Why Your Organic Traffic is Down (And How To Fix It)


Your rankings improved as you’ve invested time and effort in search engine optimisation, but compared to earlier periods, your organic traffic is down.

In this post, we explore the reasons why your organic traffic is down and look at what you can do to increase it.

Rankings are better, but organic traffic is down on the previous year

You may be focusing on high volume search terms, but forgetting dozens or hundreds of niche, long tail terms which ranked deeper content within your site. Check Google Analytics for landing pages on your site and compare the two periods. Identifying which pages have increased or decreased in organic traffic might help to identify the problem.

Again, using Google Analytics, compare organic traffic for different devices to see if traffic losses are more significant on desktop, mobile devices or tablets. Changes in online behaviour and the algorithm have been significant with the growth of mobile traffic [link] especially disruptive.

Offline and top of funnel activity has decreased

It’s possible that much of your traffic from the earlier period wasn’t generated by organic rankings alone.
Brand activity in the top of the funnel can create a significant volume of brand, and general search traffic. If that brand activity wasn’t repeated or replaced, that could create a significant decrease in organic traffic.

When a brand sponsors an event, it creates brand search traffic – you should notice a spike in brand search traffic around the time of the event. Running a Facebook Ads campaign creates awareness and interest in an event you’re running or exhibiting at, which then creates organic search traffic. When the Facebook campaign stops, that organic traffic stops too.

See: Why Your Facebook Ads Aren’t Converting

If you’re featured in a TV show, have radio ads running or do a leaflet drop, those activities will all create organic, brand traffic. If those were part of your marketing strategy last year, but not this year, that could significantly reduce organic traffic, even if your rankings are higher.

Check Google Analytics, comparing periods when significant brand activity was undertaken. This should identify whether brand activity (or a reduction of brand activity) is the culprit for declining organic traffic.

See: Measuring Brand Value Signals

Google AdWords search is stealing your brand traffic

It may look like organic traffic is down, but in reality, it just moved. If you choose to bid on your own brand in Google AdWords search campaigns (here’s why you should [link]), that could explain why organic traffic is down on the previous year too.

Paid search stopped or reduced

You may have been running Google AdWords Search or Google Shopping campaigns last year and stopped them this year, or perhaps just reduced the budget.

Similar to the top of funnel activity, more volume in the middle funnel (Search Marketing) creates repeat searches and brand searches. Contrary to what we might expect, users rarely convert on the first click, creating journeys across multiple channels before they convert into a lead or a sale.

See: Understanding Multi-Channel Funnels

Brand activity and paid search activity can significantly increase organic traffic

If that activity were present last year, but not this year, your organic traffic could be down.

Using Google Analytics, compare the period immediately before and immediately after Paid Search Campaigns were enabled, disabled, increased or decreased to identify whether this is the cause of your declining organic traffic.

Recently organic traffic is down, but rankings are higher

Assuming that you’ve checked the potential causes above and they don’t explain the decline in organic traffic, there are some other causes worth investigating.

Seasonality can play a huge part in traffic. Make sure that you’re comparing like-for-like. There’s no point in comparing organic traffic for Christmas trees in November and December versus January and February. An extreme example, but illustrates the point.

There could be seasonal variation in search volume. Usually, it’s more meaningful to compare year-on-year data rather than month by month.

Using Google Analytics, compare organic traffic year on year, as well as quarter on quarter, or month on month. So it may help to understand the change in organic traffic.

Use Google Trends to identify changes in seasonal search volume, or whether there’s a general decline in search volume in your market.

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