Site changes, technical issues, algorithm updates, migrations, content quality, and competition are all reasons for organic traffic fluctuations. Learn why it happens and how to fix it, from a Google Premier Partner marketing agency.
8 reasons for organic traffic fluctuations (and how to fix them):
- Google Search Console Difficulties
- Website redesign and migration halts traffic
- Your site has lost or broken links
- Content quality falls short
- Competition is getting fiercer
- Technical SEO changes limit visibility
- Content cannibalization is eating your rankings
- You have unaddressed technical errors
Ever spun your wheels, plagued by the question: “Why does my organic traffic fluctuate so much?”
You’re not the only one. Even seasoned digital marketers might panic when traffic numbers plummet seemingly out of nowhere. Understanding why these fluctuations happen is your key to getting organic traffic back where you want it.
Site traffic fluctuations are a normal part of SEO. Even so, those sudden drops bring stress and uncertainty—especially when you aren’t sure how to make things right again.
So, if you notice your site numbers took a tumble—don’t freak out. We’re here with a contingency plan to help you restore and rebound your organic traffic. We tapped into the mind of Hayden Pochop, SEO Manager at HawkSEM, for expert insights on why organic traffic fluctuations happen and how to overcome them.
Why does my organic traffic fluctuate so much? 8 reasons
Since organic traffic fluctuates for various reasons, Pochop says keeping a close watch on your metrics is key to assessing reasons for organic traffic declines.
“It’s crucial to regularly monitor key metrics (seed keyword rankings, organic traffic, CTR, etc.) so that you can sift through minor fluctuations in data,” he says. “Focus on any significant and sustained drops in performance, as these can be signs of a deeper issue.”
Spot any worrisome traffic metrics? Fortunately, you’re in good hands. As a top 3% digital marketing agency, we’ve got the blueprint for diagnosing and overcoming these challenges.
1. Google Search Console difficulties
The Google Search Console lets you check indexing status, search queries, and crawlers while optimizing website visibility. All these metrics give you insights into what’s up with your organic traffic and more.
Here are a few issues that you can diagnose through Google Search Console:
If one of Google’s human reviewers determines that pages on your site aren’t compliant with their spam policies, they’ll issue a manual action or penalty. These can tank your organic traffic and decrease your rankings overnight.
To check if your site’s been hit with a manual action, go to the ‘Manual Actions’ report in your Google Search Console. Here, you’ll see if any manual actions have been taken against your site, along with their reasoning.
If your suspicions prove true, take Google’s recommended steps to rectify the issue. Then, submit a reconsideration request to Google.
Google loves keeping digital marketers on their toes, implementing algorithm changes all the time. Every now and then, these Google updates can trigger a decline in organic traffic.
Why? Google’s algorithm updates usually mean the search engine giant is ramping up its standards. Therefore, sites that don’t meet the same criteria might notice an abrupt dip in traffic sitewide.
The good news is that most minor updates have minimal impact. It’s usually their core algorithm updates that shake things up. So how do you survive the updates? You’ll need to stay abreast of Google trends and developments, especially for your industry.
For example, in ecommerce, pay special attention to Google’s Product Reviews updates. In finance, law, or health, keep an eye on Google’s YMYL (Your Money Your Life) guidelines (for topics related to happiness, health, safety, or finances.)
Seasonality factors like weather, holidays, and vacation periods can also play a role in search engine traffic.
If you notice an unexplained dip, use Google Search Console to compare your traffic to the same time in previous years. Notice a pattern? Then seasonality may be the reason behind an organic traffic drop. In that case, it’s time to pivot your SEO strategy accordingly.
Just look at what tuning into the seasons did for our client Swimsuits Direct. We made a splash in site traffic and conversions by aligning their strategies to seasonal shifts (particularly around vacation periods). The over 109% boost in year-over-year (YoY) revenue didn’t hurt either.
Believe it or not, sometimes sudden drops in traffic have nothing to do with you at all.
Every once in a while, Google encounters technical glitches that cause false or incomplete data. These glitches can show up as dips or spikes in organic traffic data on your Performance Report.
Fortunately, once Google resolves the glitch, things automatically revert to the norm.
Another data hiccup? Any changes in your website’s code or analytics plug-ins could result in problems with the tracking code. As a result, this could lead to incorrect analytics reporting.
To avoid unnecessary complications, double-check your site’s tracking code first.
