Realising that your website has suffered a traffic drop immediately triggers a sense of panic, even if the traffic slump relates to a short period of time. What can you do?
Our best advice is to try to understand the underlying reasons that may explain the reduction in traffic in order to tackle them or better still, ask for advice from an SEO professional who will have the bigger picture of your situation.
Are all your pages indexed?
Using a variety of tools and SEO technical shortcuts will show which of your pages are indexed and ranking, and which ones are not.
Did your website go through a complete overhaul such as website migration, new domain or both, or have you migrated your website without redirects?
If your website has been completely renovated, a decline in traffic is to be expected. When the changes to your website have been completed Google must re-crawl all your pages and re-index them. If the redirection process is not done properly or in the case of a change in your URL structure you will experience a loss of ranking/traffic or both. It is important to check any historic redirects to ensure that they are live, and fix any potential issues on this topic before it affects performance.
Is your keyword strategy fully mapped out?
If you do not have a clear keywords strategy in place and you optimise your pages as you go along, you may end up having two pages optimised for the same keywords. These will then be competing against each other in the SERPs. This may cause a consequential ranking drop for the two pages.
Have you implemented your structural data markup? Taking care of structural data markup seems a one time project, however, in order to avoid issues at a later date, do not forget about it, keep monitoring the appearance of your rich snippets to make sure they are pulling the correct information. Changes to the content on your website can alter the markup without warning.
New Links :
If you have had a large number of new links pointing to your domain, this may trigger an unexpected decline in ranking because Google may randomise the impact of those new links for a short period of time, even if they are natural and relevant for your website. This happens when Google applies a “rank transition function”. If you suspect that your ranking drop may be caused by your new links, check the links themselves with a backlink tool in order to make sure they are genuinely new and not a new addition to your back-link tool.
In the same way as new links can affect your rankings, lost links can have an impact too. A website with just a small back-link profile may excessively rely on a number of back-links and if those backlinks get removed or for one reason or another become unavailable, your website authority may be affected with a consequential rankings drop.
A traffic drop can also often be the result of a Google Algorithm update. In the past, approximately up to 2015 Google used to release an update and the SEO Community would have had time to study the phenomenon and react accordingly. These days Google updates are more frequent and sometimes advertised weeks after they have taken place (Ghost Updates). As a result the industry takes longer to understand their impact. It is really important to gauge whether your ranking drops coincide with ranking variations, this can often mean an update has affected your rankings. Your SEO professional will be able to help with this.
New Google ad placement:
Since Google removed the right-hand rail ads, many brands saw their organic traffic being reduced by the prominence of paid search ads. Professionals will need some time to quantify the full effect of this change, but this is clearly something to bear in mind when trying to figure out the reasons behind your traffic slump.
Resellers and Affiliates:
If you have launched an affiliate program or have a variety of re-sellers it may happen at a certain point that they start outranking you for branded keywords. Your revenue goals may not be at risk but you are losing website traffic to these sites.
Changes in search behaviour:
Sometimes, ranking drops may not be due to your website issues or your inbound links but they are rather caused by the results Google wants to return to users. Let’s say Google records a sudden surge of searches for a particular topic, then they may start showing mainly fresher, news-based results pushing down your evergreen content to page two or three.
A similar situation may happen in regard to search queries done on mobiles. The results on page one are heavily influenced by the age of the handset and the specific kind of search done by the user: news, reviews or support. As for every search query, the overall search demand associated to a specific keyword can affect the results Google returns.
British and international brands constantly fluctuate according to their demand. Very few industries experience an inelastic product demand. In order to see the bigger picture for your brand we recommend taking a look at Google trends every now and then.
Brands are linked to a wealth of customer information and sometimes brand trends can be precious insights to compliment your SEO campaigns. If you’re working with an SEO agency, sometimes sharing this knowledge can be the missing piece of the jigsaw. Let’s say you sell classic shoes. Knowing that consumer preferences are shifting around the colour black, could explain why your black shoes traffic is down.
If you are worried about a traffic drop and would like to understand more about your website traffic and page ranking, get in touch, we will be happy to help.