Victorious SEO Logo

Website Traffic Dropped Suddenly? Time To Investigate

Traffic drops can leave you scrambling to determine to find a quick fix — but where should you start? If you’re facing a sudden traffic drop, these culprits may be to blame.

Apr 12, 2024

8 m read

It’s natural for website traffic to fluctuate, but sharp drops are another story. Plummeting traffic means something’s awry behind the scenes, such as indexing issues or the mysterious whims of Google.

There’s no time to waste, as you don’t want your leads and sales to vanish with your traffic. I’ll walk you through possible reasons why your website traffic dropped suddenly and strategies for getting things back on track. With a little detective work, we can coax your numbers upward again.

1. Algorithm Updates

Google is continuously adjusting its ranking systems to improve the usefulness of its search results. But every so often, a significant core update shakes up the search engine results pages (SERPs) and causes traffic for many sites to nosedive.

How To Investigate

You won’t get a notification if an algorithm update impacts your website, but you can see if other sites are experiencing similar drops. Search engine optimization (SEO) news sites, online forums, and the Google Search Central blog often provide the scoop on algorithm updates and the potential fallout.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

If you suspect a Google algorithm update has hit your site, analyze the goals of the update and take a critical eye to your affected pages and then improve those pages so they align with Google’s objectives. For example, many sites are still reeling from last year’s helpful content update, which downgraded pages deemed of low value to readers. In this case, you can recover some of your lost traffic by revamping content to meet Google’s standards.

2. Dropped Rankings

Website traffic depends largely on keyword position since users rarely venture deep into the SERPs. If you’re experiencing a decline in visitors, some of your high-performing web pages may have tumbled out of the top spots.

How To Investigate

Check your keywords for changes in ranking. Then, explore these common reasons pages drop in the SERPs to see if any are applicable in your case:

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

You can fix your keyword rankings by following best practices for site optimization. For example, focus on building backlinks, improving your site’s technical health, refreshing your content, and performing a competitive analysis to gain ground on your rivals. I highly recommend these practices form a regular part of your strategies to increase web traffic so you don’t have too much catching up to do when a problem occurs.

3. Manual Penalties

Google’s human reviewers may take action against your website if they think it’s attempting to manipulate the search engine’s algorithms. This can cause a drop in visibility or even removal of your site from the search index.

How To Investigate

Head to the Manual Actions report in Search Console, which details any Google penalties on your site. You can also look for notifications in the Search Console message center.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

The good news is Google tells you exactly why you have manual action penalties. Possible causes are:

Review the report and address each problem. Google won’t lift the manual penalty unless you resolve all issues. Once you feel your site is up to par, submit a request for a review. This can take several weeks, but if you adequately resolve the issues, Google will resolve the penalty.

4. Seasonal Fluxes

Some businesses experience shifts in demand depending on the time of year, causing a Google search traffic drop. For example, tutors see a decline in students once final exams are complete, and tax preparation services experience slowdowns when the tax filing deadline has passed.

How To Investigate

Use Search Console or another analytics tool to compare key metrics year over year. Analyze the impressions and clicks for important search queries and traffic to key URLs. If a traffic drop is tied to seasonality, you’ll see similar patterns over time.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

While you can’t control seasonal fluxes, you can note when traffic drops are likely to occur. Research how competitors engage audiences during off-peak periods and strategize ways to boost your own visibility. For example, a tutoring business might create a series of summer learning tips to draw traffic to its site when schools are on break.

5. Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more pages compete for the same keyword. Instead of having one high-performing page in the SERPs, your visibility is typically spread over multiple lower-ranking pages with fewer clicks and traffic.

How To Investigate

There are a few ways to check for keyword cannibalization.

  • Google Search Console shows you the queries generating impressions and clicks for your site. If you see more than one page linked to a specific keyword, they may be competing with each other.
  • Ahrefs Site Explorer shows you your keyword ranking history. You can check if newly published content is impacting pages that were already ranking for a query.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Make sure each of your web pages serves a unique purpose. You can prevent cannibalization by:

  • Merging similar pages.
  • Deleting lower-quality pages.
  • Deoptimizing pages for certain keywords.

6. Disapproved PPC Ads

Is your pay-per-click campaign not generating traffic? It’s possible your ad isn’t displaying because it violates search engine ad policies.

How To Investigate

Check your Google or Bing ad account for disapproved ads. You may also be notified by email if there are issues.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Review the explanation for the disapproval and revise your ad so it complies with search engine policies. You can then resubmit the ad for review. PPC troubleshooting or a PPC audit may help you improve your ad performance.

7. Tracking Error

Google Analytics (GA4) measures site traffic through a Google Tag ID placed in your HTML. If something happens to the code, it might look like your website traffic dropped suddenly.

How To Investigate

Check your source code to see if your unique tracking ID is missing or broken. In GA4, the ID is a series of letters and numbers beginning with the letter G. 

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Reinstall the tracking ID in your HTML. To capture data accurately, it must exactly match the code that’s listed in your analytics account when you click on the name of your data stream.

8. Redirects

Redirects keep traffic moving smoothly through your site when pages are deleted or moved. Without redirects, search engines and users encounter dead ends. Any link equity the original pages built up won’t flow to other pages, impacting your authority and rankings.

How To Investigate

Use Search Console to find URLs with 404 errors, which indicate a redirect problem. You can also use Semrush’s Site Audit Tool or Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider to crawl your site and find broken links.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Implement 301 redirects where appropriate so visitors and search crawlers can continue their digital journeys.

