Google gives website owners seven tips for analyzing the root causes of organic search traffic.
In an article written by Google’s Daniel Waisberg, the main reasons for the drop in search traffic are identified as:
Technical issues: Errors that could prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your pages to users. Security Issues: Google may warn users before visiting sites with potential security threats, which may reduce search traffic. Manual actions: If a site does not comply with Google’s guidelines, some of its pages or the entire site may be excluded from Google’s search results through manual action. Algorithmic changes: Core updates and other minor updates may change the way pages work in Google search results. Interruption of search interest: Sometimes changes in user behavior will change the demand for certain queries, either as a result of a new trend or seasonality over the course of the year.
Here are some rudimentary examples of what each of these drops might look like in Google Analytics:
Read on for Google’s insights into diagnosing the cause of a traffic crash.
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Diagnosing a drop in Google search traffic
The best way to understand what happened to a site’s traffic, Google says, is to open its Search Console Performance report and look at the main chart.
Analyzing the shape of the line provides some information to begin with. Dig deeper into the data with these three tips:
Change the date range to 16 months: This will help you analyze the traffic drop in context and make sure it is not a drop that happens every year. Compare the dropper period with a similar period: This helps you review what exactly has changed. Find out if the impact involves specific queries, URLs, countries, devices, or search behavior. Analyze different search types separately: This will help you understand if the drop you saw happened in web search, Google Images or the Video or News tab.
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To understand if the decline is part of a larger trend or something specific to your site, Waisberg recommends looking at Google Trends.
This can help rule out the following two factors as potential causes of traffic congestion:
Disruption of a search interest: People may start searching for different queries or use their devices for different purposes. Fewer people searching for the queries you rank for can lead to a traffic drop. Season: Google Trends shows, for example, that food-related queries are very seasonal: people search for diets in January, turkey in November, and champagne in December. Different industries have different levels of seasonality.
While still in Google Trends, there are two ways to gain insight into your search traffic:
Check top queries in your region and compare them to the queries you get traffic from. If you discover queries that you are not getting traffic from, even if you have content on that topic, make sure it is reviewed and indexed. Check queries related to important topics. This can possibly surface increasing related queries so you can optimize them before search interest piques.
For more information, see Google’s full article.