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I Lost 90% of My Organic Search Traffic – What Happened?

A digital marketer submits a website for evaluation by an SEO pro. See why it lost 90% of its Google traffic.

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Igor in Skopje, North Macedonia. Igor asks:

“I recently lost almost 90% of my organic traffic and thousands of keyword that I ranked for. My site is [domain redacted]. Can you see where I may be going wrong?”

Hi Igor,

Great question! I took a look at your website and have a good idea about why you lost 90% of your traffic.

It was not a core update from Google that wiped you out, as there aren’t any confirmed ones for the time frame.

It is likely the quality of your website and the external factors you created that are catching up to you.

I looked at the following:

  • The original theme of your content and what is published now.
  • Whether the content is thin or value-adding.
  • Are the backlinks natural or not?
  • Advertising disclosure, paid placements, etc…

Let’s jump into a bit more detail about each one of these.

The Original Theme of Your Content vs. What You Have Now

Your website started out as a travel blog (with some posts about animals and jewelry) in 2013, but your recent copy includes “productivity tips for an office,” “mistakes that will kill your home appraisal,” and  “nail art.”

Unless you are a major media company with an editorial team, you shouldn’t have tried to branch out into every topic possible.

Aside from SEO, having all of these random topics grouped together makes it harder for you as a publisher to build a readership.

When you have widely varied topics on your site, it is harder for a reader to find relevant information, especially if you don’t have proper silos and funnels.

If you do continue down this route, you’ll want to put more emphasis on site structure and categorization. This also helps the search engines learn what each area of your website is about (and to crawl your site).

Site structure includes:

  • Breadcrumbs.
  • Navigation.
  • Sitemaps.
  • Internal links.
  • Canonical links (to find official versions of pages).
  • Anything else that guides a user and a search engine through the site and to find relevant pages.

The next thing to consider is reducing the number of ads you have below and in between your content.

I read a very short post about brides and counted more than 30 ads that are being served separately below the content.

These ads contextually make up more content than your actual article, they slow the page down which hurts the UX and CWVs, all of them are filled with clickbait items, and none of them serve a purpose to the visitor.

Just because you can get paid on a CPM basis or a CPC does not mean you should do it. By having all of these ads (including within the content), you have created a terrible user experience that is likely a cause of your losing readership and traffic.

Nobody will send you a backlink or social media share when other sites have equal or better content and a much better user experience.

Side note: This article in particular has an “error” warning in one instance of the article schema but not in the other.

You may want to fix the error, or better yet delete the second occurrence of schema.

Is Content Thin or Value Adding?

The content of this site is definitely thin. You use clickbait for titles (which works against you for organic social media like here on FB), and clickbait doesn’t provide any solutions or helpful information to the end-user – even if the content on the page is good.

In the post about the tips for brides (mentioned above), you have the correct amount of items for your list. However, each of the list items is generic. There is nothing unique or intriguing to set you apart from other wedding and bride articles.

The content also fails to explain the benefits to the bride. Without this, there is no reason for the bride to engage, read, shop, subscribe or share.

One of the list items is just the word “breath.” Underneath, you mention tarot card readings and random things to do to relax.

This section could be called “distract yourself from the stress” as “breath” can mean any number of things and more important has zero relationship to getting a tarot card reading.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Instead, label and share why distracting yourself can help to make the bride’s wedding day or wedding preparation better, and source a medical journal with a study that backs up your reasoning.

Next, include a bullet list of ways to relax specific to weddings. This could include bonding time with the bridal party, or perhaps games designed specifically for the reader to play, where the intent of playing is to build more excitement for the big day rather than stress and worry.

The most important considerations are to be accurate, provide sources, be relevant to the topic, and give your reader an actionable solution.

If any of these are not in the copy, then your content is thin. Why would Google choose it as the best answer for a top search result?

I read five more random posts on your website and none of them meet these criteria.  The non-value-adding content is also likely a reason you lost your SEO traffic.

Are Your Backlinks Natural or Not?

The next reason you likely lost your traffic is that you spammed for backlinks and likely participated in a PBN (private blogger network).

Here are some of the biggest sources of backlinks to your website, and in my opinion none of them are quality or natural backlinks:


The quality of the backlinks matter.

I went to about 30 of the top sites you have links from (like the ones above). None of them are news sites, none of them have high-quality niche content, and some of them are now offline.

You cannot and should not use these techniques to build links.

I know there are articles on this site and others about using these strategies. They may have worked once.

But the one thing these strategies have in common is they almost always end up wiping out the website and causing the website owner to have to start over. It’s an expensive and time-consuming penalty recovery process.

Instead, focus on building unique content and seeing whether industry and niche publications will source your content. Again, you have to provide thought leadership and actionable solutions to common problems.

You had a travel blog at one point and likely had original images. You could be using these to get backlinks from tourism boards, hotels, and other travel industry-related vendors from those areas and around the world.

If you were a client, I would recommend disavowing the links you paid for or used a submission service to get.

Advertising Disclosure, Paid Placements, etc.

I thought for sure I’d find affiliate links on posts where you talk about fashion and mention specific styles and brands like Nike. But there aren’t any, which could be a missed opportunity for you to make some money.

I also looked at the ad networks you’re running and did see Taboola and others using disclosures properly. But there is a problem here.

You have ad spaces and links going out from the sponsored placements, but the links do not have the sponsored attribute or nofollow.

There is a brief mention of the disclosure in the header off of a navigation link, but that might not be compliant with FTC or EU and UK standards.

It is important to make sure you’re always disclosing when there is any form of payment and marking the links with the proper attributes for SEO.

Without knowing you and by looking at the outbound links with big brands and lesser-known sites, you are potentially in the business of selling links to some of these stores. This also needs to be disclosed both at the top of the post and on the links.

Overall, you’re in bad shape and should expect to lose the rest of your SEO traffic.

If this was my website and I wanted to get the traffic back I would:

  • Delete all of the irrelevant copy and pages.
  • Remove the excessive quantity of ads and instead only place ads where they make sense and will not destroy my UX.
  • Disavow all spammy links, regardless of whether they were built or bought.
  • Go through the relevant copy and turn it from thin clickbait to value-adding, as you do have some good topics.
  • Begin developing myself as a subject matter expert and pitching for interviews and columns, to have my content sourced.

Your site in particular is not worth saving. You will find it easier to start from scratch on a new domain.

That likely isn’t the answer you want, but it is what I would recommend.

If this post doesn’t help you, I hope this post will help someone else from making the same mistakes you are making.

That’s why I selected your question and wrote this post.


More Resources:

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured Image: SurfsUp/Shutterstock

Category Ask an SEO
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Adam Riemer President at Adam Riemer Marketing

Adam Riemer is an award winning digital marketing strategist, keynote speaker, affiliate manager, and growth consultant with more than 20+ ...

I Lost 90% of My Organic Search Traffic – What Happened?

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