9. Robots.txt Rule Errors

Robots.txt is a file placed in the root directory of your website to tell search crawlers which pages they can access. If you have pages that aren’t driving traffic, your robots.txt file may be preventing the crawling and indexing of those pages.

How To Investigate

Search Console details which pages of your site aren’t indexed and why. Click “Blocked by robots.txt” to identify pages you have disallowed from crawling.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Configure your robots.txt file to make sure it isn’t stopping Google from crawling pages that should be appearing in the SERPs.

10. Loss of Backlinks

When you lose backlinks from external sites such as blogs, directories, news media, and review sites, you can miss out on important traffic sources. This can cause a decline in visitors and negatively impact your web authority (and, therefore, your search rankings).

How To Investigate

Segment your traffic reports according to source. You can then assess whether your traffic loss is from paid ads, organic search, social media, or, in this case, referring domains.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

If you see a decline in referring domains, identify which sites are no longer sending you traffic. SEO tools such as Ahrefs and Majestic can identify mysteriously vanishing inbound links.

If the missing link is high authority and a significant source of traffic, you can ask the site owners to restore the link. They may have deleted the backlink during a content refresh or removed the referring page entirely. In the meantime, implement a link-building strategy to diversify your backlink profile.

11. Low-Quality Backlinks

Low-quality backlinks are another reason for a sudden drop in website traffic. These links come from websites containing spam, scraped content, or irrelevant content compared to your niche.

How To Investigate

Use an SEO tool to review your backlink profile. For example, Semrush’s Backlink Audit analyzes the quality of your links, highlighting suspicious or toxic links.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Contact suspicious sites and ask them to remove their links. You can also compile a list of links you don’t want to be associated with. Submit your disavow list through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

12. Crawl Issues

Sometimes your website traffic is down because of indexing issues. If Google can’t crawl your site, your pages won’t appear in the SERPs and generate traffic.

How To Investigate

Run Search Console’s Page Index Report. This will detail any problems Googlebot had when crawling your site.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Review pages with crawling errors, which may include redirect errors, server problems, blocked resources, and inaccessible pages. Once you resolve the errors, you can request a page be crawled and indexed in GSC.

13. De-indexing

Google sometimes removes pages from its search index, cutting off organic traffic to those pages. This may be due to a:

How To Investigate

Review Search Console’s page index report to see which of your pages aren’t indexed and why. You should also check if there are manual actions against your site.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

Depending on the reason Google de-indexed your pages, take one of the following actions:

  • Resolve Google penalties.
  • Make sure you’ve set up your robots.txt file properly.
  • Remove noindex tags on pages you want to appear in search results.
  • Improve content to add value.

14. New Competitors

Competitors that ramp up their SEO can sneak out of nowhere, leapfrogging into the top spots and causing site owners to ask, “Why is my website traffic dropping?” Even sliding down a few positions can impact your numbers — according to Semrush, the top three pages account for most of the clicks in the SERPs.

How To Investigate

Tools like Semrush track rankings for thousands of keywords, including competitor performance. Look at drops in high-performing pages and see which competitors improved their positioning as a result. If they’ve made up significant ground in a short amount of time, they’re likely investing more in SEO.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

There are no quick fixes here — you’ll need to analyze your competitors’ SEO strategies for opportunities to outrank them. Look for weaknesses in their content and focus on information gain to provide more value to readers.

15. Slow Page Load Speeds

Pages that take too long to respond can deter users and cause them to bounce. Google uses a set of metrics known as Core Web Vitals to assess user experience. Poor Coor Web Vitals may lead to ranking drops and subsequent traffic dips.

How To Investigate

Use Page Speed Insights to check your Core Web Vitals. It evaluates factors such as loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability and recommends ways to improve these metrics.

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

You can boost page speed and loading times by:

  • Optimizing and compressing images.
  • Loading above-the-fold content first.
  • Minifying JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files.
  • Implementing browser caching.
  • Using a content delivery network.

16. Outdated Content & Keywords

Both search engines and readers are increasingly picky about content quality. A page must provide relevant, up-to-date content that’s worth reading. If your content is stale or doesn’t align with a reader’s needs, Google will likely bypass it for more engaging pages.

How To Investigate

Find out which of your pages are losing traffic and/or falling in the rankings with a content audit. Cast a critical eye on the content. Can it be improved, especially compared to top-ranked URLs for your target keywords? Does it meet the search intent of the queries you want to rank for? Does it provide unique information that helps readers?

How To Reclaim Your Traffic

If your content satisfies search intent and is relevant to the query, give it a makeover to ensure it’s informative and engaging. Update statistics, mention current industry trends, and provide real-life examples.

If it doesn’t match the search intent, you’ll need to create new content or modify existing so that it aligns with what searchers are looking for.

Stay on Top of Website Traffic

Solid data analysis, a keen eye for detail, and some smart, targeted strategies can help your website overcome drops in traffic. Whether your website traffic dropped suddenly or you want to proactively get ahead of the competition, find out how our SEO services can help you drive traffic, generate leads, and hit your business goals. Schedule a free consultation today.

In This Article

Recommended Reading

7 m read

Monitoring the effectiveness of your SEO activities is critical for iterating a successful strategy. But how do you know what to measure? Here are 14 important SEO KPIs you should keep an eye on. Pinpoint the ones that matter the...


The best SEO metrics draw a straight line between your objectives and desired outcomes. Learn how to measure SEO using the performance indicators that speak directly to your goals.

12 m read

Knowing how to track SEO conversions is the first step in tying your SEO goals directly to revenue generation. Read on to learn how to use Google Analytics to track the value of your organic traffic.