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  • traffic dropped but rankings remain

    Traffic Dropped, But My Keyword Rankings Are Holding. What Happened?

    If you’re the unfortunate beneficiary of a Google algorithmic update that doesn’t go your way, you’re likely to see significant Google ranking drops and traffic declines.

    In the case of traffic declines, you may very well see many, if not all of your most coveted keywords remain in top positions while your traffic takes a dive off a cliff.

    This is not an irregular occurrence. It happens all the time.

    Here’s why.

    Money Keywords vs. Total Keywords

    Whenever we this question from clients, it is most often due to a myopic view of their overall SEO rankings.

    Many site owners are often fixated and only a handful of “money” keywords for which they wish to rank.

    In our case, that might be SEO company or SEO agency or the coveted general term of SEO.

    For a client it might be Los Angeles law firminjury attorney or law firm.

    The myopia comes into play when a webmaster becomes solely focused on head terms and ignores the real source of website traffic, the SEO long tail.

    This is where a great tool like Ahrefs can come into play:

    If you’re myopically looking at only a few short money terms, you may miss the overall picture related to your website.

    The chart above is an Ahrefs keyword and traffic graph from a recent lead that reached out to us with this very question:

    I’m still ranking very well for [company’s main keyword], but my traffic has fallen off a cliff. What is happening? Please help.

    This new client was not actively tracking their keyword rankings in Ahrefs, Spyfu or Moz like they ought. Instead, the totality of their keyword analysis included Google Analytics and incognito searches for [company’s main keyword] (which incidentally only has an estimated 1,000 monthly searches and a medium keyword difficulty).

    Their fall-off was in the long tail, which caused the crater in their traffic in a short period.

    They were also myopically ignoring other keywords with higher commercial value that were likely even driving more sales than their own self-assumed “top key phrase.”

    How to Fix Long Tail Traffic Drops

    A drop in your long tail traffic could be the result of any one of the following factors, including:

    • An algorithmic re-assessment of a site’s poor or unnatural backlink profile.
    • A competitive shift within your industry or an algorithmic reassessment for the value of your content. Perhaps your competitors are increasing the quality and quantity of their content at a rate that massively outstrips your efforts.
    • The Google dance, which typically occurs with sites whose traffic links and content are <3 years old. The newer your site, the more likely you are to experience a steady surge in keyword rankings over six months, only to be hit by the next Google update.
    • Lack of content updates on your blog (long tail most often comes from regular, quality content posting and blog writing).
    • Shift in the algorithm’s weight of one of many factors that may be plaguing your site (e.g. future algorithm updates focused on site speed may immediately impact the rankings and traffic of pages with poor loading speed).
    • Maybe you’re missing something else? Something may have changed on your site that may not be readily evident on the surface (e.g. HTTPS issues, malware, massive spike in spammy backlinks, etc.) that could have altered the quality in which Google sees your website.

    In cases like this, we always suggest a comprehensive SEO audit service, including a full content audit. So many factors can contribute to drops in rankings that a full assessment is the best way to gauge what course correcting on and off-site SEO initiatives will be most effective.



    VP of Business Development at SEO Company
    Ryan Nead is the Vice President of Business Development at search engine optimization services company, SEO.co. Ryan has spent the last 10 years as a digital marketing consultant working with enterprise clients and top brands on digital marketing initiatives that drive digital results. He has worked with brands like Smashburger, Fatburger, PHH Mortgage and Con-Way (now XPO Logistics). He resides in Texas with his wife and three children.
    Ryan Nead