If a significant chunk of your business comes via your website, waking up to discover a massive traffic drop can feel like your worst nightmare. However, you don’t need to panic. Most traffic drops have an explanation and, once you know why your traffic dropped, then you can fix it. Here are some things to check.
1. Has Google placed a manual action against your site?
A manual action means that Google is intentionally keeping you out of search rankings or has significantly demoted you there. Usually, this happens when a person manually reviews your site and finds that it is out of compliance with Google’s quality requirements.
To see if you have a manual action against you, go into Webmaster tools. On the left side, click on “search traffic.” From there, click on “manual actions.”
A manual action can mean that your site has been flagged for a number of things, including:
- Pure spam – This means that your content has been deemed spammy or to have little or no value.
- Cloaking or sneaky redirects – This happens if people come to your site expecting one thing and end up getting something else or being directed somewhere else.
- Hacked site – This may not be your fault, but Google still doesn’t want you in their search results, because a hacked site can be harmful to other people, too.
- Unnatural links – If your site suddenly has a massive number of links, then it looks like you went out and bought links, which Google frowns upon.
If your site has a manual action against it, you will need to clear that up and then apply for reconsideration from Google.
2. Has your site been hacked or is it down?
If the server is having issues and no one can get to your site, or they can only get there intermittently, you’re going to get less traffic than you would if it was up all the time. If these issues are ongoing, this is definitely something to take up with your webmaster and your hosting provider.
Hacking is more complicated. There is software out there that can detect a hack, but these can be complex and difficult to remove. Often, the easiest way to fully remove a hack from your site is to work with a professional digital services company that has experience dealing with these issues.
3. Have you made major changes to your site recently?
If you or your webmaster have made changes to your site recently, it can take Google a while to catch up. This can include things like:
- Updating your site architecture – If you have moved pages around on your site, Google will need to map it again before your traffic numbers will go back up.
- Moving from http to https – This is a technical, complex transition that, if not done correctly, can cause a huge drop in traffic.
- Changing your domain name – This is another transition that can cause issues if not done correctly. Making sure you correct all of your redirects can be time consuming, but you will not regain your traffic without it.
- Updating your robots.txt file or your sitemap – A single, small error in your robots.txt can keep Google from looking at your site at all. If you’re not sure what you are doing with these, talk to someone before you change them!
4. Has the weather changed?
If you work in an industry (like heating and HVAC, for instance), where weather is key to your business, you will notice spikes and valleys in traffic based on the weather. When it warms up, for instance, people will realize that they need to have air conditioner work done, so they will search for you. Again, when it starts to get cold, they will remember furnace servicing and find you again. In the middle, though, you may experience significant traffic lulls.
5. Has a major search algorithm recently changed?
Search algorithms are always being updated to reflect the current status of the web, new best practices, etc. If your site is only optimized for the current state of the algorithm, then you will experience a drop in traffic when that changes. Most digital services companies are now able to anticipate these changes, and so should make sure that your site will do well in searches both now and in the future.
Right now, the mobile first index is starting to take effect. If your site is not optimized for mobile viewing, you will experience a drop in traffic (if you haven’t already!). To make sure you maintain your current ranking, you will need to hop on the mobile bandwagon soon!
If you have experienced a drop in traffic to your site, whether you know the reason why or not, we can help you regain control of your web presence. Give Wit Digital a call, because we’ll be happy to help you out!