4 Reasons Why Your Search Traffic Has Dipped

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Business man hand touch web traffic text on abstract backgroundHave you noticed a sudden drop (or even a steady decline) in the amount of visitors coming to your site from search? There are a multitude of things that could be affecting how well your site does organically, but here are four things you should look at and eliminate first.

Seasonality

Every business has a season. And while yours may not be as obvious as “Christmas tree farm,” chances are if you look back over the last few years there are some trends that stand out. What are your peak months? What are your slow months? Even with a great SEO program in place, you can’t drive traffic that just isn’t there. For instance, a tax accountant is going to see a HUGE spike is business starting in February (probably) and immediately dropping off the day after taxes are due. That doesn’t mean his/her services aren’t needed the rest of the year, but there is just more demand at certain times. If there is no demand, how can there be any search traffic?

More Competition

If you were the leader in your field for a long time, chances are you didn’t have to work too hard to get that search traffic. Your name, the age of your domain, and your authority carried the day. But if the field has become a lot more cluttered than suddenly there are lots more websites vying for those top few spots. You may have lost footing (even just dropping from #2 to #6) on a few key terms that used to drive 1000s of visitors each month. Now those terms are only driving 100s because Google has more sites to pull into the SERPs and searchers have more options to choose from. At some point every industry becomes lucrative enough to warrant the creation of new (and powerful) competitors. If your industry recently hit that tipping point, that could explain a dip in search traffic.

A Search Penalty

Double-check your Google Webmaster Tools account and make sure your site wasn’t hit with a manual search penalty. This means a human being at Google decided your site violated their Webmaster Guidelines in some way and either parts of, or all of, your site were “demoted.” If there is not message telling you your site has been hit with a manual search penalty, see if your decline in traffic coincides with a Google algorithm update. Your site may not be on the wrong side of Google’s line in the sand.

The Backend Is Broken

We worked with a client that redid their entire site’s hierarchy, including changing the URL structures. Their search traffic fell like a stone and they didn’t understand why. Turns out, they hadn’t implemented ANY 301 redirects because their site manager thought was against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Instead, he was relying on canonical URLs to move content around. When you delete or change a URL, you lose ALL the history and SEO value tied to that URL. A 301 redirect is a permanent announcement to Google that page A no longer exists, so please send all traffic and links and history to page B. A canonical URL is what you use when you have multiple versions of a page (like a web version and printer version) and you don’t want Google to crawl the same page multiple times. They lost their entire SEO program in an instance without those 301 redirects, making the majority of their site seem brand new in the eyes of Google.

These are just 4 reasons why your search traffic may be down, but they are by no means the only factors that could be at play. Google uses 200+ factors to rank content, and how they weight those factors changes every day. You also can’t control what the competition is doing, and it’s entirely possible you are simply being outdone.

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