An agency runs the SEO process for you. Hopefully, your website visibility is supposed to increase every month and translate into a greater number of visitors and customers. Unfortunately, one day you notice Google ranking drops. You check keywords that are the most important for your business, and it turns out that their positions have decreased significantly. What are the reasons for this situation and how should you react?
How to analyze fluctuations in visibility and organic traffic?
Before you determine reasons for decreased website visibility, Google positions or organic traffic, you first need to learn how to detect the problem. Although it’s possible to benefit from numerous tools, we’ll focus on two most popular ones that are considered indispensable by many SEO experts.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a real repository of knowledge. To benefit from its functionalities, you need to add your website to this tool. Wondering how to do it? Check out our entry: How to Verify Google Search Console?
Once your page is added, enter the “overview” tab.
You'll see information on the total number of clicks from organic search results, a total number of impressions, average CTR and average position over time. It’s possible to analyze data from different time periods. Google has devised ready-made solutions that make it easier to compare results.
Click on "Date:" which can be found above the graph, and then choose which period you want to check. You can find different options in the "Compare" tab.
In the case below, the graph presents the last 3 months and the 3 months before that.
Google Search Console is the most reliable source of information about variations in organic traffic, so it’s advisable to start with analyzing data available in this tool. Why? Because it shows precise results (it’s connected directly to the page), not estimated numbers (like Ahrefs).
Ahrefs is one of the most popular tools for verifying link profiles (read: How Can Ahrefs Help with Link Building?). With its help, you can also obtain data on website visibility in Google.
Once you add the website, you’ll see the following information:
Click on the domain and you’ll see how the organic traffic and visibility for specific keywords changed over time. The graph shows data of the same website as the one used in GSC analysis.
Is Ahrefs a reliable source of knowledge? Definitely. However, the tool scrutinizes its own base and the information on visibility is estimated. Ahrefs can’t access all Google’s data, but it’s still worth taking into account the information you obtain from it.
Reasons for Google ranking drops
What are the most common reasons for Google ranking drops? A sudden decrease in website visibility or organic traffic can have numerous causes. The most popular ones include:
1. The website is not available
When you browse the net to access necessary products or information, you assume that the link you click on is available and the search engine algorithm will work properly to give you needed content. We frequently experience drops in Google rankings when the website doesn’t open or generates errors. There might be various reasons for this state of affairs. The most popular ones include:
The website isn’t available because of an automatic plugin update
The page has been infected. It doesn’t work due to malware
Your hosting company's servers have been down for a long time, e.g. a few days
The site has been blocked by the hosting due to exceeded limits for your account
These are only some of the examples. Of course, such a problem can be detected quite easily. However, if you’re on vacation and no one controls your site, it can do a lot of harm. Lost website traffic and visibility, inquiries from customers. When Google robots notice that your website doesn’t work properly, they’ll start decreasing its visibility. But don’t worry - once your problems are solved, everything should go back to normal.
2. Seasonality of your industry
There are very few industries that enjoy similar popularity throughout the whole year. For many businesses, the Christmas season marks the peak of sales. The gardening industry performs best in the spring and tourism in the summer.
While a temporary drop-in visit from the organic search results is obvious in many sectors, it can’t be observed every time. If you aren’t sure when something like this may happen in your business, check out Google Trends.
The following chart shows data for the “garden furniture” phrase. It shows that this phrase always reaches its peak popularity in April and May, and ranks low from October to January. Therefore, if you notice decreases in Google traffic, they may result from the current demand for the products.
If your domain has been active for a few years, fluctuations in organic traffic can be detected with the help of Google Analytics. After logging into GA, select "Acquisition," then "All Traffic," "Channels" and from the list of channels displayed on the right - "Organic Search."
The chart below is for a travel site. As you can see, in 2018 and 2019 it enjoyed the greatest popularity in the summer months. But what happened in 2020? What is the reason for such low traffic?
Well, this time, the problem was caused by something that can’t be predicted - the coronavirus pandemic. When it started, traffic to tourist sites dropped by even 90%. Although the organic traffic in 2021 is 2-3 times higher than the previous year, it’s still far from its best results.
The coronavirus has significantly increased shopping interest in many industries, but numerous sectors weren’t so lucky.
3. Dangerous competitors
High Google visibility can’t be achieved overnight - it takes time. Keep in mind that your company isn’t the only player in the industry and some of your market rivals are really competitive.
Let’s assume that a few companies decided to invest in SEO much more than you normally do. They acquire high-quality links, develop content and optimize the site. If you aren’t equally engaged, you need to be prepared for a situation when your market rivals reach higher positions than you.
So, can a drop from 1st to 3rd or 4th position cause significant changes in the organic traffic? Of course, it can.
Let’s analyze page visibility based on the website’s position and device used by the visitor. If we assume that 1,000 people enter a phrase into Google every month, the leader gets about 400 clicks, but the website ranked in 5th position gets only 26. It’s a huge discrepancy.
What can you do? Monitor your market rivals.
Check how their link profiles change according to Ahrefs. Analyze their visibility and don’t stop your SEO activities. High visibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you can rest on your laurels. You’ll surely work on your website all the time.
4. Google updates
According to various sources, Google may perform even 1,000 algorithm updates every year. The vast majority of these aren't particularly noticeable - they're often insignificant modifications that don't have a major impact on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). However, there are also those that cause havoc in the search results.
The Penguin algorithm update was one of the major modifications that focused on improving the positions of websites with a natural, quality link profile. It decreased the positions of pages that used low-quality backlinks.
As you probably know, spectacular drops in Google positions aren’t needed to note a decrease in traffic. It’s enough for a website to be ranked 2-3 places lower and it can have a very negative impact on page traffic.
During the month, there might be numerous updates that cause the situation. What do you do in such a situation? The SEO agency analyzes changes and takes relevant steps. It adapts the page to current requirements to restore its previous visibility.
How can you know whether there’s been any Google update? If you notice smaller traffic, you can verify the reasons for this state of affairs with the use of Algoroo. The tool monitors changes in the search results. Green means that it's a standard day and visibility fluctuations aren't caused by an update. However, if the bar is orange or red, it may indicate a Google algorithm update.
Google doesn't always announce updates. Sometimes it informs about them before or after the implementation, but it can also not mention them at all. Then, based on specialist tools, you can deduce that there have been modifications.
Decreased website visibility in Google. The takeaway
Drops in Google ranking positions, visibility or organic traffic may result from different things and it’s impossible to control all of them (e.g. industry seasonality). It’s important to keep this in mind and learn to verify the reason for changes.
Your positions don’t necessarily have to improve all the time - they may stay the same for a while or decrease after an update (read: How to React when Google Introduces Changes to its Algorithms?). Don't panic - fluctuations in the search results are common and quite natural in the SEO industry. Of course, it's always worth finding the reason if these drops are unnatural, but small changes are normal.
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