When your organic search traffic has dropped, there are several factors to check. These might reveal some insights you can investigate further. Remember that organic search traffic is a very complex thing, and there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to recovering your search traffic.
This is why a manual analysis done by a professional SEO expert is crucial in figuring out the culprit so you can resolve the issue.
Top 8 things to check for when your organic search has dropped:
Having your search traffic suddenly (and gradually) is actually a very common thing, so don’t panic! Here are the top 8 most important things to check for when your organic search traffic has dropped.
First things first, check whether your Google Analytics tracking code is installed properly on your site. There is a possibility that your traffic hasn’t actually dropped, but it’s simply not tracked properly by your Google Analytics.
In general, you should make sure that all your pages have the tracking code installed properly, and also make sure that there’s only one instance of the tracking code for each page. There are various tools that can help you in this aspect, for example by installing the Google Analytics Debugger extension for Chrome that can review your tracking code installation automatically.
2.Google Search Console
The next thing to check is your Google Search Console for possible errors. You should especially check the following reports:
- The Index > Coverage report
- The Enhancements > Mobile Usability report
If you find any issues here, just fix the reported errors and then submit the fixes to Google for validation. However, review all the reports in your Google Search Console if possible, and fix any errors.
3.Manual Check for Penalty and Security Issue
Again, open Google Search Console, then go to the Security & Manual Actions tab. Look for possible error messages. If there’s an error here, then your site has been affected by a manual Google penalty. A penalty can happen for various reasons and can be site-wide or just affect some pages on your site.
If you do have any manual penalty on your site, then you should seek professional help immediately. It’s quite possible that there’s a serious issue on your site that demands serious solutions, but stay calm and don’t panic.
4.On-Site Design or Functional Changes
Check again whether you (or your team) have implemented any major changes to your site’s design and overall functionality in the last couple of months.
There are cases when even the smallest of changes (or mistakes) can significantly affect your search traffic performance. For example, check, whether your programmers have deployed no index tags to your live website, or check for broken links and dead pages.
5.Changes in Google’s Algorithm
Google always changes its search ranking algorithm hundreds of times every year. So, it’s quite possible that your search traffic drop is caused by these changes. Also, Google also often implement major updates to the core algorithm that can have a widespread impact. The most recent is RankBrain and Google BERT.
A quick Google search can help you find out whether a major search algorithm update is in place and whether it has affected your site.
Google officially implemented its mobile-first indexing back in 2015 and since then Google prioritizes mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive sites to rank on Google’s SERP. Meaning if your site is not yet mobile-friendly or deliver a poor performance on mobile devices, then it can hurt your SERP ranking and might cause traffic drop.
Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool and other tools to manually review your site’s mobile-friendliness.
7.Site Speed and Performance
Use Google’s Pagespeed insights and other tools like WebPageTest and GTMetrix to make sure all pages on your site loads less than 3 seconds in standard 3G connections.
Slow page speed can significantly affect bounce rate and dwell time, which is now direct ranking factors since the implementation of Google RankBrain. So, slow load speed can affect your SERP ranking and your traffic.
8.Manual Review of the SERP
Last but not least, do a manual review for the SERP of your target keywords. Manual SERP observations are often underutilized in SEO but can provide a lot of valuable insights into your site’s overall SEO performance.
For example, it’s quite possible that a competitor has published a much better content than yours and have stolen your top-ranking spot and your featured snippet, effectively stolen your traffic.