For any online business, website traffic is important; the more visitors you have the more opportunities you have to sell your product or service. When a sudden drop in search engine traffic happens it could mean disaster for any business.
An instant drop in traffic could be because of a technical issue, a recent website change, or the dreaded Google Algorithm update. There can be many possible reasons why traffic to your website has been declining over a longer period of time.
Below we give some advice about the most obvious things to look for when trying to determine the cause of search traffic dropping.
1. The Tracking Code
Not always the most obvious place to start, but checking this first could save you a lot of time and energy. If your traffic volume has dropped from Google organic search, check your website pages have the Google tracking code in them. Google can’t count traffic numbers if that code is missing.
2. Server Overload
Web servers can easily become overloaded, make checking server timeouts a priority. Your website may not be able to keep up with demand from people visiting the site; optimise your website and be ready for high traffic spikes to avoid downtime.
3. Trends Over Time
Many businesses have seasonal trends, having historical data for your company or your industry can quickly identify if this is a normal drop. Establish a baseline then you will be able to assess if there are unusual changes, isolate the issue with cause and effect analysis.
Google Trends can show you if there is a decline in search traffic for your keywords.
Check Google Analytics to see if all traffic sources are decreasing or only a specific one.
Monitor Search Engine Results and record what keywords you rank for and if you have dropped for anything in particular, or if a strong competitor is pushing you out of place.
4. Recent Website Changes
What changes were made recently. A change in SEO keyword targeting, or missing title tags can see your website drop in the search engine results. Design changes can often impact load times, which is not seen well by search engines, or people don’t like what they are seeing and leave the site.
If there has been a design change, how well has the website been put together. Does the information make sense and are the links to deeper pages clear. Is there too much content for the sake of publishing blogs or landing pages that add no value to the customers. Check out the websites bounce rate, has it increased at the same time visitor numbers decreased.
6. Simple Technical Issues
There are a number of free tools available to find out the more obvious technical problems with your website. Google Console and Moz are good places to start. Fix the simple issues first such as 404 errors, long page load times, missing or incorrect on-page SEO elements etc. Then move onto deeper issues such as performance optimisation, A/B testing, user experience and heat mapping etc. It is worth paying for a months subscription to Moz to find out any SEO issues that are damaging your website including internal and external linking problems.
You can use Google Search Console to detect any malicious problems, such as whether your site has been hacked, HTML problems, or trends that are impacting website traffic.
7. Meta Information
Meta information is where Google pulls keyword information from, it is the most important place to have your targeted keyword. Check your meta data on all of your website pages to make sure they are not missing. They could have easily been removed when a new design was launch, or someone has made a mistake and removed them. If everything is present and correct, take a look at Google Analytics to see if your traffic decrease is coming from organic or paid search, or social media. If it is from organic, make sure your robots.txt, sitemap.xml, SSL etc are not causing an issue. If paid search is the problem check your AdWords campaign is set up correctly.
8. Global Traffic
Check geographic distribution of your traffic. Most websites have global traffic, and depending on the countries visiting you, if you see a sudden dip from one country, there could be a government level blocking or censorship if they have sophisticated IP detection.
9. Source of Traffic
If your organic traffic declines sharply over night and you have already checked through the list above, the likelihood is an algorithm update has affected you. Have a hunt around on the internet to find out what has happened, MOZ is a good source of information about Google Algorithm changes. Once you know what you are dealing with you can make the appropriate changes. The two most popular Algorithms are Panda and Penguin.
- Panda examines content quality and penalises sites with low quality content.
- Penguin analyses link quality and penalises sites with unnatural links.
If it is your paid adverts that have dropped, then your adverts are no longer effective and need to be changed.
10. Domain, DNS or NS Structure
Contact your hosting company and find out if there are any changes to the domain, DNS (domain name server) or NS (Name Server) structure that may have caused a drop in traffic.