There can be any number of reasons why your website traffic dropped suddenly and significantly. This can be an issue with something as simple as your analytics code being removed accidentally after a website update, or something more severe such as your website being penalized by Google.
There are many things to check to determine why your traffic dropped, so below is a list to start with.
Redirects Removed or Changed
Redirects are used to transition users and search engines from an old page to a new page. Using a 301 redirect signals to Google that the page has permanently moved and they are free to pass ranking metrics from the old page to the new page.
Redirects are usually done within an htaccess file, within the cPanel of a hosting account, or if you’re using WordPress they can be done with any number of plugins. No matter which strategy is used, we recommend keeping a running list of all redirects so that if something happens you’ll have a quick backup solution.
To determine if your redirects are still valid and have not been removed, simply take a few from your backup list and check them by visiting the page, or by putting them in a redirect checker – there are many that can be used and you can simply search Google.
Unfortunately this is more common than we would like to see. There are a few ways you can unknowingly block your website.
Blocking your website usually happens during two periods:
- Releasing a website update from staging to production
- When redesigning your website
In both cases the the developer or designer forgets to remove the noindex/nofollow code from the templates, the disallow directive from your robots.txt file, or if designing in WordPress forgetting to uncheck the box in Settings > Reading > section that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”.
Google is always tweaking and updating their algorithm – some large updates, and other minor tweaks.
Most of the time they won’t announce an update, which is why tools such as Mozcast – from moz.com that is a basic weather report for the search results and the SEMrush Sensor – from SEMrush.com that is a sensor across their dataset of keywords and is segmented by industry type have become more important in diagnosing traffic loss.
The key to determining if your website was impacted by a recent Google update is to check multiple data points which can be found here.
Usually once a year Google will release a major link-based algorithm update to try and sort out valuable links vs. spam links that were created by a new link building tactic that marketers started implementing.
Link spam is usually one of the major issues that websites who lose traffic have. The business owner either hired a bad seo company, or thought that they could “outsmart” the Google algorithm by either buying links, or embarking on strategies that create a large amount of low quality links, such as directory submissions, article directories, press releases, etc.
To determine if your website traffic was impacted due to your website having too many low-quality links, you will need to do a link audit, which starts by exporting your link graph and doing a deep analysis.
Content is at the core of all business growth strategies. Without great content users won’t engage, Google won’t rank you, and the risk of being affected by a search engine update increases.
We have written about content quality alot, and yet still find websites who are creating low-value, generic, 500 word articles that provide no value.
There are two parts to of content that we find issues with the most.
Before hitting publish, determine if your content is valuable by asking these 4 questions.
- Did an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well write the article? If they did, you’re on the right track.
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? If your content has errors, you need to do a better job during the editing phase.
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? If it goes beyond the obvious then you’re creating original value that Google will reward.
- Does the content provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic, or are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? If you are creating short 500-word articles, your content is most likely garbage.
People are not reading your content – they’re scanning it for answers to their questions. They usually skim pages looking for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs and scannable list.
Since they’re in a hurry to find the piece of information they’re looking for, they’ll skip what’s irrelevant for them.
Website quality includes many aspects, from the Usability, Experience, and Information Architecture, to the Visual Design and Content. There are many things that poorly designed websites having in common – you can read about them here.
Website quality not only impacts your SEO and rankings, but it also impacts your conversion rate. Impact on conversion rate and lead generation activities is due to how much users trust your business based on your websites inherent visual appeal, ease of use, and authoritative content.
To determine if your website quality is an issue, you can analyze your website using our website design checklist.
When a website is over-optimized, it’s usually due to an over-zealous marketing person who things that if adding a keyword 1 time is good, then adding it 10 times must be better – this is not the case.
Over-optimization usually is done in the following locations:
- Title Tags
- Body Copy
- Navigation Language
To determine if your website may be over-optimized check your title tags for lists of keywords, check or content for the same keyword written multiple times or a lack of content structure as mentioned above, and check your navigation for repeated keywords that don’t add user value.
If you need additional information on how to write your Title Tags and other SEO tags read this article about Google Tagging Best Practices.
This is probably the easiest thing to check. If you’re using Google Analytics simply view the source of your website content and check the header and footer area for your Google Analytics Code. It should look something similar to:
You Didn’t Have A Transition Plan
We have written many times about the importance of having a transition plan when redesigning, migrating your website to HTTPs, or relaunching your website.
Here are a few articles on the topic:
- Here’s why your traffic dropped after your website redesign
- A project managers guide to managing a website relaunch
- Do this to help with traffic recovery after a failed relaunch or migration
If you recently redesigned, migrated, relaunched your website or moved it from HTTP to HTTPs and you noticed a significant drop in traffic, you most likely didn’t have a website design firm who understood how to implement a transition plan.