Marc Hardgrove is the CEO of The HOTH, a white label SEO firm located in St Petersburg, FL. INC 5000 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021.
Nothing is more terrifying for businesses than discovering a sudden drop in website traffic. While search traffic is cyclical and web traffic stats can go up or down depending on a variety of factors, lower traffic typically equates to less profit.
It may be time to check your SEO if your traffic has consistently been in a tailspin. Don’t get me wrong—you should never ignore your SEO. It needs to be consistently monitored and tweaked to be effective, but a continual downward trend may point to a more significant issue. In this article, I’ll discuss four reasons your site’s traffic may be plummeting. It doesn’t mention every single possibility, but in many cases, one of these four is the culprit.
Shifting Search Trends Throughout The Year
As mentioned above, SEO is not static. It changes as often as people’s searches change on Google. Therefore, you need to stay on top of what’s trending and, conversely, what’s old news to your customers.
Holiday searches are a great example of this concept. Imagine you run a costume shop. Your biggest traffic will typically be in October as people search for “Halloween costumes” or “costume ideas for Halloween.” That means you’ll want to optimize your content with those keywords to connect with more potential customers.
Conversely, you can’t run Halloween ads for the rest of the year. You’ll need to track search trends in order to find new costume-related keywords that keep your business steady. One example would be incorporating keywords like “Santa outfits” in December or “best Jedi costumes” for May 4.
Google Trends is a free and easy way to stay on top of what’s trending on the internet. From that data, you can find new, relevant keywords for your website and content.
Broken Links Cutting Into Your Web Traffic Stats
Do you know how many links are on your website? More importantly, do you know if any of them are broken?
Potential customers who click on a broken link will see a “404 Page Error,” which can lead to confusion or frustration. Most links stop working because a site no longer exists, a webpage was moved without a redirect or a site’s URL structure was changed.
You should be regularly checking your site for broken links by using tools like Google Search Central, Ahrefs or Semrush. The last two services cost money, but you may already have a subscription if you use them for SEO research.
Broken links can easily be fixed. If not, they may frustrate visitors and decrease your web traffic stats.
A Nasty Case Of Keyword Cannibalization
Good SEO may sound easy, but if not done right, it can damage your traffic and rankings. One example of this is keyword cannibalization. This means that you are trying to rank for the same keywords in too many places.
Perhaps you have the same exact keyword in multiple blogs or you’re trying to rank for multiple searches on one page (like a sales page, for example). What happens is the keywords basically eat away at each other and your ranking will drop, resulting in less traffic for your site.
You can easily identify keyword cannibalization by conducting a search and seeing if two nearly identical pieces of content show up from your site. If you suspect this is happening, audit all of your content and decide which keywords are performing best. Then, you’ll have to merge, delete or redirect the others.
A Change In Google’s Core Web Vitals
Have you heard about Google’s Core Web Vitals? If not, you should look it up because it’s one of the biggest changes to the search engine in 2022.
Core Web Vitals are used to evaluate the performance of your site. They include three specific metrics: LCP (largest contentful paint), FID (first input delay) and CLS (cumulative layout shift). In basic terms, these metrics tell Google how long your pages take to load, the level of interactivity and whether your on-page content is stable for visitors.
Google announced last year that Core Web Vitals, which focuses on user experience, would now be a ranking factor. What does this mean for your business? You may see a drop in traffic this year if you’re not optimizing how your site works for visitors.
Many traffic drops also result from Google updates, which happen multiple times a year. Whenever Google changes its algorithm, websites need to change their strategies to compensate. It’s a given for any business with an online sales component.
Make sure there is someone on your staff or on retainer who can help you rebound from a Google update. If you suddenly notice a decrease in web traffic stats, check the four reasons listed above first. Then, reach out to an SEO professional if the problem persists.