22 Possible Reasons Your Website’s Traffic and Rankings Have Dropped
Websites are built for people to visit. However, for different sites, visits can mean differently.
For example, traffic can be a source of revenue from ads for media websites. Likewise, traffic converts to direct sales for eCommerce sites.
On the other hand, some websites may not be selling any products or services; instead, they might be selling their brand, where just receiving traffic on the content counts as a win.
Regardless of what your website is all about, traffic translates to customers. To put this in search engine terms – ranking means traffic, which means customers.
Thus, when you start losing your search rankings or your traffic, that’s a problem you need to worry about.
So whether you are the website owner, SEO practitioner, webmaster, or digital marketer, it could be your job to scrutinize this issue and ascertain how you can get things back on track.
This blog will discuss 22 potential reasons you are losing your website’s rankings or traffic and what you should do next.
- Tracking the Wrong Rankings
If your website has been online for numerous years, your keywords might not be relevant anymore. Consider your own search behavior and compare it to the keywords that are displayed in your Google Search Console data.
Are you using industry or niche wording that may not align with what your prospects know?
Many users perform searches using numerous variations of the same question and still can’t find an appropriate answer or solution to their query.
Google has dramatically improved its ability to comprehend natural language, and users can now enter their search queries in a more natural language to discover results. Writing your content in simple language makes it easier for you to rank for those keywords.
During the last few years, search engines have also adopted this phenomenon – instead of depending on just a couple of keywords; they are now ranking websites on the basis of full sentences and other natural language elements.
So review your keywords and keyword phrases. If you’re still using the old or generic keywords, you need to update your strategy right away as you are actually tracking the wrong rankings.
- Link Loss
Losing links is another crucial potential reason why you might be losing your rankings and traffic.
Use a tool for auditing your website for lost links during the past three months. If you find that you have indeed lost too many links recently, that might be the reason why your site’s ranking and traffic is dropping.
Be sure to ask yourself these questions too regarding this link loss:
- Is this link loss website-wide?
- Are the lost links situated on the same pages of your website where you have observed a rankings drop?
- Has there been a loss of inbound links to your same pages that have seen a drop in rankings?
- Do you see link loss to your web pages that link to other pages with lower search rankings?
If you see that your inbound links are lost or broken, you will have to find out where they are coming from and why they are lost or broken. After that, you decide whether you want to remove, replace, or preserve them completely.
Check each and every link individually to decide your next steps:
- If you find that those links were purposefully removed, it might be a sign that they weren’t natural links, and they could (if not already) get flagged and penalized by Google. The best thing to do here is to let go of those links.
- Sometimes links can change or break during a website update. In such cases, there is a likelihood that you can persuade the site owner to restore those links.
- If you discover that the internal links were replaced with new links to a different source, you have the option to link to the new source as well.
Keep in mind that you will always have the option to replace old links with new and working links.
In order to avoid link loss from impacting your site’s rankings in the future, it is worthwhile to invest in a tool or software that will actively monitor lost links. Doing so will help you become proactive and take corrective steps before your rankings drop.
- Broken Redirects
In case you are launching a new website, shifting to a new server, or making any changes to your site structure, you’ll probably observe a rankings drop unless, of course, you have got an appropriate 301 redirect strategy in place.
Broken redirects are the worst nightmare of every SEO practitioner.
Make sure that you update XML sitemaps, links, and canonical tags when using 301 redirects.
A 301 redirect is similar to an address change notice for the web. This notice informs search engines that you have migrated a web page or many pages or the entire website. You are practically asking the search engines to send your site visitors to your new address instead of your old one from now on.
If you get it right, you will not lose your website rankings or get penalized for content duplication because search engines are indexing your old as well as the new web address.
- Manual Actions
If you observe a sudden and substantial loss of site rankings, it might be a signal that Google is penalizing your website. Manual actions are implemented manually instead of as a result of algorithmic updates.
If your website is still ranking on other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo, this almost surely indicates that your site is suffering from a Google penalty.
Regardless of whether this penalty is automatic or manual, you will certainly want to solve the issue and get rid of the penalty. A good starting point will be to check your notifications from inside your Google Search Console account.
Check if there are any warnings in the messages and Manual Actions sections. Here you will find a list of situations where a Google official has discovered that specific pages of your website violate Google’s guidelines. Moreover, you can also find suggestions and information on how you can solve this issue.
- Algorithm Changes
Google is continually searching for new ways to enhance strategies and search results by introducing changes to their algorithm. A lot of websites have been harmed by these algorithm changes and, as a result, suffered a drop in their site rankings.
To prevent getting impaired by Google’s algorithm updates, utilize cross-channel marketing and traffic strategy that comprises marketing channels such as social media.
- Natural Changes in Search
At times, a drop in your website rankings might not be due to anything related to your site. Google has often introduced changes to the type of search results they show based on user behavior purely.
For instance, if a particular topic suddenly starts trending, and there is a surge in its search, Google may display the newer results first and lower the rankings of static content.
