Hopefully you’ll never see crazy drops in traffic like the graph below – but if you do, here are some quick tips for using analytics to find why traffic dropped.
1. Characterize the Traffic Drop
In other words, take a look at how the traffic drops. Ask yourself some questions:
“Is it a slow, steady decline or a more pronounced, sudden drop?”
“How long has it been dropping?”
“Does it look like it is recovering?”
Answers to these questions will help you rule certain things out and identify next steps to solving the traffic drop mystery. For example. If you are seeing a sharp decline you site may have been penalized by Google or you could have a tracking problem. If the drop is less pronounced and seems to be recovering you could have experienced a short-term connectivity issue. When it comes to slow, steady declines that aren’t recovering – you’ll need to continue digging.
2. Look at Your Traffic Sources
Usually your best insights will come from comparing the performance of your traffic sources separately. Maybe you traffic drop is due to changes in your paid search campaigns that impacted your traffic negatively.
Maybe your organic traffic is dropped indicating a Google penalty. Maybe a referring site made changes to the pages that were driving traffic. Changes in social media or email strategies could also negatively impact traffic. So, really digging into these sources separately is where you’ll most likely find your answer.
3. Consider External Factors
Sometimes when panic sets in we don’t pause to think about the bigger picture. For example, does seasonality have anything to do with the traffic drop you’re seeing? Did the same type of drop happen at the same time of year last year?
Or are there other initiatives that could be impacting traffic? For example, are you making structural changes to pages, design and content? Did you change your infrastructure in a way that could have negatively impacted site speed?
4. Webmaster Tools
Lastly, check your Webmaster Tools. There are two important things Webmaster Tools can help you understand. First, it will tell you if your site has any Crawl Errors or HTML Errors.
Second, you can see how your most important keywords are ranking. If the volume of searches is dropping on the keywords you’ve traditionally targeted or if your rankings for these important keywords have dropped you’ll know why your traffic has slowed.
Obviously drops in traffic need to be identified and rectified as soon as possible. Hopefully these quick tips will help you get a jump start on using analytics to find why traffic dropped.