Why has traffic to your website suddenly decreased?

website-traffic-dropsIf you monitor the traffic on your website, and if you don’t you should, there are going to be times when traffic numbers change.  Changes are normal and are not always a cause for concern. However,  a large sudden drop is always worth checking out.   The important thing is not to panic.   By looking at your analytical data and taking the time to do a little detective work you can put your website back on track.

Here are my 6 top tips for getting you started on the road to recovery

1. Is it Working?

It’s amazing how many times a simple change of template can wipe out that important snippet of code that tracks your site traffic.   Check the source of your web pages for the analytic code.   Don’t forget to check the ID.  If you manage multiple sites cutting and pasting the wrong ID is a possibility.   Make sure you check multiple pages, not just your homepage, particularly if you have different layout styles.   It could be that only part of your website has the important code.

2.   Have you changed anything?

A re-brand can change web addresses URLs or make unforeseen changes to your content.

  • Have you moved or even removed important content from your website?
  • Have you set up redirects for key landing pages?

Look at the pages that were receiving traffic in the past and make sure they still exist in your current website.   If they are now in a different place set up redirects to point at their new home.   Be sure your content still reflects the goals you set up before any changes.  When concentrating on design, it is sometimes easy to lose track of the content and previous efforts you have made to target keywords.

3.   Have you been hit by a Google update?

Changes in the Google’s algorithm, often called ‘Penguin’ or ‘Panda’ updates, can affect your ranking on Google, and seriously damage your visitor numbers.  The Moz website has a great page that explain the key features of some of these changes.  http://moz.com/google-algorithm-change   Check out the dates of any changes and match them with drops in traffic. The Panguin tool developed by Barracuda Digital can also let you compare analytical data with the different updates.  http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/

Each update has key features, unfortunately Google does not explain them all, but one of the most recent updates penalised websites with too many ads before their content.   You can read a blog post that explains the reasons for this. http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-improvement.html   Keeping abreast of changes before they hit is a good way to prevent problems in the future.

4.  Has the quality of your content dropped?

Be honest.  A drop in activity in social media or not as many blog posts published can mean you are not feeding traffic to you site.  Go back into your website stats  and see where your previous spikes  traffic are.  Were you publishing more content during those times?    See who the deferring sites are.   Lower activity on social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook can be key.   Compare the previous high traffic spikes to your recent drops, you should be able to see where the gaps are.  It is easy to get involved in your business and lose track of what you need to do to drive traffic to your website.

5.  Have you been hit by a penalty from Google?

As Google becomes more aggressive, in penalising people it feels are trying to cheat the system, this is happening to more websites.   Google Webmaster tools will allow you to check for any warning messages.  https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools  

Also read the Search Engine Watch guide on recovering from a Google penalty:

6.  Has your competition got better at what they do?

Do some keyword searches and check you are not dropping in ranking.   It is easy to get complacent if you are ahead of the game.  Unfortunately, be sure your competition will be watching what you do.  Make sure they have not caught up or surpassed you.

The most important factor is to know the behaviour of visitors of your website.  Monitoring the traffic on a regular basis  catch changes before they impact your business.  It takes regular activity and vigilance to keep on top of your game.