Introducing Episode 1 of our new video series: Hardcore SEO! In this episode Stone Temple Consulting Senior Marketing Consultant Brian Weiss shares how to evaluate a sudden traffic loss on your website.
The Hardcore SEO series will bring you insights like this from Stone Temple’s team of seasoned SEO veterans. To make sure you never miss them (or any of our helpful video content) subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Here is the five minute video conversation Brian had with our CEO Eric Enge. After the video is a full text transcript of the contents.
ERIC: So Brian, I’ve lost a lot of traffic from my website, and I’m panicking. What do I do?
BRIAN: Well, the first thing is to actually not panic. It looks right now like you might be losing traffic, but there’s also some other potential explanations.
So, we want to make sure that it’s not a seasonal factor, that it’s not sort of a random fluctuation that’s within your normal range, and that it’s not an analytics problem either.
ERIC: Ok, so how do I check these things?
BRIAN: Well, the first thing to do is probably look at year-over-year. So compare this time this year to the same time last year. See if this is a normal slope that happens at this time.
Also, consider whether there are any holidays, or industry events, or any other kind of external cause that could be influencing what you’re seeing with the traffic.
Another thing you can do is hopefully you’re doing some keyword rank tracking, and so you can see, “OK, my search traffic is down. Are my rankings down as well?” Does everything kind of make sense?
Then one other thing to do is make sure you don’t have an analytics issue. There are a lot of things that can go funny with analytics, and we tend to have a lot more confidence in analytics then perhaps sometimes we should. So it’s helpful sometimes to have multiple analytics packages. For instance, if you have Google Analytics or SiteCatalyst, which use Java script tracking, it’s also good to have a server side analytics package.
So you’re collecting data in different ways, and if the data looks the same in both sources, then you can tell that, OK, it probably is actually a traffic drop.
ERIC: So, OK, I’ve checked it, and it looks like I do have a real traffic drop of some sort. So what do I do next?
BRIAN: The next thing would be to isolate the source of it. Dig into your analytics to see what search engine it’s coming from. Then look in the news, in Search Engine Land and SEO Roundtable. Barry Schwartz [owner of SEO Roundtable and columnist at Search Engine Land] does a very good job of going around to various message boards and seeing what site owners are experiencing.
There’s also Rank Ranger, which shows daily fluctuations in rankings, so you can see if there’s a lot of volatility at a certain time.
Another thing that’s good to do is if you track keywords to track them in groups. So you have your branded keywords, your non-branded keywords, your short-tail, your long-tail. You can see is there a particular group of keywords that fell.
Normally, when something changes in Google, it’s not going to impact you across the board, because they’re tweaking one part of the algorithm. So you’ll see, perhaps, certain landing pages that fall. It’s good to drill in there and see where are the places where you’re feeling it more.
ERIC: Interesting. So how does change, if this didn’t just happen last night, but actually happened a few months ago, would you do anything a little differently?
BRIAN: In some ways it’s much easier to evaluate that, because you can see if it’s held over time for one thing. But also there’s going to be more data to look at.
Sometimes Google announces algorithm changes; other times there’s enough activity that occurs that it sort of becomes known within the industry that there was an algorithm change at that time.
Moz is one place that keeps a list of algorithm changes. Rank Ranger does also, and you can also do a search, “Google algorithm change on” whatever the date that you’re seeing the shift.