Sorted Design Agency
What’s causing your declining organic traffic?
by josh

A failing website will show a steady downward drop in the number of views over a period of months or years. The Google Analytics graph of viewership numbers is a useful tool when it comes to determining whether your site is succeeding or failing.

If you see a downward slope, you can assume that something is wrong with your website, SEO or content. This graph is great for telling you what is happening, but it doesn’t tell you why your organic traffic is declining.

Rather, your own insights may prove more useful here – you may know of a rival website that is targeting your audience, you may have lost the rankings for a few of your keywords, or you may have redesigned the site recently and the audience isn’t adjusting to the change. You’ll generally have an idea as to why your views are dropping.

Causes of declining organic traffic

People who find your website through a Google search or your social media channels constitute your organic traffic. If fewer people are finding your site, there are generally two main causes; optimisation and competition.

  1. Optimisation

Poor SEO is normally the main culprit. This can stem from a decline in keyword rankings, a drop in site speed, or any other optimisation factor that may have changed. Look at your keyword rankings and compare them to the rankings at the start of the decline. You’ll be able to quickly tell if you’ve lost rankings or not, and there’s one possible solution.

If your rankings are pretty similar, check the site speed. Your site host may have made changes to their servers that you weren’t aware of. This could have made your website slower, and now Google has penalised you.

Check your CMS (back-end software) – any changes to pages or redesigns may have affected your SEO. Sometimes high-ranking landing pages are removed from the site during a redesign, which creates a drop in views.

If you want to redesign your site and change some URLs, make sure you look at and record your top organic landing pages beforehand. Then, once the redirects have been completed, double check that they’re redirecting to the correct pages.

When looking for optimisation issues, it’s helpful to look at the on-page metrics of your website. Compare bounce rates, page views, average times on site and average page views per session from when the decline started. These metrics will provide you with more evidence or possible causes.

Sometimes things just happen to your website without your knowledge. Pages go offline, links go missing or plugins stop working. Google Analytics will hopefully point to the source of your declining traffic, but sometimes you need a little intuition to find the problem.

  1. Competition

If you know of any rival sites that have been targeting your audience, try to establish when they launched and when your decline started happening. Businesses in the same industry as you will often have the same audience, and so some may prefer other websites to yours.

You can begin a content overhaul campaign or redesign some features of your site in order to attract more traffic than your rivals. By offering better content that is more helpful and easy to access, you can quickly regain the audience.

An easy way to see if you have competition that you are not aware of is to look at Google AdWords. Here, you can see if any other business is paying for your selected keywords and therefore outranking you.

If another brand is paying Google for your keywords, you have two choices. You can either leave it and try to rank for different keywords, or you can spend some money and try to outbid that brand for your keywords.

If you decide to join the bidding war, make sure you have a decent budget as competitive keywords can be expensive. Alternatively, you could contact the competitor and try to reach an agreement or a truce.

Other possible causes

If neither of these causes is applicable and you know that your SEO is strong, you haven’t changed any URLs and the competition isn’t taking your traffic, then there may be another cause. Errors in tracking can occur.

Sometimes, for example, Google Analytics may double up on some of the users, giving you higher page views or sessions. This tracking error may be fixed and now your (real) lower page views are causing the graph to drop.

In this case, there isn’t much you can do. If you aren’t losing money from the decline in traffic, then all is well. Decreasing views may look bad on the graph, but the important factor is that your website is still making money for your business.

As we can see, declining traffic can come from a number of sources but are most likely summed up as poor SEO and changes to the site, or from increased competition in your field. Identifying the source of the problem is important if you want to rectify it quickly. Use the tips above to do a quick investigation and hopefully the answer will be obvious.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


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