Compass Digital Light
May 16, 2023

Understanding and Diagnosing a Drop in Branded Search Traffic

A line chart with bars indicating organic search traffic

Are you experiencing a drop in organic search traffic on your website? If so, there could be a multitude of potential reasons behind this trend. In our experience, the most common causes of a sudden decline in search traffic is seasonality or changes in customer behavior. One area to start with is to look at your branded search traffic. It’s a good indicator of how your brand is doing in the marketplace.  For growing brands, you’d expect year-over-year increases in your traffic. However, if you see your branded search terms dropping, then something fundamental may be wrong.

This blog post will dive into 15 potential causes, how to diagnose each one, and the possible fixes to help you regain your lost traffic.

chart depicting search term interest over time


1. Changes in Customer Behavior

The Reason: Consumer search habits are constantly evolving. They may be focusing more on generic terms or competitor terms rather than your branded ones due to increased competition, new market entrants, or shifting consumer preferences.

Diagnosis: Utilize tools like Google Trends to monitor changes in search behavior. You will want to understand the changes in both your branded search terms and generic search terms that are closely related to your business. You could also conduct customer surveys to understand their search habits better.

The Fix: If your customers are focusing more on generic terms, consider optimizing your website for these terms. If instead, you see declines in both branded and generic search terms, you may need to rethink your strategy to adapt to a changing market. Make sure your content strategy reflects the terms that your customers are searching for and understand the channels that are driving traffic to your website.


2. Reduced Brand Awareness

The Reason: If your brand awareness has been decreasing, fewer people may be searching for your brand specifically. This could be due to a lack of marketing activities, PR, or advertising.

Diagnosis: Monitor your brand’s social media mentions, PR mentions, and overall online presence to assess brand awareness. Tools like Brand24 or Mention can be handy. Also, review your paid media activities in preceding time periods to understand if you used to spend more on brand awareness campaigns. Finally, review any influencer marketing activity you conducted in the past to understand if you are missing out on this opportunity in the present.

The Fix: Develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes both online and offline activities. Leverage social media, PR, and advertising to boost your brand awareness.


chart showing search traffic on Google Search Console

3. Seasonality

The Reason: Many industries experience seasonal fluctuations in search traffic. For example, a brand selling swimwear might see less branded search traffic during winter months.

Diagnosis: Look at your historical search traffic data to identify seasonal trends. Google Trends can also help you identify seasonality in your industry. 

The Fix: Plan your marketing activities according to the seasonality of your industry. During off-peak periods, focus on brand building and customer engagement. 


4. Changes in Google’s Algorithm

The Reason: Google regularly updates its search algorithm. These updates can impact your site’s visibility in search results and consequently affect your branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Monitor SEO news and blogs for information about recent Google algorithm updates. Tools like SEMRush Sensor or MozCast can help track volatility in Google’s search results.

The Fix: Regularly update your website and SEO strategy according to Google’s latest algorithm changes. A professional SEO service could be of great help here.


technical seo information about website

5. Website Issues

The Reason: If your website is experiencing technical issues, this might impact your search visibility. Issues could range from site speed, mobile-friendliness, broken links, to severe problems like being hacked or penalized by Google.

Diagnosis: Use tools like Google Search Console or SEMRush to identify technical issues with your website. Regularly monitor site speed and mobile usability.

The Fix: Regularly update and optimize your website to ensure it’s user-friendly, fast, and secure. Regular SEO audits can help identify and fix any technical issues.


6. Poor User Experience

The Reason: A poor user experience can discourage visitors from returning to your website, reducing your branded search traffic over time. This could be due to poor website design, complicated navigation, slow load times, or lack of relevant content.

Diagnosis: Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor metrics like bounce rate, page views per visit, and average session duration. Conduct user testing or surveys to get feedback on your website’s usability. Alternatively, install a tool such as Hotjar to visualize user behavior to understand if there are any critical errors to fix. 

The Fix: Improve your website design and navigation to enhance the user experience. Regularly update your website content to ensure it’s relevant and valuable to your visitors. Routinely conduct UX audits to reveal any issues that prevent your users from converting.


7. Decreased Online Marketing Activities

The Reason: If you’ve recently reduced your online marketing efforts, this could result in fewer branded searches. This could include activities like content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, or paid advertising.

Diagnosis: Compare your recent online marketing activities with your previous efforts. Have you reduced the frequency of publishing content or social media posts? Are you spending less than before? Has your targeting or overall strategy changed and you may be advertising to the wrong audience? Is your paid media traffic down because of higher CPCs?

The Fix: Ramp up your online marketing activities. Maintain a consistent content schedule and engage with your audience on social media. Consider email marketing or paid advertising to increase your brand visibility. Make sure that your marketing is closely aligned with the audience that you are targeting.


review showing 2 out of 5 stars

8. Negative Publicity

The Reason: Negative news or reviews about your brand can discourage people from searching for your brand or clicking on your website in search results.

