Are your search rankings taking a nosedive and/or is your site traffic dropping?
First, let’s take a quick look at what traffic might consist of.
A website’s main aim in life is to be visited. However, visits can mean different things for different sites, for example:
- For ecommerce retailers, traffic leads to possible direct sales.
- For a media site, traffic can equate to a source of income from advertisements.
No matter what kind of site you have, traffic = customers.
And with respect to search engines, ranking = traffic = customers.
So if your search ranking is lower or your site traffic dropping, that’s a problem that adversely affects your conversation rate optimization (CRO). Below are eight places to begin looking so you can get things back on track.
1. You May Be Tracking the Wrong Rankings
If you have an established site that has been online for a long time, your keywords may no longer be as relevant as they used to be. Or, maybe you’re using niche or industry terms that might not be so familiar to your potential audience.
Google has greatly improved its ability to comprehend language. This makes it possible for people to find results when they type in language that’s more in keeping with the way they speak. Therefore, make sure your keywords are in keeping with the plain language that people are using.
Also, rather than relying on just a few keywords, search engines are ranking websites based on complete sentences and other elements of more natural language.
What to Do: Review your keywords and keyword phrases. If you are using generic, over-technical, or out-of-date keywords, you’re tracking the wrong rankings, and your strategy needs to be updated.
2. Lost Links
Another reason your search ranking and traffic might be plummeting is that you’ve lost links. Use a tool to check your site for lost links over the last ninety days (e.g., Ahrefs, CognitiveSEO, Majestic). If you’ve lost a lot of links, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the drop in links sitewide?
- Did the lost links come from the same pages where there has also been a drop in rankings?
- Have inbound links declined for pages that no longer rank as well?
- Are there dropped links to pages that link other pages with lower rankings?
What to Do: If your inbound links are lost or broken, you’ll need to ascertain precisely where those links were coming from and why they are broken. Then, you can opt to remove, retain, or replace them. Check each link individually to determine the best way to treat it.
If the links were removed intentionally, it may be because they were not natural links and could be (or already had been) flagged and penalized by Google. Let these links go.
The links might have broken or changed during a site update. You have a chance to convince the site owner to restore them.
Where internal links were replaced with new links to a different source, you have the option to link to the new source.
- Consider investing in link monitoring software. This strategy enables you to be proactive, take corrective measures, and avoid losing your rankings.
3. Bad Link Quality Penalties
Not all links are created equal. Therefore, if you use spammy, risky, or out-of-date link-building methodologies, Google will likely penalize your site.
Google clearly states that it considers low-quality links to be as follows:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
What to Do: Take the time to develop a high-quality link-building plan to avoid penalties from Google and grow your organic search traffic. Here are some suggestions:
- Fix your broken links by building new and valuable ones.
- Use PR to get cited in news articles or online content.
- Write exceptional content and promote it heavily on social media so that people can find it.
- For other suggestions, read SEJ’s Link Building Guide.
4. Broken Redirects
Broken redirects are an SEO professional’s worst nightmare. When launching a new website, migrating to a new server, or carrying out structural changes to your site, your rankings are likely to drop unless you have a 301 redirect plan in place.
A 301 redirect can be thought of as a change of address notice for the web. This notice informs search engines that a page, several pages, or your entire website has been moved. You’re requesting that your visitors be sent to your new address as opposed to your old one.
When using a 301 redirect, you must ensure that canonical tags, links, and XML sitemaps are also updated.
What to Do: A proper 301 redirect ensures that you won’t lose your rankings. You also won’t get penalized for duplicate content because search engines are indexing both your old and new addresses.
5. Duplicate Content
Google’s definition of duplicate content is as follows:
Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.
This is not always considered malicious or deceptive and, therefore, doesn’t always result in lower search engine rankings. However, if you deliberately duplicate content to manipulate rankings and increase traffic, your site is likely to get penalized.
Duplicate content may also mean that more than one page is competing for the same queries. If Google thinks a query should have more diversity, it may penalize one or more of those pages. This will adversely affect your rankings, and, in the worst-case scenario, your site may be removed entirely from Google’s index and will no longer be found in a search.
6. Recent Website Redesign and Changes
If you decide to redesign your website, the last thing you want to do is lose your rankings and experience site traffic dropping after you’ve worked so hard to be in a good place.
What to Do: Here are some steps to take to ensure your rankings won’t be affected – and you may even help them.
- Make sure that you map out all 301 redirects correctly.
- Ascertain that your inbound links are working properly on your new site by checking the link structures.
- Before launching your new site, run some baseline metrics reports, e.g., page URL mapping, rank tracker, traffic, and site audit.
With careful planning and by paying close attention to the essential components of your web redesign, you will avoid adversely impacting your rankings and SEO and even make some improvements.
7. Manual Actions
If there has been an abrupt and significant drop in your rankings, it may indicate that Google is penalizing your site via a manual action. As the name implies, a manual action is applied manually and not as a result of algorithm changes.
If your site continues to rank on other search engines like Bing or Yahoo, this is an almost sure indication that you are suffering from a Google penalty.
What to Do: To get the penalty removed, begin by looking at notifications in your Google Search Console account. Look for warning notices in the Manual Actions section and the messages menu. A notice will inform you that Google has found that certain pages of your website are not compliant with its guidelines. You’ll also be able to find information and suggestions on how to fix the problems.
8. Algorithm Changes
Google never stops looking for ways to improve strategies and results. This inevitably results in algorithm changes that may hurt your site and cause you to suffer lower rankings.
What to Do: To avoid being crippled by Google’s algorithm updates, develop an effective cross-channel marketing and traffic strategy that includes social media and other marketing channels.
Site Traffic Dropping: The Takeaway
When it comes to increasing your website traffic or preventing your site traffic from dropping, there are no shortcuts. So, if you are serious about getting more search engine visibility, be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort.