Sudden Drop in Organic Traffic? Reasons and Ways to Recover
By: Ananyaa Venkat
Updated On: May 30, 2023
As a website owner or marketer, you probably know what a pain it is to see your organic traffic hitting the depths just like that.
In fact, “Why did my organic traffic drop suddenly?” is one question that we hear frequently on our live chat.
Over the years, the number of people asking this question has only increased because traffic drops happen to everyone at some point considering the frequency in which Google is launching algorithm updates.
In most cases, website owners go into a state of panic and take wrong advice which further accelerates the dip. If you have a panic attack because of an abrupt traffic drop, you are definitely not alone and it can be reversed with the support of a team like us here at Stan Ventures.
However, it is critical to address this issue timely if you want to avoid further risks to your business.
With that as a pressing issue looming over the SEO community, I’ll tell you everything about sudden organic traffic dips; the causes, diagnoses and solutions.
Let’s delve into it right away.
Common Causes of Sudden Traffic Drops
If you want to fix an issue, you should find out what triggers it, right? This is true for sudden traffic drops as well.
That said, here is a look at the most common causes of abrupt traffic loss for websites.
1. Google Algorithm Updates
Google keeps launching new algorithm updates from time to time to offer an improved online search experience for users.
The traffic rate of your website is likely to fluctuate with the rollout of algorithm updates.
Google’s algorithm updates mean that the search engine giant is raising its standards and the websites that don’t meet the same will witness an abrupt dip in traffic.
Typically, every site becomes a target to this play either as a beneficiary or loser because no webmaster is 100% sure of what exactly a particular algorithmic update has in store for their website.
So, does every algorithm update play havoc with your site? Not always.
Not all Google algorithm updates create a big impact. While the minor updates produce little impact (there are close to 600 such updates that happen every year), broad core updates can catalyze a roller-coaster effect and make you fall from the ivory tower in terms of traffic and rankings, especially if your site doesn’t meet the standards set by Google.
To survive against Google’s algorithm changes, you need to keep track of the trends and developments in the SEO industry, especially the ones that are specific to your niche.
Think of it this way. Suppose you are running a review website. You have to pay special focus to Google’s Product Reviews updates because they will have a stronger impact on websites that feature product reviews.
Most importantly, as these algorithm changes aim at providing improved user experience, make sure you create content that adds value to your target audience.
2. Manual Actions and Penalties
Google issues manual actions and penalties to sites that leverage black hat practices to rank higher in search, thereby violating Google Search Essentials (formerly Webmaster Guidelines).
These Google penalties and manual actions are capable of causing a huge drop in your website traffic and bringing down your rankings overnight.
In the worst cases, your website may be completely wiped off from Google’s Index. That means it will not be ranked by Google and, as a result, will not show up in SERPs.
If your website is hit by a manual action, Google will notify the same through the Manual Actions Report in the Google Search Console.
Once you fix the issue, you can submit it to Google for reconsideration using the ‘Request Review’ option.
3. Technical Issues
Overlooking technical SEO issues on your site is a grave mistake. If left unnoticed or unattended on a regular basis, technical bugs can contribute to the loss of organic traffic to your site.
The technical barriers include slow site speed and performance, broken backlinks and 404 errors, mobile usability issues, poor server response time, sitemap and indexing issues and more.
These issues lead to poor user experience and increase your site’s bounce rate. And Google doesn’t reward sites that don’t ensure a good page experience.
All these put together, the existence of technical issues on your site can cost you a great deal of organic traffic. So, it is important to check your site for technical issues periodically and fix them at the earliest.
4. Changes in Content or Site Structure
Have you removed or added new content to your site recently? Did you redesign or migrate your site?
That means you may not have proper redirections or did a hygiene check before site migration. These can trigger a drop in your organic traffic rate.
Suppose you modify the content of your pages ranking on Google. You may have de-optimized or over-optimized them unintentionally. Both these will affect the search appearance of those pages on Google.
That said, making drastic changes to your site’s content and user experience can lead to a sudden drop in organic traffic.
So, when you update your site, make sure you optimize your pages properly to avoid massive organic traffic fluctuations.
5. Competitor Activity
The increase in competition in your industry is another reason why your site’s traffic falls. The decrease in traffic could also mean that you are losing your prospects to your competitors.
Irrespective of niche, new players keep entering the business market every day. That said, it is important to have an eye for competitor activities and devise winning strategies in order to stand out from the crowd and make it to the top of Google.
If not, your competitors will steal your opportunities and move forward, leaving you stagnated.
Analyze your competitors, identify areas where they perform better than you and upgrade your SEO strategy to outperform them.
How to Identify the Causes of Traffic Drops
Now that you know the common causes of traffic drops, I’ll tell you how you can identify specific causes that trigger an organic traffic drop for your website in a given point of time.
You can do this in two ways.
- By monitoring your organic traffic
- By analyzing data and trends
1. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the go-to place to identify multiple problems with your website, including indexing issues, usability issues, server errors, manual actions and penalties that induce a decline in organic traffic.
Google Search Console will show up notifications if it finds any of these errors on your website. Click on the notification to see a description of what is wrong with your site and take action to fix it accordingly.
Once done, you can request Google to review the changes from the Search Console. If things are done right, you should see a spike in your organic traffic and rankings shortly.
In case Google has rejected your request, you will be notified of the same on your Google Search Console account.
2. Google Analytics
Leveraging the Real-time report on Google Analytics to check the traffic flow to your website is another good way to identify traffic drops.
