Checking The Data ValidityBefore anything else, it’s important to check whether you are seeing a false alarm or the real deal. An error in data is quite common, affecting roughly 20% of all traffic drop situations. Also, we should consider the possibility of normal deviation or variance.
Checking for data errorFirst, you might want to check the same data using a different analytic tool when it’s possible. If you are using Google Analytics, for example, you can try using KISSMetrics or other similar tools.If the same situation still persists, check whether other metrics are affected. Data issues are usually fairly obvious, like a missing data for a day or several hours.
Checking for normal deviationIt is fairly common for all metrics to go up and down, sometimes without any visible reason. If you have a significant amount of past SEO traffic data (6 to 12 months), you can use this data to calculate standard deviation using Excel or Google Sheet. For example, if you found out your standard deviation is 10%, you should only investigate traffic drops of 11% and above. The more data you have, the more accurate this will be. Now, let’s assume your data is valid, and there is indeed a real traffic drop, we can begin to figure out the cause. For the rest of this guide, we will discuss how to diagnose the cause of the traffic drop, and how to fix it. Let us begin with the first one.
1. Google Penalty and Algorithm UpdateIf you are seeing a sharp decline in traffic, most likely you are either affected by a Google algorithm update and/or currently penalized. There are several reliable resources to check for Google’s algorithm updates, like this one from Moz. If the update is significant and recent, most likely a quick Google search will be enough in finding out the culprit. For Google penalty, there can be many different reasons. You can first and foremost check your Google Search Console, and check the manual actions section under search traffic. If your site has been penalized, there will be a notification including the reason of the penalty. You might want to check out our previous guide on Google Penalty here, (link) but here are some of the common causes of Google penalty and what can you do about them:
- Non-Unique content
- User Spam
- Broken Redirects