Traffic might not be the sole indicator of whether or not your search engine optimization efforts are successful, but it’s certainly a good benchmark. Similarly, a sharp decline in traffic is a sure sign that something has gone wrong. However, provided you’re following all the SEO best practices, it might not be your fault.
The Search Engine Results Page can be a volatile place, after all. From algorithm updates to shifts in your industry’s marketplace, there are a lot of external factors that can cause a traffic drop. Fortunately, you have more control over these than you might expect.
It starts with knowing where to look.
An Algorithm Change Has Hit You Like a Truck
If you’ve noticed a sudden and alarming drop in your numbers, the first thing you should do is check Google. Specifically, check what people are saying about Google’s algorithms. Has there been a recent update that could account for the decline?
As noted by freelance marketing consultant Martin Wilson, Google does tend to have a history of pushing out algorithm updates that directly penalize websites that use outdated or spammy SEO techniques. Of these, the 2011 Panda update has arguably been the most devastating. Marketing publication Search Engine Land reported in 2013 that the algorithm update forced some businesses to change their names, change their business model, fire staff, or even close their doors altogether.
This could be what’s happening with you, in which case you need to figure out how to fix things and fast.
You’ve Lost Some Major Backlinks
While the jury is still out on whether or not backlinks are a major ranking factor, what is clear is that a backlink from an authority site can work wonders for your web traffic. It also means that if that site shuts down or the page on which your backlink was hosted is deleted, you’re likely to see a sharp drop in traffic. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to figure out if this is the case.
Most SEO tools, including the Google Search Console, allow you to track backlinks to your site. Have a look and see if there’s anything missing. Also, check to make sure you haven’t had any suspicious backlinks directed your way.
As explained by Social Media Today, toxic backlinks can get you saddled with a penalty by Google. These can include links from obvious link farms or spam sites, links from multiple mirrors of the same page, or links from low-quality websites. You can use the Google Search Console to disavow these links and remove the penalty from your ranking.
Your Competitors Are Killing It and Leaving You Behind
A sudden traffic drop isn’t always connected to an algorithm change or an issue with external links. Sometimes it’s just a sign that one of your competitors has upped their SEO game. Don’t be too upset about this, though.
Look at it as an opportunity. Your competition has revealed a weak spot in your SEO strategy. You can use this to grow, improve, and ultimately surpass them.
You did it once, you can do it again.