Google gives site owners seven tips for analyzing the main causes of drops in organic search traffic.
In an article written by Google’s Daniel Waisberg, the main causes for drops in search traffic are identified as:
- Technical issues: Errors that can prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your pages to users.
- Security issues: Google may alert users before they visit sites with potential security threats, which may decrease search traffic.
- Manual Actions: If a site does not comply with Google’s guidelines, some of its pages or the entire site may be omitted from Google Search results through a Manual Action.
- Algorithmic changes: Core updates and other smaller updates may change how pages perform in Google Search results.
- Search interest disruption: Sometimes changes in user behavior will change the demand for certain queries, either as a result of a new trend, or seasonality throughout the year.
Here are some rudimentary examples of what each of these drops may look like in Google Analytics:
Read on for Google’s insight into diagnosing the cause of a traffic drop.
Diagnosing A Drop in Google Search Traffic
The best way to understand what happened to a site’s traffic, Google says, is to open its Search Console Performance report and looks at the main chart.
Analyzing the shape of the line will give some information to start with. Dig deeper into the data with these three tips:
- Change the date range to include 16 months: This will help you analyze the traffic drop in context and make sure it’s not a drop that happens every year.
- Compare the drop period to a similar period: This will help you review what exactly changed. Find out if the impact involves pecific queries, URLs, countries, devices, or search appearances.
- Analyze different search types separately: This will help you understand whether the drop you’ve seen happened in web Search, Google Images, or the Video or News tab.
To understand whether the drop is part of a larger trend, or something specific to your website, Waisberg recommends looking at Google Trends.
This may help rule out the following two factors as potential causes of traffic drops:
- A search interest disruption: People may start searching for different queries, or using their devices for different purposes. If fewer people are searching for the queries you rank for, it can lead to a traffic drop.
- Seasonality: For example, Google Trends shows that food related queries are very seasonal: people search for diets in January, turkey in November, and champagne in December. Different industries have different levels of seasonality.
While still in Google Trends, here are two more ways to gain insight into your search traffic:
- Check top queries in your region and compare them to the queries that you’re getting traffic from. If you discover queries you’re not getting traffic from, even though you have content on that subject, make sure it’s being crawled and indexed.
- Check queries that are related to important topics. This might surface rising related queries, allowing you to optimize for them before search interest piques.
For more information, see Google’s full article.
Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say
Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.
“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”
The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”
Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.
The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.
Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.
The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”
The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.
Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.
Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”
States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.
The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.
Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.
“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.
Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.
“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”
The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.
Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.
“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.