It’s excruciating to wake up and realize that all your traffic is gone. Sometimes, this problem occurs due to technical issues like lost tracking codes. In such a case, you haven’t actually lost traffic; it’s just that it’s not being shown in Google Search Console.
Unfortunately, website traffic loss can indicate a much more severe problem. Out of all the things that can happen to your site, a manual penalty is probably the toughest to handle. In this particular case, Google completely removes your website from search engine results pages and stops showing it to people.
We don’t have to tell you how problematic this is for people who make all their money selling products and services online.
The only good thing in these situations is that most website traffic drops can be fixed. In this article, we’ll talk about possible reasons for traffic loss and how you can spot them.
12 Most common things that cause website traffic loss
Here are the 12 main reasons for a significant drop in website traffic:
1. Google algorithm update
If you experienced a sudden drop in Google search rankings, it’s most likely that you’ve been hit by an algorithmic update. The company probably made a significant change to how it ranks every search engine results page. For example, they might’ve added a new ranking factor, or they’ve diminished the value of something that was previously important.
Whatever the case might be, it’s something that could have a major impact on your web traffic. As you can presume, these updates are more likely to affect sites that use black hat or gray hat SEO practices. They might also affect legit sites; things such as over-optimization might’ve caused all this trouble.
2. Low-quality content
Google is always trying to provide its users with the best browsing experience possible. Every page on your website should serve a purpose, either by delivering entertainment value or solving visitors’ issues.
Content is the focal point of every site. Even if you don’t have enough money, you can always attract people to your blog by being a fantastic writer and creating exciting topics. Unfortunately, the content could also be one of your biggest SEO issues.
Some companies are constantly trying to produce new pieces and get as much organic traffic as possible from each keyword. While doing so, they often disregard the quality. Google usually doesn’t want to promote low-quality posts and will downgrade them if they don’t perform well.
You might also encounter other website traffic issues, such as content cannibalization.
3. Issues with tracking codes
Tracking codes are texts that we place into sites’ HTML. When you sync them with Google Analytics, you gain access to site KPIs, traffic fluctuation, conversion rates, and many other things. Unfortunately, their placement within HTML files might change over time.
You can easily make the mistake of placing a tracking code in the wrong place. It’s a common problem that happens even to seasoned SEO veterans and webmasters.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an actual drop in website traffic; people will still visit your site as per usual. The only thing that changes is how Google Analytics shows the data. In other words, it will seem as if you’re getting no traffic whatsoever.
4. Excessive optimization
Companies often go overboard when optimizing their pages. Although everyone wants to reach the top spots in Google search engines, you still shouldn’t overdo it. The most common mistakes marketing experts make include keyword stuffing, using exact phrases throughout the page and in metadata, using specific navigation language, etc.
The best way to avoid these potential problems is by using natural language. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should completely neglect the main keywords. It just means you shouldn’t try to get a 100% optimization score in all plugins and tools.
5. Robot.txt issues
Occasionally, companies start losing search traffic because they block indexing. In other words, if Google’s robots can’t reach your site, they won’t be able to detect the pages and show them in the search engine.
This issue often occurs when migrating a website. It’s a common accident that might occur even to seasoned professionals. A bit more serious issue is deleting parts of the file or the whole file.
6. Crawling problems
Besides issues with the robot.txt file, you might experience some other problems with crawlers. These issues are incredibly annoying and can have a major impact on your website traffic. Luckily, you shouldn’t have much trouble spotting them.
Some of the common issues from this group include:
- Redirecting errors
- Server errors
- 404 errors
- URLs that have noindex attribute
- URLs that are unauthorized
These problems can occur for various reasons. For example, you might’ve moved a page on your site, and the server can no longer locate it. Or you might’ve made a blunder by putting noindex on one of the more important pages on your site, completely destroying incoming traffic.
7. Improper use of links
Links are one of the most powerful ranking factors. That being said, it shouldn’t be surprising that people have always tinkered with them, trying to get as many benefits as possible. In fact, black hat and gray hat practices are commonplace within this industry.
Here are a few things that often get people in trouble:
- Irrelevant links
- Links from “harmful industries” (gambling and adult industry)
- Links to outdated content
- PBN links
- Broken links
When we talk about link issues, we usually refer to backlinks that you received from other sites. Ideally, you should get as many hyperlinks from web pages that are relevant to yours and avoid links from websites that have nothing to do with your industry. Aside from inbound links, internal links can also cause trouble.
8. Google-related bugs
There were a few instances in the past where Google itself caused an issue that would affect the traffic of specific sites. Some time back, there was a bug that randomly de-indexed pages on the web. What’s worse, this particular problem repeated itself a few times during the company’s history.
So, if something terrible happens to your site and you suddenly lose lots of website visitors, don’t presume that it’s your mistake. In most cases, people instantly jump to conclusions thinking they’ve been struck with a manual penalty. As you can see, the reason can be much more benign.
9. Slow website speed
Website speed has emerged as one of the more important ranking factors in the last few years. Basically, Google wants pages on your site to open in three seconds or less. If you add some new images and multimedia to your pages, this can heavily disrupt the loading speed affecting your rankings in the process.
