If your website’s organic search traffic has dropped, you should assess your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to determine the cause. Whether from Google, Bing or lower-tiered search engines, organic search traffic is critically important to your website’s success.
It fills your website with human visitors, some of whom may purchase your products or services or otherwise engage with your online business.
You can expect some degree of fluctuation in your website’s organic search traffic. If you notice steep drops of 30 percent or more in a short period, though, you should consider if one of the following problems are to blame:
1) Your Website Lost Backlinks
The number of backlinks your website has will affect its organic search traffic.
Each backlink gives your website credibility, encouraging search engines to rank it higher. Unfortunately, backlinks aren’t always permanent.
Maybe the referring website was shut down, or perhaps the webmaster of the referring site manually removed the backlink.
Regardless, lost backlinks can hurt your website’s rankings and performance in the search results, so keep pushing out high-quality content to attract new backlinks from other sources.
2) Search Volume for Target Keywords Has Decreased
Even if your website’s backlink portfolio remains unchanged, lower search volume for your target keywords could result in less organic search traffic.
If you run a landscaping website targeting the search query “how to winterize your lawn,” for instance, you can expect higher organic search traffic during winter, followed by a steep decline around the beginning of spring.
To identify target keywords with consistent year-round search volume, use Google Trends. Available free to use at trends.google.com, it shows the relative search volume for keyword searches on Google over a specified length of time.
3) Search Engines Updated Their Algorithm
Behind closed doors, search engines are constantly updating their indexing and ranking algorithms to improve the quality of their results.
According to Moz, Google’s algorithm undergoes up to 600 updates per year. Most of these updates are minor, meaning they shouldn’t have a substantial impact on your website’s rankings or organic search traffic.
Some, however, are more significant and can cause major fluctuations in rankings and organic search traffic. By focusing your website’s SEO on backlinks and high-quality content, you can safeguard it against future updates.
4) Competitors Improved Their Website
When a competitor improves its website, it could lower the amount of organic search traffic your website receives.
As the competitor’s website ranks higher in the search results, your website will inevitably rank lower, in which case it will generate less traffic from search engines.
You can’t prevent competitors from improving their websites, but you can strengthen your website’s performance in the search results using on- and off-page SEO.
5) Your Website Was Hacked
If your website was hacked, you may notice a steep decline in organic search traffic. Search engines, especially Google, have a duty to protect their users from cyber threats.
If your website was hacked and now contains malware that’s automatically distributed to anyone who visits it, Google will likely remove your site from the search results.
To see if your website was hacked — or if Google believes it was hacked — use Google Search Console.
Once logged in, click the “Security Issues” tab under the “Security & Manual Actions” menu on the left sidebar.
After cleaning up the cyber threat, you can use this portal to request a review. If Google deems your website is free of malware or other cyber threats, it will place your site back in the search results.
6) Your Website’s URL Structure Was Changed
Changing your website’s URL structure can have devastating consequences on its organic search volume if you don’t take the appropriate precautions.
When the URL of one of your website’s pages changes, search engines must locate and analyze the new URL to calculate its search rankings.
In the meantime, neither the new URL nor old URL will rank high in the search results.
To prevent URL changes from hurting your website’s performance, modify your site’s .htaccess file to include a 301 redirect from the old URLs to the new URLs.
Search engines will notice the URL changes when crawling your website’s .htaccess file, allowing them to quickly remove the old URLs from their index and replace them with the new URLs, all while retaining your pages’ original search rankings.
7) Google Imposed a Ranking Penalty on Your Website
Google may penalize your website if it fails to comply with the company’s Webmaster Guidelines. A ranking penalty isn’t necessarily the same as an algorithm-based reduction in search rankings. Rather, penalties are typically imposed by human workers who review possible causes of noncompliance.
If a Google worker has evidence your website is violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, he or she may impose a manual ranking penalty, resulting in little or no traffic from the search engine.
To see if Google has imposed a ranking penalty on your website, log in to Google Search Console and click “Manual Actions” under the “Security & Manual Actions” menu.
If your website is in good standing with Google, you’ll see the message: “No issues detected.”
If Google penalized your website, you’ll see the type of penalty imposed on your site as well as the reason for it. To remove a penalty, address the reason for it and then submit a reconsideration request at google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration.
8) Your Website’s PLT Has Increased
While it doesn’t hold the same weight as backlinks or content, page load time (PLT) is a ranking signal used by Google and Bing alike.
With research showing over half of all internet users expect websites to load in three seconds or less, search engines know the importance of displaying fast-loading websites in their results.
If Google or Bing allowed slow-loading websites to rank at the top of their search results, internet users may stop using their respective search engine. Therefore, higher PLTs could result in less organic search traffic for your website.
To prevent high PLTs from impacting your website’s organic search traffic, follow these tips:
- Optimize images by compressing and stripping them of unnecessary data using a tool like tinypng.com.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) to distribute your website’s cached files to visitors from a network of servers.
- Host videos on a third-party platform, such as YouTube, rather than your website’s server.
- Add expired headers to your website’s .htaccess file.
- Avoid installing too many plugins, extensions or add-ons.
- Enable GZIP compression in your website’s .htaccess file.
9) It Suffers from Technical Problems
Certain technical problems can prevent search engines from properly crawling, indexing and ranking your website.
For example, if your website runs WordPress and you unknowingly selected the option to discourage search engines from indexing it, you may struggle to find site listed in the search results.
And modifying your website’s robots.txt file with the wrong code can also prevent search engines from ranking your website correctly.
To ensure Google can crawl and index your website, log in to Google Search Console and click the “Coverage” link on the left sidebar.
From here, you can view crawling and indexing problems encountered by Google along with the problematic URLs. Your website’s organic search traffic is almost guaranteed to change over time.
On some days, you may attract lots of visitors from Google and Bing. On other days, you may attract fewer visitors from search engines.
But if your website’s organic search traffic tanked because of a specific problem, you should address it immediately to regain your lost traffic and improve your website’s performance.
If you are struggling to recover your organic traffic, get in touch with our SEO Company in Thailand.