Sudden Drops in Google Visibility & Traffic: Understanding Causes + Strategies for Recovery

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Sudden Drops in Google Visibility & Traffic: Understanding Causes + Strategies for Recoveryd-tags
30 April 2024
Website visibility and traffic can drop for various reasons like algorithm changes, updates, technical issues, or problems with backlinks. It's crucial to regularly check your website's rankings and traffic - once you notice a decline, you need to identify the cause and take prompt action to fix it. Now I'm going to show you how to do it.

22min.

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What do you feel when you notice a sudden drop in your website’s visibility in search results?

Is it frustration, stress, or perhaps anger?

Or does this troubling situation spark your curiosity and a desire to understand what might have caused it?

Of course, I hope it won’t ever happen to you, but if you find one day that fewer people are visiting your website, then after reading my text, you’ll know what to do to win them back.

NOTE: This isn’t a one-size-fits-all repair plan, and each drop requires a customized solution.

Today, I’ll help you realize:

  • what can cause sudden drops in visibility,
  • how to properly monitor and diagnose your visibility and traffic,
  • which tool to use for automatic reporting of visibility drops,
  • how to effectively counteract visibility declines and reverse the negative trend, and
  • how to restore your website’s lost visibility.

Sudden Search Visibility Drops: A Quick Introductory Remark

Whether you work on your website’s SEO yourself, use the help of an internal team, or collaborate with an SEO agency, the bitter truth is:

…even if you reach the top SERP and rank high for certain keywords, it doesn’t mean your website will maintain that position continuously.

You need to realize that the effort you invest in optimizing your website won’t necessarily lead to continuous growth, unlike the familiar snowball effect in marketing. Still, it’s fair to say that the more you invest in SEO, the better the results you can expect. Yet, it may take just a couple of days or several weeks for the results to become noticeable.

What I mean to say is that you shouldn’t expect your website’s ranking to automatically improve if you stop focusing on SEO, relying only on past efforts that were initially successful. Naturally, you won’t notice sudden declines, but given that your competitors are constantly improving their SEO and considering frequent Google updates, these factors will eventually impact your rankings.

Also, let me clarify that visibility drops aren’t solely caused by competition or updates. Sometimes, they may result from your own actions, especially if you stop monitoring your activities or discontinue further optimization after reaching your desired position in the SERPs.

Just keep in mind that your visibility could decrease due to:

  • introducing some changes to your website without consulting an SEO specialist or lacking a fundamental understanding of the impact of these changes,
  • given up on SEO because you are satisfied with current results,
  • Google releasing a new algorithm or updating an existing one,
  • your competitors adopting more effective SEO strategies,
  • other unforeseen circumstances that negatively affect your website’s ranking.

Thus, continuous monitoring of your website’s performance is vital. Truth be told, you should consider your analytical tools as your SEO compass. With their insights, you will know if you’re in:
Situation A 😊 👍 where you’re moving in the right direction and should continue steadily, or
Situation B 😱 🚨 where you’re veering off course and need to make swift adjustments before it’s too late.

Today, I’ll equip you with your own SEO compass/map.

We’ll start by:
➡️ Showing you where and how to check daily, weekly, and monthly website views. I’ll also demonstrate how to automate this process to receive updates directly to your inbox.
➡️ Discussing the most common causes of visibility drops I’ve observed among my clients.
➡️ Introducing the sources of these declines and strategies to counteract and repair the damage.
➡️ Finally, I’ll present the successful outcomes of our “website rescue plans,” supported by real-life case studies from our clients.

Let’s begin with…

2 Main Ways to Identify Drops: When and Where to Spot Them

How to Identify Search Visibility Drop #1: SEO Tools

The good news is that you can use paid and free tools. You have at your disposal the following:

Free toolsPaid tools
Google Search ConsoleAhrefs
Google AnalyticsSemrush
Keyword tracking toolsKeyword tracking tools

The bad news, however, is that SEO tools typically experience a delay of two to three days in the data they report. As a result, you can’t always verify your website’s exact position on any given day. For this reason, I recommend trying a clever method to quickly spot sudden visibility drops in Google, which is…

How to Identify Search Visibility Drop #2: You

If you know that your online store typically sells an average of 1,000 products per day, but you see that number has dropped to only 600 products and it stays there, it’s a sign that you need to take action – of course, I’m not talking about seasonal variations here. However, in the case of large e-commerce platforms, a drop in visibility often translates into a noticeably smaller number of orders for that day.

