Purina, the pet food brand, has set a good example with their purina.co.uk SEO content. It has shown all the signs of an organic and sustainable growth pattern, until recently, when instability preceded a downward trend. The domain has lost over 40% of its visibility over just 2 months. In this article we dive in and analyse why, highlighting important steps in performance analysis and why data on competitors is critical.
First, a puppy! Purina have created two content directories on purina.co.uk – an articles directory and a ‘find-a-pet’ dog and cat breed reference site.
Visibility has grown well over the years but as you can see in the visibility index graph below, the domain has been less stable since 2020 and in the last month there has been a significant drop – 40% in 4 weeks.
When Visibility drops, there are three things that need to be considered.
Number 1 is obvious. The first thing anyone would check after seeing such a drop in visibility is the website. Is the website still up? Are there technical issues? Has content been deleted? Have major changes taken place in structure or formatting?
A check in Google Search Console will show you if there are issues regarding quality or security and, if the problems have been there for many days, it may also show a falling number of indexed pages. Check too for noindex in URL headers and for any updates to robots.txt although these two issues will usually result in a quick deindexing of pages and a corresponding drop in visibility, which isn’t the case here. In addition to manual checks, an on-page crawler can help to monitor for issues and changes. We checked the site with the SISTRIX Optimizer for this report and found no major technical issues.
Note it’s very important to focus on search visibility and not traffic because if there’s a rising traffic level, it can mask the falling visibility, leaving an even bigger problem for later. Google Analytics traffic levels or Search Console click levels, are not the place to start.
Another way to check content status is to do further analysis with independent data.
Analysing visibility loss with SISTRIX data
Analyse directory-level visibility to see if losses are happening in one specific directory. The graph below shows the two high-performance content directories which developed out of a directory move from /dogs and /cats in March 2021.
Look at lost keywords too. Is there a specific type of content that is losing rankings? Are there many URLs that have completely lost significant rankings?
For purina.co.uk there’s a mix of lost rankings and falling rankings among important keywords, mainly in the find-a-pet content area.
Lost rankings from page 1 of the SERP to below page 2 can indicate a Google update, a manual penalty or a technical issue but in this case there are smaller changes taking place. “bengal cat”, for example, has moved down within the top 10. “Labrador” has been lost from the first page to the second page of search results.
After identifying keyword ranking movements, it’s important to analyse the related SERPs for major feature or intent changes. If that’s happened, there’s not much that can be done as the content simply does not match what Google thinks the user wants to see.
We can do this using the SERP archive in SISTRIX. Here we take a keyword that the domain no longer ranks for – “miniature dachshund”
We’re looking for a few things here as we compare the SERPS from two dates.
- Are there new organic feature boxes appearing from Google that have pushed down the other ranking sites.
- Are the ranking URLs different in their content style? Look for changes from informative ‘know’ content to a ‘do’ intent. Maybe this is the time of year to buy this dog and Google are matching this change in searcher intent.
After looking at the two SERPs we can see no major differences between the two dates. Apart from some upward movement of the video feature, represented by videos.universal-search-box.com, there is no major change. Both SERPs also show informative, reference-style information.
Let us now check for redirect, UX and content issues on an example page that has suffered losses.
In this case there is no redirect, the content looks good, it loads quickly and is presented well in a mobile view. One can also use the Google Mobile Friendly test tool, or Google Search Console.
Despite the seemingly good content, the Purina website has turned a corner and is on a downward trajectory. The reason is still not clear.
Gradually falling visibility can also be part of a content and user experience problem. Ads, brand value, and usability could be the cause of negative user signals that are feeding back to Google.
We’ve already checked one page, but checking a few other pages does reveal a late-loading interstitial which blocks the content. Whether Google is aware of this or not is questionable, given the approximately 10 second delay it takes to appear.
This doesn’t appear on all pages but an SEO should be asking when this was implemented, and under what conditions it appears. Even if Google doesn’t see it, users do.
Apart from this, there doesn’t seem to be any technical or user experience problems at all with the content, so we must now move on to the third possible cause, competitors.
Here’s a focused look at competitors to the dog breeds directory.
By looking at the visibility index development for these hosts in SISTRIX, we’ll be able to see if there have been any major gains that have impacted purina.co.uk. Always remember that there are only10 organic positions on page one and one domain competitor gains, another must fall.
After scanning the domains we see an interesting host in the list, www.purina.eu, which could be run by the same company. This begs the question – are Purina executing a domain move? We haven’t identified any content that has been redirected from the .co.uk domain, yet, but by checking this ‘competitor’ we can see what the potential relationship is between the two sites.
There is some duplication of content across the sites, which isn’t desirable. Let’s take a direct look at the visibility development of the two directories that hold this content.
Clearly this is something the SEO must be aware of. Either a domain move is being prepared, or perhaps two content teams are competing without understanding the impact. At least if it’s an internal issue, the issue can be addressed. More important are competing domains that belong to other companies.
Look through the other competitors in the list to see if there are any other domains rapidly gaining visibility. It doesn’t take long to find this, dailypaws.com. A quick search reveals that it is a new project, and being operated from the USA.
Overlaying this onto the two Purina dog-breeds directories and zooming into a 90-day view shows the development:
At this point we can say with some confidence that either competitor domains are taking visibility away from purina.co.uk, or that purina.co.uk, is ceding visibility to the other sites due to another issue. At this point, the SEO steps in to communicate the issue, to watch carefully for developments and to do further assessment.
Analysing changes must be done with a 360-degree view and without competitor information, false assumptions can be made. Remember, SEO is a process of continual improvement and if you don’t do it, somebody else will.
The domain purina.co.uk has good quality technical SEO and a content strategy that has worked. It appears, however, that other domains are now impacting the visibility, with one domain even coming from the same brand and another coming from another country altogether.