If you’ve been maintaining a website for some time, chances are you have experienced a sudden drop in organic search traffic. Panic sets in, and now you’re at a loss on how to get things back on track.
Well, there are several reasons to explain a seemingly unexplainable organic traffic decline. What you need is to do a little detective work. Retrace your steps, then arm yourself with this list of tips to help you analyse and solve your case!
1. Check Your Tracking Code
Before you dive into your investigation, though, start with the easiest step first. And that is to verify if your tracking code is working. You can do this through Google Analytics: go to Admin, select Tracking Info, then choose Tracking Code. Check if the header and footer areas are correct. You can also check the Google Analytics help page or ask your site developer for assistance.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you identify traffic drops right away, you can also use Google Analytics’ custom alert. Select Intelligence Events, choose Custom Alerts, then Manage Custom Alerts. Activating this function lets you receive notifications via email. Now, if everything’s in order and you are sure that an organic search traffic drop occurred, then you can proceed to your in-depth analysis.
2. Assess Your Performance Report
The key to analysing the cause of an organic search traffic drop is to collect as much reliable data as possible. And you can do this by looking at your Google Search Console. This tool has charts and tables that can give you an overview of your site’s traffic performance. It can also show you site errors, page links, crawl rate and keyword searches. All of which are potential suspects to traffic decrease and worth checking out as you evaluate your report.
On top of the basics, tinkering with the console’s handy filters lets you dig deeper and study more specific metrics. For instance, Google suggested changing the date range, comparing two similar periods and analysing various search types to learn more about the traffic drop origin. Checking your Google Search Console performance report will surely give your investigation a direction and allow the process of elimination.
3. Review the Latest Algorithmic Changes
Google will once in a while improve its way of assessing web content. An example of this is the recent inclusion of core web vitals in our optimisation efforts. Not keeping track of these Google algorithm updates can cause havoc to your organic search traffic and rankings. So, to stay abreast, make sure to subscribe to Google’s YouTube and Twitter accounts.
But if you miss out on these updates, the next step is to make the necessary site changes to stay on Google’s good side and avoid penalties. There may be several data points to check, but your content, in this case, would probably need the most attention.
That’s because low-quality or insufficient content is a Google pet peeve. Some solutions that may address the problem include structuring your articles, handling outdated content and applying SEO must-dos before publishing.
4. Revisit Your Page or Site-Wide Upgrades
In some cases, our manual actions can be the root cause of the issue. A site redesign, migration and content clear-out, for example, might be necessary for business improvement. But if the changes made are not SEO-friendly, then your site may be in for an organic search traffic nosedive.
Common issues include broken links and images, content loss, and slow page speed. The best solution for this is to plan your page or site upgrades with care. Prevention is better than cure, as they say.
But if your traffic is already dipping, you’ll need to sort the problem out with your developers. Tools can also help. Google Search Console, for instance, can show you crawl error graphs to identify significant changes after your site upgrade. You can also check its broken URL report as well as the index status to see if you’ve disallowed anything by mistake.
5. Identify Possible Link Issues
Backlinks play a crucial role in your visibility and organic search traffic. And if you somehow lose them, then a drop can occur. Losing links may also send Google the message that your site is no longer authoritative. In turn, your Google search ranking plummets together with your traffic as fewer users are finding your website.
Tools like Ahrefs or Majestic can help you confirm if the loss of links is the cause of your traffic problem. And if you do need to fix them, one way to do so is to contact the external site owners and ask if they can restore the removed links. Another solution is to restart your link-building efforts by writing guest posts, earning backlinks from industry-relevant influencers or increasing social shares.
Keep in mind that your audit may also show you other problems like link spam. Occasionally, Google introduces link-based algorithm upgrades to take care of bad link-building tactics. And if there are several low-quality links on your site, consider taking care of those, too, to restore traffic.
6. Conduct a Competitor Analysis
Sometimes, your Google organic search traffic drops because of the upgrades of your rivals. There’s a gradual decline in traffic in this case. A way to spot this issue is to regularly observe your pages in the SERPs, then see if there are significant shifts in search positions.
A more objective method is to use tools that allow you to compare your pages with your competitors. With these tools, you can identify specific aspects of your site or pages that need improvement. Addressing your weak spots can then help improve your rankings and revive site traffic. These tips for website optimisation can also help you out.
It’s also possible that your rivals have set up a PPC campaign and started bidding on your high-ranking keywords. Their page now appears on top, altering your organic traffic in the process. If you have PPC in place, overbidding the competitor is a possible solution. Alternatively, you can consider ranking for other keywords or search queries as well.
7. Research on Search Trends
Finally, your organic traffic drop may happen because of online users themselves and their changing search behaviour. For instance, people will use search engines to learn more about a currently popular product in your industry. And at other times, seasonality can influence what users search for online. Searches for gift ideas, for example, are high in December, while dieting and exercise shoot up by January.
Google Trends, in this case, is a valuable tool in addressing search interest disruption. It can show you actual search queries and keywords that people use in a specific country and city. Data from this tool can help you realign your existing content with the dominant searches in your region to build up organic search traffic. Google Trends can give you ideas for traffic-generating content as well.
A drop in traffic can be disheartening, especially when you think about all the hard work you put into gaining it. The possible decrease in conversion rates makes things worse. It only emphasises the fact that website maintenance and improvement is an ongoing task.
And while traffic issues are inevitable, the good news is you can do something about them. With your traffic survival checklist and the right tools, you can keep your site afloat and nip future issues in the bud!
Once you’ve fixed your organic traffic issue, you may want to read our article about 6 SEO myths you may not be aware of.