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Organic traffic fluctuations in the time of COVID

The world stood still for a little, on the 27th of March when a nationwide lockdown was implemented in South Africa.

Our organic traffic, however, seemed to come to a kind of standstill before then. The weeks before the lockdown, when we were encouraged to self-isolate, saw our SEO traffic take a pretty deep nose dive.

Organic traffic decline trend COVID-19

Our Organic traffic was dropping fast

Organic traffic dropped by 53% compared to February 2020.

Organic lead decline trend COVID-19

Leads were dropping fast too

Our organic leads dropped by just over 30%.

The trends were clearly going down, with the greatest drop at the time social distancing was implemented, and those who started working from home – if they were able to. 

The forecast for organic leads wasn’t looking too good either:

Organic Lead Forecast COVID-19 2020

The width in the estimated forecast area you can see to the left shows a large area for unpredictable results (the orange area). The narrower the estimated area is, the more reliable the forecast is.

So, we COULD see results stabilise based on historical data (the straight orange line), but the outcome is uncertain. 

Much like most things at the moment, there was and is a lot of uncertainty. 

Why had our organic traffic dropped so much?

Besides the fairly obvious reason of people waking up to a very uncertain COVID-19 world, other reasons could be:

  1. A drop in rankings (this wasn’t it, our rankings were stable)
  2. Algorithm change (while there was a Core update in January it was unlikely to be affecting us 2 months later)
  3. Seasonality (Q1 is our strongest quarter for the year generally, and we see declines starting in March)
  4. Black swan event – other than the COVID-19 outbreak, of course.

We ruled out 3 of the 4 options above, which left us with COVID-19 and seasonality – likely combining forces. 

How were we going to approach this?

The only thing we could really do is to keep on putting valuable content out into the world, make sure our site was optimised, keep an eye on rankings and … wait and see.

So that’s what we did.

And look what we’ve seen this last week for traffic:

Organic traffic forecast

While leads aren’t on as much of an upward tick, we are seeing a slightly increasing trend. Traffic is trending upwards, in a more normal way even if the forecast is unpredictable (wide width of grey forecast area above).

As a side note, our e-commerce transactions look like they are increasing again too.

We remain cautiously optimistic, and are working on a host of things to keep our traffic more consistent, but also know there are some sectors who are taking a big knock in organic traffic right now.

A lot of businesses are having to find totally new ways of doing things, which means new ways of doing SEO, digital marketing in general, and hopefully finding ways to start thinking outside the box. Organic traffic can be one of the most important kinds of traffic to most businesses, so let’s hope we see some improvements, in this new normal.

What are you seeing, and how are you responding? We’d love to hear, let’s chat, compare data, brainstorm or be sounding boards for each other.

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