Identifying the Root Causes of Website Traffic Drops
Have you noticed a sudden drop in your website traffic? Whether you’re a CEO, CMO, or another marketer, it can be extremely frustrating to see organic traffic decline and watch your search rankings plummet to the ground.
Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. In this checklist, I’ll discuss some tips and tricks to help revive your rankings and get your website back on track.
From analyzing the root cause of the issue to conducting a backlink audit, I’ll cover everything that can potentially affect your website’s traffic. For example, we’ll review how mobile-friendliness and social media presence are critical factors in modern-day SEO strategies.
So grab a cup of coffee or a diet soda pop, and let’s dive into the world of plummeting web traffic!
When a sudden drop in website traffic levels occurs, it can be a cause for concern. First, though, you obviously have to know it’s happening.
Typically, most CMOs and business owners first notice a drop in lead flow (inquires from the website) before they ever know about a traffic decline. This is Google’s warning shot that something is amiss.
There are various ways to check for traffic drops, but typically most SEOs use Google Search Console first. Another very nice-but-expensive tool is Cora, which looks at the actual search engine result pages and does multiple searches to see how your site may appear higher or lower per search result.
This graph from Google Search Central is a nice way to get some quick heuristics as to what might be going on:
Here are a few examples of each major issue:
- Technical glitches: Mistakes that block Google from crawling, indexing, or displaying your pages to searchers. For example, site downtime, robots.txt problems, 404 errors, etc. Note that the issues could affect the whole site (like your website being unavailable) or individual pages (like a misplaced noindex tag, which relies on crawling so traffic would drop slowly).
- Security risks: If your site has a security issue, Google may warn searchers before they visit with warnings or interstitial pages, lowering Search traffic.
- Manual punishments: If your site doesn’t follow Google’s rules, some or all pages could be removed from search results through a Manual Action.
- Algorithm updates: Google is always improving how it evaluates content and updating the algorithm; core updates and smaller changes may impact how some pages rank. To stay updated on future updates, subscribe to the Google Search News YouTube series or follow on Twitter.
- Disrupted search demand: Sometimes user behavior changes will alter demand for certain queries, either due to a new trend, or seasonal fluctuations throughout the year. So your traffic may drop simply because of external factors.
Disrupted search demand is the most hair-pulling because it can be extremely challenging to assess what actually caused the disrupted demand.
One of my favorite new tools is something called seotesting.com. The nice thing about this tool is that you can see problems start to happen earlier than you otherwise would because it shows you the “clicks change” day to day. If one day your clicks are 248 and the next day it’s 203, you can see a trend possibly beginning to develop.
Understanding the reasons behind the drop and taking appropriate measures to address them is essential. Conducting a thorough analysis of your website and identifying potential issues, such as technical issues or changes in search engine algorithms, can help you identify the root cause of the problem.
Once you have identified the issue, taking steps to fix technical issues on your website, re-evaluating your content strategy, and conducting a backlink audit are some effective ways to revive your website’s traffic.
When it comes to your website’s technical performance, even the smallest issue can cause a significant drop in traffic. Conducting regular website audits can help identify and resolve issues before they become a problem.
2. Check for Technical Issues
Look out for common technical problems like broken links, slow page loading times, and mobile responsiveness. These are the most “enjoyable” to find, because there’s usually a clear path to a fix.
Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that your website is secure and free from malware or hacking attempts.
Honestly, every time I look in Google Search Console, NOTHING IS WRONG, but your mileage may vary, so you should still check there.
Broken links are so common and obviously bad that I finally took the time to do a little research, and found a nice tool by WPMU, “Link Checker”. Even the Local [old] version does a great job. It kind of blows me away that none of my other auditing tools (Ahrefs or Semrush in particular) seem to give a darn about broken links. Or what about broken images? Et tu, Ahrefs?
Regularly monitoring your website traffic with the help of a tracking code can also help you catch any sudden drops early on and take immediate action.
Regular website maintenance is paramount to prevent technical issues that can cause a sudden drop in traffic. Broken links, slow loading speed, and server errors are some of the most common technical issues faced by websites.
