Many variables can impact the performance of a website, so when a company notices a steep decline in traffic to its site, figuring out the source of the problem can be challenging. It helps if your in-house marketing team members or agency partners have expertise in various aspects of Web design and analytics, user experience, inbound content marketing and other relevant areas.
Opinions on the best first steps to take to determine why the number of visitors to your company website has dropped vary even among industry insiders, and the most useful approach to identifying and solving the issue will always depend on different factors. Here, 16 members of Forbes Agency Council each share the first steps they would take to rectify a sharp decrease in traffic to a client’s website.
1. Immediately Compare Analytics In 30-Day Intervals To Identify Changes
First, immediately look into analytics (Google or HubSpot, for example) to determine what source of traffic has been impacted and over what timeline. Compare 30 days to the next 30 days and see what has changed externally or internally. Then, based on what you find, determine if you need technical website changes or SEO updates or if advertising needs to be addressed via Facebook Ads, Google Ads and so forth to drive things forward. – Gavin Baker, Baker Labs
2. Dig Into Web Data To Find The Specific Root Cause
Typically, a sharp decrease will be due to one traffic source, such as organic search. Once you’ve identified the problem channel, dig deeper into Web data to identify the specific root cause. For organic search, the cause may be a formerly prominent page, or pages, that slipped in search rankings, no longer ranks or no longer exists. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing
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3. Ask A Lot More Questions To See If The Lost Traffic Was Valuable
There are so many reasons for a perceived “steep decline in traffic.” First, is it really a decline at all? Did we drop analytics code? Second, what are the sources of the drops? Organic traffic? Direct? Paid? If there was a true decline, was it valuable traffic? In other words, was it converting into something valuable for the business? If not, don’t sweat it. – Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync & EPL Digital
4. Re-Create Content At The Sources Where The Decline Is Originating
No one likes to see a steep decline, but it can happen. Having analytics and tracking mechanisms such as Google Analytics can help you start to see declines and mitigate them before they become issues. First, you want to understand from which sources the decline is originating. Once you know this, dive into the trenches of that content. See what produced the most traffic and start re-creating content. – Ashlee Piga, Lotus Digital
5. Improve Your Search Engine Optimization With A Consistent Blog Strategy
A consistent blog strategy will improve your search engine optimization. Each time you write a new blog post, you create a new URL for your site—and every new URL is a new opportunity for your website to be ranked in a search. Through blogging, you can carefully craft keywords and topics that will make you look like an expert in your industry and also earn you higher rankings on search engines. – Durée Ross, Durée & Company, Inc.
6. Instead Of Panicking, Try To Analyze The Problem From A Different Angle
Do not panic. Panicking leads to knee-jerk reactions, and these are often misplaced and detrimental to the business. If you notice a decline, step back and try to analyze the problem from a different angle. Is it a seasonal impact? Have you changed your SEO strategy? Have you stopped sponsoring something and your recognition has dropped? A simple analysis could point the way. – Hamish Anderson, Three Piece Marketing
7. Address Content, Keyword And Platform Issues On Each Channel
If a company notices a steep decline in traffic to its website, the marketing team should analyze where traffic is coming from and how it compares to previous months and years. Once the declining traffic sources are identified, the team can alter their strategy for each channel to see if content, keyword and/or platform issues need to be addressed. Google Analytics is a great tool for this. – Marilyn Cowley, PREM – PR & Social
8. Incorporate Results Of An SEO Analysis Into Owned Content And Then Promote It
Conduct an SEO analysis to determine what relevant keywords are performing well and then incorporate them into owned content assets, such as company blogs or white papers. From there, leverage social media advertising to promote your owned content. Ads are a great way to target specific customers and invite them to check out relevant landing pages on your website. – Heather Kelly, Next PR
9. Use Google Analytics To Compare Declines In Organic Traffic To Individual Pages
Using Google Analytics, compare the individual page traffic by visiting Behavior > Site Content > All Pages in the left menu. This will show you which pages have seen the greatest decline. You can add a “Secondary Dimension” of “Source” to see which source is responsible for the drop. If the source that has declined is “organic,” it’s time to audit your content and link portfolio. – Jason Bland, Custom Legal Marketing
10. Look At Site Content To Strengthen Performance And UX
There are some initial steps to assess a potential problem, such as an SEO audit, a Google Analytics assessment and a backlink review using SEMrush. Beyond the drop however, I would want to look at site content: blog presence or cadence, press-room depth of content, video assets—all key elements that will strengthen your site’s performance and user experience. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller
11. Review SEO Edits And The Speed Of The Website
Review the SEO edits being implemented on the website and review the speed of the website. Both of these factors can heavily influence SEO scores. Often, simple architecture changes can make a huge impact on the generation and retention of organic traffic. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
12. Analyze Year-Over-Year Site Analytics For Patterns
Before diving too deep into troubleshooting mode, don’t forget to look at the 30,000-foot view when seeing traffic drops. Analyzing year-over-year, or multiple years, of site analytics will give you visibility into past traffic-drop patterns, which may be based on the time of year. Understanding traffic seasonality and search behavior is key in marketing. – Steve Ohanians, WebEnertia
13. Integrate A Heat Map Into The Website
If the website doesn’t already have a heat map integrated into it, that is the first step. A heat map visually depicts the most popular (red) and least popular (blue) areas on a page of a website. Marketers can utilize this information to improve a page’s performance and understand what is most interesting to the current traffic. – Thomas Morganelli, Centipede Digital
14. Find Out If There Has Been A Google Algorithm Change
The first thing I’d do is find out if there’s been a Google algorithm change that has impacted the decline. Sometimes, if the algorithm change impacts inbound links, I’ll verify that they still fall within best practices. Another thing I’d do is look at the keywords I have on pages two and three of Google search results and reoptimize content rather than write fresh content with a new journey attached to it. – Christopher Carr, Farotech
15. Ensure There Are No Technical Issues First
A steep decline suggests a technical issue rather than one of content. Ensure everything is working in terms of URLs, page speeds, backlinks and so on. Identify the sources of traffic that have declined. Are search rankings depleted, or have you lost a vital referral? What content is pulling traffic to competitors? Look at the media. Journalists create engaging content. What’s working? – Richard Cook, Champion Communications Ltd.
16. Integrate Your Brand Advocates Into Your Strategy
A steep decline usually indicates something bigger. The website is just a symptom. It could be a glaring failure in the strategy, a PR crisis, not paying attention to technology shifts or your product not resonating. One way to avoid surprises and realize greater success is to integrate your brand advocates into your strategy. Stay very close to them. Overinvest in them. – Ted Vaughn, Historic
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member