Diagnosis: Monitor online reviews and social media mentions for negative comments about your brand. 

The Fix: Manage your online reputation proactively. Respond to negative reviews promptly and professionally. If necessary, invest in public relations efforts to repair your brand image. Also, consider using reputation management tools to help you build more positive reviews for your brand.


9. Competitor Activity

The Reason: If your competitors have increased their marketing efforts or improved their products or services, they might be attracting some of your potential branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Use tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or SimilarWeb to monitor your competitors’ online activities. Have they increased their online marketing efforts or improved their rankings? Compare your organic keywords to your competitors to see if there have been any new gaps in traffic or rankings.

The Fix: Stay informed about your competitors’ activities and adjust your strategy accordingly. Consider ways to differentiate your brand and offer unique value to your customers. Use keyword monitoring tools such as SEMRush to compare your rankings to competitors.


10. Changes in SEO Strategy

The Reason: If you’ve recently made changes to your SEO strategy, this could impact your branded search traffic. For example, if you’ve shifted focus to lower performing non-branded keywords, you might see a temporary drop in branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Review your recent changes in SEO strategy. Have you shifted focus in your keyword strategy? Use Google Search Console to monitor your search traffic and keyword rankings. Also, look for any content that may have been deleted from your site that used to bring traffic.

The Fix: If changes to your SEO strategy have negatively impacted your branded search traffic, consider revisiting your strategy. Balance your focus on both branded and non-branded keywords.


11. Lack of New Content

The Reason: Regularly posting new, relevant content can help maintain and increase branded search traffic. If you’ve slowed down or stopped content production, this could negatively impact your branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Monitor your content production rate. Has it decreased recently? Use Google Analytics to see how much traffic your new content attracts compared to your older content.

The Fix: Maintain a regular content production schedule. Focus on creating valuable, relevant content that resonates with your target audience.


12. Changes in Offline Marketing Activities

The Reason: Offline marketing can also influence online search behavior. If you’ve recently reduced your offline marketing efforts, this could impact your branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Compare your recent offline marketing activities with your previous efforts. Have you reduced your TV, radio, or print advertising?

The Fix: If offline marketing plays a significant role in your industry, consider boosting your efforts in this area. Ensure that your offline and online marketing strategies are aligned and support each other.


13. Market Saturation

The Reason: If your market is saturated and most customers have already decided on their preferred brand, this can cause a decrease in branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Conduct market research to understand the level of competition and market saturation in your industry. Use surveys to gauge brand loyalty and willingness to switch brands.

The Fix: Differentiate your brand by offering unique value to customers. This could be through superior products or services, exceptional customer service, or innovative marketing strategies.


14. Changes in Product or Service Offering

The Reason: If you’ve discontinued popular products or services, or if the quality of your products or services has declined, this could result in less branded search traffic.

Diagnosis: Monitor customer feedback, reviews, and social media comments about your products or services. Have there been negative comments about recent changes?

The Fix: If changes to your product or service offerings have been negatively received, consider revisiting these changes. Ensure that your offerings meet or exceed customer expectations, and communicate any changes clearly to your customers.


issues reported in search console

15. Website Redesign Gone Wrong

The Reason: If you’ve recently redesigned your website, you may see a drop in overall traffic which can affect branded search traffic as a result. Keep in mind that generic search traffic often contributes to brand awareness. It is common for inexperienced web designers and agencies without SEO experience to not adhere to SEO best practices when doing a redesign. 

Diagnosis: Review traffic before and after your website redesign on Google Search Console. It is common to see a small temporary drop in traffic. However, you will want to understand which keywords and pages had the largest traffic changes so you can determine the exact cause. Often, important content from the old site is left out on the new site affecting traffic. Google doesn’t like it when these URLs suddenly disappear without being replaced and redirected. The same thing can happen with referral traffic and your backlinks, affecting your domain authority.

The Fix: If you’ve caught the issue quickly, ensure you have 301 redirects set up so that old content that was deleted is redirected to the most relevant page on your site. Ideally, important content should not be removed. Conduct a full SEO audit, backlink audit and review of referral traffic to find out where you will need to fix broken links and set up redirects or if you need to recreate the content.


In conclusion, diagnosing a drop in branded search traffic often involves a process of elimination. It’s crucial to investigate thoroughly, consider all possible reasons, and use all available data before drawing conclusions. Remember that correlation does not imply causation, so don’t rush to conclusions based on concurrent events. Sometimes, it might even be necessary to run controlled experiments to confirm the cause of a drop in branded search traffic.

If you need professional assistance to regain your lost traffic, consider reaching out to us so we can help you navigate this complex landscape.



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