If you’ve noticed even after a seemingly well executed SEO campaign that your organic traffic is falling, don’t get discouraged. There are several reasons this could be happening. I’m going to go through the most common issues and provide ways to address them, so you can start to see an increase in your organic traffic again.
It’s important to remember competition is rising. Every day countless new websites come online, while others shut down. There’s already someone out there gunning for the same keywords. Everyone wants (and needs) organic traffic to sustain their online businesses, so getting and holding onto a high ranking for valuable keywords is everyone’s goal. The reality is, there’s only one coveted number one spot, no matter how hard you try. And there are hundreds of factors that go into a ranking, even though no one will ever know exactly how Google does it.
Let’s take a look at what could be the reason why you’re seeing a decline in your organic traffic volume.
You’ve Been Given a Manual Penalty
Let me say this is rare and unlikely that you’ll face a manual penalty from Google, but it does happen. If you’ve been penalized, you’ll see a steep and instant drop in traffic, along with a message in you Google Search Console, letting you know your site has been penalized. If you don’t see both of those things, your site is in the clear. But, if you have gotten a penalty, you’ll need to find and correct the issue that caused it. Then, you can appeal with Google, or simply wait for it to be lifted.
If you’ve focused your efforts on white hat SEO, and haven’t built out spammy link profiles, or used poor quality plagiarized content, you should be fine.
Your Domain Doesn’t Have Enough Authority
Domain authority (DA) is a score that comes from Moz. It’s a prediction of how well a website will rank in the search engines, on a scale from one to 100. Higher scores mean there’s a greater ability to rank. Because of how it is scored, it’s much easier to build your DA from 20 to 30 than it is to move it from 70 to 80.
“Good” domain authority comes when your site has a high number of high-quality external links and inbound links. Typically, sites with larger numbers, like Google, are at the high end of the DA spectrum, where small business websites, or those with few inbound links will have a lower score. If you’ve got a brand new site, you’ll always start with a DA of 1.
It’s really a comparative metric because it helps you determine which sites have better link profiles than others – and there isn’t really a good or bad score. The only thing you can do here is focus on quality link building, and letting time pass if you’ve got a brand new site.
Your Page Doesn’t Have Enough Authority
Page Authority measures the strength of each individual page, rather than the domain itself. It’s the same thing, but calculated at the page level, and you can have a different score for each page on your site. You’ll start out with a low page authority, but as you build out quality content and start getting traffic and links, you’ll see it rise. The best way to improve your page authority is to improve its link profile – getting links to it from other high authority pages and websites.
Your Site is Slow
If your website takes a long time to load, people are going to get impatient and click away from it. When this happens too often, Google and other search engines will take that click back to mean they didn’t find what they were looking for. And if you’re ranking, but people aren’t finding their answers, the search engine will assume that you don’t need to be in that position anymore.
47% of people expect a website to load within two seconds or less. If your website doesn’t, then you could be missing out on lots of traffic. Use a website speed test tool like PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your pages load. If you need to, use a content delivery network (CDN) to ensure content loads quickly no matter where your user’s servers are located. Keep in mind, a number of factors influence site speed – some of which you can control, some of which you can’t. Make sure you’re addressing all the things you can to improve it.
Your Bounce Rate is High
Bounce rate isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it can be a strong indication of user engagement. If your bounce rate is over 80%, it means people aren’t sticking around on your website for whatever reason, and you won’t hold your ranking position wrong. It could be that your content sucks, or that prices are too high, or people were looking for something other than what they found when they came to your page. Bounce rate is closely related to site speed, because if it takes too long to load, then people aren’t going to stick around and wait. If your site is slow, expect your bounce rate to be high. Fix your bounce rate by running some split tests to see if it’s the content, pricing, or what other factors could be contributing to it. Make adjustments accordingly to see if the bounce rate falls.
Your Content Isn’t Topically Relevant Enough
Yes, it’s true Google killed the authorship program, but the idea that authors have topical expertise remains. The use of the rel=author tag allowed Google to collect data, so many believe that it could still influence the results. Anyone can write and publish online thanks to blogging platforms and the ability to start a website at any time, but not everyone can write content for trust websites with relevant audiences and expertise.
Search algorithms have always used language processing, and the more Google focuses on user intent, the more relevant the search results become. Every search we do on Google teaches the AI the common language we use around various topics.
Your Backlink Profile Has Changed
If you’ve gotten a lot of spammy links suddenly – either through not knowing any better, or as a result of negative SEO, you could see a change in ranking, and thus a change in traffic. If some of your best backlinks are suddenly gone, or the websites are offline – then that’s a problem, too.
Audit your backlink profile with Ahrefs or SEMRush to see if there have been any changes that need your attention. Disavow any harmful links, and craft a link building strategy that will help you build more authority.
You’ve Recently Migrated Your Website
If you done any kind of site migration or moved old URLs around, especially if those URLs had strong backlink profiles, you can cause your rankings to plummet. Most websites receive the majority of their organic traffic from a small percentage of the pages on their site. If you’re moving your site from one host to another, make sure to follow a website migration checklist. If you must change your links for any reason, make sure to use a 301 redirect to alert the search engines that a URL once found at the original location can now be found at the new location.
There’s Increased Competition
If there’s a new player on the field, and that player has a bigger budget to spend on advertising and content, there’s a chance they’ll be able to rank quicker than you did. If they’re spending a lot of money on content and promotion, maybe they’re earning more backlinks than you. Maybe their PPC campaigns are bringing in more traffic. Maybe they’re running TV and radio ads to drive more traffic. Whatever the case may be, if a competitor comes into the game with more resources, they’ll be able to get further and faster, which puts more pressure on you.
Do a quick search of the keywords you were ranking high on before. See what kinds of new results are popping up, and specifically look closely at the competition that has the spot you used to be in. Check their backlink profile and compare it to yours. Look at their social media and compare it to yours. Use the information to make adjustments to your strategy that will allow you to better compete, and eventually surpass them.
Don’t Panic – It’s Fixable
Look at where your traffic drop is coming from. Though you may see your entire site’s traffic go down, it’s likely the drop is coming from a few particular pages or keywords. This information will guide the rest of your examination and help you determine the best way to fix it. If you notice it’s only happening on one page, but that page happens to be the most popular on your site, you can focus on links, content, and the competition to determine what you need to do.
SEO is a slow and steady long game. It’s going to have peaks and valleys from time to time. Just keep an eye on your analytics and adjust your strategy to keep everything moving in the right direction. Sometimes, you may take one step forward and two steps back, but with consistent effort, you’ll get to where you need to be.
What did you do to recover the last time you saw a major decline in your traffic? Tell me n the comments.