How to Kill Your Website Traffic: Negative Ranking Factors

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It seems like a lot of people understand some of the basics regarding what you need to do to optimize your website for SEO – at least on the surface. Though a lot of newbies understand that you need to do keyword research and have a strong and quality backlink profile to rank well on Google, these are only two of potentially hundreds of metrics that the Google algorithm looks at when calculating the ranks of various sites. Most people already understand that exact match domains and page authority are key components of a successful SEO campaign as well.  But this is a bit of a problem, because people are only focusing on half of the SEO equation. What is the other half, you ask? Well, while trying to meet the requirements for various ranking signals is a strong offensive play, you also need to be concerned with your defense, and this is one area where a lot of people are failing.

It simply isn’t enough to try to optimize your site for each new metric Google adds to their algorithm. Most people don’t talk about all of the things that can hurt your website, and if you are making these mistakes you are likely missing out on an unbelievable amount of organic search traffic. So let’s analyze the negative metrics that are mentioned around the 2:20 mark in this video.

Domain Name Length

When people are first looking at building a new website, the domain name is one of the first things that they look for. Ideally you want to have keywords in your domain name because this is admittedly a ranking factor and most (if not all) of the exact match domains for any given industry are likely taken already.

But you need to exercise caution when you are searching for available domain names that contain keywords in your industry. Now, he makes a great point when he says that correlation doesn’t equal causation. But consider two key points. First of all, as said in the video, the short domain names and exact match domain names likely do better than longer domain names because they have been around for a long time. If you didn’t know already, the age of a website is one of the ranking factors that Google incorporates into their algorithm to determine the authority of a website. These types of domains often have hordes of backlinks and these two factors make it difficult for new websites to buoy to the top of the SERPs overnight.

But consider another reason why you would want to keep your domain names short. It would be much harder for a user to remember a long domain name than a short one, and that would make it more challenging for visitors to tell other people about your website via word of mouth. In addition, these lengthy domain names don’t look as credible as the shorter domain names. Trust is a key factor on the web, and if you posted advertisements through social media or other channels that display your domain name, a potential visitor will likely be less interested in clicking on your link if they think it is a spammy site. He also made the point that domains with a lot of dashes correlate with websites that don’t perform as well in the SERPs. Though this is only correlation data, when in doubt try to opt for shorter domain names.

Response Time

Ok, ok. We already know that faster page load times are a huge benefit because they help optimize your site and provide users with a more positive user experience. But do slow response and page load times harm your rankings? As you can see in the video, we really don’t have data that supports that claim. But what we do know is that faster response times correlate with higher rankings. It could very well be that load times are an ancillary metric that tie into other ranking factors, such as bounce rate. For example, if your website has an awful response time, you might be aggravating users and they give up and go somewhere else before your page has an opportunity to fully load – sending your bounce rate into the stratosphere.

Google Ads

The rumor that people who use Google AdSense on their website get boosted rankings has been circulating for years now. But this is nothing more than a rumor, and Matt Cutts and other professionals have busted this myth time and time again. But here it is again: Google AdSense slots actually correlate with lower performing websites. And again, this likely comes back to the #1 goal of all of Google’s search engine efforts – user experience. To put it more simply, when you visit a site that is loaded with ads (like Buzzfeed and other similar sites) they come off as extremely spammy. And the ads don’t do your response any favors, either. Does this mean that you can’t post ads on your website? Not at all. In fact, some people make a lot of money through advertising. But if you are selling a specific product or you are in a service-related industry, you will likely want to limit the amount of ads you have on your site.

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Percent of Followed Links

The correlation data with this metric is pretty counter-intuitive. But once you start to consider the purpose of these types of links, things start to make a lot of sense. For example, let’s say that your site has a lot of backlinks to one of your how-to videos. People are only visiting that link for one purpose: to learn how to do whatever you are teaching them. But this correlates with a 1-dimensional backlink profile, and you want a diverse backlink profile. As mentioned in the video, some types of links aren’t followed very often because they exist solely as citations or means of adding credibility. And you can bet that the sophisticated Google algorithm can make these types of distinctions.

In Summary

Though there are many other negative ranking factors, these are some that aren’t discussed in great detail. Remember that valuable SEO professionals are going to not only now how to play an offensive game but also know how to identify metrics that are harming your rankings.

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