2.1 Website Maintenance
Regularly updating your website’s software and plugins can help prevent these issues. Performing regular backups can also help you quickly restore your website in case of any technical issues. It’s important to regularly monitor your website’s analytics to catch any sudden drops in traffic caused by technical issues early on.
When your website traffic suddenly drops, server issues may be the culprit. Slow loading times, downtime, and error messages such as “500” or “404” can all negatively impact your search engine rankings. In some cases, issues with ads or redirects can also be a reason for traffic drops.
2.2 Server Issues
Consider optimizing your website’s code or upgrading your hosting plan to fix these issues. It’s also a good idea to regularly monitor your website’s server performance to catch any potential problems early on.
By prioritizing server maintenance and optimization, you can help prevent sudden drops in traffic and keep your search engine rankings strong.
Slow site speed can be a contributing factor to sudden drops in website traffic. A delay of even a few seconds can lead to frustrated visitors who are more likely to bounce from your site and seek out faster-loading alternatives. OTOH, with a sudden traffic drop, the likelihood is that, if speed is your problem, your site may be abysmally slow.
2.3 Site Speed
You’ve already checked this, though, right? I’m always blown away that most business owners never even look at their own website.
Try it; you’ll (hopefully) like it.
In addition to negatively impacting user experience, slow site speed can also affect search engine rankings, making optimizing your site’s speed crucial.
Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix to identify areas for improvement, such as large image files or excessive plugins, and consider optimizing your code or upgrading your hosting plan to improve performance.
By prioritizing site speed, you can improve both user experience and search engine visibility.
Honestly, however, I’ve spent a TON of time speeding up websites from modestly failing (say 60s and 70s) Google PageSpeed Insights to getting to the 90s consistently on mobile. It’s never earned me a nickel’s worth of additional traffic.
My point here is that if a ranking drop problem relates to speed, you won’t need tools to see it.
By far, the single most common problem when your search traffic plummets is that your website has been set to noindex.
2.4 Failure to Pay the Web Designer (Indexing)
In my experience, someone either didn’t pay the web designer or they paid so little they got someone who screwed up their traffic by leaving their site set to noindex, which tells Google “Nothing to see here. Move along.”
If this happens to you, count your lucky stars since it’s a 15-second fix, and once you resubmit your site to Google Search Console, Google should pick up quickly that you’re back in business.
After checking for technical issues, it’s time to analyze your website traffic to identify the root cause of sudden drops.
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3. Analyze Your Website Traffic
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you track and analyze your website traffic. By monitoring keywords, referral traffic, and user behavior on your website, you can pinpoint areas of improvement and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. In some cases, ads or redirects might be affecting your traffic.
Keep an eye on search engine algorithms and consider reaching out to an SEO expert for additional support and guidance.
A thorough website traffic analysis can help you revive your rankings and get back on track toward success.
Regularly tracking your website traffic with Google Analytics is critical to identifying patterns and avoiding sudden drops.The tool enables you to gain insights into your website’s performance, such as which pages are experiencing a decrease or even a loss in traffic, based on detailed reports and visitor numbers. This information can be crucial for search engine optimization and allows you to make data-driven decisions about how to enhance your website’s content, design, and marketing strategies. By regularly monitoring your website traffic through Google Analytics, you’ll be able to prevent sudden drops and ensure long-term success for your site.
3.1 Google Analytics Report
In today’s digital age, monitoring your website’s keywords is more critical than ever. With search engines continually evolving and adapting their algorithms, staying on top of keyword trends and changes is essential. Using keyword research tools, you can track which keywords are driving traffic to your site and which may need improvement. It’s also essential to keep track of any fluctuations in search volume or competition levels for your target keywords. Remember to include keyword-relevant numbers and data in your post for added value.
3.2 Monitor Keywords
Regularly monitoring your website’s keywords can help ensure that you’re staying competitive in search results and prevent sudden drops in traffic. So, keep a close eye on your site’s keywords to maintain and improve its online visibility.