Sometimes, my clients reach out to me because they’ve noticed a decrease in visibility. This usually happens when something is clearly troubling them, yet SEO tools don’t give them any answers. In such cases, the help of an experienced SEO specialist can be invaluable.

It is precisely in such situations that knowing your business can help you react more quickly to an unexpected drop in visibility. Because – yes, that’s right – we also have what are called expected drops in visibility, or as I like to call them, deceptive drops. Please note that…

…not every drop in visibility should be a cause for alarm.

🤓 Example #1: Do you sell winter sports equipment, and spring is just around the corner? It’s perfectly normal for your target audience to shift their interest from skis, down sleeping bags, and ice swimming boots to bicycles, rollerblades, and swimming gear as the seasons change. In this scenario, it’s much more effective to compare sales levels year over year rather than month to month.

sesonality example

🤓 Example #2: Are you selling office supplies and the weekend is about to begin? It’s not surprising that you see no new orders on Saturday and Sunday – those responsible for purchasing markers, copy paper, and notebooks are off enjoying their weekend. This means that a drop in organic traffic during the weekend is completely normal for businesses offering services or supplies for offices.

I hope I’ve helped you understand which visibility drops can be ignored and which ones need immediate attention. Now, I’ll show you how to check your website’s visibility metrics using various SEO tools.

Google Search Console and Google Analytics

Let’s start with two of the most popular and completely free analytical tools that nearly every website owner uses.

I suggest you begin with Google Analytics because this tool provides real-time traffic information. This means that if:

  • your server is overloaded,
  • your website is unavailable for some reason,
  • there is a technical error preventing users from accessing your website,

Google Analytics gives you this type of information almost immediately as they occur. To check this:

STEP 1: Log in to Google Analytics.
STEP 2: Go to Reports → Real-Time.

Google Analytics screenshot

If you spot some prolonged declines – possibly due to changes in search engine algorithms – you can confirm this by analyzing organic traffic in both GA and GSC

STEP 1: Log in to Google Analytics.
STEP 2: Go to Reports → Acquisition → Traffic Acquisition.

google analytics screenshot

STEP 3: Select the period you want to analyze to check from when and how quickly you have been losing organic traffic.

PRO TIP: You can set up automatic notifications – more on this below.

Now let’s move on to Google Search Console. After clicking on the Performance tab, you can check the following:

  • the total number of clicks from organic search results,
  • the total number of impressions,
  • the average click-through rate (CTR),
  • the average position of a given page over the selected period.

google analytics visibility drops report

You can also use the Compare feature to see how your website is currently performing compared to the previous month, year, or any other period you select – this function is particularly useful for businesses that sell seasonal products.

STEP 1: Click on the Date option (found above the chart).
STEP 2: Select the range you want to compare to assess the current performance of your website.

compare feature in a SEO tool

In the example below, the report includes data collected from the last three months (April-June) and compares it to the three months prior (January-March). As you can see, there are no declines – what you can see is actually an increase in the number of organic visits.

GSC report

PRO TIP: When you generate a similar report, pay attention to the keywords your website is ranking for. You might discover that someone has uploaded or removed something from the website without informing you. For this person, what seems like a minor modification, such as changing the page title, could have a significant impact on the website’s visibility.

Sometimes, this can help you notice – and understand – the reason behind losing a high keyword position. This insight might also explain why your website has suddenly started ranking for a different keyword than initially intended or previously targeted.

Paid SEO Tools

Here, you have a wide range of analytical tools to choose from – like Ahrefs or Semrush to name just two.

Before we begin, I want you to realize that none of the SEO tools is perfect – at least for now. This means that not every drop you see will necessarily indicate an actual decline.

What Are You Doing Reaction GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Let me explain: each of these tools has a different set of keyword databases. This means they may not always have data for every keyword you’re attempting to rank for.

Example #1: The Polish market, Senuto tool, and the adult industry

When I was doing SEO for one of my clients working in the adult industry, I found that Senuto had very limited information on keywords related to adult products.

