Semalt: SEO Issues That Cause Search Rankings And Traffic To Drop

A drop or decline in search rankings or inbound traffic is a problem that has plagued every website. You're not the first to face this problem, and you wouldn't be the last. There are many reasons why a site's search rankings may drop. These issues may range from on-site to off-site SEO issues. 

To figure out why a website is experiencing this drop, Semalt has created a checklist to diagnose the problem. Sometimes the cause of this decline can be very difficult to detect. Sometimes, it could be a change in Google's algorithm, a server-based problem, or a dozen of other reasons that could cause the drop. 

When we try to diagnose a client's website, we may have already crossed off the common causes of this issue, so we will need to dig deeper. We explore other reasons our clients could be having this problem. 

In this article, we will be dividing these issues into broad sections and then list some of the issues under each subheading. Here we go.

On-Site Issues That Can Cause Your Website Rankings To Fall

When The Website Hasn't Been Updated In A Long Time 

Although the frequency at which a website's update is required depends on the niche, updating your website is critical if you plan on beating your competition. After running a competitor analysis, we may discover new trends that we can add to your website to maintain its position on SERP. 

If a site remains stagnant for too long without growth or development, it will likely start losing its place on SERP. If you don't stay updated, how do you expect readers to recognize you as an authority or a relevant source? Naturally, users would prefer a 2021 article to an article that was written in 2012. It's common logic. The more recent an article is, the more accurate it tends to be. 

There Haven't Been Any Significant Changes To The Contents On Your Site

This plays right into the path of the updates we just discussed. If you've had your website for years and you haven't made any changes to your content, your basically shooting your website in the foot for traffic and search engine rankings.

Every niche is competitive, and while some are more competitive than others, it is important that all websites should regularly update to compete for a spot on SERP's first page. If you're not being updated, you become irrelevant. In this case, irrelevant means as a result of your failure to update your content, you end up with out-of-date results, which isn't something Google or any other search engine will let rank on its first page. 

Move Things Around A Little

Updating the design of your website is also important as it lets your visitors known you're advancing. On the plus side, doing so doesn't necessarily mean your traffic will drop. Instead, it could improve. But it sometimes causes problems for your site crawlability and indexability, especially when not done right.

 For example, one of the many reasons why a site could lose traffic or search engine ranking is because the site's new theme depends heavily on JavaScript, which can interfere with search engine bots indexing and crawling its pages. If that is the problem, then a renovation will be the solution. So changing the design of your website can save or damage it. 

What is important here is having an SEO professional redesign your website. This way, you avoid a lot of land mines that lie on the way during the process. 

Off-Site Reasons Why Your Rankings May Drop

Many off-site reasons may contribute to your loss in traffic or a drop in your SERP ranking. For example, you lost a link you once had on a heavily-trafficked site, and it's beginning to affect the overall performance of your site. To figure out what caused this, we will have to perform a deeper and more correlative analysis. 

Inbound Links Removed From Sites 

Losing links on other sites occurs more often than you may realize. After a drop in traffic, we like to check and make sure clients haven't lost a link or two, especially from "big" websites. Losing a link isn't always a penalty; once in a while, webmasters may decide to clean up their links. 

We analyze your link performance with a link profile audit and see links that have been lost and if they can be recovered. 

Sites Linking To You Are No Longer Authoritative

When sites linking to you get penalized or removed from Google's index, your website is bound to experience a decline in its traffic. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to detect or accurately pinpoint which website(s) have been taken down. There is also no remedy for this. Because this is possible, we constantly seek out more links from reputable sources, so even if we hit bumps like this, it wouldn't affect us significantly. 

A Site Linking To You Was Taken Down

If a site linking you was taken down, you directly suffer a loss of traffic from that site. On your path, there is almost nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. And if this should eventually happen, the solution is to replace the site with another by acquiring more links from other reputable sites. This way, you make up for the lost traffic. It is important that you continuously work to increase the amount of quality and reputable sites linking to you.

Changes On SERPs Which Impacts Websites Rankings

Snippet Changes

When you have featured snippets, rich snippets, or any other type of snippet and you notice a sharp decline in your traffic, it could be that SERP no longer displays those snippets. Similarly, it could be that a competitor has put out a higher quality snippet which simply is more appealing to search engine users. 

If multiple search engine pages change, we analyze them to figure out the cause of your loss in traffic. Was it as a result of the loss of these critical SERP elements, or was it caused by something else? 

Changes In Searchers Behaviour

Over time, audience search behavior can change. This may result in less traffic to a page that was previously topping the traffic chart. There are several macro issues that cause this. One which we are all too familiar with is a pandemic. Or other not-so-global things like a change in the trending products or services. 

Consumers retain their right to change their minds and behavior. It is one of the many advantages of being human. As SEO experts, we always ensure that we study these trends of behavioral changes, and we can develop strategies to ride the wave of seasonal changes. 

Errors From The Servers That Results In A Decline In Search Engine Ranking

4xx Client Errors Or 5xx Server Errors

Traffic drop can be experienced from valuable pages as a result of too many 4xx client or 5xx server errors. At the same time, pages that were life and ranking can lose traffic and ranking after it has been taken down. To diagnose and repair this problem, there is a need for more visual analysis. This is why we encourage clients to conduct regular website maintenance routines. 

Without regular routines that detect these errors, you could be driving your website to the ground. Over time, these issues no longer become insignificant, and they will cause a site to suffer a decline in traffic and lose its ranking. 

There are so many other types of errors that can contribute to a website's loss of traffic. At our workstation at Semalt, we can help you figure out which errors your webpages are currently facing and fix them. 

The Server Was Down Too Much During Critical Timeframes 

You could be in trouble if your servers are not up enough to meet the demands of your website. The idea behind search engine rankings and traffic is that your website is going to be up for a very long time. Google or any other search engine wouldn't want to give you first place as the best answer for a query, but then users have trouble accessing that answer. 

During Critical Timeframes Some Sections Of Your Site Went Down

This is another potentially devastating situation. If the most popular sections of your site, which pulls in the majority of your traffic goes down during critical timeframes, you should expect significant drops in traffic. Using tools such as Uptime Robot can help locate areas where specific downtime occurred and show just how much traffic damage it has caused. 


When you are faced with a traffic or search engine drop, the first thing you need to remember is to stay calm—executing any command while in panic mode can lead to mistakes which further complicates the problem. The next thing you need to remember is to get a professional to see what went wrong. Sometimes the issue can be easily fixed. Other times it could be a complex penalty. Through quick, efficient diagnosis, we are able to repair and combat the cause of your search ranking drop.