What To Do When Your Traffic Falls Off A Cliff

Nov 08th 2016

What To Do When Your Traffic Falls Off A Cliff

It’s bound to happen sooner or later – You will sit down at your computer, log into Google Analytics, and see that traffic has fallen. With any luck, you will be the first person to notice this. If you are less lucky, you will get panicked emails from your marketing department, sales people, or boss. Everyone will want to know what the problem is, how it can be fixed, and how long this will all take to fix.

Here are the three steps you will need to take to solve the problem:

Step 1 – Take A Deep Breath

This is important – the worst thing you can do right now is panic. To get to the root of the problem you will need a clear head, and if you start taking wild swings at the problem by boosting ad spend or launching a bunch of new content you are just going to muddy the waters and make it more difficult to really understand what is happening.

Put the problem into scope – How much traffic is being lost? Are leads or sales down? If so, what is the real world cost of this traffic drop? What if the problem isn’t fixed until EOD tomorrow, until Monday morning – or never? What do you stand to lose, and what is your drop-dead date for fixing the problem? These are inherently stressful considerations, but you are better off if you think them through now.

Also, make a note of when the traffic drop started – this will be crucial when it comes time to diagnose the problem.

Now that you know the size of the problem, look for a cause.

Step 2 – Diagnose the Problem

There are dozens of possible reasons for a sudden traffic drop, so the best place to start diagnosing the problem is the source – specifically, the traffic source.  In Google Anayltics, make sure your segment is set to ‘All Sessions” then navigate to  Acquisition – Overview to get a breakdown


Now, you will need to compare using the date selection on the upper right hand side.Your best bet would be the date the drop started until now compared to the previous days and weeks. Now, if the drop just happened this may be difficult – may simply be comparing Thursday to Wednesday. Still, it should be enough to at least tell you the channel that is effected the most – just look for the channel with the biggest drop.

Depending on the effected channel, you are looking at a diverse set of problems:

Organic – This could be caused by a blocked landing page, an algorithm penalty, a sudden search engine result page drop, or a DMCA takedown.

Direct – You could be experiencing Tagging issues, an Offline Marketing interruption, or Ghost Traffic pause.

Paid Traffic – This is the easiest to cause with poor account management, but also it would be the easiet to fix. You are likely dealing with keyword bid changes, recent negative keywords blocking an important keyword, a removed landing page, or an ad being disapproved.

Email Traffic – This should be easy to diagnose if you are tuned in to your email campaigns. Did a recent email campaign go out with a bad link, or improper tags? Did you suddenly pause a long-running campaign?

Referral Traffic – This is unlikely to drop suddenly, but if it does it’s likely to be because a referrer who was sending you lots of traffic has suddenly pulled their link, or a page that was receiving a ton of referrals was pulled down.

We have gone into a -lot- more detail about diagnosing traffic drops in our free ebook, check it out!

Step 3 – Move Forward

If you’ve diagnosed the problem, you should have a pretty clear idea for a solution. You need to track down the offending negative keyword, remove the links that are penalizing your site, or work with a referrer to get your link placed back up.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to fix the problem overnight – that’s why your first step should be judging the impact of your traffic drop. You might be called on to bring those users by other means, which could mean marketing on new platforms, finding a new ad platform, or launching a new content campaign.

We have plenty more suggestions for diagnosing and recovering from traffic drops! Check out our free ebook today.

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