Hit a Search Traffic Plateau? Here Are 4 Reasons Why (and How to Fix Them)

Every business owner and marketer alike would love for their search engine traffic forever rise up and to the right and never drop. Unfortunately, at some point or another, your search traffic will plateau. As the months go by, it will probably remain about the same, the amount that it rises or drops will be insignificant.

There are times when it may be your fault, other times however it was, at least initially, out of your control. When it comes to that point, there are two things you can choose from:

  1. Look for other sources of organic traffic that are not the search result listings that are standard.
  2. Find out what has caused the plateau of your traffic after which corrective action must be taken.

It is highly recommended that both options be used, however since the first one has been discussed he before, the second option is what this post will focus on. In this article we will look over the four main reasons why search engine tends to plateau as well as how it is possible to set your content and your business back on track.

Reason #1: Fluctuation in the Volume of Monthly Keyword Searches

Making sure that you are not having a knee jerk reaction is the first thing that you should do. Although fairly common for there to be an improvement in rankings, the overall traffic to decline dye to the keyword volume fluctuation. Here is how you are able to check on this:

First head either to your Google Search Console, that used to be called Webmaster Tools or your analytics.
Look for the top five to ten keywords which send organic search traffic your way, jot these down.
In your Search Console, this is accomplished by heading to the search traffic or the search analytics area and sort via clicks.


Now that you have that list, enter the AdWords Keyword Planner where you must now enter the keywords you jotted down, this can be done all together or one at a time.

Once “Submit” has been clicked on, you will receive the standard search volume that each keyword receives. If it is different from the default, make sure that you have the correct country as well as language selected.
Next, there is a small graph icon next to everyone of the keyboards, hover over it and the search volume of each term for the past twelve months will be revealed. This lets you know where, from month to month, there have been significant variations for your main keywords.

If for the most part, your keywords indicate low search volume can be expected throughout the last few months, then chances are that there probably has not been a plateau with your traffic, you will likely see that in the more popular months, it will pick up. If however there were not any real significant fluctuations revealed with those keywords, well, there is another possibility to take into consideration.

Take Trends Into Consideration

Of your niche is receiving thirty percent of the search traffic, if the niche loses popularity, then what? Even if your share of search traffic is increased, your general traffic may remain the same. To look this over, go to Google Trends and enter a keyword which describes your content and niche. A graph will be generated that displays whether the terms in your niche are being searched for by more or fewer people in general, this will be compared to previous time periods.

If the popularity of the terms are rapidly decreasing, if you have a plateau in traffic, you are actually doing an excellent job. If there is a certain stability to the trends, in other words they are not going up or down or if they are trending up, then there is a problem and if you want your traffic to once again start rising, it needs to be fixed. Now, onto other possibilities.

Reason #2: Rankings That Have Plateaued near the Top or That Are Declining

It is now time to look over your current content, specifically content that is older. Many times, new content from the last month, at times last two months, is not expected to draw in loads of traffic, when it does however it is always a nice surprise. There is actually a two to six month delay, there are a lot of factors that this will depend on.

This is of course if you have been tracking the rankings of your keywords, is not it will be quite difficult. If you have not, look for a good keyword tracked and get going on this ASAP.

Note whether or not the rankings of all of the main keywords found in your older content have declined, stayed the same or increased over the span of the plateau and a few additional months. For example, if over the last two month you have plateaued, review the rankings over a period of four months.

A single word decline is not a real indicator of anything, however if more than twenty five percent of your keywords have seen a decline, what that indicates is that your older content is losing ranking, this means that it is a trend.

There are three main reasons behind a loss like this:

Link Decay

In a perfect world, when a link to some of your content is earned, it will remain there permanently and you will be able to just build on it on it, however, a lot of changes are made regularly on the Internet. Domains enter and exit registration, pages are consistently created and then destroyed. Re-designs are things that even huge websites experience and they involve deleting content as well as merging.

The one thing that all of this leads back to is link decay. Links either go missing or become dead. By using a tool such as Ahrefs, you are able to see this. You can simply enter just about any URL, there should be no links pointed at it. You will see that not only does that URL gain links, it also loses them.

Now here is how you can check for what is causing this. Your content URL that have lost rank must be entered one at a time, you can view the links that have been lost in the weeks that lead up to any drops they have experienced. If you notice that important links have been lost to most of them, this is probably the or partially to blame for the plateau in traffic.

Algorithm Change

Google updates its algorithm constantly, and those updates can cause large or small shifts within the search results.

These changes usually don’t affect large website as much, mainly due to their link diversity.

One thing that Google continues to tweak is its ways of discerning between low quality links and high quality links along with ways to properly weigh them.

Speaking very generally, links from blog posts are high quality, whereas links from forums are low quality. Although that isn’t true in all situations, for this example just accept it.