Here’s an example illustrating the differences within this industry between tools like Senuto:

senuto tool report

and Ahrefs

ahrefs tool report

The challenge arises when you operate in an industry that can’t be widely advertised online, forcing you to rely on incomplete data. For example, if your website ranks for a large number of keywords, say 100, losing just one or two might be represented in Senuto as a significant drop. This is because Senuto may only monitor 10 of the phrases you target, and these might include the ones that have lost their positions. In reality, however, you would still rank highly in search results for the other 98 or 99 keywords.

Example #2: The international markets, Ahrefs and Semrush

Despite the fact that Ahrefs and Semrush have really large keyword databases, they still sometimes don’t show the correct information you need, search volume being one such. This is particularly true for niche and less popular industries.

Another of my clients sells very specific industrial machine parts. He knows the search terms his customers type into search engines when looking for his products online. Interestingly, there is no data on the search volume for these specific keywords in the analytical tools. In this specific case, the search volume is recorded as 0, even though these particular keywords contribute to increased conversions and sales in the client’s store.

Okay, now you are aware that not all information provided in non-Google analytical tools should be perceived as 100% correct – especially when you work in a niche or restricted industry.

How to Check a Search Visibility Drop in Ahrefs

STEP 1: Enter your website’s URL into the Overview field.

ahrefs visibility drop

STEP 2: Go to the Organic Search tab.

Remember that Ahrefs analyzes only its database, meaning the visibility information for your website is estimated. While this analytical tool doesn’t have access to as extensive databases as Google, the information it provides is still valuable and worth taking into consideration.

Tools That Automatically Notify You of Decreases in Website Visibility

For a few moments, I’ll hand you over to Wojciech Urban, an SEO and R&D Specialist, who you might already know from BrightonSEO 2024.

wojciech urban bio

#1: Email Notifications from GA4

Set these up in the Custom Insights section.

This feature allows significant flexibility in configuring alerts based on specific conditions. These typically include:

  • a drop in organic traffic by X%, or
  • a drop in organic traffic below value Y.

In the first scenario, you might set an alert for a 30% week-to-week visibility drop (tip: don’t select shorter periods due to potential weekly seasonal variations). In the second scenario, calculate the weekly average of organic traffic from the past year (or at least several months).

This article provides detailed instructions on how to set up alerts in GA4.

#2: 404 Error Notifications

Google Analytics 4 can send you alerts when users encounter pages that return 404 errors, potentially leading to traffic loss.

This is somewhat different from when tools like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console detect 404s – those tools identify non-existent, incorrect, or deleted URLs. While a few isolated 404 errors typically won’t cause much harm to your website, a sudden increase in the number of 404s could indicate a more serious issue.

This article explains how to set up notifications for 404 errors in GA4.

#3: Email Report from Looker on Keyword Positions

The Looker dashboard allows you to create a customized GSC report. This gives you the possibility to have a quick look at your keyword positions. It’s truly “quick” because with a glance you can see whether there’s been an increase or decrease in critical business-related search terms.

This is where I give all the instructions on how to set the keyword position tracker in Looker Studio. Also, try the free dashboard I made.

You can also use Looker Studio to schedule email notifications. While these notifications are not triggered by specific conditions but are sent regularly, they can still save you the hassle of frequently logging into numerous tools.

You can find the configuration of the automatic report delivery in the Google Help Center.

#4: Alerts in Keyword Tracking Tools

Many keyword monitoring tools feature alert functions. Check (or ask support) whether your tool includes this feature, and if so, start using it.

#5: Regular Automated Website Crawls with Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is the most popular – and, in my opinion, the best – tool for doing website crawls (in short, a bot goes through URLs and collects data about the pages). You can use Screaming Frog to schedule regular crawls (e.g., weekly). The information is transferred to Looker Studio and later emailed to you automatically.

You can find the entire process of setting up automated crawls in Screaming Frog on this tool’s official website.

#6: Tools to Track Changes on a Website

There are several great tools, such as Little Warden or Content King, that monitor changes introduced to your website. They are particularly useful when a larger team is working on the website, as they enable quick detection of potential human errors.

