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Web Traffic in Decline? Don’t Panic. Lets Check Your Google Analytics

When traffic drops on top pages and across your website, learn how to use Google Analytics to diagnose the source of your loss.

You’re diving into your Google Analytics year-over-year traffic. It’s down. DON’T. PANIC. It’s easy to feel betrayed by your Analytics account for delivering bad news, but don’t shoot the messenger. In that moment, it’s your tool to decode the dreaded traffic dip. Combining both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, you can effectively diagnose the culprit behind your traffic drop.

In fact, it’s easy to misdiagnose whether anything actually happened at all. Traffic has a natural ebb and flow. Rather than unwaveringly constant growth, experts merely hope for a gradual incline from month to month and year to year. Sudden, rapid drop-offs are more indicative of serious Google penalties, but slight dips with signs of recovery are less grim with explanations like seasonal fluctuations and Google trends.
Start with the basics and dig deeper in the next steps to diagnose the drop and get your web traffic back on track.

Check User Types

Numbers merely display a reaction to an issue often buried deep within cause-and-effect chains across your website and ad campaigns. Identifying where you’re losing traffic is the initial step to clarity. Know your top five traffic sources, including:

  • Direct traffic are visitors who type your URL directly into their browser or have clicked on a bookmark used to save your website address.  With a decline in this type of traffic, you might consider whether your competitor has launched an influential ad campaign driving traffic away from your site or if your landing page contains an error.


  • Organic traffic arrives from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo and are obtained through natural placement on search engine results pages without sponsored ads. With an organic decline, you have to question why you lost placement or have been removed from search rankings. Have there been changes to your SEO strategy or a Google algorithm update? Google penalties are also a possibility, which you would be notified of via your Google Webmaster Tools account.


  • Paid traffic lands on your site from paids ads such as display banners or Google AdWords.  Check if an ad campaign has ended or was suspended, or if there’s a payment issue. Content and placement of paid ads also impacts traffic numbers.


  • Referral traffic arrives by clicking on links from partner sites, blogs, emails, and posts on social media sites that land on your site. It can be organic or through a paid search like cost-per-click advertising. The most common reason for a decline in your referral traffic is the removal of tags or links from your partners. It may also stem from issues with your website structure.


  • Social traffic arrives from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Ideally, a lapse in scheduled posts may create a drop-off and is more easily remedied, but it may also indicate the result of a mass exodus of your followers, a banned or suspended account, or hacked page.


A drop in all traffic sources at one time points to an internal issue with your site as a whole or your analytics code. Breaks in your code on some of your pages can result in what appears to be a decline in traffic, and breaks across an entire site can give the false impression of a complete elimination of your traffic.

Check New vs. Returning Users

Different portions of your site and strategy cater to visitors along different points of the sales funnel. The Audience reports section, under behavior, will display the differences between returning users that have cookies for your site and new users without.

Declining new-user behavior typically points towards issues with your lead acquisition strategy, ad content and placement, and how users are searching for your site. Performing thorough and updated keyword research will provide some insight as to your relevance in search and how your site is appearing on SERPs.
On the other hand, declining return-user traffic points to issues of site structure, content and links, and problems with ease of navigation on your landing pages. Errors or slow-loading speed will increase your bounce rate and decrease your traffic based on poor user experience.

Check Google Analytics Calendar Comparisons

The ebb and flow of traffic is often attributable to seasonality (i.e. holidays and weather) as it relates to your products or brand and trends in user behavior. That’s why perspective is key to your “disaster” response. Using the compare tool in the Google Analytics calendar lets you zoom out to previous weeks, months and even pinpointed dates within the past year to establish whether the decline is a year-over-year pattern or anomaly. If the data displays consistently rebounded traffic after dips in the past, it is sure to recover again.

Time to Panic?

Unaddressed traffic drops, while almost always recoverable with the right tools, can be damaging to your revenue. Do you need help navigating and deciphering your Analytics and Webmaster Tools to take systematic steps to recover your traffic?  Talk to the Google Analytics experts at RLC Media and see how we can grow your digital traffic. /