The majority of people access the internet via phone. So, any changes to how content is presented to end-users can have an impact on your rankings and traffic. If you made some major alterations to your design, some of your most popular articles might no longer be shown on mobile devices.
11. Use of keywords
Google is always trying to give its users what they’re looking for. It adapts to their wishes, not the other way around. Having that in mind, the popularity of certain keywords reflects what people are looking for at a particular moment in time.
As with everything else, the English language changes and evolves with the years. Specific phrases that were previously popular are no longer so. They might be replaced with different terminology or the concept has become obsolete altogether. If you wish to figure out what happened to your traffic, you might want to consider the changes to the keyword’s importance.
12. Ranking losses
Lastly, we have to consider ranking losses. This is the most common reason why you lose a part (or whole of your traffic). Keep in mind that certain websites get most of their visitors from one or two articles, so any ranking loss to these pages can send shockwaves throughout the site.
You might’ve also been affected by the addition of rich snippets. These are usually shown at the top of the search engine ranking page, pushing all other search results down.
What do you need to check?
Determining the reason behind website traffic loss isn’t always easy. Luckily, we’ve decided to create an ultimate checklist that will tell you exactly what to look for:
1. Check potential Google updates
The only saving grace is that website traffic drop due to algorithmic change is easy to spot. All you need to do is check the latest press releases and see if the company mentioned a potential update. Generally speaking, Google is extremely secretive about its updates, and an increase/decrease in visitors is one of the rare ways to spot them.
You should also check the latest posts on SEMRush, AhRefs, Moz, Search Engine Journal, and other top sites. These SEO news outlets are usually the first ones to learn about updates. These sites can also give you a heads-up if there is some bug with the latest update.
2. Check manual penalties
After algorithm changes, Google penalties are the most concerning thing that might’ve affected your site. These are introduced when one of the reviewers checks your web pages and notices some concerning practices. As you can presume, the infraction should be severe and would be a clear indication of shady practices.
Manual penalties will not only affect your website traffic, but they might completely remove your site from SERPs. The only way to address it is by tackling the issue head-on. Use one of the top-tier SEO tools and Google Search Console to determine the severity of the problem and rectify it. Once you’re done, send an apologetic email to Google and hope for the best.
All you need to do is go to Google Search Console, open the Security & Manual Actions tab, and then the Manual actions tab. Here, you can see if you were hit by a Google penalty.
3. Check tracking codes
If you think that the issue is caused by tracking codes, you should go to Google Analytics:
- Click on Admin
- Click on the Property tab and then, Data Streams
- Find a specific data stream from a drop list that you wish to check
- To the right, there should be a “G-” ID
If you’re still struggling with tracking codes, contact your developers to help you out.
4. Check links
The truth is you can’t control all the inbound links coming to your site. Sometimes, companies even use them to start negative campaigns against their competition. If you think you’re having trouble with this particular issue, you’ll need a powerful link-checker such as AhRefs.
Check every link for their spam score. Even without this score, you should easily tell if a link is relevant to your site. Start by contacting the webmasters of the site that posted a link and ask them for removal.
Of course, this tactic will not always work, especially if the site owner is trying to hurt you. If that’s the case, you should go to Google Disavow Tool and ask the search engine provider for the automatic removal of all these links.
5. Check rankings
You can always use one of the popular SEO tools to check your rankings and determine how they changed during the previous period.
Keep in mind that these changes can indicate all sorts of things. For example, your competition might’ve simply surpassed you in the number of accumulated links. Perhaps someone created an article that eclipsed your own? Of course, if you notice that a specific article has completely lost its position, this might indicate indexing problems or something similar.
Anyway, the loss/increase in website traffic is usually due to rankings shifts, so this is the first thing you need to check. You should also consider the origin of traffic, such as direct traffic or organic search traffic.
6. Check keyword volume
As previously mentioned, some keywords become irrelevant over time. There are also cyclical, seasonal phrases that tend to perform better during certain months.
If you need quick data regarding a specific phrase, you can simply use Google Trends to check its fluctuation over time. Alternatively, you can use some of the more advanced paid SEO tools to see if its volume has changed as of late.
7. Check cannibalization
Cannibalization occurs when you create several posts that revolve around the same topic. When this happens, you lose a lot of potential traffic. Not only that, but you’ll also lose time producing articles that don’t provide any benefits. To spot this issue, you can use tools such as BigMetrics.io.
8. Check website speed
The best tool for checking website speed is Google’s own Google PageSpeed Insights. The tool works for mobile and desktop versions of the site. If you notice that your speed is really low, there’s a chance you’ve been losing website traffic due to subpar speed optimization.
9. Check mobile friendliness
Performing mobile-friendly tests is also straightforward. All you need to do is open Search Console Mobile-Friendly Test and type in the URL. The tool will analyze the page and will tell you whether it’s mobile-friendly or not.
If you have lost a lot of website traffic as of late, make sure to contact MiroMind.
Our SEO agency will determine the cause of the problem and rectify it immediately!