12 Potential Causes To Consider When Website Traffic Starts To Tank

When a company’s website begins to see a downturn in traffic, it may be cause for concern. Often, a sudden lack of visitors is a warning sign of an impending decline in sales, as less website traffic typically means fewer customers. The issue should be diagnosed and addressed as quickly as possible to lessen the impact on a business’s bottom line, and that job often falls to an agency partner.

Forbes Agency Council

Drawing on their extensive expertise in this area, members of Forbes Agency Council share some potential causes for a sharp decline in a client’s website traffic and how that downturn can negatively affect businesses. Follow their recommendations to help determine the cause of the drop-off and fix your website traffic problems.

1. Algorithm Update

Knowing that a common cause is an algorithm update, that’s the first thing to research. At the same time, you need to review and identify whether anything has changed in your internal content strategy, publishing and optimization. Great tools to be used are Google Search Console and SEMrush. An ongoing “stay on top” strategy will most likely prevent or diminish any traffic downturn. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

2. Tech Stack Change

A decline in traffic is almost always going to be linked to a change across the tech stack or to actual marketing activities. If a tool didn’t break, you may have made some changes on a current paid channel, and you have to figure out which one. Traffic can spike up, but it should never spike down without platform changes on paid traffic sources or broken tracking. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

3. Changing Keyword Performance

It’s either paid traffic or organic traffic. If it’s paid, then look at budgets, campaigns and so on. If it’s organic, it can be a little trickier. Look at your top referring sites. Look at keywords. Where did the traffic disappear from? The easy answer is to say, “Google changed the algorithm.” Now, that might be true, but go deeper to see what was performing. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

4. Outdated Content With Irrelevant Keywords

When you track backward from site traffic, you will find yourself looking at search. What is preventing your site from ranking high on searches? Understand your keywords and make sure your content reflects that. If you’re not up to date on the keywords relevant to your audience, search results will drop. This could be the time to conduct an SEO audit on your site and optimize those keywords. – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

5. Consumer Changes

Agencies sometimes forget that a downturn in sales is not always caused by faulty products or bad advertising. It could be a decline in consumers having disposable income. We suggest adjusting marketing strategies and product offerings in response to shifting demands while analyzing data in real time and pinpointing the issue at hand. – Greg Carney, Freedom United Social

6. Technical Issues

A rapid downturn in traffic could be a technical issue, from needing to do an update to a broken link or plug-in. Running a full diagnostic routinely and checking for updates can prevent problems before they start. It’s important to have a trusted partner who has a regimented website maintenance routine to ensure your website is in great health. Remember, if you ignore your website, so will Google. – Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors, LLC

7. Drops In Traffic To Specific Pages

Google Analytics showcases all traffic under “Acquisition > Overview.” There you will find categories such as Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Display, Paid Search, Social and Other. You can dig into each channel to see why there was a drop. You can detail specific websites, pages, campaigns and more to determine what changed and why. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

8. Change In Your Product Or Offering

A downturn in site traffic should be addressed immediately and is usually the result of a change in your product, offering or algorithms online, so assess what changes may have impacted the site traffic and make necessary changes to get site traffic up to baseline levels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Policy Violations On Paid Ad Platforms

Uncover which source of traffic saw the steep decline by analyzing your Google Analytics and Search Console data. If the source is a paid channel, your account might have been suspended due to a policy violation or expired credit card. Organic traffic might fall due to a Google algorithm update, link or ranking losses and search engine penalization. – Dejan Popovic, PopArt Studio

10. New Digital Efforts

A surprise Google update is often the cause of a sudden downturn in site traffic. Cross-check your traffic dip in Google Analytics with updates announced by Google. Alternatively, there could be traffic shifts that coincide with new digital efforts — launching on Amazon, for example. If you are losing site traffic, but Amazon sales are increasing, your traffic may have simply shifted to another platform. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Multiple Reasons That May Be Uncovered In Your Analytics

It’s impossible to indicate one reason. Your site may not rank as well on Google due to increased competition, outdated design, lack of external links, algorithm updates and so on. Site traffic may seem unpredictable at times, but you can acquire invaluable information by assessing the analytics of your site data. After all, you can’t find a solution to a problem without finding out its cause first. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

12. Causes Beyond Algorithm Updates

While an algorithm update is often the cause of a sudden decline in website traffic, penalties from search engines, loss of keyword rankings and redirects can also lead to drops in traffic. You can confirm this through Google Search Console and then start to perform the necessary steps to rectify these issues to regain your organic traffic rankings. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

10 Places To Look When Your Website Traffic Is Dropping

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: June 2, 2018

For companies that generate most of their leads and sales online, bringing in steady website traffic is critical. That’s why a sharp decline in traffic sends the average business into full-on panic mode.

