SEO ROI’s Strange Problem With Maintaining Rankings

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Over the past year I’ve had this site rank for a number of terms, after blogging about them, mostly on the strength of its own domain authority. The catch is that over time, I don’t see the traffic maintain itself on these longtail phrases. It slows and gets more longtail, then turns off.

I thought at first that the issue might be with my poor archiving, since I was using a plugin to suppress the ‘category’ part of category URLs, which broke the links to page 2 onwards of my category pages.

Well, I reverted to normal archives and haven’t yet seen a change. Google analytics is missing the past week of my data for some reason, probably because I added a filter that I thought would just generate a new report but in fact eliminated all my traffic. So I can’t look at things more granularly in GA. Sitemeter shows that I did have traffic during the days Google Analytics is showing things to be flat though, so it’s not like everything went poof.

Google Analytics data is gone

Sitemeter shows that I did get traffic during those days

And unfortunately I didn’t record the date I first activated the plugin. Within the past 30-60 days though, for sure. And my search referrals have all been at about 2000 month for each of the past three months.

Anyone else experiencing this plateau effect and finding solutions? I’m thinking partly it’s a boost from ‘query deserves freshness’ factors but still… I want to keep that traffic! I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Each successful idea¬† will win an hour of link building work from yours truly!

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  1. Hi Gab, I have that problem with some of my blogs too. I was reading Yoast's Wordpress SEO guide and for the important topics that you want to maintain rankings for, I think you need to go with Pages instead of Posts. He argues that comments destroy your "carefully constructed keyword density" but I'm not so sure. I notice more traffic when I get comments. You might like this:

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 22, 2009 @ 5:43am
  2. I'm suspicious it's because you're using a blog and submitting the content as a feed. By definition, a blog is temporal. You're not writing permanent pages, you're writing comments that belong in a specific frame of time.

    Comment by Brett - January 22, 2009 @ 10:59am
  3. IMHO, keyword density is nonsense. That opinion is based on the opinion of the much more scholarly Dr Garcia, an information retrieval expert:keyword-density-optimization.html The short version is that density, if it matters, matters across the whole index. And since you don't have that info, you can't optimize for it - so don't waste your time. Thanks for the tip, in any case. I hope you don't take this personally - just saying that the idea of KD doesn't matter.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 22, 2009 @ 7:40pm
  4. I'm not submitting the content to any search engines, and afaik, they haven't indexed my feed: http:// The fact that it's a blog could be a factor to consider, and is perhaps what Joost was getting at in advancing pages over posts. Ergo, showing that a particular page is 'evergreen' and not related to a given period in time. Unfortunately, testing this would require me to publish all new posts as pages though, seriously messing up my blogging and being detrimental to my RSS subscribers who currently get full feeds.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 22, 2009 @ 7:45pm
  5. Nah, of course not - I had my doubts. Glad to have that myth cleared up. I think Brett is on the money, talking about temporal relevance (Yes, I just made that term up :P).

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 22, 2009 @ 11:47pm
  6. I like it. Look out for references to temporal relevance in future posts :)

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 23, 2009 @ 2:30am
  7. Ok, I'm beginning to see how this makes sense - posts rank poorly over time because blogs are chronologically ordered, making them "temporally relevant" around the time of posting. When someone makes a comment on a post, traffic increases temporarily (not proven, but in my experience) this may highlight to Google that this post is still relevant. Therefore, you could just keep changing content in your posts or encouraging comments on the older posts. I guess that means manual updates and drawing attention through posting. I.e. Look back on a past post and ask people "Comment on this article how you might do X better."

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 23, 2009 @ 3:46am
  8. Thought I replied to this already - sry for the delay. That looks like a very clever tactic, Rob, and is something I'm hoping to address in an upcoming post, either here or as a guest elsewhere. On a related note, those scripts that constantly update the date probably have some value, as evidenced by the Google News screwup on the airline bankruptcy story.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 26, 2009 @ 7:30pm
  9. Not sure this is it Gab, but you've got a nice dupe content issue:{moz:distributionID}:{moz:locale}:{moz:official}&filter=0

    Comment by Andrew Shotland - January 28, 2009 @ 2:52am
  10. OK, this will probably be my last comment on this article (I'm talking almost more than you, Gab) but here's two ideas. 1. Create a Wordpress plugin which randomly shows an old article from the past at the top of your blog's page - easily done with the "Stick X post to the top of Blog" feature. 2. Hire people from Get a Freelancer or Mechanical Turk to write a number of comments. (this also gives you an excuse to reply to some comments and make the old posts look new.

    Comment by Rob Kingston - January 28, 2009 @ 9:53pm
  11. I like the ideas there Rob. The plugin's clever, but would be limited in how it could scale, I think. The Mech Turk solution is much better and when I have commercial posts I absolutely need to maintain rankings on, I'll try that out (the ones I meant here were more 'branding traffic' to get random attention ... not super targeted in a directly valuable way). Cheers Gab p.s. Appreciating all your work to help me solve this!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 29, 2009 @ 11:39am
  12. Assuming you don't have an issue with pages actually getting indexed, which it doesn't sound like you do or you don't have a dup content issue(wordpress is a ranking killer, once your blog starts getting more pages if it's not set up right)... It's simply a matter of pagerank distribution. The older an article is the further back it goes & the less pagerank it receives. Try putting up a sitemap with older posts displayed first. Build links to that. Also use the Wordpress SEO Pager plugin by SEO Egghead. It will create links to every sub page on the homepage (page 1 page 2, etc.) and distribute a ton of all that pagerank you are holding onto from the homepage to those older pages... Build some links to those subpages also... Or just get more links to everyone of those older posts. :) Hope it helps! [ed: Thanks for the tips, Craig. GUys, check out Craig's "Vacation Rentals" site.

    Comment by craig Mullins - March 13, 2009 @ 9:17pm
  13. hey Craig, You were indeed right that it was a PR distribution problem, and that WP isn't great for larger sites. Luckily, I solved the problem already: I tried the pager plugin by SEO Egghead, which didn't quite solve things, afai can recall. Thanks again for your help, and I look forward to further helpful responses like that. I'm adding a dofollow link to your post. Cheers Gab

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - March 14, 2009 @ 8:15pm

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