Google gives site owners seven tips for analyzing the main causes of drops in organic search traffic.
In an article written by Google’s Daniel Waisberg, the main causes for drops in search traffic are identified as:
- Technical issues: Errors that can prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your pages to users.
- Security issues: Google may alert users before they visit sites with potential security threats, which may decrease search traffic.
- Manual Actions: If a site does not comply with Google’s guidelines, some of its pages or the entire site may be omitted from Google Search results through a Manual Action.
- Algorithmic changes: Core updates and other smaller updates may change how pages perform in Google Search results.
- Search interest disruption: Sometimes changes in user behavior will change the demand for certain queries, either as a result of a new trend, or seasonality throughout the year.
Here are some rudimentary examples of what each of these drops may look like in Google Analytics:
Read on for Google’s insight into diagnosing the cause of a traffic drop.
Diagnosing A Drop in Google Search Traffic
The best way to understand what happened to a site’s traffic, Google says, is to open its Search Console Performance report and looks at the main chart.
Analyzing the shape of the line will give some information to start with. Dig deeper into the data with these three tips:
- Change the date range to include 16 months: This will help you analyze the traffic drop in context and make sure it’s not a drop that happens every year.
- Compare the drop period to a similar period: This will help you review what exactly changed. Find out if the impact involves pecific queries, URLs, countries, devices, or search appearances.
- Analyze different search types separately: This will help you understand whether the drop you’ve seen happened in web Search, Google Images, or the Video or News tab.
To understand whether the drop is part of a larger trend, or something specific to your website, Waisberg recommends looking at Google Trends.
This may help rule out the following two factors as potential causes of traffic drops:
- A search interest disruption: People may start searching for different queries, or using their devices for different purposes. If fewer people are searching for the queries you rank for, it can lead to a traffic drop.
- Seasonality: For example, Google Trends shows that food related queries are very seasonal: people search for diets in January, turkey in November, and champagne in December. Different industries have different levels of seasonality.
While still in Google Trends, here are two more ways to gain insight into your search traffic:
- Check top queries in your region and compare them to the queries that you’re getting traffic from. If you discover queries you’re not getting traffic from, even though you have content on that subject, make sure it’s being crawled and indexed.
- Check queries that are related to important topics. This might surface rising related queries, allowing you to optimize for them before search interest piques.
For more information, see Google’s full article.