#7: Server Monitoring

Website downtime, typically caused by high traffic volumes or hosting failures, is one of the common reasons for visibility drops. Often, you might not even be aware that users are having trouble accessing your website, for example, due to an overloaded server.

So, if you want to check if there is a problem with your server down, see the server logs (text files that record all visits to the website and their details, such as HTTP response codes: 200 indicates everything is okay, whereas 4xx or 5xx suggests there are some issues). While you can spot 404 errors in GA, you won’t get info on 500 server errors. The alternative is server logs, but this is a highly technical and extensive topic, which we’ll skip for now. However, you can:

  • Ask your webmaster if they can send you a monthly report detailing what % of the logs are server errors, and which are just 200s.
  • Implement server monitoring, which – mind you – requires an investment of either money or time (as there are also open-source solutions), such as:

Diagnosing Search Visibility Drops: Causes + Solutions

Now I’m going to walk you through 7 causes of Google search visibility drops that come across the most often at my work. Let’s begin with presumably the most obvious one, which is…

#1: Google Algorithm Changes

Search engine algorithm updates are often the main cause of search visibility loss of websites that managed to win top spots in the SERP. I’m sure you have noticed that Google algorithm updates are quite frequent. Honestly, I can’t remember a month when Google didn’t announce algorithm changes.

Naturally, owners of other search engines also update their algorithms, so it’s advised to monitor your website’s visibility on Bing or DuckDuckGo too, especially if those are the platforms your target audience uses.

2023 was a notable year for changes to Google’s algorithms. In the past, Google didn’t always talk publicly about releasing new updates, meaning we might not have been aware that one caused a sudden drop in search visibility. Fortunately, Google is more transparent now, announcing new updates and algorithms on its social media platforms.

Which updates have wreaked the most havoc on website visibility so far? In my view, the most impactful have been the updates related to content (Content Helpful Update), spammy links, and reviews.

How Can I Check If an Algorithm Update Has Affected My Website’s Search Visibility?

Basically, you can give any of the above-described methods a go. Yet, I’d recommend you to use Wojciech’s tool – Google Update Checker – which helps you determine whether and when your search visibility has decreased after the release of a Google algorithm update.

If you notice that one of the algorithm updates has caused your website’s visibility to drop, please, don’t react precipitately.

Making drastic changes to your website can often do more harm than good. In such situations, it’s best to stay calm and wait for the update to fully roll out, which may take several weeks.

PRO TIP #1: During this time, analyze the data to determine what caused the drops in search visibility. Then, create a strategic action plan focusing only on the pages that were negatively affected by the algorithm change.

Interestingly, your action plan should depend on the type of update that took place:

  • If it’s a content update, try to verify if the articles published on your website are actually useful for your target audience. Also, check your website for duplicate content and cannibalization. Bear in mind that Google rewards website owners that offer true value to the internet users. This means that over-optimized texts, saturated with keywords may not necessarily work to your advantage.
  • I’ve seen numerous times that less, but more substantial, content often brings notably better results than huge amounts of low-value content.

PRO TIP #2: AI-generated content isn’t on Google’s blacklist provided that they offer value to internet users. On the other hand, texts produced just for the sake of being published without following any content plan won’t contribute to increased search visibility.

  • Let me tell you that you won’t always notice an increase in search visibility right after eliminating the factor that pushed your website down the SERP. Take, for example, Link Spam Update. It happened that even after spammy links were removed, the positive results started to surface no sooner than during another Link Spam Update. Simply put, Google needs some time to reevaluate your link profile.
  • Review updates are becoming more and more common. Analysis shows that in most cases it’s the fault of poorly configured review managing tools. I saw cases when, instead of reviews concerning a particular product, TrustPilot showed structural data of opinions concerning… the online store. This means that incorrectly configured tools may suggest bots that the customer reviews published on your website are fake. Consequently, this may lead to a visibility drop once a new Reviews Update comes out.

PRO TIP #3: If you’re positive your SEO process is well-thought-out, you may simply try waiting until the search visibility drop period is over. Why should you wait? I’ve seen it more than once when an algorithm update finished, and a client’s website seemed to be okay, yet still its search visibility kept going down. In such cases, sadly, the best solution is to simply wait. How long? In most cases for the next update – in extremely rare situations even a bit longer.

