Why Has My Website Traffic Dropped?
One of my websites has recently received a blow to the amount of traffic it is reviving. In the space of two days, it dropped by a third! This obviously impacted sales and made me pretty worried, thinking that I had done something wrong. I have done a lot of research in to how this could have happened, so I thought I would document my findings to help you out, if the same thing happens to you. In this post I am going to give you answers to the question of “why has my website traffic dropped?”. I will go through the steps I took to improve the situation and get back to the level of traffic I was getting and to increase it.
Step 1 - Check Your 200 Status Code
It is quite easy to think that you have done something recently to affect your traffic negatively. But it is important to check if your website is returning a 200 status code. You may not know what this is, but don’t worry, neither did I until I started looking in to this.
A 200 status code shows that your website can be communicated with without any problems. You can simply check this out with the free HTTP Status Code Checker. If the status code reads “OK”, you can move on to the next step.
However, if your results indicate a problem, you can troubleshoot the failed code displayed.
Step 2 - Check Your Robots.txt
The Robots.txt is a file that is placed on your website. Its job is to instruct Google’s robots to interact with your website.
You can easily check your robots.txt using the Google Search Console. It has a robots.txt tester tool. Simply select your website and it will let you know if there are any errors with it that need addressing.
Step 3 - Check For Google Penalties
This is something that can happen overnight. Google can penalise your website for a few different reasons:
- Duplicate Content – Your website needs to provide original content. If you use information from manufacturers websites, tables or duplicate images, Google will consider it to be duplicate content. When it comes to images, make sure that the file names and descriptions are all different.
- Page Speed – If your website is too slow, Google will take this in to account. Therefore, that you have to make sure that your pages load up quickly, by not going too big with image files and choosing WordPress themes that load up quickly etc.
- Keyword Stuffing – By trying to shoehorn your keyword in to your content as much as possible, Google doesn’t like it. This is because it takes it that you are trying to cheat the algorithm and not working your way up the rankings with good quality content.
- Too Many adverts and affiliate links – Obviously most websites are there to make money some how. But Google doesn’t like it if you over do it with monetised adverts and affiliate links. This is because most of the time it interferes with the user experience, and the website prioritises earning money over providing quality information.
- Error pages – If your website has a 404 errors, your users will not hang around, as the page has nothing to show. Google recognises this and penalises website with loads of 404 errors.
- Bad Backlinks – If you have paid or poor quality backlinks on your website, Google can penalise it. This is because of its goal of providing its users with the most relevant content for their searches, rather than ones that cheat the system.
To check if your website has any errors, you need to look at the Google Search Console for your website. In the left hand menu, you will see the “Security and Manual Actions section”.
The difference between the two types of penalties is that the manual actions are carried out by a Google employee, while the security issues are automatic and can occur when Google releases updates. Google releases updates quite regularly without announcing them. This is why you should always to monitor your ranking changes.
The Search console will inform you of what the penalties your website has, if any. Here is where you need to take it on the chin and address the issues. There is no arguing, so you just have to fix the problems to appease the Google Gods.
If it is an on-page issue, go over all of your content to check for duplicate content etc. If it is an off-page issue, get rid of the links that are causing the problem.
Step 4 - Go Through Your Google Search Console
Google algorithms are really precise about what they expect from a website. Luckily, you can check out where your website falls short with the Google Search Console. It helps you track, optimise, maintain and improve your website.
You can use the Google Search Console to see if you have any crawling errors that impact on the indexing of your website. So properly check for the following to be guided:
• DNS errors
• Server errors
• URL errors
Step 5 - Check Your Competitors
It is totally possible for your competitors to have out ranked your website. Go through the keyword searches you are targeting to see if your competitors have jumped above you in the rankings. If so, you need to start an offensive campaign, by creating loads more quality content that is better than theirs. You should learn about your competitors and try to work out their link building and content strategies. This will help you understand why you are dropping and they are climbing the rankings. By doing this, you may be able to predict what they are going to do next.
So Why Has My Website Traffic Dropped?
I have used all the techniques on this list and found that my website speed has been compromised. To address this problem I looked in to a few things.
What Google Seach Console Had To Say
Looking through Google Search Console, I found that many of my pages had a reasonably low loading speed, so I looked in to what would cause this. As it was affecting so many pages, I realised that it was a global issue and not just with a few pages.
At first I looked at the WordPress theme I was using on the website. I did some research in to it before installing it, so I was fairly sure that it was a responsive one. However, after playing around with some different themes, I struggled to find one that I liked that did what I wanted it to do. So I went back to the old one, with a view to come back to it later. But once I activated it, I had some errors regarding plugins associated with the theme.
I deactivated those plugins and the speed of my website improved straight away. Hopefully this will fix the problem.
I will update this post, as I monitor the traffic. Hopefully it will go up again.