If you’re like me, then you probably have a site or two that just don’t perform like they should. Maybe they’ve just been neglected, like site #2 in my case study & income reports.
Or maybe you’ve been working hard on the site and it’s just plateaued or been hit by an algorithm update. One thing is for certain – seemingly stuck sites are often hard to diagnose and they’re sure as hell a pain in the ass.
You can revive one of these sites. But it takes a fuckload of work.
If you’re ready to put in the time, then I’ve got the ‘revive and thrive’ site formula for you to try out.
**And as always, I’m an affiliate marketer and this post contains affiliate links, meaning I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on some of my links.
Stop Everything You’re Doing NOW
If you’re not here because you have a neglected site, then your site has either plateaued, been hit by a Google algorithm update or penalty, or it’s dropping in the SERPs for some unknown reason.
That means that whatever you’re doing right now is not working.
- If you’re still adding new content, then stop.
- If you’re still getting new links to the site, then stop.
- If you’re doing anything else, then just stop.
The stopping is only temporary. It’s just until we get you back on the right track.
I’m going to give you the complete process that I go through whenever I have a site in one of these situations (or whenever someone else pays me to fix their site).
The steps below are also a good idea if you’ve bought a site and want to make sure you’re all set for maximizing earnings.
This isn’t high level shit. It’s just basic, tedious-as-hell work that needs to be done to make sure your site has the best possible foundation for ranking and earning.
Start With A Quick Check-Up
First things first, you need to do a good audit of your site so you can fix any glaring issues. I’ve audited a decent number of people’s sites, so there are some basic things that I notice people miss. Here’s what I suggest paying attention to:
Got SSL Set Up?
Are you serving up a secure version of your site? There’s literally no excuse for you to not have SSL installed on your site because most hosts offer free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates for your domains.
Maybe you already do have your SSL installed. But are you making sure the http version is redirecting to the https version of the site?
This is important because you don’t want both versions being indexed in Google.
You can force your site to redirect to https with some code in your .htaccess file or with a plugin like Really Simple SSL.
You’ll also want to make sure that the secure version of your site is in your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts.
WWW vs Non-WWW Version Indexing?
Unless you’re telling Google not to do it, you can end up with both the www version and the non-www version of your site being indexed. You do not want this to happen.
All you have to do is add some code to your .htaccess file to fix this little problem.
It doesn’t matter which of these you use, so pick one and stick with it.
Broken Themes or Plugins?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you haven’t looked under the hood lately then it’s a good idea to make sure your site is still working the way that it’s supposed to.
A few months ago I audited a site where the site owner couldn’t understand why income was going down….and it didn’t take long to discover the older version of the Easy Azon plugin wasn’t displaying Amazon products properly.
So, don’t just assume that all your plugins are working – visit pages where you use them to make sure everything is good.
Check Multiple Devices
You probably have a smartphone and a laptop or computer, at a minimum, right? Are you seeing how your site looks and performs on those devices?
If you’re working on your site only on a computer and never seeing how it looks on mobile, then you might be missing out on some major issues. In fact, I recently had a neglected site that just was not loading images at all on mobile but was fine on the computer.
So, check out your site on other devices and see if you need to change out a theme or plugins to make sure everything loads the way you need it to.
How’s The Site Speed?
I don’t know how big of a ranking factor this one is, but it must be important for Google to be tracking in Search Console. So, run your top pages through Page Speed Insights to see what you get.
Even better, install Google’s Web Vitals extension for Chrome. Then you can easily see how the pages of your site load.
This is what the data output looks like for that extension. It’s a great way to quickly assess how fast or slow Google thinks your web page is for users.
Related reading: Web Vitals: Essential metrics for a healthy site
You should also use GTMetrix to see the waterfall loading times for your site – this is a great way to see what’s taking a really long time to load.
Keep in mind that page speed isn’t about testing your homepage or just one page of your site. Different pages have different load times due to different media on the page, etc. And you need ALL pages to load relatively fast.
I’ve written about page speed before here and here. But, here’s the tl;dr:
- Fix slow server problems (TTFB) by getting faster host. Cloudways is the fastest cheap host I’ve found. BigScoots is the fastest managed WordPress hosting I’ve found (that is affordable).
- Use Cloudflare as a free CDN.
- Use WP Rocket for caching
- Optimize images for web – I use Imagify.
- Replace your bloated WordPress theme with GeneratePress (I use the premium version)
- Reduce the number of plugins that you use
Do A Complete Content Audit
This is where you’re going to spend a lot of time. A lot. Seriously.
