At some point in time all marketers will experience a drop in website traffic. Do not panic! It may seem like Google Analytics is giving you bad news, but everything will be fine. Google Analytics is the best tool to help you figure out what has happened. You can use this tool along with Google Webmaster Tools to diagnose the cause of your traffic drop.
Look at the Traffic Drop
Look at the drop, think critically, ask yourself a few important questions like:
- Is the drop a sudden and sharp decline or slow and steady?
- Did traffic only dip for a few days or longer?
- Is it beginning to recover?
Looking carefully at your Analytics graph goes a long way in identifying what is happening. A sudden sharp drop that is not recovering may be a sign of a Google penalty. A penalty is typically initiated from the Google spam team or as an algorithmic penalty. This requires action on your part right away. If however, the drop only lasted a few days and is recovering, there may have just been connectivity issues.
Identify your Traffic Sources
Next, you need to look at your sources. When analysing a traffic dive, you need to look at more than just numbers. You need to look into where you are losing the traffic. The five main sources of traffic are:
Direct: when visitors land at your site by directly typing the URL or clocking a bookmark they have saved for your site
Organic: Visitors that arrive via search engine. Google is the most popular engine used, monopolizing almost 90% of search users.
Paid: Visitors that land at your site through paid advertisements and banner ads
Referral: Traffic you get through your referral network, which consists of partners who link to your site.
Social: Traffic that arrives through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
You can start to troubleshoot, once you determine which traffic types have dropped. If most of your traffic was Direct and it has now dropped, there may be a change in your usual client landscape. It is possible that a competitor just launched a highly publicized campaign. Your usual visitors may be heading to their site as a result.
If, however, your traffic was mostly Organic and has now dropped, you may have been issued a Google penalty.These penalties can be very damaging to your site and traffic. They are easy to identify by sudden, sharp drops. Check Google Webmaster Tools to find out if you were given a penalty, and take the necessary steps to correct this.
New Users vs. Returning Users
You need to know who your users are as well as where they are coming from. You can identify reasons for a drop if you can isolate which type of user has declined.
If new users have taken a hit there may be issues with how they are searching for your site. Maybe the site appears differently on Google. You may have to do keyword research to correct this or you may have been issued a penalty.
If returning user numbers have declined, there is likely an issue with the site structure and ease of use. One possibility is that the site is reporting multiple “404 Not Found “ errors. Another is that the loading speed is too slow. Users may be leaving because of a poor experience.
Look at the bigger picture when analyzing traffic drops. Look at the past six months to a year of data to see if anything similar occurred during the past. Compare time periods using the compare tool in the calendar. This lets you look at previous weeks and months to evaluate if there is any similarity or seasonality. You can identify notable trends and behavior more easily this way. Sometimes seasons change visiting patterns but you will see this drop at the same time each year.
Don’t forget about the Search Console. When you combine this tool with Google Analytics you can help your site. The Google Search Console will alert you to harmful activity and site malfunctions. Just check the message tab when alerted.
You also want to regularly check your Crawl Error and HTML errors. These reports keep track of the internal errors on your website. If there are a large number being reported then your user experience may be impacted in a negative way. New users can be deterred and faithful visitors may look elsewhere too. Nobody wants to use a faulty site.
Make sure you also keep an eye on your top-performing keywords. You can check these using the Search Analytics tab within your Search Console account. If any keywords have dropped in ranking, this could cause a drop in traffic and needs to be fixed.
The Right Tools Will Get You Through
A drop in traffic is no fun, and can be very damaging to your business. With the right tools that we have discussed and a systematic approach, you can overcome these drops. You can identify the reasons and take action. Any traffic dip can be survived. So, when one approaches, reach into your survival kit of Analytics tools and bring your website back to life.