Why did my organic traffic suddenly drop and why do I have fewer visitors?

Why did my organic traffic suddenly drop and why do I have fewer visitors?

A sudden drop in organic traffic can be caused by many factors, including a drop in rankings, changes made to your website, changing relevance for your content, or Google updates. There are also situations no one can truly influence. If your traffic decreases significantly, don’t panic, and try to figure out what may have been the most likely cause.

If your rankings didn’t drop

If you are experiencing a decrease in organic traffic, the first thing to do is to check your rankings. Use tools such as Accurank or Rank Ranger to monitor your rankings over time.

If these tools don’t suggest any drop in your rankings, but you are getting lower traffic, it might be caused by a sudden change in the Google algorithm or in users’ behavior and search intent.

Were there any changes to SERP?

Experts have noted that Google conducted 3,200 updates in 2018 alone, and we believe the number of algorithm changes per year has even risen since then. However, the vast majority of the updates are just minor changes. On the other hand, some do bring crucial changes. If your traffic has dropped, you should check if it doesn’t coincide with one of these.

Although Google usually doesn’t comment on its smaller updates, SEO experts from around the world monitor the search engine’s behavior and have built tools that help them find large changes in rankings. Check out Barry Schwartz’s Was There A Google Update tool for instance.

Was there a change in search intent or unexpected events?

With our world constantly changing, users’ intents change among topics as well. This means that even if you have the most interesting content about a certain topic, the topic itself can stop being interesting. And that means you can still rank well for certain keywords, but find that their search volume has decreased.

Your level of organic traffic also depends on other factors no one can easily anticipate. Unforeseen situations can lead to a sudden drop in organic traffic, as they make certain content irrelevant.

For instance, when Covid-19 hit the world, one of the most affected sectors happened to be the travel industry.

With the overall lockdown and omnipresent fear, people stopped searching for travel-related queries and focused more on health, protection, and food delivery services. Even though many large travel websites were still ranking really well, not many people were interested in traveling, and they stopped searching for the relevant queries.

If a relevant search intent changes, you should evaluate your content and try to adjust it to fit the current state of events.

If your rankings did drop

If your rank trackers suggest rankings really drop, this means your performance has decreased overall, and you should identify what might have caused it. And there are many factors that may be deemed responsible.

Did anything change on your website?

Changes to your website are one likely cause for both ranking drops and decreases in organic traffic. This can either mean intentional changes such as updating the robots.txt file, implementing meta robots tags, and updating canonical URLs, or it can mean a mistake. And sometimes, changes occur because your site has been hacked.

If your traffic suddenly drops, check the state of your website in Google Search Console. The platform can notify you about changes or issues. This tool also enables you to analyze possible Index Coverage Errors, which could shed some light on the issue.

Screenshot of Google Search Console’s Index Coverage report
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Are there any technical issues on your website?

Technical issues can cause damage by preventing Google from smoothly crawling and indexing your website. If there are technical barriers, you should act fast and make sure Google understands your content. Check if Google is reporting crawl errors in the Index Coverage report.

Have you performed a website redesign and migration?

Some of the most dangerous moments arise when you decide to redesign and migrate your website. It often happens that once the new website goes live, the domain’s visibility and traffic drop significantly. During the process of redesigning and migrating the staging version to the live one, a number of tiny mistakes can be made, any of which could result in a massive disaster.

It is not uncommon that during a migration, the people responsible for the process forget to update the robots.txt file or remove the noindex meta robots tag. These are used on the staging server to hide the unfinished version from crawlers. But if they’re not updated after going live, the new website can remain invisible, with a drastic drop in traffic.

Keep in mind that even when you migrate to a new website successfully, there are absolutely no guarantees that your rankings will return to the same level as before.

Website migrations fail

Links are one of the main pillars of your website’s SEO performance, and both their quantity and quality play a significant role when it comes to organic traffic. If you lose inbound links, Google will consider your website less authoritative, which will lead to a decrease in rankings and hence organic traffic.

To monitor the state of your inbound links, you can use tools such as Ahrefs or Majestic. These let you identify any potential site-wide declines in links.

Ahrefs monitoring inbound links

Is your content outdated and irrelevant?

Another possible reason why your website has stopped attracting users is a drop in the quality and relevance of your content. Does it still fit the original search query intent? Are you covering up-to-date topics? Or is there room for improvement? And most importantly, are you still using the most relevant keywords?

Try to think of ways your titles and meta descriptions could be improved, because these are the first parts of your content that users see in search engines. Update the content’s copy so that users find it interesting, informative, or entertaining. This could lead to the creation of natural links that will be valuable for your website overall.

You can also implement Schema markup to make more parts of your content visible in the search results. These might be FAQs, recipes, ratings, or other attractive elements.

Enhanced snippet of ContentKing’s Ranking Drop article with FAQ Schema

Is your competition getting better?

The sudden drop in organic traffic might be caused by a new competitor—or old ones who suddenly improved their strategy and ranking—dragging away your audience. Always set aside some time to monitor your competitors and their activities, to see what can be done better to gain more visitors. Try to always be a few steps ahead.

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