You log on to Google Analytics and your precious website traffic has plummeted. WHY? Try to stall the panic and check these simple tips to work out out why Google Analytics just stopped working.
You’ve spent an age writing up your performance review raise-begging manifesto, you’ve blown your own trumpet more times than Louis Armstrong and the other day you even managed to compliment your boss on his cat vomit tie without choking on your Pop Tart - but now this! Google Analytics just stopped working and you have to explain why. We feel your pain - we always have (check out this previous post on web traffic FUBAR if you think it might be a coding issue). Gird up your loins and read on...
Your Google Analytics data is skewed.
Look at your Analytics data objectively and have a careful think about any changes you’ve made to the settings. Have you applied any filters? What patterns or trends can you see in the decline? A short, sharp drop isn’t necessarily because you’ve been hit with the dreaded “Google Penalty”. Take deep breaths and check out some different reports in Google Analytics. Does the decline stem from a particular referral path? If so, what additional efforts can you make in that direction? *TIP* Don't know how to check the referral path in Analytics? Nicola tells you here.
To avoid this sort of thing happening again, remember to create annotations in the Google Analytics timeline. Annotations in Google Analytics help jog the memory, and are crucial if a few people manage the account.
People aren’t coming back to your website.
Your new and returning visitor data can tell some very illuminating stories about how people are using your website. If the volumes of new visitors are struggling, it’d be worthwhile doing an audit on the search terms you’re targeting and how well you’ve optimised your site around them. If people aren’t returning to the site, what could that tell you about the user experience or how useful people are finding the site content? Your individual visitor analytics will flesh out and support any theories or hunches you have.
Google made a change to its algorithms.
If you’re doing stuff by the book and your website is healthy, you’re unlikely to get pinged by an algorithm change - but it's worth checking just in case.
You generally get a good bit of warning from Google (as well as hyperbolic coverage in the SEO media) when they're about to introduce a change to their algorithms, but perhaps one passed you by.
Are there any trends within your sector that could be affecting your traffic? Has anything changed with the type of service or product you deliver? Rack up some comparison studies for different years, months, times of day etc, and see what you can learn.
You or your SEO have been dabbling in black hat tactics.
Shame on you, if you have. Have we not taught you anything? Failing to adhere to Google’s guidelines on quality is an absolute no-no. Could you or your crappy SEO have been engaging in something that Google expressly says is bad for your search health? Or maybe you’ve accidentally done something that looks like lazy SEO, which has subsequently pinged Google’s algo’s looking for Link Schemes, Duplicate Content, Unnatural Links Pointing Away From Your Site - or maybe a human has checked it out and you’ve done something that’s incurred a Manual Action!
If you think you may be in hot water, log in to Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) and see if there are any messages related to your domain. You may need to verify your domain, but it’s a fairly straightforward process – follow the instructions in the Search Console.
If you suspect something is amiss, but lack the technical nous to pinpoint it, give us a call, we can help.
Your competitors are getting the edge.
Have a look over your competitors’ sites. Perhaps they have spruced up their offering, embarked on a content marketing drive, or are they nudging you out with some amazing special offer on keyword-tastic landing pages?
Mind your PPC.
Obviously, you should be checking your PPC campaigns regularly anyway but if traffic has dropped off then you should probably make sure they’re all running OK and payments are being processed successfully.
Check Google Search Console for Malware / Broken Links Warnings
Google's Search Console gives you accurate information and alerts about any technical issues that might be affecting traffic to your site, or site performance. If you’re down as the manager of the site, you’ll receive email alerts if there’s a particular issue such as malware or 301 broken links in need of redirection.
Your pages have been accidentally “no-index”ed.
Most of the time this occurs after launch when your site has been migrated from dev stage, and someone's forgotten to change the setting from asking Google not to crawl the page to live and desperate to rank. If your pages aren’t indexed you’re not going to rank on organic search. Providing you address the problem swiftly, Google should re-crawl your site in a handful of days (though this increases exponentially if the original problem isn’t recognised and addressed). Check out our free website health checklist to make sure you have everything else covered.