7 Ways to Diagnose a Drop in Website Traffic Right Now

Man wearing detective clothing looking through magnifying glass.
You walk into the scene of a crime. There is a room full of smoking guns. You don’t know which gun is responsible for the death of your traffic.

It’s your job to put on a detective hat and start investigating the crime. This investigative work takes technical skills and wisdom. There are countless clues that can take you down rabbit holes that end up in dead ends. And then you finally get the culprit.

This cheat sheet shows you how to diagnose a drop in website traffic. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it can be a good starting point when you’re in a pinch and need to uncover what caused a drop in traffic as quickly as possible.

1. Did You Lose Rankings?

Lost search engine ranking is one of the more common culprits when traffic is down. And if you discover that is the case, you need to figure out why to set the best course of action. I wrote about this in an article on five things to know when your site loses rankings. The usual suspects include changes to the competition, the algorithm, current events, and more.

2. Did You Lose Links?

Dive into your link profile. Has anything changed? If you focus on quality over quantity of links, it will be easy to see if the website that has been sending all that traffic has stopped. Now the question is, “why?” You may need to reach out to the webmaster to find out and fix it.

3. Did You Make Changes to the Website?

What changes have you made to your website? If you have only a small team making updates, this step may be easier. Larger companies with many cooks in the kitchen present a challenge. Reach out to team members and review any changes to the website within the past 30 days.

4. Was There a Core Update?

You can bet that Google will do a core update to the algorithm about once every quarter. And although Google says there’s nothing, in particular, to do if you’ve been impacted by a core update, they do offer some general guidance, like focusing on your content.

5. Is There Anything in Your Server Logs?

Server log data can make your eyes cross, but it can also give you much more information than Google Search Console. Server logs can detect any bad links or spam, identify spider traps, and more.

6. Did Google Change Something Else?

There are about 11 changes to Google Search each day on average. Plus, there are countless variables when it comes to ranking your webpages. So sleuth around the search results. Did your snippet render differently? Did Google change the way the search results render? Did Google decide your target keywords were now transactional and not informational? There are a lot of hypotheses to explore.

7. How Is Your Reputation?

Got bad reviews? Negative press? Over time, this can add up and chip away at your traffic. For more on this, I recommend reading: Is Sentiment an SEO Trust Signal?

When you start your investigation, start with the pages that have lost traffic. You can then look into keywords for that page and run very specific SEO tools to help you figure out which smoking gun is responsible for the crime.

Need help diagnosing your website performance? Our SEO experts can take a deep dive and provide recommendations that will improve your traffic, ranking, and revenue. Reach out to us for a free consultation, and let us know how we can help.

FAQ: How can I identify and address the causes of a decrease in my website’s traffic?

Experiencing a sudden decrease in website traffic can be a perplexing challenge. However, armed with the right knowledge and strategies, you can effectively diagnose the underlying causes and take corrective actions.

A drop in website traffic can stem from various factors, including changes in search engine algorithms, lost search engine rankings, or alterations to your website’s structure. To tackle this issue, start by analyzing your site’s recent changes. Have there been modifications to your content, design, or user experience? The initial step is to closely examine your website’s evolution over the past weeks or months.

Further investigation may lead you to evaluate your backlink profile. The sudden absence of backlinks can significantly impact your traffic. Focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to backlinks. Reach out to websites that used to link to your site but have since stopped. Maintaining a healthy backlink network contributes to steady traffic flow.

Core updates by search engines can also influence your website’s visibility. Regular updates to algorithms may cause fluctuations in traffic. Stay informed about major updates from search engines and adjust your content strategy accordingly. Ensuring that your content aligns with search engine guidelines can help maintain consistent traffic levels.

Don’t overlook the power of server logs. These logs provide valuable insights into user behavior, crawling patterns, and potential issues. Detecting and rectifying errors flagged in server logs can enhance your site’s performance and, subsequently, its traffic.

Your website’s reputation plays a pivotal role. Negative reviews, press coverage, or a decline in customer trust can gradually erode traffic. Monitor and manage your online reputation to build and maintain trust among your audience.

Transitioning smoothly between these investigative stages empowers you to efficiently identify and address traffic decline. You’ll gain a holistic understanding of your traffic patterns and potential issues by carefully scrutinizing your website’s changes, backlink quality, algorithm updates, server logs, and reputation. With this knowledge, you can confidently implement strategies to recover and enhance your website’s traffic.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Addressing Website Traffic Decline:

  1. Analyze Recent Changes: Scrutinize recent alterations to your website, including content, design, and user experience.
  2. Evaluate Backlink Profile: Focus on quality backlinks and reach out to websites that have stopped linking to you.
  3. Stay Informed About Core Updates: Stay updated on search engine algorithm changes and adjust your content accordingly.
  4. Utilize Server Logs: Analyze server logs to identify crawling patterns, user behavior, and potential issues.
  5. Manage Online Reputation: Monitor and improve your website’s reputation through reviews and customer trust-building efforts.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (6)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!

6 Replies to “7 Ways to Diagnose a Drop in Website Traffic Right Now”

I sometimes find news events in niche that relates to my website can make a huge difference to impressions and sometimes a noticeable increase in traffic as well. Or in some cases a decrease if a news event suddenly means an article that had not rank competition is suddenly competing against major newspapers.

Very Informative and knowledgeable post, Thanks for sharing. but I have one question, if the URL link is not working on websites, What should do?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Assignment Help,

Thanks for your question. If a URL on your site is not working, it might be because the page it is linking to no longer exists or has moved. If the page has moved, you’ll need to do a 301 redirect to direct users to the correct page, or a page that has relevant content. If you don’t have a page to redirect to, you’ll have to create a custom 404 page. For more details, refer to this article: https://www.bruceclay.com/blog/how-to-remove-a-webpage/.

Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge with us.


Great!! really help me


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