Clients often approach us having taken a ‘break’ from SEO wondering why their site isn’t ranking or generating as much as traffic as it did before. If a site is effectively sent to Coventry in terms of SEO, it is quite likely to develop issues or ‘gremlins’ in the system which can hinder SEO efforts over time. Secondly, even if this isn’t the case (which is highly unlikely by the way), a site left untouched is still at the mercy of competitors stealing a march.
Here we address some of the main issues that we commonly address when companies stop or pause search engine optimisation.
Search engines rank results according to which websites they believe offer the best results based on the search query. One of the checks they undertake is to make sure that the site delivering the result has a pulse – meaning, it is alive and kicking. Therefore if a site hasn’t had any update or fresh content uploaded in a while, search engines may start to doubt whether it is still a reliable source and the number of impressions could start to decline, which will in turn affect traffic.
As alluded to above, competitors may not be ‘on a break’ and if they start making strides, it can be harder to catch up, not impossible, but harder work. Frustratingly, SEO is a slow burn at times so missing months or even years can take a while for results to show, particularly against the competition.
Maintaining keyword relevancy
If a site is not regularly updated, it will not be responding to changes in customer searches, targeting new words and phrases, or responding to the market in any way. It’s vital to keep producing new content to ensure keyword relevancy based on customer language and to reflect any new products and services.
Link building potential
Building new content also gives other people, organisations and websites something to link to. Evergreen content is good for rankings but links tend to come from timely content so ensuring a site is bursting with great new ideas can help improve a site’s domain authority. Links get built and removed every day but unless a site is active, it’s unlikely to retain its current DA.
It’s also important to watch out for bad links that can adversely affect a site’s DA too. Spammy links, or poor quality links can occur naturally and need to be kept in check but they can also be as a result of negative SEO when a competitor undertakes black hat techniques to steal rankings and traffic.
It’s great practice to rework and reuse existing content on social media (particularly blog posts that haven’t dated) but there comes a point when this can start to look a little tired. Refreshing content means a business has something new for its social channels but without it, social engagement could start dwindling too which means less click throughs and less traffic.
Gremlins aka technical issues
Every site has gremlins in the system at some point. Things can break without any rhyme or reason (or due to human error!) and either way, they need fixing. Left unchecked rankings will bomb. Search Console does a pretty decent job of highlighting some of the more obvious issues and other software crawls can probe into issues more deeply, but more often than not, it needs a human to piece together the jigsaw to get to the root of issues.
Organisations that are on an SEO break are also less likely to check Google Analytics in any depth. Reporting on an increase in traffic is risky without fully understanding historic traffic levels. Taking a detailed look at visitors and sessions could reveal that a rise is in fact largely due to spam traffic or a drop could, in fact, be in line with seasonality.
Most algorithm changes are not seismic, meaning that as long as best practices are followed, a site will not see any immediate problems, However, once in a while, an update will occur that does have a material impact on a site and a response is required – mobile usability and page experience being two such historic examples. A break in SEO could mean that a site is not prepared for these changes and could suffer as a consequence.
Although most SEO happens on and around an organisation’s own site, the processes involved mean that one eye is firmly on competitors and their digital activities. Ceasing SEO activity generally goes hand in hand with being less aware of rival sites too. In fact, knowing exactly who to watch out for online can vary over time and an organisation could be less aware of new entrants into a market.
Very little, if any good can come of taking a break from SEO. At the very best it’s akin to treading water but in the majority of cases, a site and its contribution to an organisation’s overall marketing efforts will go into reverse. You have been warned!