Post by Greg Harris
It happens to everyone. After months of tireless work, traffic begins to really flow. You are getting the user statistics you have only dreamed of, and your website is really taking off. You are becoming an authority in your industry, Adsense is starting to pay some decent cash, and then…the drop.
Those numbers that were so exciting before are slowly tapering off. Eventually, they begin to drop, maybe even over night. You scramble in a panic, looking over the data with increasing alarm. What happened?
No easy answers exist to that question. Dozens of problems might have been the culprit. But there are some issues that are more common than others.
Here are five potential causes of your sudden traffic dip, and how to fix them.
Reason For Drop #1: The Data Is Misleading
SEO is irrevocably tied to Google, as are all concerns with search ranking and traffic. This is the reason so many people use Google Analytics as their metrics tool. There is nothing wrong with that, except for one thing: using a single tool, no matter the type, will not give you results guaranteed to be accurate. Thanks to the common updates, Google can actually be more unreliable than most.
That isn’t to say you should drop it. Just that you need a second (or even third) analytics tool to go alongside it.
Just like getting a second opinion from a mechanic on your car, you should get a second opinion on the information coming from your site. When you have looked over the data given from multiple tools, you might find that your traffic never dipped at all.
Of course, it might still show there has been a sudden change. But having more than one program will make it a bit easier to track down the problem. Even if it isn’t the cause, you should still have multiple metrics monitors.
Reason For Drop #2: You Are Being Penalized
Going back to Google, it can be rather hard to keep up with all their changes, can’t it? Not to mention dealing with all of their rules, which can creep up without you knowing you have done something wrong.
Spam flagging due to overuse of keywords, suspected stolen content, legitimately stolen content (such as scrapers taking your work)…there are any number of reasons you might have gotten on the search engine’s bad side.
First, you need to know if this is the case. Go into your Webmaster Tools dashboard and see if they have sent you any messages. You might also check the email address the account is signed up with. If you have violated one of their terms of conditions, you should get an alert.
If you have, the only thing you can do is fix the issue and hope they give you another chance. Go through all flagged content, as well as any other content on your site that might have violated the same rule. Then submit a reconsideration request through your dashboard.
From there, all you can do is wait.
Reason For Drop #3: Lack Of Content Updates
Is the site in question a blog? Have you been posting to it less than usual? This is one of the most common reasons that traffic suddenly takes a dive. Usually because the blogger believes they have built a big enough reader base that they are making up the primary traffic, and organic searches are not bringing in that many. Which is rarely (if ever) the case.
Besides, what regular reader wants to go to a site that hasn’t updated anything in awhile? Most of them are subscribed in one way or another, and will only show up based on new content.
Never stop publishing new content. If you have, start again and wait for your traffic to go up. If the problem is that you don’t always have time to write, dedicate a couple of days a month to writing multiple posts that can be published or scheduled on those busier days.
If you need more, start asking around for guest posts – like this one! They make a great addition to your articles, bring in new readers and will give you a break.
Reason For Drop #4: You Have a Bad Host
Not all hosts are created equal. Sometimes they are bad from the start, or else begin to lose their charm after a time. Occasionally, a good host might have some technical issues that are affecting your site. These problems might not be apparent right away, and so your traffic may suffer before you figure it out.
To check that your host is running smoothly, ping your website. Go to your Start menu, type “cmd” into your search bar and hit enter. It will bring up a command box. In that box type in “ping www.yourwebsiteurlhere.com”.
It should give you information like how long the site takes to respond, whether certain pages are not responding at all, and if all packet data is being sent when requested.
If you have determined that the problem is the host, the first step is to contact them. There is a chance that it is a minor snafu that can be fixed on your end. Or it may be a technical glitch on their own that has affected others. Either way, they will – hopefully- be able to help.
However, if the problem persists, it may be time to find a new host. You can compare different hosting companies here.
Reason For Drop #5: Server Issues
This one is a really broad topic that could mean any number of problems creeping up through your server. Trying to diagnose the problem won’t be easy at all, nor does it have a simple fix.
A couple of areas to check include:
- That the codes on your code editor and server match up and have not been switched on your local host.
- You have restricted access to certain pages for certain users. For this one, you may also want to check the robot.txt file in your website’s folders, just in case.
- Other errors are occurring because of changes that have been saved to your .htaccess file.
- Improper DNS access allowing others to make changes to your settings and records without your knowledge or permission.
Trying to diagnose the reason for a dip in traffic might not be easy. But it is a necessary step in reversing the problem and getting back to the metrics you were at before. It is better to get started sooner, rather than later.
About the author
Greg Harris worked for nearly 7 years with an internet marketing company and one day realized he now knew enough to venture out his own. He is consulted by many on the subject of SEO. Ask him anything about the various facets of SEO and he will possibly give you the right answer even in his sleep. Find him at Ziondia.