So in your latest reporting you’ve seen a sudden drop in visits to your website? Or you’ve seen a constant decline over a number of months?
Obviously the more visitors you have the more opportunities you have to attract new customers but there could be a number of explanations as to why visits have dropped. These range from relatively simple content issues that could be cleared up to perhaps something more technical that needs careful consideration.
Below we’ve put together our top 10 reasons why websites experience decreases in visitor numbers. This could be a sudden drop or clear decreased visits over time:
- You’ve been hit by an algorithm update
- Your tracking codes have been removed or have errors
- You’ve changed your robots.txt file
- You’ve added incorrect redirects
- You’ve lost organic ranking positions
- Your website has a got a manual penalty
- You’re not considering target keywords when building content
- Your competition has upped their game
- You’ve migrated to a new website or made a large update
- Your server isn’t functioning correctly
1. You’ve been hit by a Google algorithm update
Google releases updates to its algorithm throughout the year and these are becoming increasingly intelligent. Some updates are small tweaks but others are major “core” updates and these are the ones that cause most fluctuations in ranking positions. Google are very transparent about when updates are released but getting real detail about what an update is looking for or doing is far harder to extract.
When you know an update has been released it’s worth looking through your ranking and visitor stats to see if there was an impact. Plus, it’s also worth keeping yourself up to date with what algorithm changes are being rolled out so your strategies stay ahead of the game.
2. Your tracking codes have been removed or have errors
This happens far more often than you might think. When you add a tool to your website that gathers visitor metrics it’s highly likely you’ll need to add a tracking code to it in order for the tool to gather data. However, if you’ve had recent updates done to your website and you’re looking at a drop in visits it’s definitely worth checking if the tracking is working correctly.
So if you’ve suddenly realised there’s no sessions being reported in Google Analytics, the first step is to check the tracking is firing correctly. This is especially common if someone has been working on your website who is unfamiliar with what tools you utilise.
3. There’s been changes made to your robots.txt file
Are you sure your website isn’t blocking search engine bots? In order to appear in search results in vital bots can crawl your content and it’s easier than you think to block them.
This is especially important if you’ve recently either launched a new website or had a large update. Developers tend to work in a staging environment which will rightly be blocked from search engines, but as this test version will likely replace the live website, it’s crucial it’s opened up again.
4. You’ve added incorrect re-directs
If you have a website that’s a few years old or has gone through several iterations it’s likely they’ll be link redirects in place. A webmaster will commonly add these to your htaccess file, but they can also be quickly managed from a range of plugins if you have a WordPress website.
As a website owner it’s important you keep on top of what redirects are in place, and you test any new ones, especially if you’re adding a large amount. If one of your redirects isn’t working or links to the wrong page it could result in a drop in page views and cause people to leave your website. Plus, with re-directs there’s a few additional considerations such as avoiding redirect chains – when a redirected link points at another redirected link.
5. You’ve lost ranking positions
Quite a simple explanation to a sudden drop in visitors is that your website has lost organic ranking positions. Using a tool like Google Analytics it’s straightforward to split your visits by their source, and this might well reveal the reason is a drop in organic visits.
If you’re tracking organic ranking positions for relevant keywords or you know of a strong ranking position that produces visitors, it should be straightforward to identify what’s happened. You could also use the Search Console to check general search engine visibility drops.
6. Your website has got a manual penalty
Linked to the algorithm updates mentioned above, a manual penalty is one where instead of just being marginally penalised by a machine, you’ve been penalised by a human. If your website is being hit by the algorithms then the next level is for it to be reviewed by a human and if they find you’re going against Google’s guidelines they have the power to hit your website much harder.
You can see if your website has been hit by a manual action in the Search Console.
7. You’re not considering target keywords when building content
In order to build and maintain search engine rankings all content you add to your website should be based around a basket of relevant keywords. These should be the search terms your target audience are using when researching your products or services. If you’ve previously held competitive ranking positions that have now been lost then the content you’re adding to your website (or indeed not adding) could be to blame.
8. Your competition has upped their game
It is possible that you’re doing all the right things but still losing visitor numbers purely because a competitor has upped their game. Keep yourself up to date with your competitors by monitoring their digital marketing tactics such as social media, link building, and content strategies. There’s a host of tools you can use to monitor links and other metrics.
If they’ve recently built a large number of inbound links it could be they’re also investing in a new SEO strategy. By understanding why a competitor is enjoying higher ranking positions you can start to create your own strategy to bounce back.
9. You’ve migrated to a new website or made a large update
Building a new website should be a really exciting process but it’s easy to muck up the migration and instantly lose visitors. The same can also be said if you’re introducing a large update. There are specific steps you should take when migrating to a new website – check out our website migration checklist to ensure you don’t negatively affect your visitor numbers or wider SEO.
All website migrations or large updates need careful planning. With the right process you should only positively impact your SEO rather than the other way around.
10. Your server isn’t functioning correctly
If you’re experiencing a sudden loss in visitors then are you sure that your website is functioning properly or are there issues with your hosting environment? It’s important your website is hosted on a reliable server as if you experience regular down time this will negatively impact your SEO.
A common issue for servers not functioning correctly would be if you’ve received a surge in visitors or if you’ve used up the available bandwidth. Get help from an experienced webmaster if you think you’re having problems server side.
Seeing sudden drops in visitors or clear decreases over time can seem daunting but there’s almost always an explanation, and with that in mind there’s always something you can do about it.
The important thing is to realise that losses in visitors could come from something as easy to rectify as an incorrect redirect, or it could be a mixture of things mentioned above. Losses in visitors need investigating properly in order to put together a plan to recover them.