So, if your website has static content too, you will likely see a drop in your rankings.
You can check Google Trends to find any changes that can explain those variations.
- UX Changes in Google
Sometimes, Google also makes changes to the user experience (UX) of SERPs in ways that rob websites of their clicks.
Perhaps a Featured Snippet cropped up on the primary SERP, which is directing most traffic towards it, taking your clicks away. Or maybe some search experiment has impacted the CTR.
Check Google for any recent UX changes that can explain this drop in your traffic.
- Geolocation Variations
Your website rankings will differ based on what location the search was made from. So, if you are analyzing your rankings in one specific geographic location, you will have to analyze them for various other places as well to get a more accurate and precise understanding of your website rankings.
Have you ever observed the search results that show up for a particular search can be completely different from the results that are displayed for another user performing the same search?
In fact, if you perform a search while signed in to your Google account and then repeat the search after signing out, the search results you get will be different.
Why? Because Google will acknowledge and consider websites that you have visited earlier, your geographic location, and even the device you are using to perform the search before displaying the results.
- Competitor Improvements
There are chances that you might do everything right but still see a drop in your rankings and traffic. A good reason for this might be that your competitors are doing a better job than you.
Pay close attention to your competition by examining and monitoring their content marketing, link building strategies, social media activity, etc. There are several tools available in the market that you can use to see the changes your competitors have made recently.
Use backlink tools to find out if they’ve had an inflow of new backlinks. They might be running an SEO campaign.
Once you figure out what your competitors have done in order to outrank you, bring a few of the same changes to your website or strategies as well but make sure you do so in a better way to boost your site performance.
- Page Speed
The speed with which the content loads across your website not only impacts its search rankings but also shapes your visitors’ user experience. If your web pages take too long to load, the bounce rates will be higher because users have short attention spans, and they do not like to wait around to see your content.
You can check your page speed by using the new and enhanced Page Speed tool by Google. The tool has been rebuilt recently to show results based on real user data. It ranks pages as fast, average, and slow based on how quickly they load.
- Server Problems
If your website runs into server problems, it might be due to a broken caching function or an empty markup presented to the web crawler. You must fix any such server problems as early as possible.
Check your server logs for any errors and use the Google Search Console’s Fetch and Render tool to analyze the way a URL on your website is crawled or renders.
- Other Web Vitals
Google has mentioned earlier that several UX signals and other web vitals such as CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) can change the way they rank your website.
- What is the UX on your website like?
- Does the site layout shift around too much?
- Are there too many ads?
- Internal Navigation
Website navigation is what informs your visitors what and where the information is available on your site.
You should strive to have a flat and narrow structure of two or a maximum of three levels deep for your internal navigation. Make it easy for users to find what they are looking for on your website. If they have to make too many clicks to access your content, they will most probably exit your site.
Moreover, there are chances that web spiders will stop crawling content that is buried deep within your site. As a result, you will see a drop in your rankings and thus, receive a lesser volume of traffic to crucial content areas.
Internal linking strategies are not just a part of good SEO, but it is also essential to your other customer retention strategies.
Having straightforward and coherent navigation and internal linking will help boost your customer retention along with other rank metrics such as time on site. In addition to this, keyword-rich internal links will also help the search engines in finding out what your website is all about and whether or not your content is relevant to search queries easily.
- Penalties for Bad Quality Links
Not every link is made equal.
Using dicey, spammy, or obsolete link building strategies will get your website a Google penalty.
Google is very clear on the types of links it considers as low-quality. You might want to go through the “link schemes” on the Google Search Console Help section.
In its initial paragraph, Google mentions that any link that is meant to manipulate the PageRank or a website’s ranking on the SERPs may be viewed as part of a link scheme or contravention of the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines. Further adding to this, Google clearly states that this encompasses any behavior manipulating incoming links to your website or outgoing links from your website.
The best thing to do here is put some thought and time into building good quality and legitimate link building strategy to keep away from earning a Google penalty and also expand your organic search traffic.
Look at these simple tips to build high-quality links:
- Build new, valuable links to fix the broken ones.
- Make use of public relations to earn online mentions in content, blog posts, and news articles.
- Create unique content and promote it massively on different social media channels to drive more traffic to it.
- Recent Website Changes and Redesign
While redesigning your website, the last thing you would want is to lose your hard-earned search rankings and site traffic.
Here are some crucial steps you can take to make sure your website redesign helps your site rankings instead of harming them.
- Make sure all your 301 redirects are mapped out accurately.
- Review the link structure of your inbound links to ensure that they’re working aptly on your new website.
- Before you launch your new site, get some standard metrics reports like site audit, page URL mapping, traffic, and rank tracker.
By having things planned out carefully and paying close attention to vital elements of your website redesign project, you can successfully prevent any adverse effect of these changes on your site’s SEO and rankings. In fact, this can even help you improve your website performance.
