I guess if there’s ever a tragedy for a website owner, that would be, with no doubts, a sudden drop in search engine traffic. To be completely honest, there’s hardly a website owner to never experience one. So, if it happened to you, the first thing to do is to set your antidepressants aside, stop praying to SEO Gods and realize that it’s not the end of the world, just the end of your site (jokes☺). So, inhale and exhale deeply, then take a fresh look at your site and try to figure out the reason why it’s bleeding. And I’m here to offer you a helping hand. So, here are some common issues to take into consideration while investigating a case of your traffic theft. Enjoy!
1. Inaccurate data
When dealing with SEO traffic drops, one of the major things you need to be 100% sure about is your data accuracy. Make sure you are not barking up the wrong tree missing a piece of stats for a certain period of time, a device or a page type. The good news is that those disappearances are quite easy to spot and prevent in the future.
What is more, there’s nothing abnormal in traffic swings. Ok, just to calm yourself down, you can compare the stats by calculating an average SEO traffic fluctuation. For instance, you can plot your weekly SEO traffic for the past 12 months and calculate the average deviation with the help of Excel. If that’s not the case, and the drop is still dramatic hmm… you’re in a big trouble, dude (jokes again☺).
Once you’ve checked the data, but the traffic drop is still deeper than the Mariana Trench and your site is nowhere to be seen, there is quite a chance it’s a big old manual search engine penalty. To prove this theory right or wrong, you simply need to check out Google Search Console. In your account, go to the Search Traffic, then to the Manual actions section. And if your site has been given a red card, there should be a notification addressing the reason for the penalty and specifying what exactly has been affected.
In a perfect world, at this point, you would have fixed the issue and been back on track with your site. But we’re in harsh SEO reality, remember? So, if still in doubts about the penalty reasons, here are some common ones for you to check out:
Like it or not, but no one is immune from hacking, and so are you. To check if you’ve been hacked, please go to Google’s comprehensive list of all the necessary steps to bring your site back to life. Luckily, this is the only penalty reason that is sort of out of your control, but still fixable. So, cheer up!
Content is king, that needs to be taken for granted. For that reason, make sure to remove all the thin and duplicate stuff from your site. The logic behind this is pretty simple: the more original content you have, the more valuable you become for Google. To check your website’s content originality, don’t hesitate to use Copyscape.
To identify and block the naughty spammers, you need to go through the pages of your site that offer user-generated content and remove all the irrelevant links as well as the content you find suspicious. Just as simple as it sounds.
Nobody loves being redirected to a page that cannot be found for some reason or to some other unwanted sites. That is why it’s only right to check your site for having any suspicious redirects. For doing that, type in your website’s URL in WebSite Auditor to create a project. Wait a sec for the crawl to be done, then, in the Site Audit dashboard, go to the Pages with 301 or 302 redirects and also the Pages with meta refresh. Now you can enjoy a clear view of a full list of the redirected pages, just remove all the unwanted stuff and you’re done!
Things get a little bit more complicated when it comes to off-page violations, which, as a rule, take place if your site is flooded with a bunch of toxic backlinks. By the way, the best practice is to carry out regular audits
3. Google algorithm updates
Another thing for you to take for granted is that Google doesn’t normally bother informing you about any algorithm updates. On the other hand, some major updates are normally covered in search engine news. There you can find comprehensive information on what has been implemented in particular and what needs to be improved to make your site great again.
A slightly worse scenario happens when a sudden change in the algorithm hits a limited number of sites. If that’s the case, you’d better manually monitor the SERPs for your keywords.
Just to be on the safe side, make sure to check your link profile and crawl your site on a regular basis, doing that will at least keep Panda and Penguin off your site.
4. Major site changes
Recent website migrations, updates or redesign may also explain why your traffic has seen better days. This is the second time Google Search Console gives you a helping hand. Go to Crawl, then Crawl Errors, have a close look at the graphs to spot any differences that may have taken place after your site’s renovation.
5. Links missing
There is hardly a website owner who doesn’t realize the power of backlinks, is there? However, having a substantial amount of links doesn’t guarantee you aren’t at risk of losing them at some point. Of course, losing the most high-quality ones is especially heartbreaking.
Life is a battle and so is SEO. They say: “There’s no better place to hide a dead body than on Google’s second page”. So true. That is why, when dealing with the traffic drop, make sure you didn’t get outranked by a competitor. If you were, well, now you know who stole your traffic.
7. SEM traffic cannibalizes SEO’s
Moving on! As you already know, SEM involves gaining traffic through paid advertisements while SEO traffic, on the contrary, only comes from organic search. To be completely honest, SEM traffic can quite always devour SEO’s. This is quite a rank-and-file situation because the ads are located higher than organic search results and that is why (surprise-surprise😀) gain more traffic from the too-lazy-to-scroll-down users.
Let’s think of two possible situations in this case. First of all, you need to compare the list of keywords in your PPC campaigns with those that bring you organic traffic. If you spotted any duplicate keywords, don’t hesitate to pause the PPC campaigns they come from. Because why paying for the traffic that you can get for free?
The second situation is a little bit less optimistic. Your competitors might have increased their bids for your keywords. So, you can either overbid them or, if those particular keywords are not of huge value to you, leave it as it is.
8. Mobile-First Indexing
You must have been living in another galaxy for the last year at least if you don’t know that Google is going nuts about making the Web more mobile-friendly. That means, when it comes to ranking, mobile-friendly websites are a lot more prioritized. But don’t panic, that doesn’t mean desktop sites are not participating in the SEO competition.
However, missing a mobile-friendly version of your site can also explain a sudden ranking drop as well as the loss of traffic. For instance, one of your competitors could have optimized his or her site for mobile devices and, as a result, outranked you on a mobile device. By the way, here is a nice tool for you to check if your website is adapted for mobiles. If not, I highly recommend optimizing your site. Just think of how often you personally surf the net with the help of the phone. See now?
What is more, in order to understand where exactly the traffic drop took place, you can filter out your traffic by a device with the help of Google Analytics.
9. A change in the SERP
Alongside with all the above-listed reasons that may have negatively affected your traffic, there is the last one, but by no means the least. As you already see from the title, I’m talking about a sudden change in the Search Engine Result Pages. Although it happens once in a blue moon, there’s still a chance that Google started answering some of your queries directly in the search results. With no doubts, it makes users’ search process faster and easier, but, of course, affects your traffic not in the best way. So, keep an eye on that as well!
That’s it for now. I hope you’ve managed to reanimate your precious traffic and understood how to prevent it from the potential drops with the help of our tools and not only. Please feel free to share your opinion and experience in the comments. And may the force of SEO be with you.
Original Source – Aleksandra Pautaran