Did your blog traffic take a nosedive? Before you panic, use Google Analytics to discover what caused the drop. With that knowledge, you can make a plan.
There's nothing worse than seeing your blog traffic drop. It's frustrating, and we wonder if it's a permanent thing. But before you panic and start thinking about a new blog niche, spend some time looking at your blog analytics.
The first thing you need to do is determine what kind of drop it is. Is it a slow decline? A sharp decline? Is it bouncing around a bit?
Is Google Analytics Tracking Code Installed Properly?
If it's a sharp decline and you've recently done some back end work on your site, it's possible that your Google Analytics tracking code was deleted or changed.
This happened to me when I changed themes and forgot to put my tracking code in the new theme.
If someone else worked on your site, ask them to review your Analytics code to ensure that it's correct.
Are You Filtering Data?
Are you filtering data? We learned how to filter data in Google Analytics when we excluded our own IP address.
Make sure you aren't using a view that filters out visits (other than your own visits).
What Dates Are You Reviewing?
Check the start and stop date of the data. Make sure you're looking at complete time frames.
If you're looking at months, compare two complete months–not one complete month and one partial month.
For example, if it's only March 10th, don't compare March to January and February because you have 31 days of data for January and 28 days for February but only 10 days for March. March's pageviews will be much lower than January and February.
The same goes for weeks or even days. This seems like a little thing, but I have had a few heart-stopping moments thinking that my traffic had dropped dramatically when in fact, I was including a partial time period.
Did You Get a Manual Action?
If your analytics code is still there correctly and you're comparing the same time periods, check Google Search Console to ensure that you haven't had a manual action taken against your site.
Here's how Google defines a manual action:
Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google's webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions address attempts to manipulate our search index. Most issues reported here will result in pages or sites being ranked lower or omitted from search results without any visual indication to the user.https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9044175
If your site is affected by a manual action, we will notify you in the Manual Actions report and in the Search Console message center.
If your site has had a manual action, follow the instructions on this page to fix it.
Dig Into Google Analytics
If everything is correct so far, start digging into your Google Analytics. This is the same process you'll use if you have a slow decline in traffic.
The first thing I like to do is look at a year's worth of traffic and compare it to the prior year.
Is This a Seasonal Drop?
Often, you'll discover that you had a similar blog traffic drop about the same time last year. For example, the traffic to my Cub Scout Ideas blog drops dramatically in July.
Because I've tracked my traffic for several years, I know that it's going to drop off every year during July. That's because many Cub Scout Packs don't meet in July, so the leaders and parents don't need to visit my site for ideas.
I don't worry about it because I know it's going to come back strong starting in mid-August. (But I do sing the blues about the drop in my income!)
Think about other things that could cause a seasonal drop.
One of my friends has lots of keto recipes on her blog. Her traffic dropped quite a bit in December, but it picked right back up in January.
We suspect that folks decided that there was simply too much good food to eat during the holidays, so they all quit their diets until the new year. 🙂
If you determine that this isn't a seasonal drop for your site, it's time to start drilling down to determine the channel that's losing traffic.
What Traffic Source is Dropping?
Start going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
Set the date range for the last 30 days, and click the “Compare to” box. It should default to “Previous period,” but if it doesn't, click the down arrow and select it.
At the top of the results, you'll see the percentage change in sessions. Use that as your baseline. In this example, my sessions dropped by 5.87%.
Next, look at the “% Change” for each channel. Is it higher or lower than -5.87%?
The Organic Search increased by 1.53%, so I know that the drop isn't caused by my organic search.
Next, let's look at my Social traffic. It dropped by 15.79%. That looks like the culprit, so we'll talk more about that in a minute.
Direct traffic is down about the same percentage as my total sessions, so we won't worry about it.
My email traffic dropped by more than 50%. But look at the percentages in parentheses. Email only accounts for less than 3% of my traffic, so I'm going to ignore it. (Plus I didn't send out as many emails in May as I did in April.)
Referral traffic was down by more than a third. It's also a tiny portion of my traffic, so I'll ignore it too.
Focus on High Impact Areas
I would rather focus on Social which is over 20% of my traffic.
When you're evaluating your own traffic, be sure that you don't get fooled by those large decreases.
Make sure you consider your actual numbers–not just percentages. Let's say I had a total of 100,000 sessions in April.
Looking at the referral numbers, that 36% is only 400 sessions. But the 16% drop in social traffic is 4,000 sessions. We want to focus on the issues that have the biggest impact on our traffic.
Once you've identified which channel is sending less traffic, you can create a plan to reverse the downward trend.
How do you diagnose what caused a drop in traffic? Leave me a comment, and let me know.