Anyone who has worked long enough in online marketing has been on both the positive and negative end of a Google update.
It’s unfortunately a zero-sum game. There are only 10 positions on page 1 and not every company vying for top positions can attain them.
If you end up on the positive side of a Google update, you may very well see substantial traffic and keyword ranking gains in a very condensed period.
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.
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 firm, injury 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.”
A drop in your long tail traffic could be the result of any one of the following factors, including:
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.