While you should be concerned about a sudden dip in site visits, there’s often a logical explanation for it, if you know where to look. Sometimes it’s a simple and fast fix – a coding error, for instance – while in other cases, such as an algorithm change, it might take a bit longer to bounce back. Either way, it’s important to look for the root of the problem so you can fix it.

Ten Forbes Agency Council members explain some potential reasons your site’s traffic may have tanked, and what you can do about it.

1. Tracking Tags

The simplest explanation for a sudden and unexpected drop in website performance is often analytics tags failing to fire. Always check tracking first to make sure website visitors are being accounted for before making drastic changes. Reconciling tracking issues will help mitigate the long-term impact. Additionally, making friends with your IT department will help avoid issues before they arise. – Nina Hale, Nina Hale / Performance Digital

2. The Front End Of Your Website 

 The first thing to investigate after a major dip in traffic is your website itself. Is it actually working? Is there a problem with the domain? Mechanically, is everything functioning as it should? If all that checks out, make sure the critical inbound links are still intact. If the majority of your traffic comes from inbound campaigns, ensure your inbound marketing platform is working properly. – Jeffrey Kamikow, Cross Audience

3. Google Analytics 

When the world is crashing around you, trust the data. Dive into Google Analytics and try to pinpoint where things went south. Think back on marketing tactics you recently pushed live and find the correlation. This should lead you to an internal audit, where you may discover an internal tool is broken or an external force is impacting your site. – Kirk Deis, Treehouse 51

4. Google Search Console 

If you don’t stay up to date on major Google algorithm changes, you’re falling behind. If your site is not mobile-friendly, improperly secured or using outdated practices for SEO, your rankings may be dropping. Check your Search Console, work with your team to fix the problem, and start subscribing to the right resources to avoid this in the future. – Stewart Gandolf, Healthcare Success

5. Traffic Sources 

After confirming that there’s no recent update to search algorithms throwing things out of whack, identify which traffic source has seen the greatest decline – direct, referral, organic, paid, social. After pinpointing the source, work backward to determine what actions (or inactions) could be at fault. Check your content consumption and be sure it is on point with your target audience. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

6. Your Site’s Code 

When we see a sharp decline in traffic, we first check the site’s code. During site changes and redesigns, SSL and 301 redirects are often overlooked, causing Google to de-index the site’s pages and search rankings to drop. The drop in rankings can dramatically decrease visitors. So when building a new site or making changes to your current one, double-check your redirects before pushing live. – Michael Weinhouse, Logical Position

7. The Bigger Customer Engagement Picture 

Don’t panic, and take a step back to see the bigger picture. Perhaps customers are engaging with your website primarily on mobile rather than desktop. If your mobile site isn’t optimized or they are instead using your app, then this could be why. This gives you insight into how consumer behaviors change over time and where they are most likely to engage with your brand. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

8. External Backlinks 

A client once had a downward trend in organic traffic. We audited all the checklist items to figure out what the issue was and we were stumped. We then evaluated the search trends of their top backlinks and found that their highest authority backlink had the same drop. To fix our client site, we had to fix the referring site. External forces are sometimes just as important as internal factors. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

9. The Last Item That Changed On Your Site 

When diagnosing an issue, you need to think back to what was the last item that changed. It could be a code push that somehow removed analytics from your site, it could have been a change to content that has caused a decline in search traffic. Did you make a change to your advertising? Sudden declines (or increases) are often traceable back to the last modification (big or small) that was made. – Greg Kihlstrom, Yes& Agency

10. Adblockers 

Check whether you are getting “adblocked” by any browsers, which may be redirecting traffic from your site. Also check on whether you might have had “false” traffic coming to your site from foreign websites, which was then rectified and now has new accurate website traffic numbers. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castrohawthornedirect.com