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How to Trust an SEO

SEO and its practitioners have become known as scammers — an opinion that predates The Verge article I won’t link to. I believe Google has done a great deal to intentionally help the business world think so, but honestly, SEOs are mostly to blame with false promises and black hat techniques.

As a highly ethical person, this gets my goat.

The value of charts and graphs

Some SEOs that are reasonably trustworthy (though not necessarily good at their job) offer up unverifiable statistics of countless wins for the customers, and sometimes Google Search Console (or 3rd party search tool) charts depicting those wins.

I’ve seen examples of these charts in presentations where the other shoe dropped shortly after the data on the chart ends. And no mention of the traffic drop either. That’s not especially trustworthy.

The actual charts and graphs

I’ve hesitated to do this until now, largely because I don’t want my competitors seeing what I’m up to. Upon further reflection, that’s silly. Any competitor worth his or her salt knows exactly what I’m up to — because it’s right there on my website.

Also, as I take stock of how beaten some sites have been by the onslaught of Google algorithm updates starting in August 2023 (we’re currently in the midst of #5 and #6), I don’t have any great wins to report. That’s because my competitors are also good at SEO.

Also upon reflection, the fact that I continue to see my rankings rise, albeit not in an exciting manner, means I’m doing the right work (and there’s always more to be done).

Sixteen months worth of rankings for the whole site. I have a highly seasonal business and the lift you see from last November though the end of the year reflects that. The big drop between August and October was Labor Day weekend when nobody is searching for wine to order because they’re already drinking it somewhere.

Winners & losers (always segment your data for less noise)

Image 1
My review pages. Back in March, I thought I was doomed. That was a core update that happened to coincide with the exact timeline where I migrated my subdomain content (also reviews content) back to my primary domain. And Google granted a reviews update 30 days later. It was smooth sailing until that core update in August, which corrected itself (to some extent) with the following updates.
Image 2
This is my current experiment, my wine delivery section. Again, there’s a strong seasonality here, but it appears these pages didn’t fare as well post Labor Day. This is usually a time of year when sales pick up for the wine business, however that hasn’t proved true this year (not just for me). The tail end of that rankings drop includes a big increase in indexed pages as I released a new feature (a wine marketplace) most of which don’t rank well (they’re brand new and not fully optimized yet).
Image 3
This is my previous experiment, my one-time wine gifts section. Demand has been dropping like a stone for wine gifts (not pictured here). In fairness, I’ve been neglecting this section of my site. Fortunately my rankings don’t really reflect that (see earlier comments about seasonality). And, Google has introduced their Shopping Listings to these SERPs which I can’t participate in because I’m a publisher, not an ecommerce store. SERP changes are beyond my control and happen (seemingly) at random.
Image 4
This is the content from my subdomain migration (the arrow is the date I started the move). This content seems to be getting a boost from the current algorithm messiness, but time will tell.
Image 5
This is a set of pages where I make a lot of money. As you can see they’ve been dragging much of the year but are rebounding nicely in these last few updates. It’s worth noting I made NO changes to these pages in the last 12 months so this is all just algorithm and SERP volatility. In the middle of April I removed thousands of internal links to these pages.
Image 7
This one is just for funsies — it’s my money term which also happens to be an exact-match domain (because this site is more than 14 years old and that’s how we did SEO back in the day). More volatility, but nothing sustained.

I’ll try to keep these up to date (putting it on my Google Tasks list) at least monthly. Because that’s how you trust results.

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© Jessyca Frederick 2023-2024

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