Website structure SEO audit that helped identify traffic drops

Culinary industry One-Off SEO Projects SEO Audit
About the Client

The Client works in the food industry and runs a large website that shares recipes and culinary news. This website originated from the client’s successful social media presence, and as a natural progression of its business growth, the Client decided to transfer its content to its own dedicated domain. After an initial period of increased visibility that lasted for several months, the website then encountered a notable decline. The owner of the website decided to use our one-off SEO Audit project to find the reasons behind the traffic loss.

About the Project

We conducted an in-depth analysis of the Client’s domain to find the cause of the sudden drops. While a typical SEO audit primarily focuses on identifying technical website issues, this project involved a thorough examination of the website’s structure to uncover the root of the problem.

Project Owner

This case was quite fascinating to work on. I personally find in-depth analyses of large websites quite engaging, and in this particular instance, I had the opportunity to delve even deeper into the website’s structure. It’s truly rewarding to uncover issues that might not be immediately evident but are at the heart of performance problems.

Wojciech Urban
Wojciech Urban SEO R&D Specialist
The Project Flow

Google Discover Traffic Drops

Over the course of few months, the client had been consistently receiving a substantial amount of web traffic from Google Discover. However, starting in March, the website no longer appeared in the service.

Google Discover is a rather unpredictable source of traffic. Currently, there are very few reliable recommendations for optimizing this traffic channel. Also, there’s no single method for verifying one’s efforts, making it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy simply due to a lack of reliable data

Wojciech Urban
Wojciech Urban SEO R&D Specialist

This unexpected change is easily noticeable on the overall Discover traffic chart in Google Search Console:

visibility charts seo project case study

The Client’s Theory

One theory the client had about the sudden disappearance from Google Discover was related to the transfer of Facebook comments to the website. These comments frequently included offensive and disrespectful language. This could undoubtedly be a reason, particularly because such content violates the policies of Google Discover, which are even more strict than Google’s policies.

Our Take on Sudden Visibility Drop in Google Discover

The comment migration took place in December. Although it might have had an initial impact on traffic from that channel, surprisingly, the website began resurfacing in the service in January, February, and March.

traffic changes seo project case study

This meant that we had to look further to identify the cause of the sudden visibility drop as the comments clearly weren’t the main culprits.

But before that, we carefully examined the website to make sure it met the important criteria for showing up on Google Discover. This review allowed us to create some content suggestions for our Client.

In short, we offered the Client advice concerning:

  • Making the content more clear and understandable
  • Including publication dates
  • Adding more information about individual authors and the editorial team
  • Putting a stronger focus on social signals

This was supposed to help the Client enhance his website’s visibility and user engagement in Google Discover.

Lack of Clear Content Strategy for Google Discovery

What’s more, our SEO audit revealed that our client had no well-defined content strategy. In most cases, such practice has a rather negative effect on the overall quality of a website – as per Google evaluation, of course.

Additionally, we found out that among all types of content published on the Client’s website, one, in particular, was responsible for driving traffic via Google Discover – Cooking tips.

sources of traffic site analysis seo project case study

Cooking tips / Recipes / News / Fun facts / Shopping / Show business / Health

As we were reviewing the content strategy, we noticed there was a substantial increase in Cooking tips articles published during November and December. Interestingly, the amount of this type of publication started to decline, starting in early February.

seo analysis of the content published

Cooking tips / Recipes / News / Fun facts / Health / Shopping / Information / Other / Show business

 

To us, there was a clear connection between the number of Cooking tips articles and the website’s performance in the Discover channel.

This highlighted the need to create a well-thought-out content strategy that would deliver two main goals:

GOAL #1: Increase the number of content pieces favored by Google Discover, which in this case was Cooking tips.

GOAL #2: Make sure the website was flooded with content that led neither to duplication nor keyword cannibalization.

Even though the SEO Audit service’s scope we did for the Client didn’t include a content plan, we provided him with some basic recommendations that included:

  • Regularly doing keyword research to come up with new topic ideas that actually align with what the target audience is currently searching for. This can be done through Google Search Console.
  • Creating topic clusters to demonstrate to Google that the website is an authority in the culinary field. We also suggested connecting articles through internal linking, which has a positive impact on SEO.
  • Adapting the new pieces of content to the users’ search intent.
  • Constructing unified and consistent information architecture, which depended mainly on the way the information was about to be presented on a website (eg. infographics, tables, bullet points).
  • Content refreshing, especially the pieces that gain popularity during specific periods like the Christmas holidays and summer.

