It happens to even the best marketers. For months, you’ll experience measurable, almost predictable growth, and then one month it happens—your traffic drops. Ordinarily, this isn’t a major cause for concern. You know that random traffic fluctuations are normal for search engines, referral sources, and even social media, and that fluke factors like seasonal behaviors and sudden shifts in user intentions can further influence those fluctuations.
But if your traffic continues to decline without warning, it’s a good idea to take action. The sooner you address a potential problem, the sooner your traffic can be restored to its usual levels of growth, and waiting around when something’s genuinely wrong can only make the problem worse.
So, if your traffic is consistently declining and you suspect it’s due to more than a fluke, try these seven actions to restore your numbers:
Your first step should be to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with your site. By logging into Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll be able to generate a status report. If your domain isn’t loading properly, or if there’s a problem with your server, you’ll be able to tell here. Beyond that, check for other performance factors, such as mobile optimization and site speed. Try loading your site and clicking around and see if you notice anything unusual. Slow loading times, missing content, or other hiccups can cause negative damage to your recurring traffic, and may have an indirect effect on your search engine ranks.
Next, take a look at any major changes you’ve committed to your website or marketing strategy. For example, have you recently added or deleted any major pages or sections of your site? Have you recently made an alteration to your content strategy? If there’s a change in your traffic patterns, it usually means there has been a change in another area. Identifying that area can lead you to the source of a potential problem. Diagnose any recent changes you’ve made for any errors, hiccups, or unintended consequences that could interfere with your search ranks, external visibility, or overall user experience.
If your site generates substantial referral traffic (and if you have any kind of outbound campaign, it probably does), use a link checker tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to evaluate your backlink profile. If you have any existing links that are no longer valid, it could be responsible for the drop in inbound traffic. For example, if a link points to a page that no longer exists and there is no 301 redirect in place, you could miss out on all that potential traffic. If an external source has taken your link down, you could lose that visibility.
While you’re evaluating your link profile, run a cursory check for any “bad” external links. These links could be on low-authority sources, sources that aren’t relevant to your industry, or it could be that too many links have been exchanged between you and a specific other domain. Contextually irrelevant, useless, or rank-manipulating links can also interfere with your domain authority, resulting in lower ranks. Take this opportunity to clean up your link profile by removing these suspects, and your domain authority should rebound within a few weeks.
Look for any recent changes to the patterns or behaviors of your social media following. Have you noticed a major influx or decrease of followers on any of your profiles? If so, can you trace the fluctuation to any major event or change in your posting and engagement pattern? Do you notice any slowed momentum in the frequency or quality of your social media posts? These factors can influence your social media traffic.
Even if your domain authority is intact and your audience is happy with everything you’re doing, you could suffer a drop in organic traffic if your pages aren’t being properly indexed. Again, you can rely on Webmaster Tools for the majority of your diagnostics. If you accidentally included a disallow function in your robots.txt file, it could lead to the sudden vanishing of your pages from Google’s index. Improper sitemapping and broken links can also lead to sudden problems with your visibility in Google’s index.
If none of the steps above have proven fruitful or insightful, you can always take measures to increase the quality and reach of your content. Better-researched, more original, more engaging content is never a bad thing; it can give Google more pages to index, improve your domain authority, and reconnect audience members who might have strayed from your brand. Better content can help you overcome almost any minor traffic problem, and even if you’re enjoying moderate traffic growth, it can always help you accelerate that growth a little further.
Even if your traffic declining is a random fluctuation, and not the result of any one problem, taking these actions can improve your site’s position and ultimately set you up for more productive growth. Small flaws, like 404 pages or broken offsite links, can have a meaningful impact on your traffic, and fortunately, correcting them is relatively easy. Take time on a regular basis to evaluate your position and make adjustments to maximize your traffic.