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Traffic Dropped but Rankings Unchanged? How to Fix

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Roger Montti
Roger Montti SEJ STAFF
Traffic Dropped but Rankings Unchanged? How to Fix

It seems to be an increasing scenario that some publishers are experiencing a drop in traffic without a change in rankings. Cross checking with SEO tools, analytics and AdSense impressions confirms a drop in traffic without a change in rankings. How do you fix something that’s seemingly not broken?

I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Except for a mistake (like a coding error), most of the times it is due to changes that are largely outside of the site itself. Yet there are still ways to address the problem. The first step is to diagnose what is the cause of the traffic drop.

Product Disruption

When the drop in ranking happens gradually over time, this can mean it is a change in user behavior. For example, the introduction of a new product model, changes in mortgage rates, seasons, a disruption in the industry can all contribute to a change in the kinds of things users are searching for.

Google Trends is the best tool for validating whether your industry is trending downwards, up or holding steady. Google Trends doesn’t show you the amount of searches and that’s ok.

The value of Google Trends is in how it shows you the direction of user queries for your site. As long as your important search queries are trending upwards or holding steady in a regular pattern, you’re ok. If the trend is steadily downward, then something has changed.

That situation requires an investigation as to what is disrupting your industry and a consideration of what possible the options are for responding to this disruption in your industry.

For example, Uber and Lyft disrupted the taxi industry. This is a form of disruption where a new business model impacts user behavior. Another example was the introduction of the iPhone. The iPhone radically impacted the digital camera industry.

For both situations you can map the upward and downward trends for Uber, Yellow Cab, the iPhone and digital cameras and see exactly how they are all connected.

Overnight Disruption

Edge Cases
When a change happens seemingly overnight the problem is very likely on how the search results are displayed or how your site is displayed.

Browsers are currently displaying alerts for sites that are not secure. The alerts can scare off site visitors and cause your bounce rate to increase. Converting to SSL is no longer optional. It is a requirement if you wish to maintain or grow traffic.

This situation will only intensify between now and July 18, 2018 when the Chrome browser will begin issuing prominent warnings about insecure websites.

Switching to a secure protocol is easy to do, especially if you’re on WordPress. Most hosts are offering free SSL certificates. So obtain your free SSL certificate. Then either update your site manually in the WordPress URL settings as well as update your HTACCESS file to redirect incoming links to HTTPs or you can do it the easy way by using a plugin like the Really Simple SSL plugin.

Likely Cases
More likely the reason you may be experiencing an overnight drop in traffic without a change in rankings is a change in how Google is displaying search results.

Google is transitioning to a mobile first index. A part of that affects how sites are indexed and ultimately ranked. But another part of this shift affects how Google displays search results.

Changes at Google that can cause a drop in traffic:

1. Google is showing more featured snippets at the top of the page. This can significantly contribute to a drop in traffic. Google’s Danny Sullivan recently published an informative overview of featured snippets that is worth reading.

2. Google is now showing advertising carousels at the top of many SERPs, particularly for mobile. This can also contribute to a drop in traffic without a change in rankings.

3. Google is showing an additional (mobile) screen filling ad unit beneath the carousel ads. This can only make a bad organic traffic drop even worse.

4. An increase in videos near or beneath the top of the organic search results. Videos may contribute to a drop in traffic. While not the major reason, they could contribute just that much more, even if they videos are positioned beneath the regular organic rankings.

5. Voice Search could be contributing to a change in how users are accessing search results. It’s helpful to understand the general outlines of how Google’s voice search summary algorithm works. To diagnose this, activate the Google Assistant or do a voice search on Google with your most important keyword phrases.

Takeaway: How to Fix What isn’t Broken?

Obviously there is likely nothing “wrong” with your site. But there are still changes that you can make. The first thing to do is diagnose the reasons why your traffic has changed.

If featured snippets are impacting your rankings, you may wish to consider a change in how you create content. Creating content in a manner that can be visualized in a featured snippet is a good approach.

So when you craft your next articles, keep in mind to make it so that it can fit into a featured snippet. Craft one or two paragraps as if you’re crafting a featured snippet, including an image that goes perfectly with the content.

See what Google is already ranking there and take notes on the kinds of content (text, image and video) that Google is ranking in the featured snippets area.

Then research what Google is promoting in featured snippets for keywords outside of your niche and take notes there. It’s very important to understand the wide range of content that Google tends to rank for featured snippets.

If users are satisfied with featured snippets, it’s up to you to create featured snippet friendly content.

Additionally, you may wish to expand into video content. Video is a form of content. Content is not limited to just text.

If your traffic has dropped but rankings have remained the same, there are still actions you can take to reclaim that lost traffic.

More resources

Image by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is an SEO Consultant with nearly 20 years of experience. I specialize in Site Audits to help sites ... [Read full bio]

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