When Losing Web Traffic is Good

Chris Hawkins's picture

SEO is all about building traffic, right? When you see a dip in traffic, this must mean your SEO isn't working. That sounds simple enough, but is that correct? The short answer is “no” - having a reduction in website traffic can actually be an excellent sign.

When starting work on remediating the structure, content, and technical SEO of any website, it's a lot like remodelling a house. I use the term "remediating" as the work involved is a complex process of observation, testing, diagnosis, and planning. We then make adjustments to the plan as it goes along depending on the results.

If you were remodelling a house, there would be an initial assessment, tests done on the structure for how sound or sturdy it is, tests on the building shell, and an assessment of what needs to be gutted, removed, or supported before other changes can be made to rebuild a part or all of your home. The initial assessment in this process is a lot like the SEO Audit, in that we find issues that are blocking Google from finding your website and services.

In SEO, like remodelling your house, there will be a point in the process where everything is in the process of being torn down. In your house there would be stacks of broken boards, old rotted wood, plastic sheeting, bare frame, pails full of nails and screws, and stacks of materials yoru contractor is keeping dry under the cover of your porch.

In the middle of a website remediation, your webmaster or Digital Marketing Agency will have chosen a set of strategies to use in the course of their work. As the early strategies begin to gain traction, you will see some wild changes in Google Analytics. Generally speaking, you’ll want to see increases in:

  1. Users
  2. New Users
  3. Sessions
  4. Pages per Session
  5. Average Session Duration

When looking at these, it will be most helpful to view traffic specifically from Google itself, rather than your overall traffic view. If you want to see your analytics from all search engines combined, you’ll want to view your analytics through Organic Search. This will include all search engines, but will exclude paid searches like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, as well as social media visits. This will give you the most accurate picture of the direct results of your digital marketing campaign.

The most important metric you’ll want to see reduction is Bounce Rate, however, seeing a reduction in traffic itself can be a really good thing.

Benefits of Losing Traffic in Google

Why would I want to lose website traffic? For starters, the traffic you had before you started an SEO campaign was either not enough, or it wasn’t sending leads to your business. The four main states of website traffic before can be summarized as:

  1. No Traffic: A lack of website users entirely. This can happen for a number of reasons, including the site speed being too low for search engines to spider your site, errors in your htaccess or robots.txt files, or a variety of issues that block website indexability.
  2. Vanity Traffic: Visitors that were gained through black-hat SEO techniques, or by techniques that favour the volume of traffic over the actual value of that traffic. These are inflated numbers that look amazing on paper, but don’t really convert into leads.
  3. Non-Specific Traffic: Visitors that have reached your site by accident. Generally these users searched for a term and your website came up, though the term isn’t really related to what your business is doing. These tend not to convert into leads or new clients.
  4. Spam Traffic: These are generally bots, or traffic referred by junk directories, if you or one of your previous SEO teams used junk directories as a backlink strategy.

Unless you’re in the category with no traffic, when you start to improve organic search traffic through Google, Bing, and other engines, you’ll also start to lose traffic. You’ll start gaining traffic from audiences that are seeking the topics your SEO Consultants are posting, and start losing vanity traffic, non-specific traffic, and spam traffic. No Traffic sites will first see a massive increase in traffic, followed by an adjustment period where there will be similar losses and early indicators. This is all normal, and are expected stages on your way to a healthier website.

In summary, in a professional search engine optimization campaign, losing traffic is very good as long as you’re gaining in other metrics. Celebrate your losses, as long as they’re a part of a larger plan that will help you reach the success you’re aiming at.

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