- Simple Technical Problems
Technical SEO gauges the health of your website’s technical infrastructure. It refers to the SEO work impacting the way search engines crawl and index your site’s content.
Check your website for some most common technical SEO errors in areas such as page speed, links & redirects, meta descriptions, site structure, etc., that could be negatively impacting your site’s rankings and traffic.
By just being familiar with the technical SEO problems, you can take better care of your website and retain its rankings or even boost it!
Remember, technical SEO problems are one of the fundamental issues that can hinder your website’s growth and prevent it from ranking on the search results.
- Server Overload
In case your server is not built or prepared for abrupt increases in traffic influx, it could result in an overload followed by the server crashing down. Websites using a shared server have a much higher likelihood of collapsing since some other sites using the same server might also experience an abrupt surge in traffic.
Moreover, various web hosting providers tend to remove your website if you surpass your bandwidth limits. This can occur if your website procures a feature on a popular site.
If your website sees a lot of downtimes, it will have a negative impact on your site rankings.
Metadata or meta tags convey to search engines about the information your website offers.
Title tags are one of the most crucial types of metadata that can help you boost your site’s search rankings. In addition to this, headers and meta descriptions can also help improve your SEO rankings.
Try to steer clear of inconsistency when providing your metadata. For instance, if you modify the date of a blog post, make sure that you make the same changes in your meta description too. You might also want to refrain from cloning your metadata or using generic and vague titles such as “Home.”
Plus, try to use more specific title tags that comprise your target keyword(s).
Keep in mind that using the same title for various web pages will not only confuse your site visitors but will also result in you competing with yourself in the search results. So that is something you would want to avoid altogether.
- Traffic Source
Website traffic comprises the total number of site visitors, and the number of pages clicked and time spent on each page as well.
Now there are plenty of sources where your traffic might be coming from, such as:
- Organic search
- Paid search
- Email marketing
- Social media channels
- Direct traffic
Which is the best source of traffic? – Whichever traffic source generates the highest engagement, most conversions, and the lowest bounce rate is the best.
Outside of organic search, your site traffic can drop off from various sources. For instance, in case some changes have been introduced to the way links are served on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Visitors who land on your website by directly entering your URL in the search bar constitutes direct traffic.
While this might not matter a big deal for site rankings, it is crucial because:
- Those visitors choose to return to your website because they are already familiar with you and want whatever it is that you’re offering to them.
- You’re acknowledged as an expert in your niche or industry already, so people visit your website because they are aware of your business.
- Direct traffic is not influenced by social media platforms or any changes to Google (or any other search engine). It serves as an independent traffic source.
You can use Google Analytics to monitor your direct traffic statistics. If you wish to boost your direct traffic, focus on establishing a brand that is understandable and memorable.
Provide consistent value and expert advice to your site visitors to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and showcase your expertise.
- Time on Site
Your user engagement can affect your SEO rankings. Google Analytics lets you quickly measure two crucial metrics – bounce rate and average time spent on-page.
Even though these two metrics are not a ranking factor directly, they give you a signal of whether or not you are offering a great user experience to your site visitors.
In case you observe a high bounce rate or a below than average time on your web pages, you must quickly take measures to get things on track. The better the user experience you deliver, the more people will engage with you.
- Duplicate Content
According to Google, duplicate content is significant pieces of content that show up across or within domains that are majorly or entirely the same as other content.
This isn’t always regarded as deceitful or malicious and hence does not always lead to a drop in SEO rankings.
However, when content is clearly cloned on purpose to manipulate search rankings and boost traffic, it will result in your website getting a Google penalty. It can imply that your content contends for the same search queries, and when the search engine believes that content should have more variety, it might give a penalty to one of those web pages.
This will end up hurting your rankings, or even worse, Google might remove your entire website from its index, meaning it won’t be found in the search anymore.
- Using Old Clickbait Tactics
Using some techniques such as lists might still work to make people land on your website, but visitors tend to get tired of such practices and therefore wholly stay away from clicking your links.
Are your titles correctly explaining what is on the page?
Are you refraining from using gimmicks such as “you won’t even guess what occurs next!”
Do your meta descriptions grab users’ attention or instead send them away?
Try to A/B test your pages’ titles and meta descriptions to find out if there are any solutions that can help you drive more traffic to your website.
Wrapping It Up
Always bear in mind that no shortcuts exist to boost your site traffic and rankings.
If you really want to increase your website’s visibility on search engines, you need to put in lots of effort and time.
Do not even think about taking shortcuts through scrappy and spammy strategies, or else you might end up suffering the adverse outcomes of losing your hard-earned traffic and SEO rankings.
Climbing the ladder of SEO success might require too much time, effort, and patience, but the results will be all worth it. Use proper strategies to increase your website performance while complying with the search engine’s guidelines.
If you notice a sudden drop in your traffic or rankings, you now know the 22 potential reasons that could be behind it and what you can do to fix it. Just stay current with the latest updates and best SEO practices to boost your online visibility and help your business thrive.