My Web Traffic Took a Nosedive. What Gives?

It’s early in the month, and at SCG that means we’re busy compiling digital metrics reports for most of our clients. While we always try to remember the K part of KPIs and focus on the key stats that have true strategic importance to each client, it’s hard to ignore that top-level number: total sessions.

If you’ve seen a drop in sessions, particularly if it coincides with a drop in conversions or another KPI, you probably want to get to the bottom of it fast. Here are some of the ways we help clients investigate and address web traffic declines.

Check web traffic trends by medium

Google Analytics makes it easy to review how visitors are arriving at your site—whether they get there by typing your URL into their browser, finding your site via organic search, clicking an ad, a social media post, a link on another website, or several other paths. Looking at how these numbers trend from month to month can help home in on whether one specific medium is the cause of your web traffic decline, or part of a more global trend.

For example, if cost-per-click (CPC) traffic has declined, we review if any detrimental changes have been made to ads. If email traffic dried up, maybe fewer editions of a newsletter were sent.

But in many cases, this step will reveal one particular medium as the culprit…

Oh blerg, it’s organic

Google giveth, and Google taketh away. Sometimes a change to the ol’ algorithm (whether Google announces it or not) can spell disaster for your previously well performing site. To add insult to injury, addressing a sudden decline in traffic from Google is usually not a quick fix. But it’s also not insurmountable: We focus on the fundamentals of SEO—targeting the right keywords and creating content around them that is truly useful and engaging. Google is often tight-lipped about the specifics of its updates (to avoid giving people the keys to game the system), so that leaves us with few options other than making sure site content is on point and double checking that nothing is technically broken. After that, keep a close eye on next month’s numbers and fine-tune keyword strategies if necessary.

There are often elements of seasonality or timeliness that drive organic traffic as well, which can leave your stats looking a little sad once the moment has passed. For instance, if you sell souvenir spoons, your web traffic was probably hot stuff (umm relatively) in the leadup to the British royal wedding in May… but not so much anymore. In these cases, it may be wise to set aside those months of superstardom when figuring averages, simply so that we have a better baseline for measuring everyday performance when the site is back in the real world. (But for the love of Pete, if you ARE having once-in-a-lifetime traffic spikes, let’s make sure to implement ways to quickly capture email addresses so we can keep the relationship going.)

There’s another possibility for a sudden web traffic decline that’s no fault of your own. Say you’ve got a blog post that’s a star performer on a niche topic, but then a Big Behemoth Website comes along and publishes a piece on that same topic. The nerve. That’s probably going to bump your ranking down, but if that keyword is truly vital to you, we can counteract the effect with a CPC campaign.

But I still want to have it all!

I have to reiterate that total sessions may not be a great KPI for some companies, particularly B2Bs. But I know from my own experience as a client that it’s just not confidence-inspiring to see that number trend downward. So we work to achieve a best-of-both-worlds result for our clients, with websites that deliver meaningful conversions (the king of KPIs), as well as attract good traffic volume to keep the top of the funnel hopping. If you’re looking for those results, contact me.

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Kate Tichy

With experience in public relations, content creation and content governance, Kate has a knack for whipping content into shape. She spent the first decade of her career at a PR agency, then took a turn to the corporate side, managing content marketing for a fast-growing healthcare IT company. Having worn the client hat herself […] Read Bio »


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