Having A Bad SEO Month? Take A Look At Search Trends
Posted by Yan Gilbert
It’s easy to grasp the fact that most e-commerce sites will have various cyclical trends throughout the year. Maybe an uptrend before Christmas, maybe a downtrend for the summer, but other kinds of businesses have trends as well that may not be so apparent. Sometimes they are not yearly events, and the business owner may not even be aware that a trend exists.
An attentive business owner may notice that they are getting fewer phone calls or lead form submissions. They might check their web traffic and see that there have been less visitors for the last few weeks or months.
What do you do when they start asking questions about why they are getting less business?
It’s not good when your client starts to question the value of your work. You need to find a reason that explains what is going on. Chances are you will find the answer in the traffic data, so let’s get into it.
Had A Bad Month For Your SEO Results?
While looking at your GMB data for the month do you see numbers like this and start to freak out?
Both of these panels show the GMB summary data for their listings during November 2017. It’s not fun when it’s time to give your monthly report to a client and you are looking at these kinds of numbers. However, it just so happens that these two businesses are both dentists from completely different cities.
Hmm, maybe it’s not me (and what I thought was my expert SEO work) after all…
Search Trends Not On Your Radar
Let’s take a look at the general search trends in one of the cities included in the previous GMB Insight panel. Using Google Trends, I’ve typed in the broad search term of ‘dentist’ and filtered it to the specific city I want to look at, in this case Los Angeles.
If your city is not large enough and does not have enough population, the graph may look jumpy, it’ll probably be better to use a larger geographic area, like the entire State, to get smoother lines.
You can see that for the period we are interested in, there is a definite downtrend in general searches for the term ‘dentist’. For two weeks in November, the amount of search drops 25%! Well, that certainly could explain the drop in exposure of the GMB listing and in the organic search results.
Seeing this prompts me to investigate a little further. Was this a one time deal, or is this a cyclical trend? Let’s take a look at a longer time frame across the whole country this time to get a good picture.
Aha, looks like the Thanksgiving holiday is the cause of the lower search volumes for dentists in November. There is a definite spike downwards the third week of November every year. This is enough to skew results for the entire month.
Holidays Do Not Always Drive Search Trends For Businesses
Although, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas might be obvious times to look for disruption in search volumes, whether it be up or down, there are certainly other factors that affect the number of people looking for local business services.
Let’s take another example, this time a lawyer in Houston Texas. This is his GMB Insight panel for the month of November. Ouch!
This lawyer in particular focuses on immigration law, and when we take a look at the general trends for that, we see a general downtrend starting from January and coming to it’s lowest point so far in November. A 50% reduction in searches for ‘immigration lawyer’ during the year!
In fact, this is a general trend for across the entire United States. 20% fewer searches for ‘immigration lawyer’ starting from Sept 2017 and continuing till the end of November.
It’s difficult to know if this trend explains the entire drop in traffic we see for the GMB Insights panel shown above without looking into more detail into the analytics of the specific sight. But obviously, in this case the political arena has changed concerning immigration and is causing this trend down for the entire country.
Explaining Away Poor SEO Results
I wouldn’t try to use trends to explain away all poor SEO results. Obviously looking at the search phrase rankings will let you know if you have lost positions for major traffic search terms to your competitors.
A deep dive into the analytics data might also be warranted to see if there are any specific pages that are more affected than others.
Also consider the opposite direction as well, and don’t necessarily take all the credit for your ‘awesome SEO work’ when you see increased traffic if has been during a good uptrend.
Finding Search Trends That Affect Businesses
All businesses, even local business, can be impacted by trends. General search trends caused by seasons or holidays may be obvious to a business owner. But as we see in the case above, even Federal politics can affect local businesses.
This is something that the business owner might be aware of already; they might have a general sense of what’s going on in the news that could be impacting their business, but as digital marketers we have access to data and we need to use that data to drive our decisions and analysis.
By using Google Trends, we can quantify that search trend a bit more for the business owner so that they better understand impacts to their business. It possibly also gives you a bit more breathing room as well for your SEO efforts when they call you up asking why they have had less sales or clients during the past month.