For the first time Google has decided to illustrate and show us exactly what different types of organic website traffic drops look like.
Daniel Waisberg, a Search Advocate at Google, provided a detailed illustration showcasing the various types of organic search traffic drops, how to identify them in the performance reports in Google Search Console and how each of them can be addressed.
Various types of traffic drops.
The sketches below provide a visual representation of what site wide technical issues, manual actions, page specific technical issues or algorithm changes look like while assessing Search Console Data for your website.
Here are the Search Traffic Drop Visuals:
Sitewide Technical & Manual Actions
Technical issues that affect the whole website as well as manual penalties from Google Employees, the drop off is both sudden and dramatic.
Page Based Technical Issues & Algorithm Changes
Page by page technical issues or algorithm changes such as a core update, you would see a more gradual decline in your traffic, and it would then level off over time.
Seasonal changes affect all online businesses and can be defined as soft topped and bottomed curves in your data. Seasonal changes within your data are also represented by a gradual upward recovery to a peak.
Sudden changes that bounce back quite readily are indicative of a reporting glitch within your data rather than anything that is likely to be detrimental. See the graph below to help identify such data anomalies.
How does Google define these categories?
This is how Google defined these categories of traffic drops:
These are errors which may prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your pages to users. Examples of this would be server availability, robots.txt fetching, page not found, and others. These issues can be site-wide or page-wide. An example of a site-wide technical issue would be your website is down and an example of a page-wide issue would be a misplaced noindex tag, which would depend on Google crawling the page, which means that there would be a slower drop in traffic.
If your website has been affected by a security threat, Google may alert users before they reach your site with a warning, which usually leads to a decline in Search traffic.
If your website does not comply with Google’s guidelines some of your website pages or even the entire site may be omitted from Google Search results through a Manual Action.
Google is continuously improving how it assesses content and updating its algorithm accordingly. Core updates and other smaller updates could change how some website pages perform in Google Search results. You can keep up to date on future updates by subscribing to Google Search News YouTube series or follow on Twitter.
Search interest disruption
Occasionally, changes in user behaviour will alter the demand for certain queries. This may be as a result of a new trend, or general seasonality throughout the year. As a result of these external influences, your site traffic may drop.
Why this matters?
This is the first time Google has visually described how various issues with Google Search can have an impact on your site traffic evaluation. It allows you to clearly see what you can expect from various SEO issues and how your traffic may be impacted as a result. This will help you identify what previously could have been identified as worrying trends in your search console data.