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Identifying four possible reasons for a downward traffic spike

April 14, 2020 0 comments

Many online businesses rely heavily on the organic traffic they get from search engines. However, organic traffic does not always remain steady and consistent. It is not uncommon to see multiple upwards or downward spikes. And there are multiple reasons for that.

Since it’s not uncommon, the important part is not to panic and instead focus your time and energy into identifying why a particular spike happened.

  • If it is an upward spike, you would be able to replicate that success by doing more of the same once you identify the reason.
  • If it is a downward spike, you can pinpoint what caused that. If it is something within your control, you can stay away from that to prevent a similar drop-off in your organic traffic in the future.


Let’s discuss the four biggest reasons why organic traffic may drop off.


1. An algorithm update

One of the biggest reasons why some websites may see a drop in organic traffic is because of sudden algorithm updates.

Search engine algorithm updates happen quite regularly and often won’t be preceded by any big announcements. Unless it is a big, large-scale update to Google algorithms, you’d probably not hear it beforehand.

The easiest way to identify if your traffic dropped because of an algorithm update — and not because of something you did — is by jumping into your Google Analytics account and identifying the date when traffic started decreasing.

Next, see if the timeline aligns with a search engine algorithm update.

For example, here is a timeline highlighting several algorithm updates:

Identifying four possible reasons for a downward traffic spike 1

A simple Google search will help you identify if an algorithm update went live during that timeline.


2. A website revamp or other technical issues

You cannot do much about an algorithm update except following the best SEO practices. However, if the traffic dropped because of a technical issue or a website revamp, it is all on you.

For example, if you mass redirected a lot of links to a web page, redesigned your entire website, added or deleted certain sections on your website, deleted or updated popular content pages, or migrated from non-secure to secure hosting, you may have caused some unintended issues that may have decreased your organic traffic.

Again, the idea is to first establish a timeline for any major front-end or back-end website changes. Then try to match that timeline with your Google Analytics data.

If you find out that this is indeed the reason for the low traffic, you should run a thorough technical SEO audit to pinpoint the exact cause and fix the issues.


3. Competitive pressures

Sometimes, organic traffic drops not because you have done something wrong, but because your competitors have done something great.

A new competitor entering the market, a big merger, or a huge marketing campaign by a direct competitor can steal your organic traffic.

Diagnosing a competitive issue is slightly more difficult. You will need to do lots of market research, intuition, and a couple of tools.

We recommend using Google Trends, Google Analytics, and a social media tool, such as BuzzSumo.

With Google Trends, you will be able to see the growth in popularity of your main keywords. With Google Analytics, you can match if that growth has translated into organic traffic for your website. With BuzzSumo, you should be able to monitor your competitor’s social channels, recent activities, and any potential surge in engagement and traffic.


4. Seasonal activities and changes

Some businesses are more prone to seasonal changes, and seasonality also affects their organic traffic and overall revenue.

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For example, if your business is about holiday gifts, you will likely have more traffic during the holiday season. 

The best way to identify if the drop in traffic is seasonal is by analysing data from past years in Google Analytics. Moreover, you can also use Google Trends and check if your main keywords are affected by seasonal changes.



Websites see upward and downward trends in organic traffic because of multiple reasons. Four of the big reasons are: search engine algorithm updates, technical issues, competitors, and seasonal changes.

Identifying the reason is important. With this information, you will be able to pinpoint the exact issue and steady the ship in a timely manner.