Home Website Monetization Diagnosing Sudden Google Traffic Drops

Diagnosing Sudden Google Traffic Drops

by Patrick D

If you’re a publisher or webmaster striving to earn on your website, unexpected traffic drops should warn but not alarm you. You can effectively diagnose traffic drops using free tools by Google. With this guide, you will learn the most common causes for traffic dips and how to fix or cope with them.

Seeing your web traffic drop should make you ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the decline appear to be a sharp, sudden drop-off, or is it a gradual and steady decline?
  • Did the drop in traffic last only a few days?
  • Does it appear that traffic is starting to improve on its own?

Identify your traffic sources that were affected

When your traffic drops, it’s important to figure out where you’re losing traffic. The following are the five main types of traffic sources:

  • Direct: visitors who arrive at your site by directly typing the URL into their browser’s search bar or by clicking on a bookmark they’ve saved to get to your website.
  • Organic: visitors who find your website through a search engine. Google is almost always the most popular organic search engine, capturing roughly 90% of all search traffic.
  • Paid: visitors who arrive at your website as a result of paid advertisements such as banner ads or Google Ads.
  • Referral: traffic from your “referral network,” which consists of any partners who link to your website on their own.
  • Social – visitors who arrive at your site via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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The most common causes of traffic drops

The following are the most common causes of Google Search impressions, clicks, and position drops:

1. Your website definition does not correspond to the URL of your website

Is the URL of your site in your Search Console property definition the same as the URL of your site? Is your Search Console property http://example.com or https://example.com? If your website is http://example.com? The most common cause of “missing” search traffic is a mix-up of HTTP and HTTPS; your traffic might not have dropped, but you’re looking at the wrong Search Console property.

2: Your site hasn’t been crawled (or re-crawled) by Google yet

You might’ve published or updated your page then requested a (re)crawl, but Google has not crawled it yet. Many people believe that Google will instantly index or re-index a page. Depending on several factors, re-crawling a site can take a week or more.

Please be patient if you’ve submitted a sitemap or requested a URL crawl. If you haven’t told Google about a page you’ve added to your site, it may take them even longer to find it, so you should request a crawl.

3: Your site has gone missing, has been removed or has been harmed by manual action

First, verify that your website is still searchable on any search engine:

For a page, go to the Google search bar and type in your website URL. Or for the whole website, enter the site: www.example.com.

  • Are you the target of a manual action or a security breach?
  • Examine the report on Manual Actions.
  • Check out the report on Security Issues.

If you have a manual action or a security issue, follow the instructions on the report’s help pages to resolve them.

Check your website to see if you or anyone else submitted a successful URL removal request. If yes, you’ll need to cancel or dispute the request to reappear in search.

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4. Your website was recently relocated

Have you changed your domain name? (for example, www.example.com to www.newexample.com)?

Did you change existing pages on the same site to new URLs (for example, from example.com/thispage to example.com/anotherpage)? 

Did you switch from HTTP to HTTPS? If any of these apply to you, go to the site move troubleshooting section.

Make sure your index is covered.

All of your numbers will drop if Google can’t find and index your website, so start by checking your site’s coverage in the Google index:

Open your site’s Index Coverage report.

  • Toggle the report to show valid pages, and check the chart for any changes in the number of indexed pages.
  • Toggle the report to display indexing errors, warnings, and excluded URLs if this is the case.
  • Look for spikes that match your indexing drops and investigate further. You should find clues showing why pages that were previously indexed can no longer be indexed. The documentation for the error should include instructions on how to resolve the problem.
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Diagnose traffic drops: Search traffic statistics

Determine which numbers for your site have changed:

  • Open your site’s Performance report.
  • Show impressions, CTR, and position data.
  • View your search traffic by query, country, and device to determine if your drop is related to a specific category. If you notice a decrease in a particular category, look into it further.
    • Review your site’s Mobile Usability report if your mobile traffic has decreased.
    • If you have low traffic from specific countries, make sure you’ve enabled any hreflang implementation correctly and haven’t set your site targeting incorrectly by accident.
    • Use the URL Inspection tool to see if traffic to a specific page has decreased.

Non-canonical pages. If another page has been designated as canonical by Google, it will not appear in search results.

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Other traffic sources to check

Video: If your video traffic has decreased, make sure you haven’t made any recent changes and that you are following video best practices.
Images: If your image traffic has decreased, make sure you haven’t made any recent changes, check to see if you’re following image best practices, and ensure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking images from Google. To see if Google can fetch the image, use the URL Inspection tool on the image host page. Troubleshoot your AMP changes if your AMP pages have lost rank, impressions, or clicks.

