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How to Diagnose an Organic Traffic Drop

Organic traffic drops can be disheartening—especially when you think about all the hard work you and your team has put into building up your numbers. Don’t panic when you start noticing a dip in your statistics. Take a deep breath and diagnose the problem before prematurely implementing any drastic numbers-saving tactic.

Identifying Organic Traffic Drop

Sometimes, a temporary drop in your SEO traffic is just a manifestation of noise in your data. The first step, therefore, is to verify that the drop you are seeing is real. This means inspecting your metrics and searching for data issues.

Traffic drops can appear because of simple data problems. Sense-checking specific metrics that could be impacted by these issues is the easiest way to detect such problems. Ask your marketing team for the data issues you should be looking into, so you can turn over the right rocks and discover where the data discrepancies lie.

In some cases, missing data for a particular day or a certain page type or device source reflects as traffic drop when it’s really just a matter of fixing or refreshing your numbers. Another data issue you should watch out for is normal noise or variance in your metrics. Site stats and metrics fluctuate for no discernible reason. Knowing your traffic patterns and standard deviation rates will help you detect whether there is really an abnormal drop in your numbers and whether you should be worried.

Assuming that you are experiencing real traffic drop, how do you diagnose the situation and get to the root of the problem? Below are some important questions you should answer when faced with abnormal downward movements in organic traffic:

Did Google release a recent algorithm update? 
Be sure to follow reliable SEO resources and newsletters to keep watch on any relevant algorithm updates that could impact your place in SERPs. While site traffic nowadays comes from multiple sources, search engines still count as the largest source for organic clicks. Algorithm updates you aren’t prepared for can be major causes of a dip in your numbers. Tracking down updates that could have potentially impacted your traffic is a good first step towards finding a solution, regaining your lost numbers, and preventing future hits.

Did a site change cause the drop? 
Major site changes can also shake up your traffic, like migrating a bunch of your URLs or updating your title tags, moving to a new JavaScript framework, or making changes on your navigation menu. If you notice the drop around the time of a major site re-design, retracing your steps can put you on your way to regain your lost SEO visibility.

Is the traffic drop specific to a segment? 
Data segmentation can be helpful in diagnosing website traffic drops. By categorizing your data, you’ll be able to pinpoint where the problem lies and find appropriate solutions or strengthen your efforts to raise your numbers in that particular group. Some common areas where traffic drops typically occur include certain page types such as product pages, blog posts, and category pages, along with particular device types like desktop, tablet, and mobile traffic.

Is your competitor eating up your audience share? 
Perhaps your competition’s SEO and SEM efforts are picking up. Try to observe their performance. If you are indeed losing traffic to your competitor, it’s time to look at what keywords they are beating you on and then reinforcing your efforts to regain your lost traffic. Did they recently launch a brand new page type? Did they include new content? Try to figure out if they got more links to their higher-ranked pages. You can also study the search rankings to see if there is a newcomer stealing the spotlight. 

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