Website Traffic Dropping? Here's Your Go-To Checklist for Diagnosing and Fixing SEO Issues
Having your website suddenly start tanking on Google can often cause a bit of panic within a marketing team and the overall business.
You’re not alone in this – it’s something most of us in the digital marketing realm have faced.
The good news is, it’s fixable.
So, let’s take a deep breath and dive into this checklist I’ve prepared to help you diagnose and address any SEO issues that could be causing this downturn..
And remember, I’m here to guide you through this step by step.
When Did the Decrease Start?
First things first. Let’s try to pinpoint when this decrease in traffic began. Hop onto your Google Analytics (G4) account and pull up your traffic graph.
Set it to view by week. Look for any sudden or gradual changes in your traffic numbers.
This should give you a time frame to work with.
For instance, if you see a sharp drop during the second week of April, then you know something probably triggered it around that time. This could be anything from technical issues to algorithm updates or changes in your digital marketing strategy.
Is This an SEO Issue?
Before you go down the rabbit hole of SEO problems, it’s worth checking whether the traffic drop is specifically related to your organic search performance. Go to the ‘Acquisition’ section in G4 and look at the ‘Channels’ report. This will show you the different sources of your traffic – organic search, paid search, direct, social, and so forth.
If you notice that the traffic from ‘organic search’ has dropped, but other channels are steady or have increased, then it’s likely you’re dealing with an SEO issue. On the other hand, if all channels are showing decreased traffic, the issue might be site-wide, not just related to SEO.
Review Recent Development Work
Did you recently update your website design or add new functionality?
Sometimes, development work can inadvertently disrupt elements that are important for SEO.
This could be anything from accidentally deleting important SEO meta data to changing URL structures without proper redirects.
A great way to keep an eye on this is by using an SEO tool that tracks changes on your website.
Check for a 'No-Index' Tag
In the world of SEO, the ‘no-index’ tag plays a pretty vital role. It’s like a digital cloak that hides your webpage from search engine bots. While this is helpful when you don’t want certain pages to show up in search results (like internal documents or test pages), it can be a nightmare if added accidentally to pages you want people to find.
Use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl your website and check for any ‘no-index’ tags. If you find this tag on any important pages, remove it as soon as possible.
Identify the Affected Pages
Sometimes, a drop in traffic isn’t site-wide. It could be just a few pages that are underperforming.
You can check this by going to G4, navigating to ‘Behaviour’ and then ‘Site Content’.
From there, look at ‘All Pages’ or ‘Landing Pages’ and compare the traffic for different time periods (eg: now versus three months, six months, and even a year ago)
This will help you isolate the pages that have seen a decrease in traffic. Then you can focus your efforts on diagnosing and fixing these specific pages, instead of trying to tackle the entire website.
Using G4’s comparison tool, you can compare traffic
Check Your URLs and Redirects
Have your page URLs changed recently? Were redirects set up correctly after the change? Incorrectly set redirects or changed URLs can confuse search engines and lead to a drop in traffic.
Changing page URLs without setting up proper 301 redirects is like moving house without leaving a forwarding address. Visitors (and Google) will come knocking, but they won’t find you.
If you’ve recently changed any URLs, double-check that you’ve set up correct 301 redirects.
This ensures that anyone trying to visit the old URL will be automatically taken to the new one. You can use online tools like Redirect Checker to confirm this.
Verify Your G4 Tracking Code
Think of the G4 tracking code as your website’s lifeline to Google.
It allows Google to see your website and track interactions.
If this code goes missing (perhaps due to a website update or an error in Google Tag Manager), it could explain the drop in reported traffic.
You can check this by using Google’s ‘Tag Assistant’ extension for Chrome, which lets you know if your tracking code is firing correctly.
Review Your Copy and Metadata
SEO isn’t just about what’s visible to users. It’s also about what’s visible to search engines. This includes your metadata – the Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions that tell search engines what your page is about.
Meta Descriptions are more for users, but if the Meta Titles have been changed recently, especially if keywords have been removed, it could impact your rankings and traffic.
Review any changes and, if necessary, revise your metadata to include relevant keywords.
Run a Ranking Report
Use a tool like SEMRush or Moz to run a ranking report for your keywords.
If your rankings have dropped, it could explain the decrease in traffic.
Look at the pages and keywords where the biggest drops occurred, and focus your efforts on improving these areas.
Refresh Your Keyword Research
FInally, if the rankings are still stable, and you’ve ticked all the above boxes and still can’t find the issue, it might be time to look at your keywords.
The way people search changes over time, and keywords that were once effective might not be pulling in traffic anymore.
Use a keyword research tool (like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ahrefs) to find current, relevant keywords for your business.
If you find that your keywords are outdated, work on updating your website copy and metadata to include these new terms.
Understanding the problem is the first step towards finding a solution.
So, if your website traffic has dropped, take a systematic approach to diagnose the issue.
Use this checklist as your guide and don’t forget, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
Keep optimising, keep testing, and you’ll get there.
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