hat search marketing and SEO?
January 9, 2014 5:12 PM   Subscribe

My small business used to rank really well for hundreds of terms. But I've dropped for some major terms and been obliterated for others. How do I fix this?

I have a small business and, for about 10 years, I was really, really good at search engine optimization and link building. Over the past year or two, my rankings have fallen. For my most important terms, I've dropped from first position to still be on the front page, but too low. I have been focused on other projects and now I feel completely lost. No matter what I do, I can't seem to regain my position. It's really hurt me financially and I don't have much money to fix things. Where can I learn about SEO and search marketing, given the changes that have taken place? Or where can I find someone who can help me fix things without charging me the earth?

I honestly have no idea where to turn. I used to really understand this stuff. But I feel like things have changed substantially in the past 18 months. I keep trying to fix things on my own, but things just keep getting worse and worse. I feel like an idiot, given I was amazing at this for 10 years and I wasn't doing anything scammy. Now I can't figure out how to rank well to save my life. Well, maybe not my life, but my business. My site traffic is down 80%. Once people actually get to my site, they convert well. So getting people to my site is critical. (But the people who come in through ads do not convert nearly as well as those who just find the site in the search engines. This baffles me. And I feel kind of shaken, because one of the take-aways for my career, in terms of my focus on this business, was that I was really good at marketing it. Now I can't really say that!)

If you can suggest non-overwhelming places to start, please do. Or if there are some legitimate, non-scammy and affordable companies out there, I'd love to hear it. (I can't afford to be spending $10k a year on SEO, for example.) Thanks.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this guide from Google (pdf)? They have made a lot of changes over the last couple of years and the some techniques that were helpful two years ago are useless to counterproductive today.
posted by COD at 5:50 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are the terms directing to competitors? If so what is it about those sites that is different? Have you been constantly updating topical information (content) that will keep up googles internal point rating? Do you have stuff on your site that encourages folks to link to you? (From the recent RapGenius kerfuffle links seem to be increasingly important).
posted by sammyo at 5:51 PM on January 9, 2014

The (SEO)Moz Guide gets good word of mouth in my scene.
posted by rhizome at 6:16 PM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My site traffic is down 80%.

Over what time period? A change this drastic makes me think you may have been hit by a major Google algorithm change, which may have been caused by some shady previous SEO. The game has changed a lot over the last few years, and what was a good idea 10 years ago may be harming your site today.

Moz is my favourite resource; their Q&A section and their monitoring tools are well worth the $100/month they charge (especially if you do the work yourself, it can save you from spending $10k per year on a consultant).

Also keep an eye on Inbound.org for general SEO news.
posted by third word on a random page at 6:42 PM on January 9, 2014

SEO Moz Blog rocks. Hubspot has a good education blog.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:45 PM on January 9, 2014

Response by poster: My site traffic is down 80% over the past 2 years, but it had been crazy high for the year before that. I don't think I was doing shady SEO, as I am still ranking on the first page for my major terms. I assume I was hit by an algorithm change, but I can't seem to figure out what to change. I will take a look at Moz, but I might actually need some professional help. The sites outranking me are famous for some terms and then there are a few that suddenly cropped up and I cannot see that they have as many links, as much content, anything. I can't figure it out.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 7:40 PM on January 9, 2014

I work in SEO. Sites I would recommend are Moz (as stated upthread, they are great), Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Watch. The Google guide is also a valuable resource.

What was acceptable before might be really hurting you now - in fact, some things that were encouraged then are punishable now. Google is currently waging a war on unnatural links, so just having more links than your competitors means nothing if they aren't relevant, trustworthy links.

I'd suggest reading up on as much as you can, and then starting at the bottom and reviewing the landscape of your industry and the keywords you're focusing on. Only then should you move on to your content. It sounds like you were hit by quite a few things - there's been a number of algorithm changes since you said you last looked. There isn't going to be one single solid answer to get your ranking back. It isn't impossible, but it will take time, some learning and effort on your part, and making sure you keep up with it.
posted by sephira at 8:07 AM on January 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

to rank higher in google, I think this service might help: note, it is not free, the free account doesn't do much. But you can use coupon code FREELANCE , from the freelancer's union, to get 25% off.

posted by spacefire at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try Clickminded SEO training. Tommy's program really made things click for me. It costs, but it's good content!
posted by littleredwagon at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2014

One thing I would do if I were you is check the timing of your traffic trends against Google algorithm change history. With some luck, you may see a direct correlation with something specific that can be remedied.

As an example, let's assume your traffic went down when Panda rolled out. If that's the case, go through this very specific, very doable list of ways to Panda-proof your website.

(Speaking of which, take a look at the long-tail SEO services offered by the authors).
posted by rada at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2014

Nthing everything Sephira said. If you have analytics on your site, you might want to take a look at where your traffic used to come from that has stopped supplying it. If you don't have analytics on your site, install ASAP because the insight is invaluable. Google Analytics is free and easy to intall. Even if you're over 10 million hits a month, there are ways to get around the sampling and keep it free.
posted by data hound at 12:30 PM on January 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks. I have Analytics on my site. As far as I can see, it's organic search that is down. So many of my terms have dropped from 1 to 9 or worse. I used to get hundreds of visits per month for these terms and now I get like 4 or 5 visits...times hundreds of terms. It's mind boggling to make all these changes, but I will try to work through them. If anyone can recommend a non-scammy consultant, I would appreciate it, although the drop in finances might make it a stretch.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2014

How are your rankings now? There has been many updates and couple of major one the last few months.
posted by jonomgf at 1:20 AM on December 24, 2014

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