How to: Break through a plateau in SEO rankings

Posted: 17 Apr 2024

When it comes to online visibility, you might not want to hear that businesses often encounter an SEO plateau – periods where their search engine rankings hit a standstill. But it’s true, they do! An SEO plateau can arise due to various factors, including algorithm updates, increased competition or outdated optimisation tactics. However, for businesses reliant on online traffic, the importance of maintaining and improving SEO rankings cannot be overstated.

Continuously evolving SEO strategies are paramount for staying ahead in the digital game, as higher rankings directly correlate with increased visibility, traffic and ultimately, conversions. Recognising the need to break through an SEO plateau is crucial for sustaining growth and staying competitive in today’s digital marketplace.

If you’re deep in the middle of such a plateau, we have some positive news for you – there are strategies you can test in order to overcome SEO plateaus effectively. From reassessing your current SEO approach to conducting thorough competitive analysis and optimising content and keywords, we will equip you with actionable insights to revitalise your SEO efforts.


Understanding SEO plateaus

An SEO plateau refers to a period in which a website’s search engine rankings reach a state of stagnation or minimal growth despite ongoing efforts to improve them. These plateaus can be frustrating for businesses aiming to enhance their online visibility and attract more organic traffic. Understanding the causes of an SEO plateau is essential for devising effective strategies to overcome them and continue progressing towards higher rankings.


Causes of SEO plateaus

Algorithm changes: Search engine algorithms, such as those of Google, undergo frequent updates and adjustments. These changes can significantly impact website rankings, sometimes leading to sudden drops or stagnation in rankings. When an algorithm update occurs, websites that were previously ranking well may experience fluctuations or plateaus until they adapt their strategies to align with the new ranking factors.

Increased competition: As more businesses recognise the importance of SEO and invest in optimising their online presence, competition for top search rankings intensifies. Increased competition can make it more challenging for websites to maintain or improve their positions in search results, leading to plateaus in rankings as businesses vie for visibility within their niche or industry.

Outdated strategies: SEO techniques that were effective in the past may become outdated or less effective over time. Search engines continually refine their algorithms to prioritise high-quality content, user experience and relevance. Websites that rely on outdated optimisation tactics, such as keyword stuffing, low-quality backlinks or outdated content, may experience diminishing returns or plateaued rankings.


Significance of early identification

Identifying an SEO plateau early is crucial for preventing prolonged stagnation and minimising its impact on overall website performance. By monitoring key metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings and conversion rates regularly, businesses can detect signs of plateauing and take proactive measures to address underlying issues. Early intervention allows for timely adjustments to SEO strategies, such as refining keyword targeting, updating content or implementing technical optimisations, to regain momentum and continue progress towards higher rankings.


How to: analyse your current situation

Before embarking on any efforts to overcome an SEO plateau, it’s essential to gain a comprehensive understanding of your current SEO performance. Conducting a thorough analysis allows for informed decision-making and targeted strategies to address specific challenges.

  1. Conduct a thorough analysis

If you want to get out of an SEO funk, you have to be prepared to analyse what you’ve been doing. This assessment of your website’s SEO performance should cover various aspects, including on-page optimisation, technical factors and off-page factors such as backlinks and social signals (your site’s social media visibility as perceived by search engines). By examining the overall health of your SEO efforts, you can identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

  1. Use tools for data gathering 

Make full use of the plethora of popular SEO auditing tools that exist, such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Semrush and Moz. These tools offer valuable insights into website performance, user behaviour and search visibility. Features such as traffic analysis, keyword performance tracking and crawl reports will help you to gather relevant data for your analysis.

  1. Key metrics to focus on

When analysing your SEO performance so far, metrics serve as indicators of success and can help identify areas of improvement. Pay particular attention to:

  • Organic traffic: The volume of website traffic originating from organic search results. Increasing organic traffic indicates improved visibility and relevance in search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Keyword rankings: Monitor the rankings of target keywords to assess visibility and competitiveness within search results. Tracking keyword performance allows businesses to identify trends and opportunities for optimisation.
  • Conversion rates: Evaluate conversion rates for desired actions such as form submissions, purchases or sign-ups. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is essential for maximising the effectiveness of SEO efforts and driving meaningful business outcomes.

At this stage, it is important to establish benchmarks for these metrics and track changes over time to measure the effectiveness of your SEO strategies.

By conducting a thorough analysis of your current SEO performance and focusing on key metrics, you will gain valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses. 


The importance of competitive analysis

SEO is far from static, so gaining a competitive edge is essential for achieving and maintaining high search engine rankings. While focusing on optimising your own website is crucial, analysing your competitors’ strategies can provide valuable insights and uncover opportunities for improvement. 