Note: If you don’t see any traffic data on your analytics account, it is likely that you have to fix or replace your Google Analytics tracking code.
When comparing the traffic data generated by Google Analytics, you can easily find out where the sudden traffic loss has happened and consider revamping and optimizing those parts of your website that you modified during that specific period of time.
3. Third-Party SEO Tools
There are several third-party SEO tools out there to keep track of traffic to your website. I recommend using trusted tools like Ahrefs and Semrush.
These tools help you identify keywords for which you have lost traction over a period of time. Small fluctuations in traffic for a particular keyword can be acceptable.
However, if you see a visible drop in traffic, you receive from a particular keyword, that’s probably the culprit.
Besides identifying traffic loss based on keywords, you can also try to spot correlations and patterns that relate to and connect the dots explaining the cause of traffic loss to your website.
These SEO tools also come in handy to identify top-ranking pages on your site so that you can easily figure out where you have a traffic and ranking advantage and where you don’t.
4. Google Trends
Using Google Trends, you can narrow down global topics and seasonal trends in your industry that have interested your audience and are likely to have stolen your organic traffic.
This process can get easier if you can use one of the SEO tools I mentioned above to pick seed keywords that drive traffic to your website over time and leverage them to identify seasonal trends and topics using Google Trends.
Solutions and Best Practices for Recovering Organic Traffic
Now that you know how sudden traffic drops occur and how you can identify the root cause of a similar situation for your website. But how do you win back your lost traffic?
That’s what I’m going to explain to you here, one step at a time.
1. Focus on On-page SEO
Remember I mentioned earlier that traffic drops could happen when you accidentally de-optimize or over-optimize your web pages?
That’s why, to regain lost traffic, you need to optimize your content with keywords that have the potential to drive more visitors your way.
Make sure the content is of high quality and that it delivers value to your readers. That’s how you can get improved user engagement for your content.
Also, ensure that the keywords you choose are relevant to your content and placed naturally in it. After all, unnatural keyword placement or keyword stuffing will have a negative impact on your SEO.
I’m sure a negative SEO impact is the last thing you want, especially with a website that is already hit by a massive traffic drop.
Speaking of keywords, you can include them in your genuinely compelling headings and meta tags. This will help improve the appearance of your page for relevant searches on Google.
Internal linking is an integral part of on-page SEO. Strengthen your internal linking structure by building links within your site for users to explore more relevant information and search engine spiders to comprehend your content better.
Last but not least, make sure that you are not using a no-index tag on any of the pages that you want Google to rank.
2. Improve Technical SEO
As I said earlier, technical issues on your website can create chaos for your website if you don’t have the right measures in place to fix them.
Use PageSpeed Insights to check your website’s speed and performance and jump into action immediately if there is room for improvement.
More than half of online searches happen on mobile devices. So, also run a Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your website is easily accessible for mobile users.
But that’s not the end of the story. Technical SEO isn’t just about improving your site’s speed. I’ll tell you about two more things you need to focus on.
One is fixing broken links and redirects. Yes. Nobody visits a link to find out it is broken and that the page has nothing useful to offer, neither the user nor the search engine.
I recommend using a broken link checker to identify broken links on your website. Once done, replace it with the right link.
Alternatively, if you have moved the content to a different URL destination, make sure you redirect users visiting the old page to the new destination using a 301 redirect.
The last one on the list is ensuring proper indexing of your pages by Google.
Your page won’t receive any traffic if it isn’t indexed by Google. But don’t worry. There are several ways to get Google to index your site faster.
- Removing robots.txt file blocking Google bots from accessing your content
- Including the non-indexed page to your sitemap
- Removing canonical tags
- Improving content quality
- Internal linking the page with other relevant pages
- Manually requesting Google to index your page from the Google Search Console
3. Build Powerful Backlinks
As you probably know, backlinks are a top Google ranking factor. The higher the ranking, the more traffic you get and vice-versa. That’s the point.
You can regain lost traffic by creating high-quality backlinks to corresponding pages from authoritative sites in your niche. These links will drive qualified referral traffic to your website.
You can acquire backlinks to your site by making guest contributions to other websites in your industry.
You can also get them by reaching out to top bloggers and influencers in your niche and convincing them as to how link-worthy your content is.
If you don’t want to go through the hassles of reaching out to bloggers and influencers, choose a service provider like Stan Ventures that can do backlink building on your behalf.
However you choose to earn high-quality backlinks, make sure that the quality of your content goes hand in hand with them. The amount of referral traffic you get relies heavily on how informative and engaging your content is.
Besides, high-quality content will also help you to naturally attract more backlinks in the long run.
4. Monitor Trends and Tweak Your SEO Strategy
SEO is never a one-time work. It requires constant efforts to get you the traffic you want.
That said, make sure you perform sitewide audits periodically to make sure things are going just right with your website.
Have a constant eye for Google algorithm updates and other industry trends to dodge a massive blow when the change is here and now.
Monitor the activities of your competitors and tweak your SEO strategy to align with the aggressive landscape and changing trends to drive great results.
Organic traffic is the lifeline of your website because that’s how you get business prospects that translate into your customers without burning a hole in your pocket.
Given the scenario, a sudden fall in organic traffic comes as a bolt from the blue to every webmaster and marketer.
When your website falls victim to a sudden organic traffic drop, implement the above practices to know why it occurred and fix the bugs as soon as possible.
Wrapping it up with a heads up, keep your SEO efforts ongoing in alignment with the altering market trends not just to maintain or improve organic traffic when the SEO journey is smooth but also to subside the effect down the rocky road around the corner.