Prefer to watch a video? In this video, Frank shares the first steps you can take to find the cause of an organic traffic drop.
What causes a drop in organic web traffic?
Many factors can cause a web traffic drop leading to fewer conversions. Sometimes, it may be due to changes in search engines and their algorithm updates that your website is optimized for. Other times, it may be caused by a shift in the content being published on your website – if you stopped writing about a specific topic that was previously popular, for example. It could also be that your competitors have begun to invest more heavily in their online presence and are outperforming your lower search rankings.
This article addresses reasons why your organic traffic dropped suddenly and steps to take to recover.
1. Technical SEO Neglect
Technical website issues prevent search engines from crawling, rendering, or indexing a website.
- Recent mistake with robots.txt or meta robots tag.
- Crawl errors from internal links.
- Using a 302 redirect instead of a 301.
- Broken 301 redirects.
- Poorly executed internal linking structure.
- Duplicate, common, and low quality content.
- Change in analytics tracking code.
- XML sitemap errors.
- Malware or hacked websites.
2. Google algorithm changes and updates
Google algorithm changes can cause a decrease in website traffic if the website is not optimized for the updated algorithm. For example, if Google updates its algorithm to prioritize content that adds new information for a topic and a website only reiterates existing information, the website may rank lower in search results, resulting in a traffic dip.
3. Poor content planning, writing, and publishing velocity
A decline in the quality of content can also cause a decline in website traffic and organic results. If a website’s content is no longer relevant or interesting to users, they will likely stop visiting it and the expected organic result will decrease. At this point, it’s time to level-up your keyword research to better find and plan a content calendar.
Furthermore, if your publishing velocity or the rate at which you release new content decreases, you may see a decrease in traffic as Google’s web crawlers visit your site less frequently. This may result in Google missing site updates, allowing your competitors to present themselves as the more recent provider of information.
Additionally, users will be less likely to see your web pages if a website’s content contains errors or typos. In Q3 & Q4 of 2022, Google began targeting AI content that is poorly written or leaves grammatical footprints.
4. Bad inbound linking strategy or lost links
Finally, a decrease in valuable backlinks can also lead to a slump in website traffic. Backlinks are hypertext references from other websites that point to your website. Inbound links factor heavily in website authority on a given topic as they help to improve your website’s reputation and topic authority. If the number of inbound links decreases, your website’s ranking may also decline, resulting in less traffic.
Here’s what Google says about the top reasons for ranking and impression drops:
- Reviewing the wrong search console property.
- Google has yet to crawl new changes.
- Website error has caused pages to go missing.
- Manual actions.
- Security issue.
- URL removal request by mistake.
- Host name change.
- Protocol change (HTTP vs. HTTPS).
- Traffic or impressions dip due to seasonality.
Get Clarification On Organic Traffic Going Down
If you need clarification on what has caused organic traffic to fall off a cliff on your website, it’s always worth further investigation. Checking your Google Analytics account to see if there has been a change in the traffic source (direct, organic, referral, social, email, etc.) can give you some clues. Similarly, looking at the behavior flow report can help you to identify which pages are losing traffic and why this might be happening. By carrying out this analysis, you should be able to get to the bottom of any traffic trending downwards on your website and take steps to rectify the situation.
5. Were any recent changes made to the website?
If any recent changes have been made to the website, such as a new page or feature, it could impact the traffic. For example, if a feature has been implemented requiring users to log in before accessing certain pages, this could limit access and reduce traffic. Similarly, if some pages have been removed from the website or moved to a different URL, this could lead to less traffic. It is always worth double-checking any recent changes that have been made to ensure that these are not causing an issue. A drop in traffic could also indicate a problem with your SEO strategy.
6. Is your website free of technical issues?
Pro Tip: Check the index coverage report (now named Pages report) in Google Search Console. Technical issues such as broken links, slow page load times, change in the URL structure, and HTML errors can all lead to a drop in traffic. Step number one is to ensure that your website is free of technical issues so search engine spiders can crawl, render, and index the site correctly. Additionally, fixing any overarching technical problems should help improve user experience and keep visitors on the site. Did you add schema markup in an attempt to rank for a featured snippet? If the schema is newly implemented, check for validation.
7. Did the website admin do a migration or redesign?
A website migration or redesign can sometimes cause a drop in traffic if it has been done incorrectly. If the URL structure of a website has changed, any old URLs linked to from other websites may no longer exist and result in a 404 not found error. Similarly, if 301 redirects have yet to be implemented correctly, visitors may land on the wrong page, decreasing traffic.
8. Does a new competitor have a better organic search strategy?
It is also worth considering whether new competitors have a better SEO strategy than you. If their website is more optimized for search engine crawlers and includes higher quality content, they may appear higher in search rankings than yours, leading to a decrease in traffic. Review your SEO strategy and compare that to a competitive analysis of your top three competitors.
What are Common KPIs for Organic Website Traffic?
If you can’t measure traffic, tracking the source of errors in traffic declines is extremely difficult. While there are several ways to measure organic traffic, one of the most important is through KPIs or Key Performance Indicators.
