If you’ve noticed that traffic to your website has suddenly dropped and you do not have an immediate answer as to why, then you need to ask yourself several questions. Web traffic is affected by numerous factors, any of which could cause a sharp decline in visitors coming to your website.
In the digital age, this can be detrimental to business, especially for websites that have an e-commerce page or lead generation forms. A drop in web traffic could mean fewer customers and sales, putting the business under financial pressure.
Often, a drop in traffic can be attributed to some major change; it could be that you’re uploading less content or you’ve shifted away from a particular social media platform. However, sometimes there are no known changes or causal factors. In these instances, you need to determine the cause as soon as possible.
Bear in mind that web traffic ebbs and flows every month, so you need to make sure that a drop in traffic is not part of this natural flux and is, indeed, a serious problem. By looking at your historical timeline of web traffic on any analytics platform, you will be able to clearly see how serious the situation is. If you suspect a problem, then ask yourself the following questions:
Is the analytics tool playing up?
The first thing to ask yourself is whether the analytics tool you’re using has any possible tracking errors. Some software can duplicate web traffic results, leading to incorrect and inflated stats. If the duplication stops, it may look like a drop in traffic, when in fact, it is not.
If the drop in traffic is significantly different to the normal variance and your analytics software seems to be tracking correctly, then you may find that Google and other search engines are the cause.
Have search engines updated their algorithms?
Google updates its search engine optimisation (SEO) algorithms between 500 and 600 times per year – that’s twice a day! Not all of these updates will affect web traffic and your site’s rankings on the result pages, but every now and then they do.
Do a quick search to find out if Google has announced a major algorithm update and whether this correlates to your drop in traffic. If the timelines match, then you may have found your answer. Find out what the updated algorithm is all about and start implementing these changes on your website.
Is the traffic drop happening on specific pages or across the whole site?
When looking at your analytics platform, you need to establish if the traffic drop is happening on every page of your site or just one particular page. Look at the sessions and visitors metrics for all of your site pages and determine if one page shows a massive decline, or if all of them seem to be lower.
Another useful metric is the device type. If you find that people using their phones have stopped visiting your website but people using computers are still coming through, then there may be an issue with the mobile version of your site. A loss in traffic from one particular page or device type can impact the overall results for your web traffic.
Is your site being penalised by Google?
Google and other search engines can penalise websites that use bad SEO practices or simply have too many keywords and tags. Stuffing your articles and landing pages with keywords is a practice that should be avoided. Google could bump your website down the results pages or even prevent certain pages from appearing in its results.
To determine whether you’re being penalised, you can use a search engine marketing (SEM) tool or Google Search Console. These will often tell you whether your site is being downgraded by search engines. Alternatively, you can search for your business on Google and see whether it has shifted down the order.
Have you made any recent changes to your site?
Websites need to be updated often to remain fresh and relevant. However, some changes may bring about unintended consequences. Changing your URLs, using a different coding framework, altering tags and removing menu items may all impact your SEO rankings and cause a drop in web traffic.
If you have made changes to your site and these correlate to the drop in traffic, then you should consider reversing the changes or restoring an older version of your site. If this is not possible, then hire a professional SEO to redirect the removed pages to existing pages to prevent Google from penalising the changes.
Is the decline specific to paid-for traffic?
Companies often pay Google and social media platforms to promote (boost) their content to a larger audience. If you see that your organic traffic remains the same but your paid-for traffic has dropped, then you may have a problem with your Google AdWords campaign or the social media adverts.
Note that Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which replaced the old Google Analytics Universal in July 2023, does not show metrics for paid-for traffic. Your supposed drop in paid-for traffic could simply be the fact that GA4 is hiding the results, even though this traffic is still coming through to your website.
Has Google failed to index your URLs?
Google and other search engines will periodically crawl your website to look for new URLs and content. You can see which of these URLs have been indexed by looking at your Google Search Console report.
If you can see that some web pages are missing from the index, then you may have accidentally disallowed the indexing of URLs through the meta tags or HTTP headers. You can double-check the code and meta tags to see if these are preventing the indexing.
Has the number of in-links or referrals dropped?
Every web page should have a link pointing to it, whether it’s on other pages of your own site or on other websites. Links from one page to another on your site are called in-links, whereas links from an external website to your own one are called referrals. You should ensure that each of your web pages has at least one in-link.
When it comes to referrals, there is not much you can do to get links from external websites. However, if you look through your SEM tool or analytics software, you can see how many referrals your website has. If this number has decreased, then this could be the cause of the traffic drop.
Has a competitor entered the market?
Are you aware of a new competitor or an existing one that has launched a new website? This could cause some of your usual traffic to divert to the competitor’s site. They could be looking for alternative products and services or simply be part of an aggressive marketing strategy by the competitor.
There’s not much you can do about this besides ensuring that your content offers value and is useful to your target audience. You could update your own website to make it easier to navigate and make the lead funnel more efficient. If a competitor launches a site with better SEO and offerings, then your website could be bumped down Google’s rankings.
Try to increase your content output and improve the value of your website to users. Remember that a big part of Google’s SEO ranking is whether your website is useful to online visitors or not. Do everything you can to improve your own SEO and content.
This checklist is intended to be a useful guideline for businesses that experience a sharp decline in web traffic. There may be many causes, but by answering each of these questions, you can rule out the possibilities and narrow your search for answers. You may want to partner with SEO specialists and a digital marketing agency to help you keep your web traffic up.
Mobimeme offers numerous digital marketing services, including SEO and content creation, for companies in Africa. Please contact us today for an assessment or to get started with your digital marketing journey.
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