Gain insights and identify opportunities

There is great value in analysing competitors’ strategies to gain insights into what is working well in their industry or niche. By studying competitors’ approaches to keyword targeting, content creation, link building and user experience, businesses can identify successful tactics and trends to incorporate into their own SEO strategies. Additionally, competitive analysis can reveal gaps or areas where competitors may be underperforming, presenting opportunities for differentiation and competitive advantage.

Conduct a competitive analysis

To conduct a competitive analysis, you must use a structured approach. We recommend starting by identifying direct competitors and benchmarking their SEO performance against your own. Tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz’s Link Explorer can be used to gather data on competitors’ keyword rankings, backlink profiles and overall domain authority.

Competitive analysis includes: 

  • Identifying competitors: Identify primary competitors within your industry or niche who are ranking well for target keywords and attracting a similar audience.
  • Analysing keywords: Examine competitors’ keyword strategies to identify high-performing keywords they are targeting and opportunities for expansion or optimisation.
  • Assessing content: Evaluate the quality, relevance and depth of competitors’ content to identify gaps or areas for improvement in your own content strategy.
  • Reviewing backlinks: Analyse competitors’ backlink profiles to identify authoritative sources and potential link-building opportunities for your own website.

Capitalise on competitors’ gaps

Leverage insights from your competitive analysis to capitalise on gaps or weaknesses in competitors’ strategies. By identifying areas where competitors are underperforming or neglecting, you can tailor your SEO efforts to fill these gaps and position yourself more competitively within the market.

To be effective with your SEO competitor analysis, you must have a proactive approach – it is so important to monitor progress regularly and make any necessary adjustments to stay ahead of evolving trends and competitors’ strategies. A freelance SEO consultant can keep your results on track. 

By incorporating competitive analysis into your SEO strategy, you can gain valuable insights, identify opportunities for improvement and ultimately, enhance your online visibility and competitiveness in search engine rankings.


Assessing your SEO agency: Evaluating performance

When seeking to break through an SEO plateau, it’s essential for business owners to critically review the performance of their SEO agency, if they have one managing their SEO efforts. Start by examining the results achieved thus far and assessing whether they align with the agreed-upon objectives and expectations. Evaluate the strategies and tactics employed by the agency, considering factors such as keyword targeting, content quality, backlink acquisition and technical optimisations. 

Additionally, do not be afraid to scrutinise the level of communication, transparency and collaboration provided by the agency, ensuring that they are responsive to enquiries, proactive in addressing concerns and accountable for outcomes. If deficiencies or areas for improvement are identified, communicate openly with the agency to discuss potential adjustments, refinements or alternative approaches to reigniting progress and overcoming the plateau. Remember, effective collaboration and alignment between businesses and their SEO agencies are crucial for achieving sustainable SEO success.


Optimising content and keywords to escape the SEO plateau

Content remains king in 2024. High-quality, relevant content not only attracts search engine traffic but also engages and informs users, driving conversions and ultimately contributing to overall SEO success. 


Why is content (still) so important? 

Content remains the cornerstone of SEO success. Search engines continue to prioritise content that is valuable, informative and relevant to users’ search queries. High-quality content not only attracts organic traffic but also encourages engagement, establishes authority and builds trust with users and search engines alike.


Top tips for optimising existing content

Optimising existing content can improve keyword targeting and user engagement:

  • Keyword optimisation: Conduct keyword research to identify relevant keywords and phrases with high search volume and low competition. Incorporate these keywords strategically into page titles, headings, meta descriptions and throughout the content to improve visibility in search results.
  • Content quality: Review existing content to ensure it is comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date. Update outdated information, fill gaps in content coverage and improve readability by breaking up large blocks of text, using bullet points and incorporating multimedia elements such as images and videos.
  • User engagement: Enhance user engagement by optimising content for readability, relevance and value. Address users’ needs and questions, provide actionable insights and encourage interaction through comments, social sharing and calls-to-action (CTAs).


The role of keyword research

Keyword research is important in identifying new opportunities and addressing user intent.

  • Identifying new opportunities: Conduct keyword research regularly to identify emerging trends, topics of interest and niche-specific keywords with potential for high search volume and low competition. Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush or Ahrefs to uncover relevant keywords and assess their competitiveness.
  • Addressing user intent: Understand the intent behind users’ search queries and tailor content to meet their needs and expectations. Focus on providing valuable, relevant content that aligns with users’ search intent, whether it be informational, navigational, transactional or commercial.

