How to Diagnose Lost Search Engine Traffic

When dealing with a decline in traffic it is important to determine the source of the problem. Is the change something indirect that you can’t control such as change in a search algorithm or a new competitor in the market, or is the change due to something more direct, like recent (well intentioned) changes to your site or a a server outage?

The clues are all in your Analytics data.

  • Is the loss from a single referer (Google, Yahoo, Bing)?
  • Is the traffic loss clustered around a specific keywords or phrases?
  • Has your website been off-line due to a server outage or update?
  • Is there a basic configuration issue, such as an incorrectly written “No Index” entry in the robots.txt file?
  • What changes, if any were made to the website preceding the loss?

Jill Whalen with High Rankings in Boston has a really great write-up on looking for the root of the problem here.

To summarize:

  1. Determine what type of traffic loss you’re dealing with.
  2. Look at the extent of the traffic loss.
  3. Compare apples to apples.
  4. Review and filter out “brand” traffic.
  5. Analyze which keyword phrases have had a significant decrease in visitors.
  6. Do a quick Google search for the phrases.
  7. Review the landing page for the keyword phrase that lost traffic.
  8. Review your long-tail traffic.
  9. Decide if you’re dealing with a search engine penalty

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