30 second summary:

  • A drop in traffic doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong – in most cases it naturally is
  • All locations have seen a decrease in traffic over the course of their life, which can be explained by seasonality, loss of PPC budget, and many other factors
  • When it comes to the decline in organic search traffic, it’s often caused by stagnant content, the emergence of new competitors, or the loss of backlinks
  • To diagnose a traffic drop, identify which source of traffic is decreasing, and then determine which sides have lost traffic
  • It’s important to avoid making hasty decisions and to take the time to figure out if you’ve lost positions and which sides have replaced yours
  • Try to evaluate why this shift occurred and how you can fix it

Have you ever checked your analysis and noticed a sudden or gradual drop in organic traffic? Who doesn’t have that? If there is one thing in common in almost every marketing strategy, we have all looked at the decline in organic traffic on many occasions. Traffic drops occurred on every website, often regularly.

How do you deal with the drop in organic traffic when you see something like this in Google Analytics?

Image source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

Here are four well-defined steps in diagnosing traffic litter:

Step 1: Check which traffic source was affected

It’s obvious, but too many people automatically assume that Google organic traffic has decreased.

So make sure that the PPC traffic hasn’t exhausted your budget. This is happening more than you think!

So let’s say it’s organic traffic and let’s check further:

Step 2: which page was deleted?

To quickly find out which pages have been deleted, navigate to your Google Analytics account Recording -> All Traffic -> Channels. Click on “Bio” and activate “Compare with” in the date range and select “Previous period” from the drop-down list:

Compare website traffic over timeSource: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

Now scroll down and click the Landing Pages tab to view all of your pages and see how this week’s traffic is compared to the previous week.

Landing pages and website traffic waste analysis

Source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

There is not a lot of scrolling here. If you experience a decrease in traffic, your parent page or pages are likely to be affected. So take a look at the top of the list.

Especially when all of your pages got a hit, this is a good cause for concern. This can be an indicator that a website has been hit by a recent Google update or even a penalty (the latter is far less common these days). this article lists some good ways to investigate if there was an update and how to evaluate if you might be affected.

A more common scenario is that some pages are deleted. Others stay intact or even gain traffic. This is a good indicator that you shouldn’t worry about what Google might do. Most pages go up and down in search engine results pages all the time.

Now grab the list of rejecting URLs and keep researching it.

Step 3: Has there been any impact on the ranking?

It’s not that rare: we’re seeing a gradual drop in traffic with no apparent impact on the ranking. This can be explained for two possible reasons:

  • People just don’t search for this query that much anymore. This was very common in 2020 when the search patterns shifted dramatically. And this may still be the case with seasonal issues (think of “costumes”, “ski gear”, “swimsuits”, etc.).
  • Search engine results pages have added a new search element that steals attention and clicks.

How do you diagnose when your ranking is falling?

This question is harder to answer these days. When monitoring your leaderboards, an obvious step is to look there.

The Google Search Console is another platform that needs to be reviewed. However, it is not easy to quickly diagnose the decline in the ranking there. The tool lagged behind when it came to viewing data. However, if you allow some time, you can use the Compare tab in the Performance section of the reports to analyze your rankings:

Search console comparison

Source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

After selecting your date range, scroll to your dates and filter them by the “Position difference” column.

Note that everything you need to consider here will be lost or the ranking on the first page will be rejected, since your ranking on the second page would not have resulted in a loss of traffic anyway. So breathe again.

Source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

Instead, you can filter Search Console data by “Previous Positions” to see lost # 1 rankings, for example:

Source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

Another – probably smarter – way to diagnose hit queries is by judging by traffic. The search console shows the number of clicks each query sends and how it compares to what was used to send it. If Google isn’t the only search engine you’re worried about, Finteza can help you spot searches that are sending less traffic than they used to:

Finteza search

Source: Screenshot by the author (April 2021)

Finteza’s Standard Search Keyword Report consolidates data from all the search engines in which you appear. You have to let it run for some time to collect this data. It’s easy to integrate.

Finteza is paid (costs $ 25 per 100,000 unique users per month) but is the only web analytics solution that still offers reliable keyword data.

To better understand what’s happening to your organic traffic, I recommend using all of the above (and more) methods. Even with personalization and search localization, it is very difficult to understand where you are winning (or losing) from. Therefore, combining data from multiple sources is key.

Step 4: Identify Why This Ranking Has Declined

Here comes another tedious part of our analysis. In most cases, your rankings can fluctuate or fall as Google finds a better page to rank for. This can happen because:

  • Your request deserves freshness and there is a fresher side requested above yours. If so, you should have gotten used to fluctuations by now.
  • Your competitor has created a better page with better backlinks.
  • You lost some important backlinks resulting in a loss of equity

Your position monitoring solution can give you some clues as to which page got past you in SERPs. Most rank monitoring platforms have a SERP tracking feature that regularly takes a snapshot of your important SERPs.

They can monitor your target SERP movements for you, for example:

Assessment of the visibility of the websiteSource: SE ranking

For queries with a high search volume, SpyFu records the most important SERP movements:

Image source: Spyfu

Use link monitoring tools to make it easier to find lost backlinks that may be responsible for rejected positions. They record exactly when each link was lost, making it easier for you to assess whether this may have had an impact on your ranking and your organic traffic:

Source: LinkChecker.pro

Once you know which page is replacing you in search results, try to figure out why. There could be a number of reasons, including the most common (as well as a combination of such):


Keeping control of your traffic is beyond your ability. What you can do is keep an eye (build a dashboard would make it easier and more consistent) as well as create a well-defined routine for analyzing a possible break-in.

If you find that organic traffic is decreasing or decreasing, it usually doesn’t mean your website is under a filter or penalty (which is the most common assumption). In most cases this is a completely natural SERP fluctuation. Remain calm and carefully analyze what has changed (and why). Don’t rush to take action or troubleshoot problems until you’ve reviewed various data sources and taken the time to create a strategic plan. And above all: just breathe!