By Susan Guillory

When I was brainstorming on what to write about this morning, I thought about the topic that I’m actually struggling with myself: my web traffic. I realized that was the perfect topic to discuss with other small biz owners!

First of all, a disclaimer. I am in no way an SEO expert, nor a techie. So before you bypass this article thinking it’s going to be over your head, know that it was written specifically for you.

The Latest Slap by Google

In February 2017, Google issued yet another algorithm update. That means that the way it assesses a website’s value changed. It releases updates all the time, and most of the time no one notices. But check your web traffic and see if it took a nosedive the way mine did around then.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

So the thing is: Google never publicly tells the world what secret ingredients go into its algorithms. Then the bad guys could figure out how to work around those changes and stay at the top of search results. But the problem is that the good guys like you and me also have to suffer, not knowing what we did to offend the Google Gods.

What You Can Do

To be honest, I’m still working out what I will do to try to get my web traffic back up, but I wanted to provide a few tips to help you.

1. Take a Long, Hard Look at Who You Link To

This is the top thing Google scrutinizes: who do you link to? Back several years ago, we had an influx of people trying to get links on any site they could. Now Google wants to ensure that those links are relevant to the website’s content. So if you have a blog about dogs, a link to a wedding cake site is going to raise some eyebrows.

I know some of my older blog content has a few links like this, so it’s probably a good idea for me to — sigh — go back and remove those links.

2. Use Nofollow Appropriately

If you have sponsored content — where an advertiser pays you to have a post published on your blog — you want to use what’s called “nofollow” links. Basically, Google knows these are links someone paid to get, and they don’t rank those as high as those that aren’t paid for. So you need to use a plugin for nofollow links to strip out the ranking value of those links.

I’m still unclear on whether guest posts should use nofollow links, so I may test that out, since my blog has a lot of guest posts.

3. Focus on Content

There will continue to be more updates that affect your traffic. The best advice I can give from a non-technical perspective is simply: create valuable and relevant content. If you focus on a subject, and don’t deviate from it, Google shouldn’t have issue with your site. Vary up the length of your blog content, and be sure to use relevant keywords.

Stay on top of your website and blog analytics so you know when traffic changes. It’s important to understand what algorithms are, and how they affect you.