#2: Poorly Executed Website Migration

More often than not search visibility decline is the consequence of migrating a website without consulting an SEO Specialist. It’s even more catastrophic when SEO is ignored completely during this process.

It’s common for web developers to focus mainly on the technical and design aspects of a new website, without paying much attention to SEO such as:

  • building a redirect map properly
  • using internal linking
  • transferring all the well-functioning SEO elements to the new website
That’s why an SEO is absolutely indispensable before, during, and after migrating a website. The Specialist will take care of all vital SEO elements, preventing the website from losing search visibility when it’s finally up and running on a new CMS or domain.

Diagnosing search visibility drops after a migration is a relatively simple task. Often, a client reports a problem to me, saying “My website’s visibility is plummeting,” without telling me that they’ve recently moved data from one database to another or switched CMS systems.

In such cases of “surprise migration,” I turn to archive.org. This website quickly lets me verify whether the client has – indeed – migrated their website.

If the website has seen a drop in visibility since it was moved, it’s directly related to the migration process. Using traffic and keyword position tracking tools can help pinpoint issues stemming from an incorrectly executed migration.

Restoring search visibility depends on the cause of the drop, but often it involves fixing the redirects. If the situation I’ve just described sounds familiar, check our guide on creating a 301 redirect map.

PRO TIP #1: If that’s only possible before you start migration, crawl your website first. You can use Screaming Frog for that. Just gather as much information as only you possibly can, and this can be:

  • website map
  • all URLs
  • page titles and meta descriptions
  • schema
  • heading structure
  • content

Also, do a backup. You will need it in case the migration causes search visibility to decline. Having such information at hand makes it way easier to identify the “wrongdoers” and verify if all elements were transferred properly.

The ideal migration scenario involves SEO Specialists providing input from the very beginning of the new website’s design process. This way you can be sure all important SEO issues are addressed at every step of the design creation.

Naturally, it may sometimes happen that not all essential elements are included in the process, yet in the case of some issues, you can always check things up in the backup. It’s also super important for the SEO and dev teams to cooperate closely with each other, especially when it’s an external company that is responsible for building a new website.

PRO TIP #2: When migrating, make sure all changes are implemented simultaneously on both the old and new websites. This will prevent data loss. It’s worth realizing that it may happen that the new website has the same elements as its older version. If any problems arise during the development stage, you may permanently lose all your progress.

Case Study #1: Migrating Website with No Action Plan or SEO Specialist Help

Main causes of search visibility drop:

  • Removal of location pages – The client offers their products in physical stores, so local keywords previously helped attract nearby consumers to the closest Sharetea point of sale. However, after the migration, the absence of these location pages meant that Sharetea stores no longer appeared in search results.
  • Broken internal linking – Post-migration, the client’s website underwent a complete overhaul of its URL structure, resulting in numerous errors in internal linking. Additionally, the new URLs were not indexed due to issues like missing redirects or duplicate content, further diminishing the website’s visibility after migration.

How we managed to restore the lost website’s visibility:

SOLUTION #1: We recommended creating location pages listing the most popular Sharetea spots in specific areas. This way we made an ideal place for incorporating keywords that would boost Sharetea’s visibility in local search results.

SOLUTION #2: After repairing the internal linking, crawlers could efficiently index the entire website, going from one web page to another.

sharetea case study visibility drop

To see the entire repair plan, read Sharetea Case Study.

Case Study #2: Migrating Website with No Action Plan or SEO Specialist Help

The website appeared in the top 10 search results before migration.

Main causes of search visibility drop:

  • No redirects – The client wanted to redesign the layout and migrate the website to a new CMS. As a result, all URLs and page templates were changed during the migration, without implementing redirects.
  • Unjustified changes to content and structure – During the migration, the client decided to modify key website components, including H1 headers, page titles, and the content on the pages.

How we managed to restore the lost website’s visibility:

Let me tell you that the client did not back up the website before migration, which significantly hindered our ability to access crucial information needed to identify the reasons for the visibility drop. To make matters even worse, we didn’t have access to the sitemap.

SOLUTION #1: Finding old URLs and setting up redirects – We made use of various SEO tools and cached data to recover as many old URLs as possible. With Screaming Frog, we verified which URLs had redirects pointing to the new website.