Do this by navigating to the tracking code section in your Google Analytics dashboard. Click Admin → Tracking Info → Tracking Code and peep the status at the top of the page.
Another workaround? Partner with HawkSEM and get access to our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ. This potent tool gives you real-time insights into your digital marketing efforts across all channels.
Pochop explains how this is a game-changer for tracking revenue and driving actionable insights from your organic traffic:
“The robust reporting dashboard tracks all relevant KPIs, allowing you to easily digest the data and make actionable, data-driven recommendations that can lead to a boost in organic traffic over time.”
2. Website redesign and migration halts traffic
Did you recently redesign or migrate your site or add new content to your landing page? Is that when your organic traffic started dwindling? If so, Pochop warns that something might have been inadvertently broken or de-optimized in the process.
“I’ve spearheaded a robust website migration that combined four separate domains into one,” Pochop shares. “The time during a site migration has an increased risk of losing keyword rankings and site traffic, if not handled properly. HawkSEM was able to successfully migrate all domains, keep site traffic steady during the transition, and navigate through a volatile period for organic traffic.”
Other things that can go wrong with a site redesign and migration include:
- Service interruptions
- Slower page speed
- Failed redirect implementations
- Loss of content or metadata
- Deoptimized for mobile-friendliness
- Broken links and images
- Loss of internal links
- Information architecture changes
Work with your webmasters to troubleshoot these issues and uncover mistakes you might have made in the process.
Pro Tip: Wouldn’t it be nice if someone put together a site redesign cheat sheet or something? We got you.
3. Your site has lost or broken links
When it comes to content marketing, link-building is a pillar of SEO performance. Both their quantity and quality impact organic traffic fluctuations.
When your website loses inbound links, Google sees it as less authoritative. This can result in lower rankings and, consequently, a decline in organic traffic.
SEO tools like Ahrefs or Majestic are invaluable for keeping tabs on your inbound links. These tools help you detect sitewide reductions in your overall links.
You’ll also want to audit your site’s internal links. Double-check that there are no redirects leading to outdated, irrelevant, or error-prone pages.
Do the same for the status of your backlinks—are they inactive? If so, consider contacting the site owner or stepping up your link-building efforts.
Link quality? Check. What about the quality of your content, though?
4. Content quality falls short
Many people think that low-quality content is better than no content. The truth is that most SEO experts feel the opposite. In fact, weak content can do your brand more harm than good. So, what is quality content?
High-quality content shows E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
This is part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. When your site’s content demonstrates E-E-A-T, it’ll perform better on search engine results pages (SERPs). Why?
Because it prioritizes readability and the user experience is more enjoyable. Higher search rankings are your reward.
Here’s how to make sure your site’s content does precisely that:
- Create a content persona built from audience demographics and pain points
- Define your voice and tone
- Conduct keyword research for optimization
- Develop a brand messaging guide and content calendar
- Edit all new content for accuracy, flow, cohesiveness, and spelling/grammar
- Promote your site’s content on social media and emails
- Come up with key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking content’s performance
Pochop puts it best:
“Content refreshes and continuous optimizations to your site copy and metadata should be part of your SEO strategy. Don’t let your content go stale over time!”
If you don’t keep your content up to par, your competitors will.
5. Competition is getting fiercer
Your competitors’ SEO strategies can greatly impact your organic traffic. If they stay on top of their site updates, optimization, and deliver value to the audience you’re both competing for? It could hurt your search rankings and, in turn, your organic traffic.
To stay ahead, maintain a steady competitor analysis that:
- Notes their recent content, keyword rankings, and SEO strategies
- Compares your keyword and traffic performance
- Differentiates your product’s unique selling propositions (UVPs)
- Capitalizes on successful competitor strategies and avoids unsuccessful ones
Here at HawkSEM, we’re big on harnessing competitive research to fortify our clients’ strategies. That’s how we amplified TimeWarp Trading’s PPC campaigns, identifying and capitalizing on low-cost keywords that competitors had missed.
The results? A 471% boost in return on ad spend (ROAS).
6. Technical SEO changes limit visibility
Technical issues can hide behind the curtain of your site’s content and URL architecture. That means you could be in the dark about how Google catalogs your pages. And, as a result, see less traffic.
Pochop recommends paying special attention to your site’s speed, stability, and performance.
Other factors that shake up your site’s organic standing and website traffic include:
- Noindex tags
- A disallow directive in robots.txt files
- Changes in canonical tag setups (more on this in a bit)
Once you zero in on the parts of your site losing visibility, do some manual checks. Supplement that by running a crawl with a tool like Screaming Frog or Octoparse to confirm everything’s in tip-top shape.
