A Decrease in Organic Traffic Isn’t Always Detrimental – Here’s Why

SEO professional shown in a magnifying glass next to a Google search bar
Posted on by Meaghan StPeter
Categories: Keyword Research Tagged: , , , , , ,

We’ve all felt it: That heavy blow to the chest when you look at your Google Analytics and see data signifying a decrease in your website’s organic traffic. This is especially disappointing when you’ve put extra effort into your SEO strategy. Maybe you’ve been doing in-depth keyword research and crafting a content strategy around your findings. Maybe you’ve been mapping and implementing meaningful internal links. And yet, you’re seeing a downward trend in your organic traffic. How is that possible? Well, it’s important to know that there is such a thing as good and bad traffic, and there are other metrics you should be looking at to gauge your overall success. Let’s get into it.

Defining “Bad Traffic”

When it comes to the traffic on your website, not all is equal. As I discussed last month in my article comparing transactional and informational keywords, there are nuances to data. The traffic that’s most important to you, or “good,” is the traffic that is going to drive sales. On the other hand, there is traffic that’s only inflating your sense of success, AKA “bad traffic.” This could be coming from visitors to your “local content” about things like pubs in your community or even from bots going through your site. It’s important to remember that when you simply look at the organic traffic coming to your site, you’re looking at all of it, the good and the bad, and that’s not representative of how you are really performing. 

In fact, looking at your data with a bird’s eye view like that can go both ways; it can give you a false sense of success and failure. For example, say you’ve been getting tons of traffic to your site from a blog post about the best hiking trails in your area. People are reading the blog and then likely going on a hike; they’re not then going to move into buying a car––again, this is “bad traffic.” However, these visits to your site are going to be lumped into the general “organic traffic” metric that you’re viewing, giving you a false sense of success. Now, say you’ve hired an SEO company to handle your efforts, and they’ve identified these blogs and noticed that they’re inflating your data, so they remove them. You’re now no longer getting traffic from that blog post, and this will look like it had a negative impact on your site’s performance or a decrease in traffic when you glance at the graph. 

These types of nuances can make it more challenging to get a real view of your performance. You can’t just rely on the organic traffic graph to tell you whether or not you are headed in the right direction. And if you are relying on that, it may be time for you to refocus and redefine your data analysis.

Refocusing Your Data Analysis

There are many places in which you can get a more granular look at how your website is performing and how your SEO efforts are paying off. That said, there are three major categories of data that you should be looking at if you want to get an overview that is more accurate than glancing at generalized organic traffic.

1. Keyword Rankings

First and foremost, keep an eye on how your site is performing for the keywords that you are targeting and for the keywords that truly matter. The starting point for SEO is getting clicks, which starts with your position on the search engine results page (SERP). This makes tracking your positions on the SERPs that matter to you especially important. Monitoring your success there is a good place to start when you want to see how your SEO efforts are paying off.

2. Conversions

Conversions are a more direct reflection of tangible, on-site growth. There are places on your site where a user can contact you, fill out a form, or submit an application. These actions indicate that they are moving toward some sort of transaction with your business, and they are called conversions. Among all of the metrics you look at, conversions are the most to the point; they are indicative of an increase in interest in your business (i.e., success). This is different from looking at organic traffic as a whole because it removes the intent nuance from the puzzle and gives you a number that is more reflective of actual consumers.

3. Site Engagement

Finally, there’s engagement. In Google Analytics 4, user engagement is the amount of time someone is spending on your site. Generally, the longer someone is on your site, the more interested they are in your products or services. If your average engagement time has gone from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, this may be indicative of success. Remember, though, that low engagement could also mean that someone has been on your site before and they now know exactly where to go, so they simply filled out a contact form and left. For this reason, looking at site engagement and conversions together will give you a more clear picture of how users are interacting with your site.

Overall, it’s important to remember that there is more to measuring SEO success than organic traffic; there are various places you should be looking in order to get a full view of your performance.

Organic Traffic Isn’t the End-All Be-All

Organic traffic is an important metric when it comes to measuring SEO success but looking at a general view of such isn’t a good way to determine whether or not you’re headed in the right direction. In order to get a fuller view and enable yourself to make informed decisions regarding strategy, you need to look at a number of metrics, including keyword rankings, conversions, and engagement on your site. These pieces together will help you better understand where you’re winning and where you’re not.

Need help looking at your data, or simply want to hand off this duty to someone else? Schedule a no-pressure, free website audit with our team. We can’t wait to help you get a true view of your site’s performance.