SOLUTION #2: Recovering content information – We decided to write a custom Python script to retrieve information about the content previously published on the old website. This enabled us to recover important data such as page titles, H1 headers, and textual content. We then compared these elements with those on the new website and restored any that had positively impacted the client’s online visibility.

failed migration visibility drop

To see the entire repair plan, read the Website Migration Case Study.

REQUEST: Sometimes we do SEO for clients who don’t inform us that they are planning a migration or, worse, that their website is currently being prepared for one. They might view migration merely as a change in the website’s appearance, but for SEO Specialists, it’s crucial information that impacts website visibility in 99% of cases.

Therefore, we ask you, our dear clients, to always keep us informed about any planned migrations. We are here to help you handle it properly from the very start, which can prevent issues with search visibility. Effective communication is the key to a fruitful collaboration, so please do never hesitate to share your plans with us.

#3: Backlink Issues

Another reason for the decreased website visibility could be lost backlinks. Of course, the most severe drops typically result from losing links from high-ranking websites. How can you check if that’s what happened to you?

STEP 1: Open Ahrefs, Moz, or Majestic, and find the tab where the tool generates reports on so-called Broken Backlinks. In Ahrefs, this option is available under the Backlink profile tab:

ahrefs broken backlink report

STEP 2: By clicking on Broken backlinks in Ahrefs, you can see which backlinks have been lost recently. You’ll also learn which of these backlinks are generating a 404 error code instead of smoothly redirecting traffic and crawlers from another domain to yours.

Let me tell you that it’s totally normal to lose some backlinks from time to time. Often, this happens because many posts published on other websites are intended to have a “limited lifespan” – for example, 12 months. Fortunately, almost all “disappearing” backlinks can be recovered. Therefore, it’s important to keep a close watch and regularly check if:

  • the number of backlinks leading to your publications is decreasing,
  • the links leading to your website are generating a 404 error code,
  • any of your publications have expired, and if so, whether you can renew them or replace them with another.

Another issue is the keyword ranking droppings. This too often occurs when there are fewer links leading to your website than there used to be. Such cases are also quite common, so don’t worry because nearly all backlinks can be recovered.

PRO TIP #1: I recommend using SERProbot to monitor keyword positions.

Of course, the more backlinks you lose, the more noticeable the drop. Sometimes, the loss of high rankings can be really painful when entire groups of backlinks are lost. Another reason could be bad anchors. Simply put, Google promotes pages that have links from various websites – that’s one thing.

Another is that backlinks should be put on various anchors. This way, you not only avoid what’s called over-optimization, but you also provide a broader context for crawlers, making it easier for them to understand what’s on the page that other websites link to.

🤓 Example #1: Let’s say you want to rank high in search results for the keyword “quick breakfast ideas.” Instead of using the same anchor every time, try to vary it a bit to make the linking to your website look more natural. Use three types of anchors:

  • Exact match: “quick breakfast ideas”, “healthy quick breakfasts”
  • Partial match: “breakfast recipes,” “simple and healthy breakfasts”
  • Branded anchor: “Healthy Kitchen,” “Visit Healthy Kitchen for quick breakfast recipes”

PRO TIP #2: Remember, your link profile should look natural! This means you don’t always have to use “follow” links – sometimes a “nofollow” link can be just as valuable. Need an example? Look at links from Wikipedia – though they are “nofollow,” they are highly significant to Google’s algorithm.

PRO TIP #3: Additionally, I’d like to remind you that spamming in your linking efforts can have the opposite effect of what you intended. Google penalizes such practices, so it’s better to create valuable content that other website owners will want to link to.

#4: Technical Issues

The range of technical issues contributing to lower search visibility is quite broad. One that I come across the most often though is connected with introducing changes to a website. I’m talking about the scenario when an element that used to work well is replaced by something that clearly doesn’t, leading to a decline in online visibility.

🤓 Example #1: I frequently encounter problems with hreflangs. These tags are used on multi-language websites to help search engines determine which language version should be shown to a user. In most cases, these attributes are either incorrectly implemented or have mismatched codes, confusing the crawlers. Moreover, some pages lack hreflang tags altogether, even though they are available in multiple languages.