Successful content optimisation requires a holistic approach that combines keyword targeting, content quality and user engagement. By continuously refining and optimising your content strategy, you can improve your visibility in search results, attract targeted traffic and achieve sustainable SEO success.


Conducting a technical SEO review

Technical SEO plays a critical role in maintaining and improving search engine rankings by ensuring that websites are optimised for crawling, indexing and user experience.


The significance of technical SEO 

Technical SEO is important for maintaining website health and maximising visibility in search engine results.

  • Crawlability: Search engines rely on crawling to discover and index website content. Technical SEO optimisations ensure that search engine bots can access and navigate website pages efficiently, leading to improved indexation and visibility in search results.
  • Indexation: Technical SEO practices, such as proper use of canonical tags, meta robots directives and XML sitemaps, help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of website content, leading to accurate indexation and improved rankings.
  • User experience: Technical aspects such as page speed, mobile-friendliness and security contribute to a positive user experience, which is a key ranking factor for search engines. Optimising technical elements enhances user satisfaction, reduces bounce rates and increases engagement, ultimately leading to higher rankings.


Conducting a technical SEO audit

A technical SEO will allow you to identify and address potential issues, including:

  • Site speed: Evaluate website speed using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights. Identify factors affecting load times, such as large image files, excessive server requests or inefficient code and implement optimisations to improve site speed.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Test website responsiveness and usability across different devices and screen sizes using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Ensure that website elements are optimised for mobile viewing, including font sizes, button sizes and viewport settings.
  • Crawlability and indexation: Use tools like Google Search Console and Screaming Frog to identify crawl errors, broken links and issues with site architecture. Ensure that website pages are accessible to search engine bots and that important pages are not blocked by robots.txt or meta robots directives.


Tools to help resolve technical issues 

  • Google Search Console: Use Google’s free tool to monitor website performance, identify indexing issues, and receive alerts about potential problems.
  • Screaming Frog: Use this website crawler tool to conduct in-depth technical audits, identify issues such as broken links and duplicate content and generate comprehensive reports for analysis.

By conducting a thorough technical SEO audit and addressing identified issues promptly, businesses can ensure that their websites are optimised for crawling, indexing and user experience, leading to improved search engine rankings and overall online visibility.


Working with a freelance SEO consultant

To overcome SEO plateaus and achieve sustained growth, businesses often turn to freelance SEO consultants for specialised expertise and personalised strategies. By collaborating with a freelance SEO consultant, your online presence will benefit. Here’s how: 

  • A fresh perspective: Freelance SEO consultants bring a fresh perspective and external insight into a business’s SEO strategy. Their expertise allows them to identify blind spots, uncover opportunities and offer innovative solutions tailored to the specific needs of the business.
  • Specialised knowledge: Freelance SEO consultants possess specialised knowledge and experience in various aspects of SEO, including technical optimisation, content strategy and link building. Their in-depth understanding of search engine algorithms and industry best practices enables them to devise effective strategies that drive tangible results.
  • Technical expertise: Freelance SEO consultants are proficient in conducting technical audits and identifying and resolving issues that may hinder search engine crawling and indexing. They possess advanced technical skills and tools to optimise website performance, improve site and page speed and enhance user experience.
  • Content strategy: SEO freelancers excel in developing content strategies that resonate with target audiences and align with search engine algorithms. They conduct thorough keyword research, optimise content for relevancy and user intent, and implement best practices to drive organic traffic and engagement.
  • A tailored approach: Freelance SEO consultants understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to SEO strategies. They collaborate closely with businesses to develop customised solutions that address specific goals, challenges and industry nuances. This tailored approach ensures that every aspect of the SEO strategy is aligned with the business’s objectives and audience needs.
  • Dedicated support: Freelance SEO consultants provide dedicated support and ongoing guidance throughout the SEO process. They serve as trusted advisors, offering proactive recommendations, monitoring performance metrics and adapting strategies in response to evolving trends and algorithm updates. Their hands-on approach ensures that your business will receive the attention and support needed to achieve long-term success in SEO.

By partnering with a freelance SEO consultant, you can leverage their expertise, specialised knowledge and personalised approach to overcome SEO plateaus, enhance your online visibility and achieve sustainable growth in search engine rankings.

Now, it’s time for you to take action! Implement the recommended strategies, adapt them to your unique business needs and persist in your efforts to achieve SEO success. 

And remember: SEO is a journey that requires patience, perseverance and adaptability.

For personalised assistance and expert guidance tailored to your business goals, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I can provide invaluable insights and support to propel your SEO efforts to new heights – your journey to SEO success starts now!