Referral traffic refers to visitors who come to your website from another site, making it a crucial factor in increasing traffic and maintaining long-term success. However, sudden drops or changes in referral traffic can be indicative of issues such as broken backlinks, removal of links, or low-quality links. Regularly monitoring your referral traffic is necessary to prevent these issues from causing significant drops in website traffic.
3.3 Check Referral Traffic
To check referral traffic effectively, analyze your referral traffic sources using tools like Google Analytics and identify which websites are directing the most traffic to your site. If you notice a sudden drop in referral traffic from a particular source, reach out to the website owner to fix any issues that may have caused it. Regularly monitoring and managing your referral traffic ensures that your website remains visible and attracts visitors.
Staying current with search engine algorithm changes is crucial to maintaining website traffic and rankings. Review your website’s content and make necessary updates to improve its relevance and quality.
4. Check for Google Algorithm Updates
Consider adjusting your SEO strategy and keywords to align with current trends and user intent. Utilize social media and other marketing channels to drive traffic to your website while you work on fixing any issues.
By keeping up-to-date with algorithm updates, you can ensure that your website remains competitive in search results and continues to attract visitors.
Identifying the issue behind your website traffic dropping is the first step toward resolving the problem.
4.1 Identify the Issue
Algorithm updates can significantly impact website rankings, and identifying whether an update has affected your site is crucial. Check your search console for any messages or notifications about algorithm updates, and analyze your website’s content, keywords, and backlinks to ensure they align with current search engine algorithms.
If you’re unsure how to identify or fix the issue, consider seeking help from an SEO expert specializing in search engine optimization.Once you’ve identified the problem, take steps to fix it promptly to revive your website’s traffic. Utilize the resources and features included in various tools to ensure your website’s success.
Identifying the issue that caused the sudden drop in website traffic is essential to remedy the problem. Enlisting the assistance of a reputable company specializing in website optimization can provide valuable insights and resources for solving these issues.
4.2 Try and Fix the Issue
Begin by checking for any recent algorithm updates from search engines like Google or Bing. Sorry I hadn’t mentioned Bing before.
In any case, if an algorithm update is the culprit, analyze your website’s content, keywords, and backlinks to see if they align with current search engine algorithms.
If you’re unsure how to identify or fix the issue, consider seeking help from an SEO expert within a reputable company. Once you’ve identified the specific issue, such as broken links or duplicate content, address it by fixing broken links, removing duplicate content, or improving site speed. Keep monitoring your website’s performance and make necessary adjustments to maintain or improve your ranking.
A sudden drop in website traffic can be frustrating and bewildering.
5. Conduct a Backlink Audit
One possible cause for the decline could be so-called “toxic” or low-quality backlinks that hurt your site’s ranking. Think about it: if Google decides, “That link that was driving all that SEO love to your website? Yeah, we don’t think it’s a thing anymore, so we’re not going to boost your rankings because of it.”
While it may not be “toxic”, it’s simply not going to help your rankings anymore, which can feel like a “penalty”. Conducting a thorough backlink audit analysis can help you identify any such links.
Some nice tools to use are Majestic and on-page.ai, which include topical backlink analysis to show if the backlinks you receive are topically relevant to your website’s raison d’être.
You know, what your business does.
Maintaining a healthy backlink profile is crucial for your website’s ranking and traffic growth. However, unnatural or low-quality backlinks can harm your website’s performance and lead to a sudden drop in traffic. This is where conducting a backlink audit comes into play.
5.1 Unnatural or Low-Quality Links
By identifying and disavowing toxic or irrelevant links, you may be able improve your website’s overall link profile and boost its ranking.
Google Search Console allows you to “disavow” certain links so that they don’t “count against you”.
5.2 Disavow Bad Links
Personally, I believe that links never count against you; they simply count, or they don’t count.
Bad links can come from low-quality or spammy sites, or those that use manipulative tactics such as link exchanges or paid links. Disavowing these links tells search engines not to consider certain links when ranking your site. This may help prevent a drop in website traffic and improve overall search engine rankings.
Or it may not.
In any event, removing bad links will help clean up your backlink profile (your tools will show more green) and may make your boss or client happy!
However, disavowing is only one part of maintaining a healthy link profile; continued monitoring and maintenance are important.
