If your business depends heavily on digital interactions with current and prospective customers, you know how important data analytics are to your bottom line.
From social media follows to email opens, click-through rates to bounce rates, there are several key metrics that require consistent monitoring.
Site traffic is a particularly significant metric. If you don’t have anyone coming through the doors of your shop, how can you expect your revenue to increase?
If you notice that you’re losing site traffic and there’s a dip in numbers, you have reason to be alarmed.
And it’s up to you to dive into solving the issue before your ship sinks entirely.
In this post, we’ll cover three potential reasons you may be losing site traffic.
Before we jump into exploring the possible reasons for your drop in traffic, it’s important to understand how to diagnose the problem by observing the data.
Determining the Cause of Loss of Site Traffic
First things first–Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are your guiding stars in determining why your business is losing site traffic.
The data and graphs provided by these platforms reveal information that will be essential in diagnosing the exact cause of your decline in traffic.
For example, you’ll be able to see whether the traffic dropped off sharply, meaning your site could be suffering the consequences of a Google penalty.
However, if there is a steady decline over time, you may have more of a connectivity problem on your hands.
When analyzing the data, it’s key to observe the traffic sources and which ones seem to be in a declining state.
Be sure to note the state of the following sources…
- Direct: These visitors are coming to your site by typing your URL directly into their browsers or via a bookmark they have saved in the past.
- Organic: These visitors come to your site via search, most often via Google searches.
- Paid: These visitors have clicked on banner ads or Google AdWords that directed them to your site.
- Referral: These visitors have found you via a “referral network” of other sites that link to your site.
- Social: This traffic is made up of users who click through to your site via social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Whether you notice a sudden or gradual drop in traffic, it’s an unsettling realization for any business that depends on web traffic for their bottom line.
Read on to learn a few of the possible explanations for a sudden plummet in traffic…
#1: Google Snippets
Even if you’ve never heard of the term “Google snippet” before–you’ve probably come across one.
As an example, let’s say you Google the search phrase “What are the five languages of love?”
Below, you’ll find the first link that appears on the results page–along with the summary of the answer you searched for.
Rather than needing to click the actual link to read and discover what the five languages of love are, Google provides the direct answer to your question, utilizing the copy found in the first link.
And that, my friend, is a Google snippet.
For the person conducting the search, this means one less step in the process of finding the answer to a question.
However, although this makes the search process easier for the searcher, it’s not so ideal for the website providing the answer.
In fact, according to SearchEngineland, “when a featured snippet is present, CTR for the first organic result falls below 20 percent.”
This is concerning considering that SearchEngineland also reported that nearly 30% of Google results have featured snippets.
A CTR drop-off of 20% is nothing to shrug off. 20% can mean the difference between whether or not you’re able to meet your sales goals for the quarter.
The good news is, if your page isn’t the first result in a search, your page won’t be at risk for becoming a snippet.
However, if you reach that often-coveted number-one spot in search results–you may be out of luck.
As HubSpot puts it, “Snippets are not going away — and as long as they’re around, they’ll continue to eat blog traffic — sometimes, despite your best efforts.”
HubSpot experienced this problem with their own blog posts, and their advice on the matter is to optimize existing posts that are currently not capturing the featured snippet, and create new posts with the featured snippet in mind.
It’s up to you to decide whether being the number-one search result is more important than potentially losing site traffic due to Google snippets.
#2: Recent Website Changes
Giving your website a snazzy upgrade via a design change is always an exciting occurrence–and it’s healthy to change up the look, feel, and functionality of a website every now and then.
However, changes in your site design can end up affecting your site’s page load speed.
No one likes to wait around for too long while a page loads–which means that potential visitors to your site may be deterred and exit the page before it finishes loading.
In fact, Kissmetrics reports that “nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.”
Additionally, slow load times can affect your rankings in search results.
You can test your page load time with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
If you do in fact have a slow page load speed, you can work with your design and development team to fix any design elements or glitches that are slowing the pages down.
The sooner you make these fixes the better, as prospects and customers can (and will) write your business off if they don’t get what they’re looking for in a swift manner.
#3: Ranking Penalties
Google search preferences dominate the internet–it’s a fact of life in the digital marketing world.
With the goal of eliminating poor quality content and giving a boost to the good stuff, Google is constantly changing the algorithm it uses to rank sites and search results.
Sites and content that are considered to be of poor quality will incur Google penalties.
Therefore, optimizing your site for SEO is a constant and iterative process.
If you don’t take the time to ensure your site is up-to-date with Google search processes, your rankings can plummet.
For example, your site could be penalized for…
- Keyword stuffing.
- Duplicate content.
- Internal 404s.
- Links from sites in another language.
- Broken external links.
This is just a sample of elements that put you at risk for a Google penalty. Visit Webmaster guidelines to learn more about what will count against you.
Keep in mind that these three explanations for losing site traffic are just some of many potential explanations.
It’s up to you to work with your development team or an SEO expert to diagnose the issue thoroughly.
Seeing your traffic suddenly or over time decrease can be cause for panic, but if you take the right steps to correct the problem, you’ll be back in business in no time!