Here is a response I emailed to a past client in response to a question about a sudden drop in website traffic. It highlights one of the most common reasons why search engine traffic from Google can decline suddenly.
Dear client: Hope all is well! I took a good look at your website today and detected a number of issues that are hurting its search engine ranking. It should be getting many more first-page search results in Google than it is. However, the issues listed below are hurting your Search Engine Optimization and ability to rank well in Google.
Here is a graph from one of my favorite SEO tools Spyfu.com that shows how your site was ranking historically in Google on an overall basis for your strongest keywords and search terms since it began. Your site was improving strongly until about July of 2015 when you had a sudden big drop in traffic. That drop coincides with the Google Panda 4.2 search engine update. As you can see, your traffic and search rankings never fully recovered after that. Why?
A Website Traffic Drop Caused by Google Panda Update
First of all, what is Google Panda 4.2? Google Panda is a change to Google's search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The algorithm was updated in July 2015 (Panda 4.2). Google Panda is a filter that prevents low-quality websites and/or pages from ranking well in the search engine results page. Its intent is to lower the rank of "low-quality websites," and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.
There are three key issues that the Panda update was designed to address: Duplicate content, poor quality content, and thin content. Your website, I must say, has been found guilty by Panda on all three counts. For example, you have five pages that use the same exact wording in the title, and all of them are contain slightly reworded duplicate content. The result is that none of those pages show up when you do a search on Google because of duplicate content and duplicate titles. They all rank very poorly (not showing up in the first ten pages of search results).
Duplicate content, poor quality content and thin content are three key reasons why search ranking will suffer in Google...
In fact, many of your web pages have duplicate or near duplicate titles. And, there is plenty of duplicate content. The content may also be considered poor quality by Google as well. Plus, another thing Panda checks is grammar. There are lots of misspellings in your website content. I use the excellent free version of http://grammarly.com to check of all my posts because it is nearly impossible to spell check your own writing reliably without the help of a good spelling and grammar checker. The Google Panda update will also demote web pages for those types of errors.
How to Recover From A Ranking Drop Due to Google Panda
The good thing is that you have not been banned by the Google Panda update. It has selectively lowered the rank of many of your pages because of the issues mentioned above. The damage can be repaired. The way to fix it is to remove the duplicate content, do grammar and spell checking on all web pages and make sure that every page has a unique page title and content. Also, make sure that the content is well researched and of value to readers.
These issues can be corrected. Realistically, it will take some time both to make all the corrections and to see Google restore your search engine ranking as the repairs are made. I can help! We will need to go page-by-page through the website to fix the weaknesses of each page and to prune out duplicate and weak content.
Update: A Google Ranking Review Follow-Up July 2016
I worked closely with my client to work on the content quality issues that were penalized by the Google Panda update. What are the results? Here is an updated Spyfu google ranking report that shows overall organic traffic for top keywords as of July 10, 2016. As you can see, there has been a healthy improvement in traffic. I worked closely with this client to remove duplicate content and to improve content quality for his website. We also fact-checked and spell-checked all content and made sure removed all duplicate titles. The improvements are obvious!
Not only has traffic recovered to pre-Panda levels, it has improved overall. As we continue to improve and build quality content that improvement should increase. Do you want to improve traffic to your e-commerce or business website? Here's a great SEO strategy that follows Google guidelines. -Don Peterson