How to Diagnose a Drop in Organic Traffic

Aug 13th 2015

How to Diagnose a Drop in Organic Traffic

 

There are few things in the life of a website that are more frightening than a sudden drop in Organic traffic. With other channels, like email or paid search, a sudden drop can be relatively easy to diagnose because the entrance points are under your control – There will be clear indicators as to which email campaign or ad group isn’t working.

But with Organic traffic you don’t have that same level as insight or control – You know users are coming from Google or Bing, but there is far less data about behavior and the cause for a drop may be out of your control.

The key to diagnosing a drop in organic traffic is identifying clear trends in your Analytics data. Think of yourself as a doctor: each symptom you are seeing is a clue to the cause of the disease, and following the larger trend will take you to the heart of the problem.

The challenge, of course, is identifying Clear data trends. It’s not enough to say “X changed by 5%, this must be it!”. In my experience though, with any significant drop in traffic you will find a silver bullet of data… as long as you keep digging!

 

The key to diagnosing a drop in organic traffic is identifying clear trends in your Analytics data.

 

Let’s begin:

Start by setting your segment to “Organic Traffic”. You also need a time frame to compare the time after the drop to an equivalent amount of time before. Set the start date of your time frame to the starting date of the traffic drop and choose compare to previous period.

 

Landing Pages

The best place to begin is the landing pages. We can’t control the entry points but we can see which ones were affected the most.  More importantly, this will tell us what our next step is. If only one or two sections of the site were affected, then all you will need to do is identify what makes those sections different than the rest of the site/

Note: It’s REALLY helpful to have clear directories for this part. Otherwise, the filters will be tricky to work with.

However, if the drop in traffic is occurring across all landing pages your next step is to play a little guessing game with secondary dimensions

 

Secondary Dimensions

These are powerful tools, and can be instrumental in diagnosing drops in traffic. At this point, the only trends that are available to you are secondary dimensions. Not only that, it can devolve into a trial-and-error type diagnosis pretty quickly. If you get to this point, don’t worry, it’s fairly common for Organic Traffic. You just need to find a secondary dimension with a clear correlation to the drop to diagnose the problem.

My two favorites in particular are Device Category and Source.

 

Device Category

Device Category, under the ‘Users’ dimension, can be one of the most helpful. Because of the different technical implications, mobile or tablet users can be affected. This is a good starting point. If you see a sharp drop from a certain category, you know that your site is having trouble on tablets or mobile.

 

Source

We obviously already know that organic traffic dropped – but there are many of sources of organic traffic. In most cases, Google makes up the majority of your Organic traffic, but it’s worth verifying whether the drop occurred across all networks or if the drop is because of a difference in algorithms.. If you were getting a certain amount of Yahoo or Bing Organic traffic, for instance, a sudden drop might indicate a algorithm change, or perhaps something more dire (like a DMCA takedown on a specific network). This data can be found under ‘Acquisition’.

In most cases, these two secondary dimensions will get you headed on the right track. For the weirdest situations though, you may need to play around with other secondary dimensions to see if there is a hidden correlation.

 

The key to identifying most problems with Organic traffic is to start from the top down to identify the most relevant trend. This will lead you to the most likely cause of the traffic drop, and from there to a solution. Just remember to explore as much data as you can find and keep at it if you don’t cure the problem right away!

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What Our Clients Think

Quote image

The team at Iterate has helped us get off the ground during our first year in business. We went from 1 location and 5 employees to now 3 locations and a few dozen employees ( and counting! ). We were getting about 6 leads each week when we started and through the work Iterate has done, we are nearing 100 leads through our website each week.

Mike Horey

COO and Co-Founder of Active Recovery TMS

The new website is gorgeous! We love the design and Iterate turned it around quickly. We have appreciated working with Iterate over the years because they are accessible, data and results-oriented and overall just so easy to work with.

Kari McKinley

Business Manager - Blue Oak Dental Group

Iterate is a great company and we couldn't be happier to how professionally they manage our marketing and website. Thank you Iterate!

Jon Bonk

Marketing Manager - Centrifuge Chicago

Iterate Marketing has revolutionized our company. We have a modern, fresh look now that is far more optimized than ever before. We can’t thank the Iterate team enough for the work they’ve done for us so far and look forward to many more years in the future!

Laura Hall

CIO - Community Management Inc.

Iterate Marketing did a great job for us... we saw a conversion bump of 100%, and a traffic increase of 81%. Furthermore, our Cost Per Conversion dropped, saving us 17%. ..they delivered the increases we needed.

John Yoder

CEO - Funny Business

Great company to work with. Very flexible and attentive to our needs. Always trying to help us improve our business practices without being overly push or giving the typical "salesperson" impression.

Renee Kitchen

Marketing Manager - Hamilton Marine

Vibrant yet professional and great for my budget as the Marketing Campaign Manager of a medium-sized SaaS company. Experts in AdWords management and content promotion. Love their blog too!

Heather Blackwell

Marketing Campaign Manager

Super easy company to work with. Extremely knowledgeable. A great fit for my small but growing business. Highly recommend.

Dominick Farina

CEO - Trashcans Unlimited

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