I mean it.
It could take weeks, depending on how many posts are on your site. Last year I spent almost three months doing a content audit on my biggest site (over 300 posts).
Here’s how I do my content audits:
Look For Thin Content
If you have an older site, then there’s a pretty high chance that you have some blog posts that are basically just thin content. They’re probably hurting your ranking efforts.
Install the WP Word Count plugin on your site to see the word counts of all your posts.
I like to have a minimum of 800 words in a post, so I would start with the lowest word count and go through everything under 800 words.
- If you want to keep the post, then you need to add more content to it.
- If you don’t want to keep the post, then you need to delete it.
- Or, you may discover that you can combine some shorter posts into one longer post.
Before deleting a post, check to see if it has traffic or backlinks.
Look For Internal Linking Opportunities
As you’re doing your content audit, keep an eye out for good opportunities to link out to other content on your site.
Sure, you can buy a plugin to do this for you…if you’re lazy. Or, you can do it the
right better way – manually.
Only link out to your other posts when it’s relevant and don’t go overboard with the anchor text – keep things looking natural.
Look For Broken Links
It’s expected that you’ll have some broken outbound links from your site. It’s just the nature of the web.
But what you don’t want are broken internal links or a fuck ton of broken outbound links.
You can use something like Screaming Frog to scan your site and find broken links.
Check Your Affiliate Links
Go through every post on your site that has an affiliate link and make sure that it’s still pointing at the right product.
- Amazon often changes a product’s ASIN, making old links go to 404 pages.
- Brands often change affiliate program platforms, such as moving from Commission Junction to Shareasale and old links don’t work.
Basically you need to make sure that you’re not losing money due to wonky affiliate links.
This is super tedious, but definitely worth it in the end. You’ll probably see a revenue boost from this action alone if you’re an affiliate site owner.
Revamp Affiliate Content
Yes, I’m telling you to go through all of your affiliate content again, but this time do to something different. Can you do it at the same time as the previous task? Yes, but I suggest you focus on one thing at a time.
Here’s what you’re going to do here:
- Determine if you need to replace a recommended product with a different one.
- Give the existing content a bit of a makeover.
If you’re promoting stuff on Amazon, then you may discover that something you’re recommending used to have a 4+ star rating and now it’s poorly rated. This is a perfect example of needing to change out to a new product recommendation.
While you’re already tweaking this post, you may as well freshen it up a bit. Maybe there’s a new product that you can include in your recommendations, or some new supplementary content from People Also Ask that you can add in.
You don’t need to go overboard with the content makeover, not yet, but just give Google a little something new to look at.
Look At Why Each Post Isn’t Ranking
This is another crazy tedious part of this process. You’re really going to hate this part – I know this because I really, really hate it.
One by one, put each single post URL into Ahrefs (you can get a 7-day trial for just $7 and enter in up to 500 URLs per day). Look to see what keywords each post is ranking for and focus on the top keyword for each post.
If a post isn’t in the top 3 for it’s main keyword, then you have work to do.
If you’re not in the top 3, then here’s what you need to do:
- Look at pages currently ranking above you. If you’re not in the top 10, then you look at the top 10.
- Make a list of the hierarchy (H2s, H3s, etc.) for each page ranking above you on page one.
- Get the word count of each page (use a free limited access account at SurferSEO or use this side-by-side comparison tool.
- Make notes of any rich media on the ranking pages (videos, images, etc.)
- Put each URL of the pages ranking above you on page one into Ahrefs and get the number of referring domains, DR, and internal links count.
- Put all of this data into a spreadsheet for easy reference.
- This is the ranking secret sauce you need.
Now that you’ve gathered all of this data about your competition for this keyword, it’s time to analyze it.
- Look at the hierarchy of the pages ranking above you – see any topics that you’re not covering on your post? Add them to your task list for this post.
- Look at your notes about rich media – do the other sites have more than you? Add this to your task list for this post. You can even embed the exact same YouTube videos as your competition.
- Look at the number of referring domains of the pages ranking above you – how does that compare to the number of RD’s pointing at your post? If you’re not meeting or exceeding that number, then add this to your task list. You may even be able to get the exact same links.
- Look at the DR of the sites ranking above you – how does it compare to yours? If the other sites are a lot higher, then you’re going to need even more links than your thought in the step above. Add this to your task list.
- Look at the number of internal links of the pages ranking above you – how does it compare to yours? If you’re not meeting or exceeding that number, then add this to your task list.
