You open your Google Analytics panel and you gasp: there is a big drop in your website traffic. What happened? Has Google stopped indexing your website? Did someone try to hack your site? Can your clients and leads even find your website anymore? These questions are natural, but not productive. What you need to do is diagnose website traffic drop causes properly. Only then you will know what you have to do in order to fix the problem.
First Lesson: Traffic Drops Happen All the Time
Looking at the historical data on Google Analytics, you will notice several traffic drops over the year. After a time, you will notice patterns and you can diagnose website traffic drop as “summer holiday drop”, “after Christmas drop”, etc.
This does not mean that you should ignore these issues. However, what we are talking about here is a big overnight drop in website traffic. This is something significant that needs your full attention. Let us help you diagnose website traffic drop causes and suggest ways in which you can solve these issues.
Let’s Start Investigating: What Traffic Source Has Dropped?
The first thing you want to look at is the source of traffic that caused the drop. It is the very first place you should look in to when you diagnose website traffic drop. In many cases, it is a drop in paid traffic, because your budget for AdWords campaigns has run out.
In this case, you should go to your Google Ads account and solve the issue with your ongoing campaigns. With this issue ruled out, there are four other traffic sources to analyse:
- Direct – people typed in your website URL in the address bar of the browser
- Organic – Google searches
- Social media – links on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn
- Referral – links posted on other websites (backlinks).
Depending on which type of traffic is affected, you will get a different diagnose for website traffic drop. Here are the possibilities:
1. Direct Traffic Drop
Your site was unavailable for users who typed in your URL. You should check with your hosting service to see whether there was unplanned maintenance downtime you were not informed of.
If you have a long and complex URL address, some people may make typing errors. This is one of the reasons why you should think very carefully before you buy a domain name. It must be simple, catchy and representative for your business.
2. Social Media Traffic Drop
There are various ways in which you can diagnose website traffic drop from this source. For instance, in Australia there was a ban on news websites on Facebook while the social media network refused to accept a new law that allows content creators to get paid for links shared online.
The issue was solved eventually. This is just an example why social media traffic may drop. More importantly, it is something beyond your control, so you should not stress over this issue.
3. Referral Traffic Drop
If you are getting significantly less traffic from backlinks, one of the following may have happened:
- The backlinks were removed (you can ask the site to put them back, but you cannot control the outcome)
- You made changes to the URL structure and did not perform page redirects correctly
- The website that links back consistently to yours is unreachable by visitors.
In many cases, you will easily diagnose the website traffic drop – you redesigned your website and the old backlinks are now broken. The simplest way of solving this issue, as explained above, is to check that the old links redirect to the new ones correctly. In this way, you will not lose any of your hard earned backlinks.
4. Organic Traffic Drop
If your traffic from organic searches on Google has dropped, there may be something wrong with your website or it could be something completely unrelated to you and your site.
Let’s cover the first issue: problems with your website. You need to check one of the following:
- Manual penalty imposed by Google – you will find it in the Google Search Console
- Recent updates to the content of the pages with the highest organic traffic
- Type of traffic that has dropped – new page visitors or returning visitors.
- Google has deindexed some pages for low quality or duplicate content.
In some cases, you will find the cause of the penalty Google applied. This is very helpful to correctly diagnose website traffic drop and solve the core problem.
In the second category are traffic drops that are not related to the way your website performs. In most cases, it means that Google is performing some tests or algorithm changes. To stay abreast with these changes, you should go to Google Alerts and set an alert in this respect. You can also follow one of the top industry leaders, such as Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, to find out what the Alphabet company is working on.