Content Optimization

Case Study: How Content Optimization Helped a Publisher Regain 47% Lost Traffic

Everyone who is a part of the SEO industry knows that content is a key pillar of a strong SEO strategy along with technical optimization and link building. But how often do we actually invest in creating quality content? Even more so, do we invest at all in updating the existing content on our site? While everyone knows that content optimization is the essence of a content strategy, more than 50% of online brands don’t invest in updating existing content on their website.

This SEO case study is a real-life example of how we helped a large News Publisher regain their lost rankings and traffic using content optimization.

A Little Background about the Publisher & the Campaign

This SEO case study is about a large media organization, one of the most-watched General News channels in India and as of 2021, it is one of the 15 most visited News websites in India as per Comscore rankings. 

Performics India set up a News SEO and content unit comprising 80 members including content writers, editors, content strategists and News SEOs. The aim of this content unit was to scale up News SEO and build topical authority for the brand in some of the most competitive cohorts within the news sections on Google. Throughout this journey of scaling up News SEO, Performics India helped the brand increase their Organic traffic from 3 million to 40 million within a span of 1 year.

While the publisher drives most of its traffic from News specific properties on Google like Top Stories, Google Discover and Google News, at least 30% of their traffic comes from evergreen content and the mobile SERPs and SERP features like Featured snippets, Knowledge panels and basic Organic positions. These evergreen content opportunities were carefully planned by our content strategy team in order to keep our traffic levels stable during low news cycle periods.

Coming Back to the Content Optimization Experiment

A while back we had published a how-to article at the start of a trend which was scaling up. Due to Performics’ specialized Trend analysis model, we were able to identify search trends for this topic quite early on and the client was one of the first three publishers to cover this breaking trend.

Since the trends were very high for this topic when it was published, Google was showing a Top Stories box for this article due to the Newsy nature of the topic which made it easier for us to get more traffic in the first 48 hours of publishing the article.

Here is what our initial traffic looked like:

The article started receiving more than 3,000 clicks within the first week and things seemed to be going well. However, after a couple of months of publishing the article, the traffic tapered off to minimal levels.

Here’s what our Organic stats looked like before and after the drop:

GSC and GA both show a drop in clicks and sessions around May 5th. 

Why did the Rankings and Traffic Drop?

While we were the first ones to publish an article on the growing trend, within the next month, there were multiple updates regarding the topic. Since our content did not address the new-found intent, the rankings and subsequently the traffic tanked. 

Here are a few issues that we observed with the earlier published article:

  • Article content was very vague compared to the newer search intent. It was lacking clarity on the new process (main topic of the article) in a simple manner which made the content sound misleading 
  • Content structuring was poor, it lacked CTAs and hierarchical organization of information within the content
  • The article lacked interlinks from relevant content which was created to improve topical authority 

After identifying these issues, we were confident that content optimization and content structuring will play a key role in helping us revive rankings for our target article.

How Bad was the Traffic Drop?

  • 88% drop in impressions
  • 90% drop in clicks
  • Average position for all keywords dropped from 3 to 9

How Did We Identify the Issue?

We identified the traffic drops while running our automated weekly content reviews which are customized for most of our clients based on their niche. Once we identified the drop, we did a deep dive and analysed keyword trends, SERP landscape and competitor content. 

From the detailed content audit, we noticed that the keyword trend had increased significantly while the SERP landscape stayed pretty much constant. However our rankings for the highly trending keywords had dropped. Here are a few insights from our content analysis.

The keyword trends also showed that this specific topic was likely to continue exploding in terms of user search for a considerable amount of time. We were sure that optimizing this piece of content will surely help us reap benefits for a long time and will become a major evergreen asset for the publisher.

Content Optimization in Action: The Steps we took to Revive the Lost Traffic

  • Revise the content and make it more specific and accurate to the latest changes that were announced around the topic
  • The content depth was increased and a lot of supporting and related information was added to make sure the all the information about the topic was covered 
  • We analysed SERP features and revised our content structure as per what Google was showing. This included converting a few paragraphs into bullet lists, adding a table and adding more high quality images (explainer infographics) to clearly address the user intent and present the content in a more simplified manner
  • Cache was purged after updating the content for faster indexation of the updated content. Since this was a larger Publisher, the indexation was faster as compared to other websites
  • To ensure we are giving some much needed love to this page, we added contextual interlinks from other relevant articles using targeted anchor text after a week of updating the content

All these activities were planned and seamlessly executed within a week. And within the next 3 to 4 days, we started seeing some positive results. 

Massive Gains After Content Optimization

 After optimizing content for intent addressal, improving the topical coverage, and properly structuring the page, we noticed that we were able to regain a good chunk of the lost rankings and traffic. Here is what our post optimization performance looks like:

  • 113% growth in Impressions 
  • 47% growth in Sessions
  • Avg. position regained till position 6 for all keywords

However, we were never able to fully recover the original rankings as competitor content was strongly positioned and we couldn’t outrank them later, despite having a higher domain level authority than a few of those competitors. However, after optimizing the content, our keyword basket automatically increased and we started driving traffic from newer long tail keywords which were previously undiscovered.

Take a Planned Approach with Step-by-Step Actions 

It is very likely for clients to panic and push for quick fix remedies during ranking or traffic drops. However, as agency SEOs, it is our duty to take a stock of the issue, analyse it from all possible angles and then provide the right solutions to our clients along with implementation timelines.

In this case, we first carried out a detailed content audit where this issue was first diagnosed. This led us to analyse the keyword trends, competitor and SERP landscape which then helped us to take the decision that we needed a full-blown content revision. 

After the content was revised, we made technical improvements by caching and then gave a little boost using strategic interlinking activities.

All of this was executed in a planned step-by-step process which helped us gauge the results of our content experiment at timely intervals which in turn helped us prepare this case study.

Some Parting Thoughts

We hope that this case study helps you in identifying content issues on your site and take necessary corrective actions in a phased manner. If you have found this useful, please share this SEO case study with your colleagues or clients.

Alternatively, if you are looking to scale your content and SEO or looking for customised performance content solutions, feel free to connect with us.

Credits: Swapnil Pate