🤓 Example #2: It’s also common for online store owners to disable a product page when the item is out of stock. If the product is expected to be restocked soon, disabling the page makes sense. However, if the product won’t be available for a longer period, it works better for SEO to disable the page and set up a redirect. This way the page won’t generate a 404 error message.

PRO TIP: I’ve also seen cases where, after disabling a product page without setting up a redirect, the page failed to regain its previous high ranking in search results.

While talking about redirects…

🤓 Example #3: Errors related to redirects can cause a variety of issues. Not having them can lead to content duplication on your website, which is something you want to avoid, trust me. Additionally, improperly configured redirects, such as redirect loops, can negatively affect your website’s performance, pushing it down the SERPs. Therefore, it’s essential to set up redirects correctly – using permanent redirects as 301 and temporary ones as 302.

🤓 Example #4: Problems with internal linking often occur during migrations, especially when you move a website to a new domain (which changes page URLs). But these are not the only issues with internal linking that we might encounter (eg. incorrect anchors or linking multiple addresses from the single anchor tag).

🤓 Example #5: There are also indexing issues. If Google can’t properly index the content of a page, it won’t display it the way you want it in search results. When crawlers can’t gather information about a page’s content, algorithms can’t assess it. As you may have guessed already, this impacts your website’s ranking.

Therefore, indexing issues, stemming from robots.txt or sitemap errors, can negatively affect your website’s visibility in search results. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to handle indexing problems. At Delante, we always use at least several strategies to help speed up the indexing of our clients’ websites.

I strongly encourage you to ensure the technical aspects of your website are in check. They significantly affect its performance and how it appears in search results. Verify that the redirects and internal links are set up properly. Also, run thorough tests of your website regularly (especially if you use JavaScript). Otherwise, your website may struggle to maintain strong online visibility.

How Can I Check If Technical Issues Have Affected My Website’s Search Visibility?

Use one of the above SEO tools and check the website visibility report. If you notice a disturbing downtrend, try to figure out what can be the reason:

  • algorithm update
  • website migration
  • making changes to the website

PRO TIP: If you know that one of your coworkers has introduced some changes to the website recently, let it be the first thing you look into. Try to understand how they could affect your SEO.

Case Study #1: Adding Noindex to the Entire Website

noindex visibility drop

Main causes of search visibility drop:

  • the client set all pages to noindex

How we managed to restore the lost website’s visibility:

  • removed noindex tag

#5: Too Little SEO

Designing a website and launching it is just the beginning. If anyone thinks that simply releasing a website into the internet will “do the job,” well… it won’t. Similarly, if someone has invested in SEO and achieved satisfactory results, they should keep going.

Online competition is fierce. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that other websites can quickly take your website’s place if you do not maintain strong SEO.

If you notice your website is losing search visibility, it might be a sign that your competition is working intensively on their SEO. The result? Their strong performance pushes your website down in the search results. This means that continuous investment in SEO and monitoring the competition is crucial for maintaining high rankings in search results.

PRO TIP: Remember that SEO can sometimes feel like tilting at windmills. If you run a small clothing store and are competing with a giant like TJX, your chances of ranking high in search results are slim. My advice – be realistic about what you can achieve. Many factors influence website visibility, so sometimes you need to adjust your expectations and focus on strategies that work best for your individual situation.

Case Study #1: No SEO Strategy

Main causes of search visibility drop:

  • seasonality
  • no list of keywords
  • too little web content
  • no mobile optimization

How we managed to restore the lost website’s visibility:

  • As it turned out, the client wasn’t using basic analytical tools (Google Analytics and Google Search Console). After setting these up, we noticed that the visibility drops observed mid-year were due to the seasonal nature of the industry the client works in.
  • After doing a keyword analysis, we were able to select search terms that the target audience uses when searching for products offered both online and in-store. With this list, we could create a content plan that would realistically improve the visibility of the entire website.
  • Without properly optimized content, it’s very difficult to rank well and achieve high visibility in search results. We advised the client to check if the web content included relevant keywords and covered topics related to their niche.
  • Google favors websites that are mobile-friendly and responsive. Therefore, we made the client’s website load quickly and work smoothly across all devices.

no seo strategy case study repair plan

To see the entire repair plan, read the Kelleran Coffee Case Study.

