When you experience a sudden traffic drop, that drop could be attributed to any number of causes. The first thing you should always do is check your Google Analytics profile. Through insights they’ll give you updates on your profile to reflect substantial changes to your site, particularly traffic. Odds are you’ll have noticed the effects of the traffic drop early on, but if not you have both Google Analytics and your Google Webmaster Tools to alert you.
Google Analytics makes it simple to pinpoint which source of traffic has died of for you whether that’s organic, paid, or social. Here’s a quick video on how to navigate the major points of it and how to install it on your site(s). Now let’s look at a few of the possible causes of a traffic drop.
Algorithmic Update – This is a major source of frustration for a lot of webmasters. Instantly, overnight, you can find that your site has dropped sometimes significantly in the SERPs through no fault of your own simply because Google has rolled out a new algorithmic update which reflects and rewards a particular aspect of SEO which you may not be fully embracing (see my Google Penguin 2.0 post).
Penalization – Similar to an algorithmic update, this actually involves Google penalizing your ranking because you’re going against their algorithm somehow. This is most likely because you’re trying to game their system in some way whether that’s through unnatural link building or
Your Site’s Been Hacked! – If your site has been hacked without your knowledge, whomever hacked your site can make all kinds of offensive changes. While this is unlikely, keep these 4 WordPress security tips in mind to help safeguard your site.
Changes to Your Site – This is a very broad suspect, but a slight change to your site can result in a huge drop in traffic. A redirect which isn’t functioning properly is an example of where that traffic can fall off a cliff and go unaccounted for. A site redesign can wreak havoc on your site’s traffic if the slightest change is made and not addressed through the new architecture/code.
Tracking Not Working – Also consider a change to your analytics tracking. In this case the traffic may still be there but it’s not being accounted for. This is fine in the sense that you’re still enjoying the sales or whatever positive effects that traffic is having for you on your site, but over time if your Google Analytics profile isn’t tracking the traffic properly, for example, this can make it look like your site is stagnating. In an era where user metrics have a substantial effect on your rankings, it’s imperative that you get your analytics sorted. I’m not saying that if you don’t have Google Analytics tracking your site properly or at all that you’ll be ranked worse than the same site which has Google Analytics installed, but I am saying that if Google can see that you’ve got good user metrics in terms of how people interact with your site and suddenly it disappears because it’s not tracking properly, that could cause a drop.
Changes in PPC – It’s possible that your PPC program changed their TOS, raised the price on your keywords so you’re no longer paying for the traffic, or any number of possibilities. Again, check your analytics to see precisely which source may have dropped off. Don’t use PPC? Assume the same rule applies to whatever source of traffic your rely on or see drop.
Negative SEO – I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but negative SEO exists and your drop in traffic could be attributed to a drop in rankings which in turn could be attributed to negative SEO being performed by a rival webmaster. If you can identify the offending links but can’t remove them yourself, use the Google Disavow Links tool which was made just for situations like this.
Whatever the culprit of your traffic drop, it pays to insure your site’s traffic stream and the best way to do this is through strong traffic diversity. To save you the read, vary your traffic sources as often as you can to ensure that when one drops off, you’ll have dozens of others to pick up the slack until you get that source straightened out.