There can be any number of reasons why your Google traffic dropped suddenly and significantly. This can be an issue with something as simple as your analytics code being removed accidentally after a website update or something more severe such as your website being penalized by Google.
There are many things to check to determine why your Google traffic dropped, so below is a list.
Redirects Removed or Changed Can Cause Google Traffic Drops
Redirects are used to transition users and search engines from old to new pages. Using 301 redirect signals to Google that the page has permanently moved, they can pass ranking metrics from the old to the new page.
Redirects are usually done within an htaccess file, within the cPanel of a hosting account, or if you’re using WordPress, they can be done with any plugins. No matter which strategy is used, we recommend keeping a running list of all redirects to have a quick backup solution if something happens.
To determine if your redirects are still valid and have not been removed, take a few from your backup list and check them by visiting the page or putting them in a redirect checker – many can be used, and you can search Google.
A Blocked Website Can Cause Google Traffic Drops
Unfortunately, this is more common than we would like to see. There are a few ways you can unknowingly block your website.
Blocking your website usually happens during two periods:
- Releasing a website update from staging to production
- When redesigning your website
In both cases, the developer or designer forgets to remove the noindex/nofollow code from the templates, the disallow directive from your robots.txt file, or if designing in WordPress, forgetting to uncheck the box in Settings > Reading > section that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”.
Google Update Can Cause Traffic Drops
Google is constantly tweaking and updating its algorithm – some extensive updates such as Panda and other minor tweaks.
Most of the time, they won’t announce an update, which is why tools such as Mozcast – from moz.com that is a basic weather report for the search results and the SEMrush Sensor – from SEMrush.com that is a sensor across their dataset of keywords and is segmented by industry type have become more critical in diagnosing traffic loss.
The key to determining if a recent Google update impacted your website is to check multiple data points.
Link Spam Will Cause Google Traffic Drops
Usually, once a year, Google will release a major link-based algorithm update to try and sort out valuable links vs. spam links created by a new link-building tactic that marketers started implementing.
Link spam is usually one of the major issues that websites that lose Google traffic have. The business owner either hired a bad SEO company or thought they could “outsmart” the Google algorithm by either buying links or embarking on strategies that create many low-quality links, such as directory submissions, articles directories, press releases, etc.
To determine if your website traffic was impacted due to your website having too many low-quality links, you will need to do a link audit, which starts by exporting your link graph and doing a deep analysis.
Content is at the core of all business growth strategies. Without great content, users won’t engage, Google won’t rank you, and the risk of being affected by a search engine update increases.
We have repeatedly written about content quality and yet find websites creating low-value, generic, 500-word articles that provide no value.
There are two parts to the content we find issues with the most.
Before hitting publish, determine if your content is valuable to users and search engines by asking these four questions.
- Did an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic write the article? If they did, you’re on the right track.
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? If your content has errors, you must do better during editing.
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? Again, if it goes beyond the obvious, then you’re cr, journal value that Google will reward.
- Does the content provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic, or are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? If you create short 500-word articles, your content is most likely garbage.
People are not reading your content – they’re scanning it for answers to their questions. So they usually skim pages looking for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs, and a scannable list.
Since they’re hurrying to find the information they’re looking for, they’ll skip what’s irrelevant.
Low-Quality Website Can Cause Google Traffic Drops
Website quality includes many aspects, from Usability, Experience, and Information Architecture, to Visual Design and Content.
Website quality not only impacts your SEO, rankings, and Google traffic, but it also impacts your conversion rate. The impact on conversion rate and lead generation activities is due to how much users trust your business based on your website’s inherent visual appeal, ease of use, and authoritative content.
To determine if your website quality is an issue, you can analyze your website using our website design checklist.
When a website is over-optimized, it’s usually due to an over-zealous marketing person who thinks that adding a keyword one time is good, then adding it ten times must be better – this is not the case.
Google Over-optimization usually is done in the following locations:
- Title Tags
- Body Copy
- Navigation Language
To determine if your website may be over-optimized, check your title tags for lists of keywords, check for content for the same keyword written multiple times or a lack of content structure as mentioned above, and check your navigation for repeated keywords don’t add user value.
This is probably the easiest thing to check if you’ve noticed a drop in Google traffic. If you’re using Google Analytics 4, view the source of your website content and check the header and footer area for your Google Analytics Code. It should look something similar to the following:
You Didn’t Have A Transition Plan
We have written many times about the importance of having a transition plan when redesigning, migrating your website to HTTPS, or relaunching your website.
Recommended reading: Here’s why your traffic dropped after your website redesign.
If you recently redesigned, migrated, or relaunched your company’s website or moved it from HTTP to HTTPS and noticed a significant drop in Google traffic, you most likely didn’t have a website design firm that understood how to implement a transition plan.