Clients sometimes come to SHERPA in a panic asking us to help them stop the loss in web traffic or leads. The conversation usually goes something like: “I used to get a lot of traffic/leads, but not anymore. How do I reverse this?”
So let’s investigate. What happened to their website traffic?
The Causes of Website Traffic Decline
Before we fix any problem, we have to be able to name and identify that problem. To do that, we have to understand the symptoms or causes of the problem. Here are some of the common symptoms we will research first:
1. What has changed with the website?
Often a server or configuration change, such as installing a secure socket layer (SSL) or changing server IPs has an unforeseen impact on website traffic, and often in a negative direction. We would inquire as to what changes have been made on the website or server, and if those changes were properly deployed with proper URL redirects, xml sitemap syncing, and robots.txt files updates.
2. How did the source/channel traffic change?
Are the changes equally spread across all channels—direct, referral, search, social, and campaign? If one was more affected than the others, we dig deeper into what changed within that specific channel.
3. How did device type change?
Are users visiting the website with the same type of device? If we see an increase in mobile devices, we would look into the mobile experience and what may be thwarting such visits.
4. How did the page speed change?
Does the website load differently? If we see a change site-wide or on a few pages, we would inquire as to what content changes have been made to the website, such as adding/subtracting media or video.
Did Search Demand Change?
Sometimes the problem isn’t the client’s website, but rather searchers have changed their online searching behavior. In other words, are searchers still searching for your product or service?
Impressions Increase but Clicks Decline
The graph below exemplifies a situation where demand is actually steady or increasing, but traffic is decreasing. In such a situation impressions (red) are increasing while clicks (blue) are declining. In other words, searchers are equally or increasingly interested in the client’s product/service, but are less likely to click through to the website. As a result, their click through rate (yellow) declines. Usually attending to some basic SEO tactics will solve this situation and revert traffic to prior levels.
Impressions Decline, and Clicks Follow
The graph below exemplifies a worse situation where traffic declines because search demand declines. In such a situation search impressions (red) decline while clicks (blue) remain about the same. As a result, the click through rate (yellow) will actually improve as the website is garnering more clicks from less impressions. The solution, however, is far more difficult (read: expensive) to solve as we have to increase searcher demand. This requires investing in advertising that increases product/service awareness.
Next Step: Treatment Plan
Once we understand the symptoms of the problem, we can begin running some diagnostics to test our theories, confirm our suspicions, and develop a treatment plan. More on that next week!