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A sudden drop in eCommerce website traffic: 7 common scenarios explaining why

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Did your online shop just have a massive drop in incoming traffic? Well, that’s an emergency situation. Let’s cut to the chase. Here are seven common issues and causes that can explain a sudden drop in traffic.

1. An update to the Google algorithm

Google update is a mythical creature that returns every couple of months and shuffles the search results. The tech giant knows how to keep its secrets when it comes to promoting good content. They try to prevent you from writing in order to please the robots. They want you to focus on making your users happy, and your search ranking shall follow.

However, behind the curtains, Google has set up secret rules and algorithms to evaluate your website rank. Every couple of months, they roll out a major update. SEO experts can smell it from afar. You can discover it through a lightning-fast, unexplained change in traffic.

What you should do:

    • Check out the latest SEO news to see if there was really an algorithm update.
Avoid shady SEO strategies. Every algorithm update is different, and there’s hardly any way to prepare for them. The one thing you can do is to avoid black hat practices, which those updates aim to uproot. A crushing cut in traffic might be a sign that Google just got wise to your SEO deception.

2. The keeper of your analytics leaves and his wisdom is lost

The story usually goes like this: There’s this one person who sets up the website analytics in your small company. Six years later, you have 300 employees, but this prime mover for your Google Analytics leaves, and your numbers plummet shortly after.

Setting up analytics is a complex art, and one that’s not always done by experts. Some have their own ways and practices with building UTMs and adding tracking codes. 

“The biggest problem is with custom tricks used in the tracking tool, especially Google Tag Manager or custom scripts embedded on the web page. Those are often duct tape solutions that anyone coming to the company to fix analytics spends days on.”

Wojciech Wilczyński, Digital Ads and Analytics Specialist at Divante

Those homemade methods aren’t necessarily orthodox. When they leave, their own ways are lost. When someone introduces changes on the website without knowing how it was previously done, it can result in problems with Google Analytics. That’s why it’s important to carefully hand over the analytics or, even better, to audit it after the handover.

What you should do:

    • What you need is a SEO/analytics audit to see what’s going on. There’s a chance that you’ve been getting wrong numbers since the beginning.

3. A new digital, marketing, or SEO agency is onboard

Let’s continue the story. When new experts come onboard, they always have their own unique approach. A new agency will adjust the traffic filters and apply its best practices. It’ll leave a mark on your results. For example, you may unfortunately learn that a big chunk of it was your own employees and bots causing problems.

As the agency experts apply their best practices, those practices may not always be the best for your shop. Tracking eCommerce statistics may be tricky and require a level of understanding about your product and business. This is particularly true when you have a rare product niche. The ultimate answer to those problems is solid communication between you and the agency.

What you should do:

    • Discuss your doubts with the agency. 
    • Understand the changes they made. 
    • Make sure they understand your industry and niche.
    • Tell the agency what you expect to learn from the data.

4. Natural traffic fluctuation

Traffic tides come and go. It’s normal that the results fluctuate, and the characteristics of those cycles depend on your users’ group. As a rule of thumb, traffic dips on weekends and holidays, but there may be other periodic factors that draw your users’ attention away from your shop. A major drop in a certain month doesn't have to be alarming because other competitors may experience it, too.

What you should do:

    • Compare the results from similar periods in previous years. 
    • Check Google Trends on a regular basis to get a heads up on the traffic changes.

5. A change on your website

Tracking eCommerce transactions is difficult. Keep in mind that to err is human.

If you have a decently sized eCommerce company, you won’t tackle Google Tag Manager integration without coding. For many platforms, there are no predefined shortcuts. You have to install an extensive data layer, and then send data over to Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, or Google Ads. 

It paves the way for mistakes to happen. Your analytics layer is something that’s easy to overlook during events like rebranding or a website redesign. When everything is on fire and people need the website up and running as soon as possible is when the mistakes happen.

There’s also a chance that the change on the website alters customer experience and has an impact on the results. They’re not buying anything? Perhaps they can’t even find the button to confirm their order or the page takes too long to load and they leave.

What you should do:

    • Check your integrations.
    • Double check the customer experience and A/B test. Your user experience (UX) team should look for issues. Tracking software, like Hotjar, might be useful here.

6. A failure with your paid traffic campaign

This problem is more frequent than you’d imagine. The traffic goes down, everyone’s bewildered, and somewhere there, buried deep inside the Facebook Ads account, there’s this tiny message that your campaign has spent all of its budget. It’s a classic.

Of course, there can be other reasons for a campaign to stop performing: 

  • Your ad might have been blocked. 
  • Your credit card might have expired.
  • Someone clicked the wrong target group. 
  • Something stayed in draft status. 

What you should do:

    • Check the paid ad platforms.

7. Fierce competition

eCommerce is a sea full of sharks. Your listings might have just been outperformed by other companies who keep investing in their SEO more and more each year. 

It can get worse than that though, too. Some black hat SEO strategies can target your shop and drag the results down. For example, your shop may be getting links from shady spam sites that drain your domain authority. 

What you should do:

    • Always monitor your website ranking. It’s a crucial factor in getting organic traffic from search engines.
    • Check your backlinks with either Google Search Console or third-party SEO optimization platforms.

What now?

If your case matches any of those scenarios, you already have your answer. It’s an entry point into redefining the approach to SEO and web design to avoid similar problems in the future. 

If the reason is still unknown, the problem runs deeper, and it may concern both your market and the technology of your eCommerce. You need a proper audit to find the answer.

In any of those cases, if you need a hand with your eCommerce, you can always reach out to our team. We’ll be happy to help.

Published October 13, 2021