Too Many Page Tags

After thoroughly crawling the website, we noticed an excessive number of page tags in comparison to the actual number of pages comprising the entire website.

page tags analysis seo audit project case study

There were over 3,000 page tags and an additional 1,000 tags, whereas the number of recipes those tags were assigned to was just 700. This is quite an issue because page tags aren’t the same as social media hashtags, which they are often mistakenly taken for.

It’s worth noting that when adding a tag to a website or a blog, CMS, which in this case is WordPress, creates a tag page containing a list of all articles tagged with that specific tag. WordPress’s default settings allow search engine robots to index these pages, so all tag pages end up in Google’s index. This creates two main problems: keyword cannibalization and a waste of Google’s resources.

Using tags in WordPress can be tricky, we know. Learn more how to avoid mistakes from our article: Categories and Tags On The Blog. How To Use Them to Your Advantage?

In plain English, each tag creates a separate page tag. When the number of tags exceeds the number of pages, this leads to a high number of pages that are not only of low quality but also compete against the homepage.

To handle this problem, we suggested the Client go through the following steps:

  1. Grouping the tags, minding their topic relevance (eg. recipe-tag potato pancakes + recipe-tag pancakes made of potato)
  2. Since the number of tags was pretty high, we advised against categorizing them manually. Instead, we suggested using AI, more precisely doing this through the API Open AI integrated with Google Sheets.
  3. From each tag group, we suggested picking just one that has the highest number of impressions.
  4. The remaining tags should be deleted, setting the 301 redirects.
  5. Tags that generate zero traffic should be deleted with no redirects.
  6. Giving the list of tags to the content team so that they can use them while writing and later publishing new pieces of content.
  7. In the case of new topics, new tags should be defined.

It’s worth realizing that tags can be valuable for a website as long as they’re set up correctly. This means they shouldn’t duplicate content found in other sections of the website, and there should be several articles associated with each tag. This approach enhances internal linking and contributes to improving other essential SEO factors.

Too Many Pages with Thin Content

The crawl we ran using the Screaming Frog tool also revealed two other issues: low internal link score and insufficient amount of content published on pages.

We compared this result with statistics provided by Google Search Console.

thin content example seo project case study

An overwhelming 96% of web traffic came from pages within the Recipes and Tips catalogs. At the same time, the pages that make up most of the website, which are Tags, Recipe tags, and Ingredients, despite appearing frequently in search results, generated almost no traffic.

Similar results were shown by the Google Discover traffic report:

thin contet analysis google discovery traffic

This meant that 87% of both traffic and views were generated by Tips, which made up only 7% of the entire website.

That being said it became clear that the domain was dominated by low-quality URL addresses. This, in turn, negatively affected its ranking with Google and made it vulnerable to changes and updates made to the search engine’s algorithms.

The truth is, that Google algorithm updates had a noticeable impact on the performance of pages in Google Discover over the past year. This resulted in sudden fluctuations in web traffic from this channel, which is quite unpredictable by its nature.

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Summary & Further Suggestions For The Client

Our client has a relatively new website, that is steadily building its visibility in search results. The December-March increase in web traffic coming from Google Discover was definitely something to be happy about, yet it should never be considered the sole and most important web traffic source. Suffering the first drops in visibility our client reached out to us for a website analysis service.

The purpose of the one-off project was to identify the issues and prepare recommendations to be implemented by client.

Although the website met the fundamental requirements to be featured in Google Discover, there were opportunities for enhancement to make the content more appealing to both readers and search engines. For instance, the website could benefit from providing additional author information and standardizing the format of published content.

Also, we suggested paying stronger emphasis on the social signals. Search engines may use these signals as a factor in their algorithms to determine a webpage’s quality and relevance. Higher-quality, engaging content with strong social signals may have a better chance of ranking well in search results.

The website’s content had a strong seasonal pattern, and at the moment the Client contacted us, it happened to be during the low season stage. This might have been a reason why Google didn’t pick our client’s website to be displayed in Discover. Therefore, it made sense to concentrate on writing content that is more popular during the summer season.

Google indexed many pages with thin content that didn’t contribute significantly to the website’s value.

It was crucial to reorganize the page tag strategy, significantly decreasing their number.

To increase web traffic from Google Discover, we suggested shifting the focus to creating more informative pieces of content. This approach is supposed to meet the target audience’s expectations. To achieve that, a carefully planned content strategy should be worked out.

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