6. Quality of Content
Creating quality content is essential to maintain website traffic. By focusing on the unique features and valuable resources offered by your company, you can create content that interests and engages your audience.
Creating quality content is essential to maintain website traffic. A thorough website audit can help identify any technical issues that may affect your website’s performance.
Additionally, keeping up with the latest algorithm updates and removing low-quality or spammy backlinks helps improve overall search engine rankings.
However, high-quality, relevant, unique content remains the cornerstone of successful websites. Providing valuable content that engages visitors keeps them coming back for more. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, well-optimized for user experience, and continue to monitor website traffic to adjust strategies accordingly.
6.1 Relevant and Unique Content
Creating relevant and unique content is crucial to maintain consistent website traffic. Providing valuable information to the audience helps establish your website as a reliable source of information, which in turn increases user engagement.
Regularly updating the website with fresh, engaging content keeps visitors coming back for more. It is essential to use tools like Google Analytics to track the performance of your content and make necessary improvements.
Avoiding duplicate content is also vital, as it can harm your search engine rankings. Remember to keep updating the content frequently to keep it relevant and informative for your audience.
6.2 Check for Duplicate Content Issues
One of the reasons for a sudden drop in website traffic could be due to duplicate content issues. Duplicate content refers to content that appears on multiple web pages or domains. This can negatively impact your search engine rankings, leading to a dip in traffic.
To avoid this issue, it’s essential to regularly check for duplicate content using tools like Copyscape or Siteliner. If you find any instances of duplicate content, make sure to use canonical tags to indicate the original source of the content and remove the replicated content from your website.
Always focus on creating unique and valuable content to improve your ranking and attract more visitors.
7. On-Page Optimization Analysis
Regularly analyzing your website’s on-page optimization is crucial to maintain and improving your website’s ranking. On-page optimization refers to the factors that affect your website’s visibility in search engine results pages, such as content quality, page speed, mobile-friendliness, meta tags, headings, and image optimization.
Conducting a thorough analysis of these factors will help you identify any issues and take the necessary steps to fix them. Make sure your website’s structure is user-friendly and easy to navigate to provide a better user experience. Additionally, optimizing your website for relevant keywords while avoiding keyword stuffing will increase your website’s visibility in search engine results pages.
7.1 Meta Tags
Meta tags are a crucial part of your website’s on-page optimization and play a significant role in determining the ranking of your website. These tags provide information about your website to search engines and users, including the title, description, and keywords. The accuracy and relevance of these meta tags can significantly impact how search engines index your site. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your meta tags accurately reflect your website’s content while incorporating relevant keywords.
However, avoiding stuffing too many keywords into your meta tags is crucial, as this can result in penalties from search engines.
Regularly monitoring and updating your meta tags can help you stay on top of changes in search engine algorithms and improve the visibility of your website in search engine results pages (SERPs). Make sure to optimize your meta tags by following best practices and keep them updated for better visibility of your website.
7.2 Heading Tags
Proper use of heading tags is essential for improving your website’s SEO. These tags not only signal to search engines what the main topics of a page are, but they also help with page organization and readability. You should aim to include one H1 tag per page that accurately reflects the topic and include relevant keywords in your heading tags, but avoid keyword stuffing.
Use subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) to break up content into sections and make scanning easier for readers. When used correctly, heading tags can significantly improve user experience and increase the chances of your page ranking higher in search results.
7.3 Image Optimization
Optimizing images on your website is essential to improving the user experience and search engine ranking. Images that are not optimized can result in slow page load times, which can lead to increased bounce rates. Image optimization includes compressing images while still maintaining high quality, adding descriptive alt text with relevant keywords, and using appropriate file names that reflect the content of the image.
Optimizing images can improve website speed and user experience, which can positively impact your search engine rankings. It’s important to strike a balance between image quality and file size to ensure that your website loads quickly while still providing high-quality visuals for users.
By following these best practices, you can ensure that your website is fully optimized for search engines and delivers a seamless user experience.
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8. Mobile-friendly Website
As mobile devices continue to dominate web browsing, having a mobile-friendly website is more critical than ever. A non-responsive website can significantly impact user experience and cause website traffic to drop suddenly. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize your website for mobile devices.
