Google Search Console is a powerful tool that provides valuable insights into the performance of your website in Google search results.
One of the key features of Google Search Console is the Performance Report, which allows you to track the organic traffic to your website over time. However, there may be instances when you notice a sudden drop in organic traffic, and it's important to understand the possible reasons behind it.
In this article, we will explore four common reasons why organic traffic may drop and how you can analyze them using Google Search Console.
First, let’s begin with a brief introduction to Google Search Console for those unfamiliar with this amazing free tool.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console, also previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, is a free web-based tool provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor and optimize their website's performance in Google search results.
It provides a wide range of data and insights about how Google crawls, indexes, and ranks a website, helping webmasters improve their website's visibility and performance in Google searches.
4 reasons for traffic drops
A website may lose traffic for a variety of reasons. Since not all traffic drops are of the same nature, they need to be identified correctly and require a specific set of actions.
Unless you identify the right reason or type of a particular traffic drop instance, you won’t be able to fix it.
The following image by Google shows 4 possible reasons why a website may lose traffic.
Now, let’s discuss what each of these charts means, how you can identify the type of traffic drop you are experiencing, and what you can do to fix the issue at hand.
1. Sitewide technical issues
Technical issues on your website can negatively impact Google's ability to crawl and index your web pages, resulting in a drop in organic traffic. This can happen if your website is down, or if there are issues with the robots.txt file or sitemaps that prevent Google from accessing and indexing your web pages.
If your website or web page(s) ran into technical issues, you would notice a sudden drop in traffic. This drop in traffic would look something like this in the Google Search Console Performance report.
Because it’s a sitewide technical issue, you will notice that the drop in traffic would be significant.
This is also the case if your website is hit by a manual penalty by Google.
To check if your website has been affected by a manual action, you can go to the Manual Actions report in Google Search Console. This report provides information about any manual actions taken by Google against your website, along with the reasons for the action.
If you find that your website has been affected by a manual action, you should take the necessary steps to address the issue and submit a reconsideration request to Google.
2. Page-level technical issues
In addition to site-wide technical issues, page-level technical issues can also impact your website's organic traffic. For example, if a web page on your site has an unintended noindex tag, Google will not index that page, resulting in a drop in organic traffic to that specific page.
In case your website is hit with page-level technical issues, the graph in the Google Search Console Performance reports might look similar to this:
Algorithmic changes in Google's search algorithm can also affect your website's organic traffic in a similar way. Google constantly updates its search algorithm to provide better search results to users. These updates can impact the rankings of web pages and result in changes in organic traffic. When you notice a gradual decline in organic traffic, it may be due to a page-level technical issue or a change in Google's search algorithm.
To identify page-level technical issues, you can use the Coverage report in Google Search Console. This report provides information about the index status of your web pages, including any errors or warnings that may be affecting their visibility in Google search results.
You can also monitor Google's announcements about algorithm updates and compare the dates of these updates with the timeline of your traffic drop to determine if there is a correlation.
For example, Google recently announced a core algorithm update last month, in March 2023. This update has been particularly disruptive.
Seasonality factors such as weather, holidays, or vacation periods can also impact search engine traffic and may be one of the reasons for organic traffic drops.
For example, if your website offers summer-related products or services, you may notice a drop in organic traffic during the winter months. Seasonal traffic drops are usually easy to spot in the Performance Report in Google Search Console, as they tend to occur around the same time period every year and follow a similar pattern.
Look for a chart in the Google Search Console Performance Report that is similar to the following one:
To analyze the impact of seasonality on your website's organic traffic, you can compare the traffic data from the same time period in previous years using the Performance Report.
By doing so, you can identify if there is a recurring pattern of traffic drops during certain months or seasons.
If you find that seasonality is the reason behind the drop in organic traffic, you can adjust your SEO strategy accordingly, such as by targeting different keywords or creating content that is not as dependent on seasons.
However, some businesses that completely rely on seasonal products — for example, ice creams and Christmas gift shops — may not have much choice to remedy the situation.
4. Glitches by Google
Sometimes, you are not at fault … at all. And sudden traffic drops are only because of reporting glitches from Google’s end.
Every now and then, Google may encounter technical glitches that result in inaccurate or incomplete data being reported in the Performance Report. These reporting glitches can cause sudden drops or spikes in organic traffic data, which may not accurately reflect the actual performance of your website.
Reporting glitches usually appear like the following graph in the Google Search Console Performance report.
If you see like chart, you can relax, knowing that it was likely just a technical glitch. Once the glitch is resolved, things automatically get back to normal — as can be seen in the above chart.
A drop in organic traffic can be concerning for website owners and marketers. However, it's important to understand that there can be several reasons behind it, and not all drops in organic traffic are due to negative factors.
It's crucial to thoroughly analyze and diagnose the possible reasons for the drop in organic traffic before taking any corrective actions.
Checking for technical issues, monitoring algorithmic changes, considering seasonality factors, and checking for reporting glitches should be the first steps in identifying the cause of the drop.
Once you have identified the cause, it's important to take appropriate actions to address the issue. This may include resolving technical issues, updating content, optimizing website structure, monitoring and managing backlinks, and staying up-to-date with SEO best practices.