Investigating, Identifying & Diagnosing Traffic Drops

You’d be hard-pressed to find a website owner it hasn’t happened to – logging on to Google Analytics to see a surprising, and stark, drop in traffic.

If this has just happened to you, the first to remember is don’t be alarmed. It’s important to remain composed, and use the tools you have at your disposal to identify, investigate and diagnose your traffic drop.

Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are your best buddies at this point and will help you quickly and effectively get your website back on the straight and narrow.

Investigate: Study The Drop

You should spend a little time investigating the drop. It’s easy to panic and lose your head when faced with the sharp reality of the data in front of you, especially when it looks like this:

sudden traffic drop

But really ask yourself, ‘what is the data telling me?’

  • Is the drop off a complete dive off a cliff, or is it a progressive and steady decline?
  • How long did you experience the dip for?
  • Is the traffic regaining traction?

Taking this time to understand what the information is trying to tell you can help you to complete the remaining steps and get things back to where you want them to be.

For example, if your site traffic drops like a lead balloon, you could be suffering from a Google penalty or tracking problems in Analytics.

But, if the dip lasts for a brief period, and is now recovering, the site could be suffering from server or connectivity issues, which could look like this:

Image result for steady traffic drop and recovery google analytics

Identify (i): Traffic Sources

an image of the main sources of traffic in analytics

When traffic begins to sink, it’s tempting to stare blankly at the numbers trying in vain to figure out what it all means.

But this isn’t enough.

You must identify precisely where your ship is sinking. By digging into the five main traffic sources, there’s a good chance you’ll find your culprit.

Direct – Visitors that come to your website by either typing the URL into a search bar or through a saved bookmark.

Organic – Visitors who arrive via a search engine. Google is usually the most popular and used by about 90% of mobile searchers.

Paid – Visitors landing on your site due to your PPC work through Google AdWords.

Referral – Visitors are coming through your referral network. This consists of other sites who are linking to pages on your website.

Social – Visitors who are dropping on to your website through social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Once you’re able to figure out where the leak is coming from, you can begin to plug it. For example, if social traffic is dropping, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your advertisements, particularly if they’re no longer speaking to your audience in the way that they used to.

But, if your organic traffic has taken a hit, then maybe a competitor has begun to up their game and has started to gain traction with a number of your core keywords, and their website is now the go-to website in the sector.

Identify (ii): Old Friends or Newcomers?

new vs returning visitors

As a website owner, it’s now more critical than ever to understand who your friends are.

And scenarios like this are just of many reasons why it’s important because you can also identify traffic loss by user type.

For example, if you’re seeing a drop in new visitors, it could be that your site isn’t ranking for the things it used to. This could mean some new keyword research is in order, or a thorough analysis of your sites user experience.

On the other hand, if some of those old friends of yours have stopped visiting, then it could mean that you need to reevaluate your design, CRO and UX. Or perhaps the site is slow and leaving your visitors bereft by the poor experience.

Diagnose (i): Take a Holistic View

an image of an example of year in review google analytics

It’s imperative to step back when diagnosing traffic drops, this way you can begin to understand and diagnose why something may have contributed to the downswing.

Assess the 12-months’ worth of data, where possible, are you seeing a similar, seasonal dip?

Assess the days, weeks and months of your chosen period and put them side-by-side using the Google Analytics calendar.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the same?
  • What’s different?
  • Is there a trend?
  • Is this purely a seasonal dip?
  • Has the behaviour of the user changed?

Diagnose (ii): Webmaster Tools

an image of increasing crawl errors on webmaster tools

The amalgamation of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools can make your diagnoses much faster and much more effective than it ever could be by using one tool by itself.

Google Webmaster Tools is able to alert you to any harmful activities or errors on your site, which alone may be enough to diagnose the problem without even needing to complete the other steps.

Checking your Crawl Errors and HTML errors is always a good place to check on a regular basis. These reports will show you how many mistakes a typical customer could face when they land on your website, thereby devaluing their experience.

This may impact the rate of new users since your site may be deemed as unreliable and it could even be enough to send ever loyal visitors into the arms of your competitors.

Diagnose (iii): Keyword Rankings

It’s crucial to monitor keyword rankings via programs like SEMRush or Moz, this way if you see a slide in traffic you can confidently diagnose and correlate any user dips to ranking decreases.

Surviving Traffic Drops 

Traffic drops, when left to manifest, with no process in place to investigate, identify and ultimately diagnose, can have disastrous effects on your business.

Admitting that you have a problem, is the first step to towards resolution after all.

In this blog, we’ve given you the steps and tools you need to complete your own thorough holistic audit.

However, sometimes you may need the help of a professional. At POD are marketing strategy has always been one that relies on understanding how different pieces combine to create the overall picture.So, if you need help with dropping traffic or any other marketing service, then why not give us a call on 01455 560 098 or drop us an email using our contact form.