In Google Analytics, a site manager may notice a sudden drop in his SEO traffic and a decline in the positioning of his web pages on search engines, The possible causes of such a loss of visibility are numerous.
To help webmasters overcome this, Google recently devoted an article to this subject on its blog dedicated to web search (Google Search Console).
The Mountain View giant presents the various reasons that can explain a sudden drop in traffic and the procedure to precisely identify the origin of the problem.
How to diagnose and analyze a drop in SEO traffic?
When one or more pages on your site experience a sudden drop in SEO traffic, it’s important to thoroughly analyze the situation to identify what’s happening.
To do this, you must use the data provided by Google’s two analytical tools: Search Console and Google Analytics.
Monitor the “Performance” report in Google Search Console
The Search Console “Performance” report provides accurate information about your website’s performance in the SERPs.
By doing the right manipulations in this section, you will obtain valuable data that will help you analyze your traffic drop.
Extend the date range to 16 months
All the drops in traffic recorded by a site are not systematically alarming, Some of them are simply due to passing trends or seasonal events.
To rule out these possibilities, you should extend the date range to 16 months in Search Console.
By default, it is 3 months (90 days), To change it, click on the date option above the performance dashboard and choose the range that suits you (here, 16 months).
Then analyze the evolution and fluctuations of your traffic over the period under consideration and identify any similarities.
Compare the falling period to a similar period.
With a data range of 16 months, you can make date comparisons over more than a year, To do this, use the comparison tool offered in the Search Console.
For example, if the drop in traffic was observed during August of year N, you must compare the statistics of this period with those of the same period (the month of August) of year N- 1.
To identify what has changed, study all the categories of data available: requests, URLs, devices used…
Separately analyze several types of research.
There are many sources of SEO traffic to a site, We distinguish the classic Google search section, Google Images, Google News, and the video search section.
To find out where exactly the drop in traffic you’ve observed is coming from, you need to analyze the data from these different search categories separately.
In Search Console, tap the Search type option and select each search type, in turn, to see and compare related stats.
Analyze the evolution of your traffic in Google Analytics
Before concluding your page performance losses in the SERPs, you should also check the Google Analytics stats.
Like the Search Console, this tool will provide precise data to help you analyze. On the sessions graph, pay close attention to the nature of the traffic loss, Is it sudden, gradual, or slow?
In the “Acquisition > All traffic” menu, you can generate a comparative graph to better see how your site’s performance has evolved between two periods.
You can also obtain statistics categorized by traffic sources: direct access, organic search (Google), Adwords campaign, social media, and referral (visits generated by backlinks).
Example of SEO traffic fluctuations
Throughout the life of a site, different situations or events can cause SEO traffic to fluctuate, Depending on the causes, 4 types of fluctuations can be observed:
- the drastic and sudden drop in visits,
- the gradual and unstable decline in traffic,
- the drop in performance following an alternating rhythm,
- the sudden and temporary drop.
In the first case, there is a considerable and sudden decrease in the number of visits to the site, Traffic drops to a given level and then stabilizes.
The second form of fluctuation is much more gradual, The site is gradually losing visitors, and the evolution of the curve is unstable.
From time to time, we observe small bursts before the initiation of a new fall.
The third most common form of traffic fluctuation occurs in an alternating rhythm.
Each year, during a specific period, the number of visits suddenly drops before returning to its normal level a few months later.
The process is cyclical and repeats itself ad infinitum, Finally, there is sudden and transient fluctuation. The decrease observed is temporary, and the site regains its SEO performance within a few days…
Fall in SEO traffic: what can be the causes?
The decrease in organic traffic of a site can be due to 6 main factors :
- technical problems on your website.
- security issues.
- Google Penalty (Manual Action).
- algorithmic changes and updates.
- changes in user search behavior.
- loss of several backlinks.
Technical issues on your website
Certain technical problems can prevent Google’s robots from crawling the pages of a site or including them in search results.
This is the case, for example, of server failures, pages not found (404), and restrictions linked to incorrect configuration of the robots.txt file.
The malfunction or failure may be site-wide or only page-wide. Either way, a significant drop in traffic can follow.
Security Issues Identified
When a site is affected by a security problem (hacking, malware, etc.), Google can alert users who attempt to access it from its results page.
These will see a warning message on an intermediate page, with a button to return to the search engine SERP.
The site’s organic traffic will drop significantly if many users heed this alert.
Your site has received a Google Penalty (Manual Action)
Google’s Search Quality Team members can perform manual actions against a site that violates the engine’s quality guidelines.
Content spamdexing practices that have escaped algorithms are the most sanctioned, A manual action is often manifested by a loss of traffic and visibility in the SERP.
It is always accompanied by a message that notifies the site manager of why the manual penalty has been applied, This can concern the entire site or only a particular URL.
Algorithmic changes and updates
Google constantly updates its algorithms and ranking systems to improve the search experience, These changes (major or minor) are not without consequences on the natural referencing of sites.
They can affect the visibility of some of your content in the SERP.
Changes in user search behavior
The search behavior of Internet users is constantly changing, Sometimes it’s due to seasons, trends, or market changes.
This change can affect your site’s SEO performance and traffic, especially when your top queries are affected by fluctuations.
Loss of several backlinks
Backlinks are one of the many acquisition channels that a site can rely on. They are also important visibility levers when placed on popular platforms.
Therefore, if, for some reason, a site loses many of its backlinks, it may experience a significant drop in traffic, He will also lose all the SEO juice that these links brought him and potentially his positions in the SERP.
To avoid finding yourself in this situation, it is important to set up a netlinking strategy that guarantees you the acquisition of lasting backlinks.
In particular, you can count on our netlinking agency learnb2bmarketing, Our all-in-one solution allows you to have qualitative incoming links for life on the referring domains.
The quality of each link is ensured by our proprietary algorithm, which evaluates each site in our catalog according to twenty highly significant criteria.
You can also benefit from our experts’ support for defining a link-building strategy adapted to your site’s profile.
What to do with a drop in SEO traffic?
Faced with a sudden or gradual drop in your SEO traffic, certain actions should be taken to control the situation as quickly as possible and identify the possible causes, They are by Google’s article on traffic drop management.
Perform a technical audit of your website
The first thing to do when your visit statistics start to drop in Search Console and Google Analytics is to perform a technical audit of your website, During this assessment, focus on the following points:
- loading time.
- indexability (source code analysis).
- user experience.
If, after this audit, everything seems normal, you can move on to the next check on the Search Console.
Check your site’s coverage in Google’s Search Console index.
The coverage report offered by Search Console allows you to see which pages of a site are indexed and which are not.
It also provides troubleshooting tips when errors are detected, Check this report for your site to ensure some of your pages aren’t causing indexing errors.
If you’re noticing a sudden increase in errors, that’s likely the reason for your traffic drop, You can relate the error graph to the impression curve for a more relevant interpretation.
Examine seasonality and search trends with Google Trends
With Google Trends, you can easily examine search trends and the seasonality of certain web queries.
Find the main keywords that drive traffic to your site and analyze the curve that materializes the evolution of interest in these searches.
If a search term has a strong seasonality, you will find that its curve peaks during a specific period each year.
Non-seasonal keywords, on the other hand, have a curve that remains stable throughout the year.
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