Why Your Organic Traffic Drops – Checklist

At some point, all the SEO consultants are asked to investigate an organic traffic drop. First of all, you need to figure out if the drop is real for this you need to answer two questions. 1) Do you trust the data? Sometimes you will need to check other metrics that could be affected by data problems. These problems become obvious once you start looking closer. 2) Is the variation normal? You can check this by using the standard Deviation function on Excel or Google Sheets and figure out if a drop is abnormal compared to your historical standard deviation for SEO traffic.
If you are certain about real traffic drop you need to answer some questions that will help you to identify the main reason for it.

  •  Did Google change its search algorithm recently?

As we know Google occasionally updates its algorithm that affects search results in many significant ways. You should track the updates and make sure it didn’t have any influence on your website.

  •  Is the drop specific to any segment?

You should segment the data to find out which sphere has significantly dropped in traffic. By doing this you can find the main cause of the problem.

  • Are you being penalized?

Although this might seem pretty obvious, you still need to check your search console for any information about penalties. You should also search for your brand name on Google and make sure it shows up, if not, then you are probably penalized.

  •  Did you have major changes on your site?

If the SEO traffic drop occurred with a site change then you might have found the root of the problem. It might have happened because of the migration of URLs to a different JavaScript framework, changing your navigation menu and etc.

  •   Did you lose ranking to a competitor?

Different tools can help you with finding that out. This loss can be caused by specific keywords or your competitor’s actions. Maybe they launched a new page type or added content to the pages or maybe there’s a new company that joined the competition.

  • Did the traffic drop occur with a rise in director dark traffic?

If your organic traffic fell down to check your classification of the traffic. You might have re-classified organic traffic as dark or direct traffic.

  •  Has there been a change to the search engine results pages?

Google answer boxes can be useful and time-saving for people but it can negatively affect your organic search traffic. Answer boxes contain the answers directly in search results, it might stop people from visiting your website. You can regularly check search engine results page to find out if anything changed.

  •  Is the drop specific to branded or unbranded traffic?

You should check the numbers of branded and unbranded clicks time to time.Keep in mind that homepage traffic is most likely branded. So, if the traffic drop occurs to branded search it’s more of a brand problem than SEO problem.

  •  Do you have fewer URLs indexed?

To find this out Search Console index status report will be handy. You might have disallowed or no indexed URLs by accident.

  • Do you notice a drop in a number of referring domains or links?

This might happen if your backlinks were deleted or are not available anymore for some reason. If that happens it obviously explains the fall of your organic traffic. There are some tools which will notify you of the loss of backlinks or referring domains and help you with identifying a problem quickly.

  • Is SEM eating into SEO traffic?

Although, cannibalization between SEM and SEO unavoidable at some level, it shouldn’t be causing a dramatic drop in SEO traffic. You can check this by plotting SEM and SEO traffic which should give you obvious results or you can stop SEM campaigns for some time and see if SEO traffic goes up again.

Check and try to find the answers to everything that I mentioned above and you will definitely find out why your organic traffic drops.

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