What if your Website Suddenly Loses Organic Search Traffic | Varn


19 October 2023

What to Do if your Website Suddenly Loses Organic Search Traffic

If you have a well-optimised website and an SEO strategy in place, you are probably used to seeing reliable and healthy levels of organic search traffic reaching your site every day. With any luck, you can see this SEO traffic growing over time. So what happens if one day you look at Google Analytics and see that this traffic has plummeted? 

Before you panic, have a look at our advice for investigating the issue. Follow these five steps to help you discover the cause for the sudden drop in organic search performance.

1. Double-Check your Tracking

There’s a big difference between your website not getting any visits from organic search, and you simply not being able to see the visits. If your Google Analytics account shows traffic dropping off a cliff, perhaps GA is the issue rather than your site. There are a number of reasons your tracking might be disrupted. Find out whether anyone in your organisation has changed the website code – perhaps your tracking code has been accidentally deleted or modified. 

We recently saw something similar happen to a client after they updated the Cookies pop-up on their website. Their Cookies policy would only track visitors who had actively opted-in, but the new pop-up was small and easy to miss, leading to a sudden and steep decline in the amount of visits being tracked. Double check that your GA4 tracking is working correctly before you start to troubleshoot any other issues.

2. Check Google Search Console for Indexing Errors

If you are sure that your website is showing visits correctly, but organic search traffic is still significantly lower than you would expect it to be, it might be that a technical error is preventing search engines from indexing your content. The first place to look is Google Search Console. Here you can get a glimpse of how the world’s biggest search engine views your site. Have a look at the performance tab to see if and when clicks fell, then take a look at the listed indexing errors to see what might have gone wrong. 

One useful tactic is to look in Google Analytics to see which landing pages have lost the most SEO traffic, and then look at some of these individual pages on Google Search Console. You will be able to see when the page was last crawled by Google, whether it is currently indexed, and if there is a specific error or issue standing in the way. This should set you on the right track to know what you can do to fix the problem.

3. Consider External Events and the Wider Context

If your website tracking is correct, and your pages are all indexing without any errors… what next? Have a look beyond your site to the wider landscapes of the web, your industry, and even the world as a whole. There are all sorts of external factors that could affect your site’s performance on search. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Search Algorithm changes. Periodically, Google makes large Algorithm updates which can really rock the search performance of some websites. 
  • Industry news and changes. There may have been an announcement or change within the particular industry or location in which your website operates. Could this have changed what people are looking for?
  • World news. Big world events can often have an impact on the kinds of things that people search for. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine both had huge and immediate impacts on the organic search landscape. When the attention and concerns of large numbers of people change, the way that these people search will also change – which can have a significant knock-on impact on your website. 

Seasonal impacts. Many websites will naturally see peaks and troughs throughout the year. If your site is new, you might not be expecting this. In many industries, Christmas, public holidays or even a sudden heat wave can prompt a steep decline in searches and a corresponding sudden drop in SEO traffic.

4. Take a Look at your Competitors

Still struggling to understand why organic search traffic has plummeted? Perhaps your competitors have suddenly upped their game. Whilst it is unlikely that an improved SEO strategy on the part of a competitor would cause an immediate and sudden drop in your search traffic, it could be that a competitor has begun a significant paid search campaign. If someone else starts bidding on the kinds of search terms that usually send lots of organic search traffic to your website, you may feel the impact. 

Paying for Google Ads gives your competitors access to the very top slots within Search Engine Results Pages, and plenty of people don’t recognise ads within Google. This could push down your organic search listings and potentially eat away at your traffic. On the other hand – have you yourself just begun to run paid search campaigns? If so, you may find that you are cannibalising the traffic that used to make its way to your website via organic search.

5. Call in the Experts

Still stumped? If your organic search traffic has taken a worrying dive and you cannot identify a reason from the above steps, it might be time to look deeper into your site’s technical SEO set up. There are over two hundred factors considered by Google and other search engines when deciding how to rank your content, so there are many elements to investigate to understand all the SEO risks and opportunities for your website. The experts at Varn will be happy to conduct an in-depth audit of your site to work out exactly what has happened and help you get up and running once more. Give us a call to find out more about how we can help. 

Article by: Helen, Senior Technical SEO Manager More articles by Helen

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