Periodic drops

See if you can spot a pattern in your drop for a week, month, or year. If you notice a pattern, consider how it relates to the content on your website. Christmas ornament sellers will almost certainly see an annual fluctuation in search traffic. If your website offers services for all seasons (for example, everyday items), make sure that all of them are highlighted.

A drop in CTR without a corresponding decrease in impressions is a recipe for disaster. If users see your site but don’t click through, it could mean that other search results are more appealing.

Maybe they have more meaningful titles, snippets, search features, or because users consider other sites more trustworthy or authoritative.

Perform some site searches to see what other results come up. Is the information in these results more useful? More attractive? Is there a unique search feature that you might find appealing?

Learn how to improve your titles and snippets, as well as how to use rich results.

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How to diagnose traffic drops: Impressions and CTR

Here are some issues to look into if your site’s impressions and CTR have dropped significantly:

  • Is your website compatible with mobile devices? Check the Mobile Usability report for your site or run the Mobile-Friendly test on specific pages to see how many queries come from mobile devices. You can compare your mobile and desktop impressions separately by adding a filter to compare desktop vs. mobile impressions in the Performance report.

By the way, if you see a drop in the CTR of your advertisements, this may be due to incorrect banner placement or too many ads. Read our guide on how to avoid mistakes in traffic monetization.

  • Is your page ranking for the queries you expect to see?

Examine your queries in the Performance report to see how your impressions change over time.

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What to do

  • Check if your website is indexed correctly. If Google can’t find your pages or they’ve been removed from the index, they won’t show up for those searches.
  • Check if anyone else is outperforming you on these queries. To see precise results of Google’s SERP, perform an incognito search for those queries. Do pages that rank higher have more, better, or newer content than yours?

How to diagnose traffic drops: More tips

Is your website aimed at the wrong audience or language? Look for hreflang errors or country-specific targeting that may have contributed to a decrease in impressions or clicks.

Is your page considered canonical? In search results, only canonical pages appear. Use the URL inspection tool to see if a page is canonical and see if it can be crawled or if impressions have dropped for that page.

On occasion, some bad actors on the internet copy large portions of another website onto their own to attract visitors. You can file a removal request if you notice a site that has copied your content. You can file a counter-claim if someone has copied your site’s content and filed a bogus takedown request.

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Drop in SERP position

In general, you should avoid focusing too much on your SERP position, even if it is only a slight fluctuation. The best measure of success for your site is impressions, clicks, and total visitor count. If you notice a significant and persistent drop in position, you can try to correct it.

Position changes are frequently caused by one of the following factors:

  • Another website has outperformed yours in terms of quality or relevance. Perform some searches in incognito mode to see which sites perform better than yours and try to figure out why: are the other results more useful, complete, or current than yours?
  • Content on your website has become stale, incorrect, or less valuable than it once was. Make an effort to keep your website accurate, helpful, and current.
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Which page has dropped?

Go to your Google Analytics account to quickly see which pages have been dropped: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. There, click “Organic,” check “Compare to,” and select “Previous period” from the drop-down menu in the date range.

Then scroll down and click the “Landing pages” tab to see all of your pages and how this week’s traffic compares to last week’s.

There’s no need to scroll a lot in this section. If you notice a traffic dip, there’s a chance your higher-ranking page or pages were likely impacted. So take a look at the first item on the list.

Most importantly, if all of your pages were affected, you should be concerned. This could be a sign that a recent Google Update has hit a site.

You may notice some pages dropping, which is a more common occurrence. Others will be unaffected, and some may even see an increase in traffic. This is a good indication that you shouldn’t be concerned about Google taking any action. The majority of pages are constantly moving up and down the SERP.

You now take the list of declining URLs and conduct further research on them.

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Diagnose traffic drops: New users vs. returning users

It’s just as important to understand who your users are and where they came from. You can isolate specific reasons for the traffic drop depending on which type of user has declined.

If your new user numbers have dropped, for example, there could be a problem with the way users search for your site or how it appears on Google. This could indicate that you need to conduct new keyword research or that you’ve been hit with a Google penalty.

On the other hand, returning users may indicate a problem with your site’s structure and user-friendliness. Perhaps your site reports multiple 404 Not Found errors, or your site’s loading speed is too slow, and users are leaving.

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When organic traffic declines or dips, it isn’t always a sign that your site is being filtered or penalized (which is most often assumed). In most cases, it’s a perfectly normal ongoing SERP fluctuation. Maintain your composure and consider what has changed (and why). Don’t take any action or make any changes until you’ve checked various data sources and developed a strategic plan. And remember to check your Adsterra Publishers statistics, too, to find insights on your website profitability.

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