Google Shows Types of Search Traffic Drops

Say you open your Google Search Console and notice that your Google Search traffic has dropped. Don’t freak out! There are several reasons that can be behind a drop in search traffic. Luckily, most can be fixed. A new blog post from Google Search Central describes what different types of organic search traffic drops look like in the Search Console, and goes even further to tell you what you can do about each kind of traffic drop. This is believed to be the first time that Google showed visually how certain issues in Google Search can negatively affect your search traffic. 

types of search traffic drops

Types of Search Traffic Drops 

Google posted visual examples of drops in traffic and what they might mean. These examples show you what a site-wide technical issue or reporting glitch looks like vs. normal seasonality in search traffic. 

You can see from these visuals that site-wide technical issues and manual actions that result in a Google employee issuing a manual penalty results in a massive drop-off in your organic search traffic. However, page-by-page technical issues or algorithm changes like a Google core update result in a slower decline in traffic that levels off over time. 

There are also often seasonality changes that can affect search traffic and business cycles. Finally, there is also occasionally a reporting glitch in the Search Console, which typically shows a search traffic drop that bounces back quickly. 

What to Do About a Search Traffic Drop on Your Website

Five Main Causes of Drops in Search Traffic

There are five main categories of traffic drops, according to Google.

Technical Issues 

Technical issues that prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your web page to users (for example, server availability, robots.txt fetching, page not found, and other errors.) These issues might be sitewide (like if your website is down completely) or page-wide. For instance, perhaps you have a misplaced noindex tag, which would mean Google wouldn’t crawl the page and could cause a drop in traffic. 

Security Issues

If your website is unsafe, Google might alert searchers with a warning or an interstitial page, which could cause a decline in search traffic.

Manual Actions

If your site doesn’t comply with Google’s guidelines, some of your web pages or you entire website might be omitted from the Google Search results via a manual action, which would obviously cause a major search traffic drop.

Algorithmic Changes

Google is constantly changing and improving its algorithm and how it assesses content. Any changes to the Google algorithm, like for example the spam update that rolled out recently, can result in how your pages perform in the search results. In order to stay up-to-date with the latest Google news, make sure you are following along with our marketing blog and on our social media channels. 

Search Interest Disruption

Sometimes, a change in user behavior can affect the demand for certain searches as trends change or as seasons go by. For example, a Christmas tree store will have the highest traffic leading up to the holiday. Your traffic might drop as a result of external factors that have nothing to do with your website at all.

Analyze Your Search Traffic Drop Pattern

According to Google Search Advocate Daniel Waisberg, the best way to diagnose what happened to your search traffic is to look at the Google Search Console’s Performance main chart. This chart outlines a lot of data in a helpful manner. Here are a few things to try in your Search Performance report after you notice a drop in traffic. 

Change the Date Range

Try changing the date range to include 16 months. This time frame helps you analyze the traffic drop in context. It will also show you if this drop happens annually because of a holiday or a trend. 

Compare the Drop Period to a Similar Period

If you compare the drop period to a similar period, this helps you see exactly what changed. Simply click all tabs to find out if the drop happened for a few specific queries, URLs, countries, devices, or search appearances. Just ensure that you compare the same number of days, and ideally the same days of the week. 

Analyze Different Search Types Separately

If you analyze different search types separately, this will help you see if the drop you are seeing happened in web search, Google Images, or the Video or News tab. 

Check Out Overall Trends in Your Industry

Google also advises that you investigate overall trends in your industry using Google Trends to see if the drop is part of a bigger industry trend, or only for your website.

search traffic drops

What to Do About a Search Traffic Drop on Your Website

If you discover that there are technical issues, security issues, or manual actions applied to your website, you will most likely need the help of a pro to fix it. 

While these illustrations from Google are helpful, they are just generalizations. If you need help diagnosing or fixing a drop in search engine traffic, contact SEO Design Chicago today. Our SEO experts can help you fix the issue and acquire more search traffic. 


  • What are the main causes of a search traffic drop? 
  • How do I fix a search traffic drop on my website?
  • What do different drops in search traffic look like? 
  • How do I see if I have a drop in search traffic? 
  • How do I analyze my search traffic drops?

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