There's probably nothing scarier for a website owner than a traffic drop, especially one that seemingly comes from nowhere. Without traffic, your site's income can go to zero overnight.
The problem is worsened by the fact that a Google penalty can also come from nowhere, and many affiliates live in fear of such a slap.
However, in most cases, a traffic drop is nothing to worry too much about. Regardless of the traffic source, fluctuations happen, and sometimes even a huge dip can be natural, and temporary.
In these cases, the hardest thing to do is usually just identify the cause of the traffic drop, and whether or not it really is something to worry about. That's what this post is going to cover.
We'll start off by walking you through the process of analyzing a traffic dip, and knowing what steps to take, and will finish with a few proactive measures you can take to avoid one in the first place.
Before We Start – Get Accurate Data
The only effective way of knowing how much traffic you're getting is to use Google Analytics, or the WordPress plugin Clicky. Other tools like Similarweb, Semrush, Ahrefs, or even Google's own Search Console don't give you accurate data. Most of them just estimate your traffic based on your rankings or adverts, which isn't going to capture a clear enough picture.
How To Analyze A Traffic Dip
So, the first thing to do when you see a traffic dip, is not to panic. No matter how significant the dip is, and no matter how big the butterflies in your chest become, don't panic. There's often a logical, pain-free explanation.
Step 1: Is Your Tracking Still Set Up Correctly?
I can't tell you how many times I've tweaked something on a site and inadvertently caused the Analytics code to stop working. Sometimes it's been me disabling or changing a plugin, and sometimes I have no idea what happened, but there have definitely been a few situations where I've seen my traffic literally go to zero overnight, only for me to discover my Analytics code was no longer set up correctly.
Step 2: How Big Is The Dip?
We all have different definitions of a traffic dip. For me, if a site is getting 500 visits per day, and then suddenly gets 300 visits per day, that might not be a major issue. If it suddenly gets 100 per day though, I will likely look deeper.
No keyword gets a consistent amount of searches every day, and some are pretty seasonal. There's also things like vacation periods and national holidays to take into consideration as well.
Step 3: How Long Has The Dip Lasted?
Much like the step above, you need to figure out how significant this dip might be. If it's only the first day that you've seen a drop, then we really don't need to be having this conversation yet. Come back in a week and see if the traffic is still down. In many cases, it will sort itself out.
Maybe there was a temporary dip because of a holiday, maybe Google was just testing different sites at the top of the page, or maybe people just didn't see those keywords for a week. Welcome to Internet Marketing, it's not predictable.
Step 4: Have Your Rankings Dropped?
So let's assume the dip in traffic is big enough for you to investigate and it's been going on long enough for you to consider it “not just temporary”.
The next place to look would be at your rankings. You can do this by plugging your site URL into Ahrefs or Semrush, and you can also check your favorite rank tracker (you should be tracking some of your target keywords right from the beginning anyway).
If all your rankings look like nothing is amiss, then there's probably very little to worry about and you can (in most cases) stop here. It's likely that the keywords you rank for are just not getting as many searches as they were before, and this could be down to seasonal fluctuations.
If your rankings HAVE dropped, then you should read the post we wrote about troubleshooting that instead. It could be pretty serious, so you'll want to (calmly) troubleshoot this.
Step 5: Check The Traffic Types
A dip in traffic might not be related to rankings at all. If a significant amount of your traffic comes from non-organic sources, then there could also be a natural reason for the dip.
Maybe you had some social posts which were performing well and bringing in traffic, and for some reason they no longer were. Maybe you're running ads and their performance dipped, or they were taken down. Or maybe someone was sending you traffic temporarily from one of their blog posts, and THAT post isn't getting as many views as it did before.
If a large part of your traffic comes from these kinds of sources, then fluctuations are just as likely, if not more so, than if you rely heavily on Google traffic.
Step 6: How Old Is Your Site?
A lot of the people who come to us with a traffic dip issue, actually have a “not enough traffic in the first place” issue. When you only have a small amount of traffic, it is usually only coming from one or two blog posts.
In this case, it's very likely that you'll see natural fluctuations, because when one keyword has a dip in searches, there aren't any other posts bringing in traffic to offset that, so the dips are more significant relatively.
Step 7: Wait Longer
A lot of the time, traffic just goes up and down, and there's no real explanation for this. That's part of why a lot of traffic is called “Organic” I guess, because it's natural, and has natural fluctuations.
In my experience, the vast majority of traffic dips will take care of themselves later, without you having to do anything at all.
The only real issue is if your rankings have also dipped, which we've talked about in this post, and even that isn't a surefire reason to panic.
Still, there are some things you can do to avoid these kinds of things happening, which we'll talk about below.
Note: There's no way to fully guarantee you won't get traffic fluctuations though.
How To Proactively Avoid Traffic Dips
Step 1: Keep Adding New Posts
You don't have to be particularly gung ho with adding posts to your site, but if you go an extended period without adding anything new, you may see a traffic dip. Try to make sure you add new content to your site at least once a month, or once a week if you have more time.
One of the things you can do when you see a ranking/traffic dip, is schedule a batch of 5-10 new “content only” posts to remind Google your site is active, and providing quality information.
Step 2: Diversify Your Traffic
While organic is totally the best type of traffic for you, in most cases, it's also good to have some diversity.
Google traffic can be fragile, so building an email list, a social media following, or learning to make paid traffic profitable is something well worth focusing on.
Step 3: Let It Age
The newer a site is, the more likely it is to be stuck in the Google Dance, so in many cases, there's nothing you can do to avoid dips, but wait longer, and keep growing your site.
Step 4: Don't Do Sketchy Link Building
This isn't really a link building or rank oriented blog post, but it'd be hard for us to talk about stable traffic without mentioning that it's not a good idea to go overboard with your link building.
It's not always easy to know why you're suffering a traffic drop, and the majority of people who are experiencing this for the first time are doing so because their site is too new.
If your traffic dips from 50 hits per day to 20 hits per day, the issue is probably just that you don't have enough traffic, and you're more susceptible to fluctuations.
Follow the steps above though, and you should be able to figure out the majority of dips.