Notice that I didn’t mention word count here. That’s because if you’re covering all the same topics as the sites ranking above you, then you’re likely going to fall in line with the average word count.
Here’s what’s really important – you need to do this for every single blog post on your site that’s not ranking in the top three.
I told you that you were gonna hate this part. It was true, huh?
Content Makeover: Beast Mode
This is where all that work comes together. By now you have a spreadsheet, or old school notebook if that’s how you roll, and it’s it jam packed with everything you need to know about ranking every single post on your site that’s not already in the top three.
So, where to start?
I prefer to work on the posts in order of best to worst ranking. So, I’d start with the post that is closest to a #1 ranking for the preferred keyword and work down the list like that.
Now, you just start knocking things off that list for the post you’re making over.
- Add in the content/topics that your competitors have that you don’t. Pay attention to how the competition structured their post and mimic it. (note: mimic does not mean steal/copy exactly)
- Add in some rich media that your competitors have that you don’t.
- Try to get the same links that your competition has. If you can’t get the same ones, then look for links from sites with similar metric. Can’t do that? Then you’ll need to increase the number of links you need – there’s no way to know how many links it will take exactly, so keep getting links until you reach #1. (HARO is a great resource)
- Don’t forget about internal links to the post. You may even need to write some new informational posts just to use for internal linking purposes.
Repeat those four steps for each post on your site that you’re working on via that spreadsheet. The link building will take you the longest to finish.
By the time you’ve worked through all of the posts on your spreadsheet, you should already be seeing gains in traffic. And if your site is monetized, then your revenue should similarly show an increase.
Re-Think Your Keyword Research Strategy
If you’re here because your problem is that you have a new site that just isn’t getting much traction, then maybe the problem is your keyword research. You could be targeting bad keywords or keywords that you are never going to rank for right now.
Or maybe you’re bringing in the wrong type of traffic – for instance, you want people ready to buy but your keywords and content are targeting people at the start of the buying funnel instead of the end.
Teaching a good keyword research strategy is an entirely different topic, so if you need help for that, then please accept my apologies because that’s a topic for a whole new article. Here’s a decent resource on the Ahrefs blog.
If you need more individualized help now, then you join my premium Facebook group and I’m happy to give you some customized tips in there. Or you can pay me for an hour of consulting and I’ll record you an in-depth video tutorial for your site/niche.
Look For New Monetization Opportunities
If you’ve been here before, then you already know that I’m big on income diversification. So, if site revenue is one of the things that you’re experiencing a decline or plateau with, then looking for new opportunities might help turn things around for you.
Not only can you possibly find programs that offer a higher commission rate, but you may also discover new products to promote on your site.
But this isn’t just about affiliate offers.
Maybe it’s time for you to think about creating your own product. Or adding a Shopify store the site. Or putting on some display ads.
Just spend some time thinking outside the box and see what you can come up with.
Look For New Traffic Streams
Relying solely on Google organic search traffic is foolish. Don’t worry, I’ve been there….I may even have a few sites still doing this.
The truth is that Google is a finicky bastard and you can’t rely on it for shit. That’s why you need to be looking for every possible way to send traffic to your site.
There’s loads of options for you to target.
- social media (like Pinterest)
- Facebook groups
- a mailing list
I’m sure there’s others that you can find. And probably some that are specific to your niche.
Work on growing those and you’ll have traffic streams that make it so that Google updates don’t really matter.
Now you’ve got some work to do. Lots of it. Good luck with that!
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.
2 thoughts on “Proven Steps To Revive Dead, Stuck, Algorithm-Hit, and Underperforming Sites [My Site Growth Strategy]”
Another great post Shawna!
I got hit hard by the last May 2020 Google Update. It was the first Update that really hit my site in its 2 year existence. There’s a lot on that list to tackle.
The diversifying traffic section really caught my eye. I’m debating whether to go YouTube or Pinterest. I’d do both but between learning curves and costs.
For YouTube, I’m dying to try Content Samurai and for Pinterest, trying Tailwind.
I’m leaning more towards Pinterest since I’ve heard it can drive more traffic than any other source out there.
What do you think?
Thanks again for the excellent post!
Thanks, David! Sorry to hear you got hit hard by the update. Sometimes these algo updates make zero sense when you think you’re doing everything right. Hopefully this list gets you back on track!
In regards to YT vs Pinterest, which one is the more likely location for your audience to spend time hanging out at? Pick whichever one they’re mostly likely to be found. Not sure? Then I’d go with Pinterest simply due to the low barrier to entry, in terms of skills required to make it work. I feel like Pinterest also requires less effort/time spent.