Real-time monitoring, like what ConversionIQ delivers, also alerts you to issues immediately so you can take action and prevent any negative SEO impacts.
7. Content cannibalization is eating your rankings
Keywords eating each other? Yeah, it happens. When more than one page on your site is optimized for the same (or similar) search intents, you run into content cannibalization.
The result of this digital bloodbath is diluted search engine rankings of all these pages.
And it’s not surprising: Google can’t decide which is most relevant for those searches.
To check for cannibalized content, use Google’s site search (site:domain.com “[phrase or sentence from potential duplicate content]”).
If you get numerous results returning pages with the same content, explore a canonical or noindex fix to ensure only one unique page is available for each organic search.
8. You have unaddressed technical errors
Besides Google Search Console’s occasional reporting glitches, several technical issues could trigger an organic traffic decline. The only difference? These are totally within your control. The most common are related to indexation, speed, and data issues.
So where to start? Try investigating these technical reasons:
- Double-check your site speed
- Verify your data integrity
- Check for mobile usability issues
- Server response time
- Sitemap and indexing issues
One way to spot these hiccups is through technical SEO audits. This analyzes the backend SEO on your site pages to pinpoint and fix any potential issues.
And you can totally DIY—you just need Google Search Console and crawl-based tool (like SemRush’s Site Audit)
Conduct these technical SEO audits regularly to avoid amassed or unchecked issues that could keep search engines from crawling, indexing, and ranking pages on your site.
With troubleshooting out of the way, let’s take a closer look at why organic traffic is the most important traffic your site can get.
What is organic traffic?
How is this different from other types of website traffic? Pochop breaks it down:
“Organic traffic is sustainable and cost-effective because it doesn’t require continuous resources to attract users to your website,” says Pochop. “Organic traffic is earned (not paid for), and attracts a “qualified” audience based on the relevance of the content on your website, and how it relates to their search query.”
The magic lies in blending organic and paid marketing strategies—but that’s a conversation for another time.
In the world of site traffic, organic traffic is the crème de la crème. It fosters trust and drives brand growth without putting a dent in your ad budget.
3 best practices for recovering organic traffic
Low organic traffic numbers deserve action and attention, but Pochop says there’s a difference between being proactive and jumping the gun:
“A dip in performance is rightfully uneasy, but sometimes making too many changes to your website, as a result, can do more harm than good. Be sure you’re monitoring traffic holistically, over time.”
So what should you do to stay on top of your organic traffic? Pochop recommends the following:
1. Regularly check your audience’s search intent
Assess whether the drop in organic traffic is due to a lower interest in the search query. In other words, are people still interested?
“Consider key metrics like search volume and search intent (informational, commercial, etc.) and adjust strategies accordingly.”
2. Be mindful of keyword analysis
Consider any fluctuations in clicks or impressions for your top keywords:
“These metrics will help you identify which keywords can attribute to the loss of traffic. Be sure to optimize your content that’s targeting these keywords, so you can proactively regain lost performance.”
3.Don’t assume there’s an answer for everything
When it comes to organic performance, Pochop says there are many things out of your control. For instance, Google algorithm changes, the ever-changing access to information, and changes in audience behavior all contribute to organic chaos.
His two cents?
“Don’t panic and draw conclusions for the sake of having an answer. Sometimes the best course of action is to wait out the storm, make data-driven decisions, and fine-tune your content over time.”
The key to riding the rollercoaster of organic traffic is to stay adaptable, resilient, and keep a finger on the pulse of your data.
From navigating Google’s dynamic landscape to tackling site updates with tact, a little investigative work and some experimentation will get you to the solutions your site needs.
Whether that’s leveraging competitive research to bolster your strategy or fixing technical errors, the first line of defense against organic traffic fluctuations is you.
At HawkSEM, boosting traffic, conversions, and ROI is our forte. When it comes to organic traffic fluctuations, we take the headache out of shifting algorithms, competitive research, and technical speedbumps.
Our team of marketing gurus maximizes every tool in our marketing playbook. From fine-tuning your front and backend SEO to making data-driven pivots that draw eyeballs and reduce costs, we’ve got your organic traffic on lock.
When you partner with our award-winning digital marketing agency, you can focus on running your empire and leave the epic digital growth to us.