If you notice a sudden decline in traffic to your website, there are many factors that could be the cause. Understanding what they are and what you can do to restore traffic – or even improve it – is key to putting your website back on track.
Monitoring website traffic is a key analytic. It shows that people are finding your site and, when used in connection with other website traffic statistics, you will be able to determine who is accessing your site, for how long, popular content and so on.
But a sudden drop in website traffic is indicative that something has changed. But what? And how is it rectified?
1. Search engine algorithm update
Google, the biggest search engine, releases multiple updates to its algorithm throughout the year, as do other search engines. When there is a major update, it can hit websites hard. All the keywords and other SEO factors you’ve been relying on to keep your website on page 1, could suddenly disappear.
Sorting the issue
Google doesn’t release exact details on its algorithms, and neither does it release concrete details on any major changes and rollouts it makes. In other words, there is a certain amount of “guesstimation” when it comes to what the changes are.
Google, and other search engines, will confirm some changes, however. There may be some SEO and ranking factors that can be easily fixed, but there are others that are the long SEO game from updating content to working differently with keywords.
2. Major changes to your website
A re-design or major revamp of your website may affect your website traffic literally overnight. A significant cull of content or pages, for example, may affect the crawl ability of your site, a common reason why website traffic may be suddenly affected.
Fixing the problem
In the Google Search Console, go to Crawl – Crawl Errors. Take a look at the graphs, you’ll be able to identify abrupt changes. This console will also list the broken links, which in time, you’ll be able to fix.
You’ll need an additional tool such as Website Auditor. It’ll take a few minutes to search your site and provide the information that you need. You’ll need to remove broken links, as well as checking what is being indexed on your site.
3. Manual search engine penalty
It is possible to incur the wrath of Google bots and their manual reviewers. Being hacked can be one cause of concern and Google has a comprehensive guide to clawing back into their good books. There are other penalties that may be incurred, and they are slightly easier to sort through.
How to deal with penalties
- User-generated spam – with some kind of barrier, such as Captcha, it is difficult for users to generate content that is spammy. Getting rid of this content and placing a barrier to prevent this from happening will help.
- Unnatural outgoing links and sneaky links – a huge number of paid-for links and other sneaky links can come tumbling down around your ears, earning you manual penalty points. Get rid of paid-for links.
- Thin or duplicated content – pages with small amounts of text, e.g. 200 words with 60 outbound links, won’t be suggesting the quality that you want.
There are other issues that can lead to manual penalties from Google, and in some cases, other search engines too. Understanding current algorithms and keeping your website is the best shape possible should see you avoid penalties.
4. The tracking code
It could be that the sudden and unexplained drop in website traffic is actually due to poor data. One reason behind this is your site’s tracking code.
The site tracking code – such as Google Analytics code – is a code unique to your site and is the key identifier that pulls together a range of data.
Solving the tracking code issue
Take a look at your Google console and check that the code is working as you want it to. It is a relatively simple issue to sort. The code can be interrupted by changes in pages and content, amongst other things.
5. Keyword cannibalisation
As your website grows, there will be lots of new content going on there, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. Whilst building content and pages are great – and useful in the first instance – allowing content to build unfettered and unmonitored can lead to a problem with organic search results.
Keyword cannibalisation is when keywords across a high number of pages cause them to compete with one another.
How to solve it
Monitoring your website and how it appears in search engines is key. You can find out if pages are competing and suffering from keyword cannibalisation by using a platform such as BigMetrics. You can sign up for a free trial or opt for the paid platform if you feel you need the input of the platform to deal with a larger problem.
6. Competitors and SERPs changes
Within the field of SEO, SERPs matter. If the traffic to your site has been dropping for some time and then takes a sudden nosedive, it could be that there have been changes in keywords, resulting in a drop in traffic.
It could be that your competitors have got wise to your keywords, the ones you have been ranking high for, and staged a successful PPC campaign.
Fixing the issue
You’ll need to do some reverse engineering to claw back the advantage you had over your competitors. This means a quick keyword analysis as well as keeping an eye on what you have been ranking. Using a platform such as RankTracker can help.
Maintain your website’s ranking position
You have worked hard to bring your website up to its current position and so you’ll be keen to maintain it. A sudden drop in website traffic can be startling, almost frightening, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot recoup your position or even improve it. You must identify the cause quickly, however, and make moves to rectify it.
by Joe Dawson