We are in the SEO industry for a while now, wearing many hats: digital marketers, tool developers, advisers, researchers, copywriters, etc. But first of all, we are, just like you, site owners. And we’ve been through ups and downs regarding organic traffic, and we were in the situation of trying to understand why the Google traffic dropped dramatically at some point as well. Having all these in mind, we’ve thought of easing your work, and we’ve put together a list with the top 16 reasons that can cause sudden traffic drop, unrelated to Google algorithm changes or penalties.
This, of course, if you do care about your organic traffic and your overall inbound marketing strategy and you don’t want to make a mess out of them. The truth is that Google has so many rules and algorithms for scoring a website and that the SERP is so volatile that it’s nearly impossible to predict which site will have the best organic traffic and from what exact reasons.
On the other hand, structured data are also a real asset to increase your organic traffic and improve your CTR. They refers to values that help search engines categorize and index your content in a creative ways for the user. While there is no direct correlation between those data and a SEO improvement, structured data can really help you boost your visibility in SERPs.
I'm not in the contest, but if I was - I'd be SKEEEEERED. This was awesome, really - there were MAYBE 3 things I knew... The rest was new. I'm lame that way. The great thing about this is that as a blogger - you've covered ideas I've never thought of...I get my traffic mostly from SEO (not on my blog, but in my websites which are product based review sites) - but there's enough meat in this post I can use for my niche sites to keep me in the black, so to speak (ink I mean, not socks). Awesome post, Brankica - I'm speechless. (If you ignore the foregoing paragraph.)
About.com – How many times have you tried to do something and needed instructions? You Google it and it brings up how-tos from About.com. Well, you can contribute to this site with some of the how-tos for your niche and get traffic from it. Additional tip – there is an About.com Forum where you can be helpful to people in need and get additional traffic to your blog.
You might remember “Face Off” , a movie from ‘97 where Nicolas Cage is a terrorist and John Travolta is an FBI agent. And, as it happens in movies, they became obsessed with one another. Travolta needs information from Cage’s brother, so he undergoes an operation in which he gets Cage’s face; a few plot twists later and Cage has Travolta’s. They continue to pursue each other with new identities, the bad guy the good guy, the good guy the bad guy and so on and (almost) no one knew who is who. Dizzy yet?
Hey Kimberly, thank you so much for such a comment. Facebook and Google ads are great, if you know what you are doing. I could never get Google ads perfect so I didn't have as great results as some other people I know. When it comes to Facebook ads, they were great for my niche site and I loved the results. You, as a photographer, can get so much traffic from Flickr. If you are not sure how to do it, go to Traffic Generation Cafe blog, I posted a guest post over there, about getting traffic from Flickr. Forums are great, although can be a bit time consuming :) Thanks again and can't wait to see your results from the newly found traffic sources!
Google claims their users click (organic) search results more often than ads, essentially rebutting the research cited above. A 2012 Google study found that 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks happen when there is no associated organic search result on the first page. Research has shown that searchers may have a bias against ads, unless the ads are relevant to the searcher's need or intent 
So we’re confident that the high social traffic in the sixth example above reflects the highly successful social media campaigns the organization is working on. We could also see this pattern for a site which has decided that they can’t succeed with search and has, as Google suggests for such websites, chosen to work on social media success instead. The difference is, one site would have good Search and Direct traffic and really good social media, while the other might have dismal Search and rely heavily on social media, which is very time consuming and often has a low ROI. This second pattern is one we’ve seen with microbusinesses where the business owner is spending hours each day on social media and making very little progress in the business. Making the investment in a better website would probably pay off better in the long run, even if it seems like an expensive choice.
There are a few key pieces of information that we want to look at with Organic Traffic. The first piece of information that helps us frame the website performance is the total percentage of traffic that is organic traffic. These numbers will vary greatly based on your AdWords spend, how many email campaigns you send and many other factors. To view this figure, we want to go to the Acquisition section of your Analytics dashboard and then proceed to Channels.
RankBrain can have an impact on your keywords campaigns. When you are defining your keywords, you are looking for relevant terms that respond to customers queries. This is how a successful SEO strategy works. And logically, if you are picking keywords your audience is not searching for, you campaign will have no chance to succeed. This is where RankBrain can play a role.
Another point which you did mention (between the lines: "and updating your backlinks to point to HTTPS URLs") but I actually didn't realize enough is that updating backlinks when your site switches from http to https is very important. Redirecting all http traffic to the https version of your site from the server (301) is necessary, but doesn't solve losing referral data. Only updating backlinks, especially those on httpS-sites, does. I'd like to emphasize that!
Armed with this information, ecommerce marketers can learn why some sources might be underperforming or focus efforts on sources that drive better quality traffic. In some cases, this might mean relying less on search engines and more on social media or brand awareness. Other times the opposite could be the best course of action. Either way, the Traffic Sources section in Google Analytics can help.
For reasons we’ve already discussed, traffic from bookmarks and dark social is an enormously valuable segment to analyze. These are likely to be some of your most loyal and engaged users, and it’s not uncommon to see a notably higher conversion rate for a clean direct channel compared to the site average. You should make the effort to get to know them.
Like I said at the beginning, building organic traffic is hard. Anything that promises a shortcut to an avalanche of traffic will more than likely lead to a penalty down the road. Embrace the daily grind of creating great content that helps users and provides a solution to what they’re looking for. In the end that will drive more organic traffic than any shortcut ever will.