#6: Manual Actions, aka Google Penalties

Manual actions, or simply put, penalties from Google, are rare now, though they were more common in the past. Such penalties were primarily imposed for spammy links, which is generally not the case anymore. From what I’ve observed, manual actions are most often applied in cases of website hacking.

To check if your website is penalized by Google:

STEP 1: Go to Google Search Console and click the Security and Manual Actions tab.

What Should I Do When My Website Is Penalized by Google?

First, identify and remove any elements that led to the penalty. Once these issues are resolved, Google should begin to include your website in search results again.

However, it’s worth noting that some websites, even after clearing their penalties, do not regain their former high rankings. This is because Google may still consider these websites suspicious.

Case Study #1: Cyber Attack

Main causes of search visibility drop:

  • website hack
  • pages with Chinese characters started showing up in the index
  • inadequate security measures led to the cyber attack

website hack visibility drop

How we managed to restore the lost website’s visibility:

  • Developers removed the effects of the breach
  • The website was secured
  • Infected pages were removed from the index

website hack visibility drop repair plan

#7: No Marketing Strategy

Relying solely on SEO and ignoring other popular marketing strategies can negatively impact your website’s visibility.

Marketing activities that create buzz can significantly boost your brand’s online recognition. Well-known brands often find it easier to rank higher in search results. Skipping marketing efforts can lead to decreased search visibility.

PRO TIP: Building brand awareness is crucial for maintaining stable positions in Google rankings. Don’t neglect taking advantage of various marketing activities that support your brand, as they can help maintain and even improve your website’s search visibility.

Conclusion: Sudden Drop in Google Search Visibility

What should you keep in mind? I can sum up the key takeaways for identifying drops in search visibility as follows:

🔍Regularly analyze data from organic traffic and error monitoring tools to quickly spot and resolve issues affecting your website’s visibility.

🔗 Google favors websites with a diverse link profile. Make sure you use a mix of “follow” and “nofollow” links to maintain a natural-looking link profile.

🌐 Migrations need careful planning and expert handling. Mistakes in redirects, sitemaps, or insufficient SEO support can cause significant visibility loss.

📝 Keep an eye on algorithm updates related to content and reviews to know if they are responsible for having a negative impact on your website. If affected, refrain from making rash changes.

⚠️ Using black hat SEO techniques can lead to a total loss of visibility. Stick to Google’s guidelines to avoid penalties.

If you’re worried about an unexpected drop in visibility or can’t understand why it’s happening, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my fellow SEO Specialist. We will help you identify the cause of the sudden drop in Google search visibility and find a solution. If you’re not facing any visibility issues, we can also help you set up alerts to notify you about sudden drops, so you can react quickly and prevent losing customers.

Author
Milena Fietko
Author
Milena Fietko

SEO Strategy Manager

She specializes in industries that require an out-of-the-box approach to the process, or cover topics that others would not. She has been working at Delante since 2016. Privately, she loves dancing to Caribbean rhythms.

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FAQ

Does reduced Google visibility always translate into decreased organic traffic?

Not necessarily. Various tools use percentages to show visibility changes over time. If your site lost, for example, 100 phrases from the TOP3 results, you’ll definitely notice drops in traffic. On the other hand, if you lost 100 phrases that fell from the 4th page of search results to the 7th, i.e. outside the TOP50, then the decrease in traffic may not be noticeable at all. However, such situations also require analysis.

My website is being displayed for strange keywords

Have you noticed that your website is being displayed for strange phrases in a foreign language, not related to your business profile? Does it mean that you’ve conquered the world and Google displays your site for keywords that aren’t related to its content? Not necessarily. Such a situation usually informs us about serious problems.

Ahrefs offers an interesting functionality that sends notifications when your site appears in the SERPs for a given number of keywords. It also provides exemplary phrases. They can be sent to your email.

If you notice such a problem, it’s crucial to quickly solve it and determine the cause because it may indicate that low-quality pages link to your site and decrease its visibility. Such content doesn’t have a positive impact on positions in the search results.

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Awards

Award - Deloitte 2021 Award - European eCommerce Awards 2022 Award - European Search Awards 2022 Award - Global Agency Awards 2022 Award - IPMA Award - US Search Awards 2021

SEO SEM Agency based in Europe