Search Traffic Loss
It’s one of the most common concerns: why is my website losing traffic? You may have fully optimized pages across your entire website, but for some reason, people just aren’t visiting as regularly.
Don’t panic. This guide will help walk you through how to diagnose the problem, what may have caused it, and how to go about fixing it.
Analyze the drop
First of all, take a look at the drop. How big of a drop is it? Is it a short dip, or a long decline? The shape of the drop can clue you in to what lead to it. Some things to think about:
- Could this be a seasonal lull or the sign of a greater decline?
- Was your website updated in that time?
- Were there any major power failures, network downtimes, or server issues in that time?
In this example, this website’s traffic had dipped slightly in May, spiked around July, before tapering off in September. This might indicate that their traffic was simply higher the previous year. This graph indicates a more long term loss of traffic.
Isolate your traffic sources
Open up Google Analytics, and click on ACQUISITION > All Traffic > Channels. This will split up all your traffic by channel. There are 6 distinct buckets of traffic.
- Organic – Users who find your website through a search engine, typically Google but also Yahoo, Bing and others.
- Direct – Users that type in your URL into the search bar, or click on a bookmark that sends them directly to the website.
- Paid – Users who click on social media ads (display or text) or Google Adwords.
- Referral – Users that click on links created by partner websites.
- Social – Users that click on a post on a social media platform, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google Plus, and more.
This chart shows how one website gains a majority of its traffic through organic search. We can deduce that if this website took a significant hit in traffic, it’s likely due to organic search reasons, maybe an algorithm update or a server issue.
But since organic search traffic is usually the biggest channel as well as the most often to experience volatility.
Organic Search Traffic Drop Causes
User Behavior and Search Trends
Web traffic is almost never constant. It may rise and fall depending on the season, trending conversations, and other economic trends.
For example, an online retailer may see a surge in traffic towards the holiday season, and a lull or plateau in the summer. This isn’t indicative of a decreasing audience, but just a cyclical trend. Try checking out Google Trends to learn more about what people are searching for.
Hosting and Server Status
In some cases, your website may not even be online, or your hosting server may be down. Instead of using your own computer, use Down For Everyone Or Just Me, which, exactly as it sounds, checks whether your website downtime is a local or network-wide issue.
There’s also a chance your web traffic decrease isn’t accurately representing the actual data. This could be due to the way your tracking code is set up. Opening up Real-Time reports for your website will indicate that your traffic data is being collected.
Check out Google Tag Assistant, a free Chrome extension that troubleshoots the status of any Analytics tags. These errors and warnings can help identify any faulty code or tags. Check out this support page for web-tracking-code setup for additional information.
Ensure you set the correct preferences for Google Search Console as well, especially the URL parameters. Traffic loss could be a result of your preferences for Google to distinguish between certain parameters, for example, crawling duplicate content, or a non-preferred version of the page.
Web Accessibility and Crawlability
A change of domain or an HTTPS migration (or similar website structure update) can result in Google crawling old or outdated pages. Your web pages may even be redirected, and Google may only be tracking one website. Use Robots.txt to test whether Google’s crawlers are able to find your webpages.
Your website may also have a lot of scripts running and load too slowly, forcing people to leave before they have even loaded your website. Check GTMetrix for a performance analysis and some actionable steps you can take to optimize the speed.
Make sure that you (or someone on the team) did not accidentally make a page non-index, either by including a noindex robots tag, or misusing a canonical tag. This would affect the way robots list a webpage on a search engine.
Google constantly updates its algorithm for crawling and ranking websites based on thousands of signals, but it doesn’t make any announcements when it does. Moz has a page that compiles all the latest algorithm changes, including quotes and facts from various search marketing specialists (as well as people in Google) that hint at what the update could have affected. Check our post on other great websites to track algorithm updates.
In some SEO tools for domain and ranking analysis, there are icons that show when their tool detected unusual traffic or rankings, and suggests evidence of an algorithm update.
Change in SERP Rankings
Finally, your traffic drop could be a result of a change in your overall ranking. If your website witnesses a decrease in ranking it could be due to a number of reasons, including:
- Disavowing multiple high quality backlinks
- Being overtaken by a competitor
- Too many web performance issues
You could also have been blacklisted if your website is hit with a security concern or is caught using black-hat SEO techniques such as PBNs or link farms.
Solving for your traffic drop
Ultimately, your loss in traffic can be for any number of reasons, and the most important thing to do is to take a moment, look at the conditions that lead to the drop, and then narrow it down to a handful of possibilities. Then one by one you can begin to test to see if your theories are correct, by using a combination of tools available online and your Google Analytics experience.
None of this is too complex for one person to walk through, but if your business derives most of its revenue and business from its online traffic, you may want to consider hiring a professional search marketing agency to take this stress off of you.
For more information on SEO, SEM, Content Writing, and other digital marketing related topics, visit Arcalea’s blog today.