Google Shows Marketers What Organic Search Traffic Declines Look Like

What do different types of website organic traffic declines look like? Daniel Waisberg, search advocate at Google, categorizes them in a post, describing the reasons why a drop can occur. It's not the first time he delved into this topic. The concept comes from a detailed YouTube video he posted in 2020.

There are several reasons why traffic drops, from technical issues including site-level manual actions, to seasonality, page-level algorithmic changes, and reporting glitches.

The examples of how the traffic drops provide a visual representation. Waisberg also defines each category.

There are five main causes for drops in Search traffic:

  • Technical issues: Errors that can prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving pages to users like page not found or robots.txt fetching.
  • Security issues: If a site is affected by a security threat, Google may alert users before they reach the site with warnings or interstitial pages, which may decrease Search traffic.
  • Manual Actions: If the site does not comply with Google's guidelines, some of your pages or the entire site may be omitted from Google Search results through a Manual Action.
  • Algorithmic changes: Google core updates and other smaller updates may change how some pages perform in Search results.
  • Search interest disruption: Sometimes changes in user behavior will change the demand for certain queries, either as a result of a new trend, or seasonality throughout the year. This means traffic may drop simply as a result of external influences.



Looking at the Search Console Performance report main chart and analyzing the shape of the line will provide answers and help to summarize why the change is bring made. 

Waisberg also suggests using Google Trends to help understand whether the drop is a wider trend or whether it is occurring just for a specific site. These changes can be caused by a search interest disruption of a new product.

If there are major changes, of course, in the types of products or keywords people search for organic search may drop. There also might be a new competing product cannibalizing search queries.

Seasonality could be another reason. “For example, the rhythm of food website shows that food-related queries are very seasonal: people search for diets in January, turkey in November, and champagne in December,” Waisberg writes. “Different industries have different levels of seasonality.”

Interestingly, this problem has likely been around for years. Waisberg’s video was created and posted on YouTube in 2020, but Google posted the blog on Tuesday.

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