So, if Google can do a better job of detecting forum links, or the spam forum links at least, then they can be devalued. This would result in content relying on forum links to sink.

Link diversity refers to how many different kinds of links you have. A healthy mixture is what you ideally want to have. In that situation, even if Google decides to devalue a certain kind of link, only a small percentage of your links will be affected.

Large websites naturally build healthy link diversity.

However, when you have a smaller website to deal with, you might have gone after certain kinds of links on purpose, which means you are vulnerable in the event that Google changes it algorithm and those types of links are targeted.

If you have targeted certain kinds of links and seen consistent drops across a majority of your keywords, that is your problem most likely.

You are going to need to expand your SEO skills in order to build a more reliable and diverse SEO strategy for your website.

More Competition

At times, losing your rankings has to do with others doing better instead of anything you might be doing.

If you had a fairly small (one to two spot) average ranking drop, then there is one major likely reason: somebody else created better content.

Look up the current search ranks for every term that dropped a couple of spots. Then look at the date that each of them was published.

Check the date on every page itself if it doesn’t show up in the search results. If you don’t have that option, then go check it in the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine to locate the earliest version that has been recorded.

As I said previously, usually it takes one to two months at least for a page to begin ranking high (and staying there) for any term that is at least somewhat competitive.

That is why you want to search for a page that got created one to two months prior to your initial ranking drop.

If you use a high quality rank-tracking tool, you might be able to view the SERPs from earlier and figure out which pages have been able to surpass you.

If you are able to determine that is what the issue is, you will need to raise the quality of your SEO. Work harder on your link building (maybe learn more while doing so), or improve and edit your content so that it is definitely better than those results higher than yours. Ideally, you will do both of these things.

Reason #3: Traffic Isn’t Being Driven by New Content

With this scenario, your old content might be ranking fine and driving traffic still.

However, you may be seeing that your more recent content (that is 1 to 4 months old) isn’t driving a lot of traffic or ranking well.

This might be a serious problem or not. If it is, then the question is “why?”

You are targeting terms that are more competitive

I strongly recommend that you start all of your SEO campaigns going for quick wins by attempting to rank for easy terms.

If you do this well, your search traffic will start to see some impressive growth.

However, this will of course leave with you the tougher keywords to target later. They might require more link building work than the terms before, which will take longer of course.

If that is true, it isn’t a huge deal to have plateaued traffic for a couple of months because if you continue working, you should be able to break through and begin seeing some large spikes in traffic as you start ranking for the more competitive keywords.

Your SEO strategy is not as effective as it once was

If you tend to do the same promotion on all of your content, you will be getting the same quality and kind of links on a consistent basis.

Those links in the past might have been able to easily rank your content.

Once you achieved high rankings, you obtained other links naturally from individuals who saw on your content ranking on the first page and making reference to it. That may be the main reason why your old content is ranking fine still.

However, if the links are no longer sufficient, either in quantity or quality, you won’t be successful.

Take this an opportunity for improving your link building skills and upgrading your SEO strategy.

Have you started to slack off?

Quality is always a very important aspect of SEO, but quantity is as well.

If you are publishing less content than you did in the past, your new content of course will not produce the same amount of growth as your old content.

There isn’t any special solution for this. Honestly look at how much you have published over the last couple of months. If it doesn’t seem sufficient, then make changes to your content schedule, and begin to publish more frequently to get back on track.

Reason #4: For Your Chosen Niche, You Are Reaching a Limit

When it comes to content marketing it is a good idea to target a niche that is very specific.

If you target a very low competition niche, you maybe be able to achieve No. 1 or No. 2 rankings for all of your main keywords.

Once that is achieved, a majority of marketers start to target long tail keywords.

That is fine, however you need to have a good understanding of how your search traffic is affected by this.

If you ranking for a term getting 4,000 searches per month with a single piece of content, then it will take 100 pieces of content that rank for searches getting 40 searches per month to get the same amount of search traffic you are getting.

So if you are able to rank for the larger terms quickly, then you will see an explosion in traffic. However, since it isn’t possible to continue targeting terms that have the same amount of search volume, then your growth rate will start to decline.

It is also possible that your traffic hasn’t plateaued; it might just be increasing at a lot slower rate than before.

If that is true, then you are doing a great job with your SEO.

However, you are going t continue seeing a glow growth rate if you only target keywords for your specific niche since all that is left are the small ones.

So what you need to do next is branch out into a new niche that is closely related to your current one and repeat your entire SEO and keyword research strategies.

Continue broadening your scope and dominate every new niche you get into.


At some point, all SEOs experience plateaus in their search traffic.

How you respond to this is what is important.

At this point, you should have a good understanding of the four major causes of a plateau, how to fix it, and the next steps that need to be taken.

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