It’s the situation that all SEOs and website managers have nightmares about: You take a look at your organic traffic, and you see a sudden drop. Your first question is always going to be, “Why is my website losing traffic?”
Good question! Here are five potential reasons why your site is losing organic traffic, and some ways that you can work to gain back the traffic you’ve lost.
1) A Website Technical Issue
Often people immediately point to potential search algorithm changes or rankings to explain an organic traffic decline, but the first thing you should think about is whether you made any recent updates to your site. You may already know the answer (such as a recent site migration), but if many people work on the site you may have to ask around.
Recent internal updates or changes can often lead you to quickly pinpoint and fix issues – or point you to a technical SEO issue before looking into other reasons.
2) An Algorithm Update
This just might be the scariest reason because it's completely out of your hands. Google makes an update, it impacts your website, and you don’t know why. Over time, more information will come out that will provide you with the insights and details needed to fix any related issues, but in the meantime it can be extremely frustrating, and it can take a long time for your site to recover.
Even before you understand the implications of an algorithm update, if you know you’ve done some black hat SEO (which we never recommend), now is a good time to change that.
Instead of trying to trick search engines, create a high-quality website with high-quality content that truly serves your customers’ needs while following Google's guidelines. Google’s goal is to continuously improve the search experience for its users, so avoiding spammy SEO tactics can keep your site in its good graces.
Your competitors aren’t idle and – just like you – are constantly looking to improve. Review every competitor to see if their rankings have improved and look for any changes they may have made. Additionally, run a backlink analysis using a tool like aHrefs to see if those competitors have gained some valuable links you don’t have. This analysis could help you in gaining those same links, as well.
4) Lost Links
Lost links can be related to any technical issues on your site. For example, if you have a webpage getting a lot of backlinks and now that page is throwing a 404 error, you’re losing that link juice.
Another reason could be that a website that was linking to you is no longer doing so. They may have done a content refresh, or they may have removed the link to your site. If they did a content refresh, consider reaching out to the site owner or manager to request a backlink again if your site is still relevant to their content.
5) Search Demand
Over time, search demand changes and sometimes real-world events (such as COVID-19) can drastically increase or decrease search demand for certain topics. It's important to dig into this to ensure your rankings haven't dropped due to search demand, especially if your Top 10 rankings are consistent or even better than the last time you checked. Google Trends can help you determine if search demand is lower than it was before.
How to Regain and Increase Your Organic Search Traffic
Now that you know why you lost your rankings, you’re ready to dig into the issue and fix it.
There are a variety of tools that can help. Even if you know the specific page or section of your site that’s losing rankings, it’s still important to review your other pages to make sure you don’t miss anything. (For an in-depth review of SEO tactics check out our SEO field guide for on-page and off-page SEO.)
Here are a few tips to get started:
Check Your Rankings
This one is obvious, but it will help you pinpoint exactly what keywords you’re losing traffic for and, in turn, show you the webpages that are impacted. From here you can look at those webpages and decide if they need to be updated or if new pages are needed to regain those rankings.
Another task is to review the specific keywords for which you’re ranking. The issue may not be a loss in overall rankings, but instead may be a loss of rankings on a few keywords that have really high search volume in your industry.
If you did lose rankings, make sure to look at your competitors that now rank higher than you do; they may be better serving users by delivering content that directly matches search intent. You’ll get some great ideas of what you need to update on your site to regain that traffic.
Check Webpages and/or Groups of Webpage Traffic
If your rankings are stable, you might need to look for specific web pages or groups of webpages that are losing traffic to uncover where new content may be needed.
This is also a great way to determine webpages you need to update even if you aren’t seeing a loss in organic traffic. It’s possible to have a group of pages increasing in rankings while, at the same time, another group of pages are losing traffic.
Make Content Updates
Updating your content can be a great way to regain your rankings. Identifying where you lost ranking and then making relevant changes to those pages can be time consuming, but if user intent changed, you need to adjust with it.
Sometimes you might need to create completely new content. This if often the case if you make small adjustments and don’t see results.
Fix Technical Issues
Check your technical SEO issues using a tool like SEMrush, Moz or Google Search Console. It's often helpful to use multiple tools because each one has its strengths and weaknesses.
Any fixes that are needed are dependent on the technical issues you find. Sometimes you just need to fix a 301 redirect, and other times you may need to fix a CLS issue. Here are a few examples of what you might find:
- 301 redirects were not set up properly and you lost backlinks – or a 301 redirect is going to an irrelevant webpage.
- A page on your website got marked incorrectly with a “noindex” tag, meaning you’re telling the Google Bot you don’t want that page indexed.
- Your site speed dropped.
It’s inevitable that at some point or another, your website will experience a drop in rankings. It’s critical to determine why and to take the time to discover the cause. Once you know why your organic traffic dropped, you can zero in on fixing it.
If you need help analyzing why your organic site traffic has dropped and/or need assistance in developing strategies to regain your rankings, the SEO experts at Northwoods can help! Reach out to us anytime.