Why did my organic traffic drop?

Simple SEO Podcast, SEO

Working on SEO and getting traffic to your website takes time. We all know that. Once you’ve got it working and traffic is coming in, you want to make sure it continues to work. Sometimes, we see situations where something suddenly seems wrong and a website’s organic traffic drops. This often leaves business owners wondering – why did my organic traffic drop? And more importantly, what do I do to fix it ASAP? A dip in SEO traffic, whether it’s sudden or ongoing, can severely impact your business, leads, and sales.


Why does organic traffic drop?

There are a few reasons why a website's Google traffic can drop. Sometimes, it’s due to something you’ve done, and other times, it has nothing to do with your website but rather what a competitor is up to.


How do we identify what’s causing the traffic drop?

If you’ve been tracking your website’s SEO performance for a while, you should have data on your SEO keyword ranking, Google Analytics traffic reports, and maybe even Domain Authority. Let’s start by reviewing the data.


A quick note about data sources -

If you’re only tracking your website performance from the monthly report Google Search Console sends you – please switch to Google Analytics and a keyword ranking tool. They’ll provide you with more reliable data. Use Search Console to tell you about your indexation information, but don’t count on it for keyword ranking, clicks, or traffic information. As professional SEOs, we use that data sparingly – we consider it directional at best and completely wrong at worst. You’re not getting traffic from keywords that are ranking beyond position #10 – I don’t know why they bother reporting on ones that are in position 50 – no one is clicking on page 5 in the search results. And I’ve seen the click information in those reports be 10x what the site actually received. Trust Google Analytics and your SEO keyword reporting tool instead of Search Console for reporting.


Website Organic Traffic Data

If you’re tracking your SEO performance (Organic Traffic) in Google Analytics, then you should be able to see a decline soon after it begins. You want to look at your total website traffic and your organic traffic (number and percent of traffic) each month so you know if you’re going up or down. By tracking monthly, you don’t end up finding out there’s an issue 6, 12, or even 18 months later. The earlier you can identify an issue, the faster you can turn things around.  


Look to see if it’s your homepage traffic that’s down or another page or blog posts that are down. Is there anything that stands out because it’s had a big drop in traffic? Look at your top 25 pages for the past 90 days and go through them month by month. Are any of the pages down more than average? It’s possible you had a blog post or a page that was ranking higher in the search results and has dropped down – that will impact your website’s organic traffic. Is your homepage’s traffic lower than it was a few months ago?


Compare this year’s traffic to last year’s traffic in Analytics and see how you’re trending year-over-year. You also want to consider the possibility of this being a seasonal dip. What happened to your website’s traffic this time last year? Did you see a drop in traffic?


It’s possible that your organic traffic is down this month, and it was down this month last year, too, and this is nothing more than an expected seasonal drop. If you think this is the case, I recommend waiting and seeing what happens the next month if you don’t see any other potential issues in this blog post applying to your business.


Is there more competition causing your drop in organic traffic?


Have you checked to see if the competition is doing SEO or doing better than you are? It’s possible you have a competitor who’s gotten into SEO and is doing a better job (or not doing it at all now), which means you must work a bit harder to protect your rankings and organic traffic.


How do you find out if you have a new or improved competitor to contend with? Go to Google, open an incognito browser window, search for keywords related to your business, and see who shows up at the top of the page. If there are new names you haven’t seen before, and they’re showing up for multiple keywords, then it’s likely they’ve stolen some of your traffic. If your regular competitors are there but they’re showing up more frequently, then they’re probably working on their SEO, too, and now you need to work to beat them.


When there isn’t a lot of competition in a niche, you can rank high on Google a bit easier than when things are competitive. What you did before may not work anymore, and you may have to change your strategy to compete. I’ve worked with brands in many competitive niches. We always look to see who’s there and what they’re doing for SEO and adjust our strategy accordingly. If you’re facing this situation and not sure what to do to compete, join me in Simple SEO Content. Do what you learn for your site to review their SEO, figure out what they’re doing, and then ask questions, and I’ll help you create a strategy to beat them. 


Have you made a technical change recently, or have you updated/refreshed your website? Sometimes, your traffic drop is because of a site migration. When we make big changes to websites, we often see rankings and traffic drop as Google gets to know the new site. We also sometimes see technical issues from changes that cause problems for Google. If you have a Google Search Console account, be sure to log in and check your indexation information. If Google can’t crawl your website, they’ll let you know in your account. Be sure you have an updated XML Sitemap for your site so Google knows where your URLs are located so they can easily and quickly find your content in addition to finding it by crawling your website.


How do you start to fix it when your organic traffic is down?


The first step to fixing a drop in traffic is to figure out what’s happened. Why did the traffic drop? Do you have a technical issue that needs to be fixed? Can Google crawl your website and index your content? If there’s a technical issue, then you need to get that fixed. If you’re not sure what to do or how to fix it, hire someone to help you. This is a time when it’s often best to pay for technical SEO help. I don’t manage the backend of my website myself. I manage the content and SEO, but someone else who has a better understanding of the technical / development end of things handles the backend issues for me.


If you have a new competitor in your niche causing your organic traffic to drop


If your traffic is down because of a new competitor, you’ll need to review their website and SEO to determine if you can beat them and get your rankings and traffic back. If they’re a more authoritative site than you, it may be a bit of a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.


You may need to update your website's SEO. You might need to add more content, target new keywords, etc., and adjust your strategy to protect your website from losing more traffic and rankings.


You need to determine if you’ve made any SEO mistakes. Are your SEO elements all optimized following Google’s best practices? Are you targeting different keywords on each page? Have you chosen SEO keywords your website has a good chance of ranking for or are you targeting the wrong keywords?


If you’re not sure why your organic traffic has dropped and need help figuring it out

Join me in Simple SEO Content. I’ll help you figure out what’s happened and craft a strategy to regain the lost traffic. You can get your organic traffic back, but you’re going to have to work. If you ignore it, you’ll likely continue to lose traffic over time.


I have a client who has worked with me for five years now. We’ve had great results, and they have so many #1 ranking keywords for their niche in their market that they’re the business everyone else is trying to catch up to. When they came to me, that wasn’t the case. When I first looked into their Google Analytics account, I found that their SEO traffic was actually down for two years straight. Their old SEO consultant had never given them a report on their performance, and they didn’t know things were bad. They’d been paying for SEO for several years, and they weren’t getting results. I had to redo a lot of the work the old person had done incorrectly, and once we got that done, their site began to rank for keywords that were important to their business. Today, their website traffic is more than double what it was when we started working together, and SEO is their #1 traffic and lead source every month.


It's possible to recover from a traffic drop if you know what’s causing the issue and can correct it. If you want to learn how to increase organic traffic to your website, join me in Simple SEO Content, and I’ll teach you exactly what to do step-by-step.