There are many reasons why your organic search traffic may drop, especially in recent times with a recent Google Update and changes to Covid restrictions which can see your traffic change in an instance. With that in mind it’s important to be able to identify the reasoning behind a drop in traffic.
Drop In Rankings vs Drop In Searches
One of the first things that it’s worth looking at is whether it’s a drop in rankings or a drop in searchers which has caused the drop off in traffic. A drop in rankings would indicate that something is wrong on your side, whereas a drop in searchers would indicate a drop in demand.
Checking Search Visibility
To check this the first thing to check is your search visibility, you should be able to get a good idea with either ahrefs or SEMrush. I would suggest looking at both to make certain, although SEMrush does offer a free account which will do for the purposes of assessing your overall search visibility.
Both tools work similar and from the main dashboard all you need to do is enter the website you want to assess and navigate to the Organic Search section where you will be able to see a graph which will show you search visibility over time.
If you see a drop off in these graphs it’s your search visibility which has dropped.
You may also want to check Google Search Console performance in order to see if there’s been any changes to your average position.
If there hasn’t been a drop the next thing to look at is whether the search trends have been changed which we discuss next. We will then discuss what to look at if your search visibility has dropped.
Checking Search Trends
Google Trends is a great way to see whether there’s been a change in demand for your business on search engines. I would suggest starting with your main topic around your business to get an idea of what is changing.
This should make it easy to see whether there has been a recent drop in searches in your target topic. The good thing about Google Trends is that you can then look at this over a longer period of time in order to determine whether it’s to do with seasonality (the same drop happens each year), there’s an overall decrease over time or if it’s an unexpected drop.
We’ve seen unexpected temporary drops with some clients over recent periods due to changes in covid restrictions which have caused some search behaviours to change overnight.
From an SEO point of view there’s not too much you can do around a drop in demand apart from assessing the keywords you’re targeting and determining whether they are still the right keywords to be targeting as well as looking at options for further keywords to target.
Has The Whole Website Been Affected?
If you have seen a drop in search visibility then one of the next things to identify is whether it’s the entire website, a subsection or even just a single page which has been affected. The main tool that we’d look at first to identify this is Google Analytics.
The report to look at is: Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels
Once you’ve navigated to that report you can select Organic Search to filter down to just that traffic and you’ll then want to change the Primary Dimension (Just above the main table) to “Landing Page”. We would then suggest using a date range which is being compared to the previous period.
Once set up you should be able to see if there’s been a percentage dropoff on different pages. From a quick overview you should be able to see whether the dropoff has been consistent across all pages or not.
You may also want to check this across different tools such as Google Search Console, ahrefs and SEMrush. All of which allow you to see a page by page breakdown.
If it’s just a single page which has been affected you should then look at that page in further detail, it may be that a competitor has taken over in the search results around that topic. You should therefore consider looking at how you can improve the content on that particular page and look at improving the pages link portfolio.
If it’s the whole site which has been affected it’s likely to be a bigger issue with the website in which you should continue with the steps in this post and you may also want to have a full SEO audit undertaken to try and find any other potential underlying issues.
Check For Google Updates
It’s also worth checking what recent Google updates there have been. These can affect any website and if a drop in traffic lines up with a Google update then it’s likely that it’s the cause. To identify this you can use a tool such as the Panguin Tool which will do this for you, or you can look at SEO news to identify the updates.
If you have identified that it’s been caused by a Google Update, you then need to identify what the update targeted. This can be hard to know exactly, unless Google releases a statement with the update, however there is usually some chatter within the SEO industry as to what the update may be around and looking at websites such as SERoundtable can help. The action to take will then depend on what the Google update was.
Check For Manual Penalties
We’re seeing less and less manual penalties, however if you’ve gotten this far and are unsure why the drop has happened then it’s worth double checking and it’s only a two minute job if you have Google Search Console set up.
Simply log in to Google Search Console and look at the Security & Manual Actions section to see if anything has been reported. It’s worth looking at both Manual actions and Security issues as both can cause a drop off in traffic.
If you have a manual action against your website then you’ll need to look at taking action depending on what the manual action is.
Look At Competitors
The last thing to look at is what your competitors have been doing. This can be harder to do unless you’ve been tracking their progress, but tools such as ahrefs and SEMrush should help.
What you should look at is any increases in their link portfolio, have they seen a jump in traffic or if any new content has been added.
If it is a case of your competitors getting ahead you should look at reassessing your own SEO strategy and look at what you can be doing to get back in front. It’s important to remember that for most commercially viable keywords people are always looking to get ahead and you should always be doing the same.
You should now have an idea of how you can identify the reasoning behind a drop in traffic. If you’re still struggling to do so you can get in touch with us and we’d be more than happy to help.