No website owner likes to see their visitors trending downwards. After all, the point of SEO is to drive more traffic to their site, right? While fluctuations from day to day are bound to happen, if you notice a downward trend (I like to look at three months worth of data) in your visitor count here are four things to consider:
1. Search volume is down.
If people just aren’t searching using your keywords to search than it’s completely reasonable to see a downward trend in visitors. For instance, a company that sells Christmas decorations probably sees huge spikes in traffic starting in October (maybe even a little earlier), but that traffic all but disappears on December 26th. Why? Because after Christmas is over people just aren’t searching for Christmas decorations like they had been in previous weeks. You might still get a decent amount of traffic from people looking for post-Christmas deals that want to stock up for next year, but that number is likely to be far less than the visitor trends you had been seeing.
This doesn’t mean your SEO isn’t working, it’s just a sign that seasonality is at play! Take a look at your analytics from the last two years or more; was there a similar drop around the same time in years past? When search volume is down due to seasonality it’s bound to reflect as a downward trend in visitors.
2. Did you pull back on any of your SEO efforts?
Another reason your visitors might be trending downwards is if you put a hold on your SEO campaign. SEO is a long term and ongoing process; just because you reach a desired spot in the SERPs or daily visitor count that doesn’t mean your work is done! If you reeled your blogging back in from a post every day to a post once a week, it makes sense that your visitors are trending downwards because there isn’t as much content driving them to the site. If you stop actively building links your site might slip a few spots in the SERPs because your competition is still building links and has surpassed your website. SEO requires constant attention and you get out of it what you put in. If you don’t want your visitors trending downwards that be sure you keep at it!
3. Did a major online advertising campaign end?
This can have a major impact on the amount of branded visitors coming to your site. If you’ve been advertising heavily online, publishing a lot of press releases and getting lots of coverage from online news sources and bloggers then your brand is everywhere. Your customers remember your name and look for you directly. But when you pull those branding and advertising efforts your branded traffic is bound to dip, which looks like your visitors overall are trending downwards. I’ve seen this happen with powerful brands and when their branded visitors count slips it has a huge impact on their overall visitor trends. In some cases, organic visitors remained the same (or even went up) but since branded visitors represented such a large percentage of their overall traffic it looked a lot worse than it was.
4. Was your website penalized?
If your website was penalized you’re not going to see visitors trending downwards in most cases. Chances are you’ll lose 50+% of your traffic overnight from a penalty. If this happens, the first thing you want to check is that the analytics code is still properly installed on your site. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with a panicked client only to find out three days later that their developer had accidentally removed the code from their site. If the code is still working properly, check to see if your loss in traffic coincides with an algorithmic update. If that’s not the case, check your Google Webmaster Tools account for any messages about a manual penalty.