In addition to improving the overall user experience, a mobile-friendly website will also improve your search engine rankings. Search engines prioritize websites that are optimized for mobile devices, making them more likely to appear at the top of search results pages.
Ensuring your website is responsive should be a top priority for any business looking to attract and retain online customers.
8.1 Importance of Mobile-Friendly Website
Having a mobile-friendly website is no longer just an option but a necessity for businesses that want to succeed in the digital age. With more and more people using their smartphones to browse the internet, having a website that is optimized for mobile devices is critical.
Not only does mobile-friendliness improve user experience, but it also has a significant impact on search engine rankings. Google has made it clear that it prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in its search results, meaning that businesses without one are likely to be left behind.
A mobile-friendly website should have a responsive design, easy navigation, and fast loading speed. It should provide users with a seamless experience regardless of the device they use. Businesses that invest in making their website mobile-friendly can benefit from higher traffic, engagement, and conversions. By prioritizing mobile optimization, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that they are meeting the needs of their increasingly mobile audience.
8.2 Steps to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Making your website mobile-friendly is crucial for improving user experience and ensuring that your site ranks well in search engine results. With the rise of mobile devices, more people are accessing the internet on their smartphones and tablets, making it essential to have a website that is optimized for these devices. There are several steps you can take to make your website mobile-friendly.
Firstly, use responsive design to ensure that your website looks good on all screen sizes. This means that your website will adjust its layout depending on the device it is being viewed on.
Secondly, optimize images for mobile devices by compressing them and reducing their file size. Use WEBP instead of JPG image files for best compression ratios and optimal filesize.
Having tinier filesize images on your website will improve page load times and ensure that images appear correctly on smaller screens.
Finally, simplify navigation by using drop-down menus and minimizing the number of clicks required to access content. By following these steps, you can ensure that your website is accessible and user-friendly, regardless of the device being used to access it.
9. Social Media Presence
Having a strong social media presence is essential for any business looking to improve website traffic. Social media platforms allow businesses to connect with their audience and promote their services or products.
By building a following on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, businesses can drive traffic back to their website and increase brand visibility.
Engaging with your audience is crucial for building trust and credibility. Q&A sessions, blogs, and forums are all great ways to connect with your audience and address any questions or concerns they may have.
Email marketing campaigns can also help drive traffic back to your website and keep your audience up-to-date on the latest news or promotions.
By utilizing social media and other marketing strategies, businesses can build a strong online presence and stand out in today’s competitive market.
9.1 Promote Your Website on Social Media
To increase website traffic, promoting your website across various social media platforms can be incredibly beneficial. Strong social media presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can help attract new visitors to your website.
Sharing engaging content related to your niche or industry encourages sharing and engagement from your followers. Hashtags and relevant keywords make it easier for users to find your content.
Paid social media campaigns can also help reach a wider audience and draw even more traffic to your site.
By leveraging social media channels effectively, you can significantly impact your website’s overall traffic.
9.2 Engage with Your Audience
Engaging with your audience on social media is crucial for driving traffic back to your website. You can build trust and credibility with your followers by responding to comments, messages, and reviews.
Not only does this show that you value their opinions and experiences, but it also encourages them to interact more with your brand. Asking for feedback and suggestions from your audience can help you improve your website’s content and user experience. Sharing behind-the-scenes content and exclusive offers can keep your followers engaged and returning for more.
Creating a community around your brand on social media can lead to increased brand loyalty and ultimately drive traffic to your website.
Decoding the Mystery: Unraveling Sudden Website Traffic Dips
In conclusion, a sudden drop in website traffic can be frustrating but it can often be fixed, and certainly always addressed. It is essential to identify the problem’s root cause and address it promptly.
By checking for technical issues such as website maintenance or server issues, analyzing website traffic, conducting a backlink audit, ensuring quality content and on-page optimization analysis, making your website mobile-friendly, and having a strong social media presence, you can revive your rankings and get back on track.
If you want to know more about how to fix sudden drops in website traffic for your business, reach out to us for a consultation.