Worried about your falling blog traffic? Before you panic, compare date ranges to ensure it's not just a seasonal dip.
Have you ever looked at Google Analytics and had your heart stop because your traffic is dropping? I know I have–many times! But before you panic, compare date ranges.
Most blogs have some seasonality to their traffic patterns. For example, I don't get much traffic in July to my Cub Scout blog because many Cub Scout packs don't meet during that month.
I also don't get much traffic during Easter weekend, but my friend Mel's post with her recipe for ham gravy does.
So, it's always good to compare date ranges to see if this is a seasonal dip for you. Read on to discover how.
If you're a video person, check out the video near the bottom of this post.
How to Compare Date Ranges
When you first open Google Analytics, you'll be on your home screen. Click on Audience then Overview.
This defaults to the last 7 complete days. For example, today is July 13th, but it isn't included in the default because we don't have a full day's worth of data.
I can change that to just show today if I want. That can be kind of cool to look at because you can see your visitors by hour.
The 13 of you who were on my site at 3 am–y'all are some hard core Cub Scout leaders! 🙂
You can compare this week to the previous period which would mean the week before that. You can see that it's comparing Friday through Thursday to the previous Friday through Thursday.
But you do have to be a little cautious with this. This example includes July 4th. I'm actually surprised that there's not a bigger difference between my traffic on July 4th and my traffic on July 11th. They're both Thursdays, but they're very different because of the holidays.
Compare Date Range to Same Time Last Year
Another thing we can do is compare this week to the same week last year by clicking previous year and apply.
You have to use a little caution with this comparison too. I could look at July 8th and say “Wow! I had 51% more users on July 8, 2019 than I had on July 8, 2018.”
That would be misleading because 2018 was a Sunday and 2019 was a Monday. My Sunday traffic is almost always a lot lower than my Monday traffic.
I prefer to look at a full month's worth of data and compare it to last year. I can do this by looking at the last 30 days or the last full month.
How to Change Date Ranges
If I want the most recent 30 days, I can change the date range 3 different ways.
First, use the drop down and select 30 days. This is the easiest because you don't have to calculate what day was 30 days ago.
Second, I can click on the start & end dates on the calendar.
Third, I can type in the date. I do this a lot if I want to look at a year's worth of data. I just go into the field and change the last digit to an 8, in this case.
Let's say I want to look at June 2019. I can type in the date as J U N 1,
See that red box? That means there's a problem with the date format. When I finish typing in 2019, the red box goes away.
In addition to looking at the last 30 days, I can look at the last month, in this case the month of June. A lot of times, I look at both.
After I set my current date, I need to change the comparison date. For some reason, Google Analytics changes “Previous Period” or “Previous Year” to “Custom” when you hit apply.
I'm going to compare June to the previous period. Since June only has 30 days, it compares to the previous 30 days–in this case, May 2nd through May 31st.
If I only compared the two 30-day periods, I would be singing the blues because look at this traffic drop!
Compare This Year to Last Year's Traffic
When you see a drop like that, compare your traffic this year to the same time last year.
I'm going to change this in the compare to box.
I feel much better about June because my traffic has grown about 6% versus June 2018.
Another date comparison I like to do is to compare this year to date to last year to date.
We'll make our start date be January 1st and our end date be July 13th.
Then we'll compare to the previous year.
You can change the data points on the graph by selecting Hourly, Day, Week, or Month.
Hourly shows you your traffic every hour from January 1st through July 12th. There's not much I can do with this data.
Look for Spikes & Dips in Traffic
If I change it to days, I can see where I have spikes and dips. This is where you can start to drill down to find out what's going on with your blog.
I'll talk about diagnosing spikes and dips in your traffic in my next post. But here's a quick example. See this dip at the end of March 2018? It's the orange line. And check out this dip in about mid-April of this year.
I didn't know what caused that, but I knew Easter was in that time frame. So, I checked my calendar, and sure enough, Easter was April 21st in 2019. I suspected that Easter accounted for the dip in March 2018, so I just googled “Easter 2018.” And it occurred on March 31st in 2018.
We can't take action on this particular dip, but in my next post, we'll talk about what actions you can take when you identify other spikes and dips in your traffic.
How do you determine if a drop in your blog traffic is seasonal? Leave me a comment, and let me know.
Thanks for reading!