Picture the scene: You have a beautifully designed website with a solid architecture, and you have just finished a stellar campaign led by a wealth of informative content that anybody would be proud of. You look in Analytics, only to see that your organic traffic has remained static, and that further research shows that your content has failed to rank in line with your expectations.
If you’re reading this post it’s likely that you may have experienced frustrations similar to this, where content that should be flying high in the Google rankings has simply sunk without a trace. “Perhaps there just isn’t enough of it?” you think, and follow up with several more pieces. Several weeks later, nothing has changed.
Introducing Liebig’s Law of the Minimum
To demonstrate the possible reasons for this disheartening outcome we can turn to a concept first introduced almost 200 years ago, within the science of agriculture. Liebig’s Law, also known as the law of the minimum, is a principle founded on the idea that something is only as strong as its weakest part. The original application demonstrated that plants will not grow any faster or stronger when exposed to increased amounts of nutrients it already had. It is only when the most scarce nutrient is improved that growth is also seen.
Finding the weakest part of your website
Stepping out of the fields and back indoors, we can apply the same concept to a website’s ability to rank in a search engine’s results pages (SERPs). A site’s ability to rank prominently is similarly dependent on a number of factors.
In the above depiction, it can be seen that a business has created a wealth of unique high quality content, hosted on a well-made website. However, the website also suffers from a poor backlink profile, stemming from link building work carried out many years ago which has since resulted in a penalty from Google.
As a result of the penalty, it can be seen that the website’s rankings are kept at a low level in the barrel. Were they to look at their rankings in detail they’d likely see a graph like below, where an update in May 2013 effectively shortened the Backlink plank, and let the level of rankings fall significantly.
The same issue can happen with any plank in the barrel. A site that is broken to the point of barely loading is unlikely to rank in Google, no matter what you put on it. Conversely, a well structured site full of nothing but spam and junk content will also fail to fill the barrel.
My new site isn’t performing to my expectations, why?
A brand new website would be visualised with a far shallower barrel, with many factors not yet at a level where significant rankings will be accrued. Many businesses see this lack of improvement as a failure of the website, and may rush into modifying the site or building a newer better iteration, without focusing on the other limiting factors involved. It doesn’t matter how well built the site is, if you don’t have the content to fill it with then the site will likely not perform. For a new site to succeed, all factors must be acted upon to see steady growth.
Collaboration is key in building your barrel
For many businesses, the barrel’s different planks may represent the responsibilities of many different people and departments. It is therefore key to be aware of the status of those factors outside of your control. A marketer should know the status of the website from the developers, and be aware of any on site issues, SEO or otherwise, raised by those responsible for the optimisation of the website. In turn, these people should be kept up to date with marketing efforts. Through collaboration, the whole barrel can be kept in check.
So the next time a set of fantastic features fall flat, don’t rush to blame the content or the audience, it could be something else entirely. Through careful auditing, the limiting factor of your website can be identified, and those static rankings can grow once more.