A key performance indicator (KPI) for organic visitors is the number of unique visitors that come to your site from organic search ranking. This number can give you an idea of how many people find your web pages through organic search and how well your site achieves visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Another KPI for organic traffic is the number of sessions that originate from organic search results. A session is a timeframe in which a user actively engages with your website. Tracking session data can give you an idea of how much time users spend on your site after finding it through organic search.
Pages per Session
A related KPI for organic website traffic is the number of pages per session that originate from organic search engine results. Pages per session can provide insight into how much content your site users consume after finding it through organic search. If the average user only views one page, it may indicate that your site’s content needs to be more relevant to their needs or that your site’s design prevents them from finding other pages they might be interested in.
Organic Conversion Rate
Another important KPI for organic website traffic is goal completion and rate of conversion. Organic Conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who complete a predefined goal by filling out a form, calling the phone number in a call-to-action (CTA), making a purchase in an eCommerce store, or signing up for a newsletter after arriving at your site from an organic search result. Conversion rate measures how effectively your site converts visitors into leads or customers.
By tracking KPIs such as organic SERPs, organic pageviews, and organic bounce rate, website owners can better understand how their site is performing and where they need to improve. By regularly tracking these KPIs, website owners can ensure that relevant web pages always get the organic traffic they need to thrive and bring revenue.
How Do You Analyze Website Traffic Going Down?
One way to analyze organic website traffic is to look at your website’s analytics data to gain a clear perspective of organic traffic sources, what pages are being viewed, how long people dwell on a web page, and the website as a whole. Google Search Console is a necessary tool to determine if technical errors are causing issues with information architecture, canonicals, pages that are discovered or crawled but not indexed, and server-side and client-side error reporting. This information can help you identify many potential problems and make changes accordingly.
You may also consult with experts in the field of website optimization. They can help you identify any issues with your website that might be causing traffic problems and start seeing the results you want.
Check Google Analytics
The first step in analyzing website traffic downward trends is to check your Google Analytics account after the tracking codes are properly installed (double check to be sure the tracking codes are installed correctly). Google Analytics is a free tool that enhances website reporting with detailed information about inbound and outbound website traffic. Once you log in to your account, install the tracking code manually or with analytics plug-ins and you will see how many visitors your website has had over a specific date range. Information from analytics reporting can help identify when traffic to your website began to drop.
Identify the Cause of the Drop
Once you determine when traffic to your website began to drop, you will need to identify the cause. There are many potential causes of traffic loss, including changes in Google’s algorithms, competition from other websites, and changes in your website’s design or content. If the cause of the decline is difficult to identify, you may consider hiring an SEO expert to help you troubleshoot the problem.
Take Action to Fix the Problem
Once the root cause of the drop in traffic is pinpointed, fix the problem by creating a strategy and a precise plan of action. Depending on the cause of the decline, this could involve making changes to your website’s high quality content strategy, or coding. If you need help making these changes yourself, you may want to hire a web developer or digital marketing agency to help you make the necessary changes.
Monitor Traffic Levels Going Forward
After taking action to fix the problem that caused your website’s traffic to drop, monitor traffic levels by checking your website measurement tools regularly. By monitoring traffic levels, you can tell if your changes have positively impacted traffic levels or if further changes are needed.
What Tools Can Help Diagnose Organic Traffic Decline?
As any digital marketing professional knows, organic traffic is the lifeblood of any website. Inbound organic traffic from SERPs tends to be more high-quality than other forms of traffic. That can be devastating when organic traffic suddenly drops. Fortunately, some tools can help you diagnose the cause of a sudden traffic drop. Google Analytics, for instance, can provide insights into which pages are seeing the most significant declines. Likewise, Google Search Console can help you identify any sudden drops in click-through rates. Using these and other tools, you can often diagnose the cause of a sudden traffic drop and take steps to correct it.
Analytics Data Package
The analytics package from Google can help you identify organic downward trends in organic traffic by showing you the number of visitors to your site and their traffic source. It’s very simple to add the tracking code to the content management system.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is another free tool from Google that can track website traffic. It can provide data on the keywords people use to find your site and the number of clicks and impressions your site is getting.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing Webmaster Tools is an invaluable and free tool from Microsoft that can track website traffic. It provides data similar to GSC.
How Do You Recover a Website from Organic Traffic Drops?
A website traffic crash can be a nightmare for any business owner. A sudden drop in website impressions, click-through rates, and traffic can cause a severe loss of revenue. It is identifying the cause of the problem and taking immediate action to correct it that will stop organic traffic crashes.
- Check server logs.
- Fix redirect errors & problems.
- Identify bad content & internal duplicate content.
- Improve your website content strategy.
- Improve process for publishing optimized content.
- Invest in high-quality backlinks.
- Invest in social media marketing.
- Use paid search advertising.
- Optimize website for performance.
Conclusion: Organic traffic drops can be caused by various factors on and off your website. Suppose you’re experiencing a traffic drop and want to diagnose the issue and find a solution. In that case, hiring an SEO professional with experience in diagnosing and fixing organic traffic drops is best. A top-notch SEO company has access to tools and data and will be able to help stop the traffic crash before it causes long-term damage to your business.
Ultimately, recognizing a sudden drop in website traffic (or impressions and clicks) could be due to several factors. As such, it pays to have an experienced SEO consultant to identify the cause of the problem and help you put together a plan.