Many times, a website will have a drop or gain in traffic. This is an opportunity to find out more about your website visitors.

  1. If it is a drop, it is important to find out the reason to rectify the problem. Or in some cases to reassure that there isn’t a problem (more on this later).
  2. If it is a big gain in traffic, it is important to find out in order to keep the trend going.

The first thing to do is determine the exact date the change in traffic occurred. You can do this on Google Analytics by clicking on the “Day” tab above the graph on the right and put the mouse on the graph and note the day the traffic changed. Then, compare this date to today (assuming the traffic didn’t change again) to the previous period.

The second thing to do is to compare the revenues or leads if it is a B2B website without ecommerce. If that didn’t change, there is a good chance the traffic change was due to spam. If you are investigating a drop – you can breathe easy. If it was a gain, it is worth it to investigate further – there may be a way to exploit this extra traffic if it is not spam.

Click on the “Day” tab to find out when website traffic increases.

Now you have to look at the different segments:

Direct: A drop and gain may not have much significance as it may be spam. Further segment by location. If it is one specific location, it could be because a developer or someone involved with the company is visiting the site often or, due to spam.
You can then filter them out in an advanced segment, so future analysis won’t be affected by this. If you use a filter, it won’t be retroactive which is a problem.
If the drop is even among all locations, this is probably not the case.

Referral: If the traffic change is from the referral segment dig deeper and see which sites the traffic changed. If they are spam sites you can ignore it (or filter them out).
If it is a website that provides quality traffic, investigate further. It could be that they changed or moved the link to your website. You may be able to contact them to rectify the problem.

PPC: First find out which Source has changed: Adwords, Bing, Linkedin or maybe Facebook or Twitter. Then, find the campaign and drill down to the keyword. In our experience, there could be an outside occurrence – such as a new report – that causes an increase in searches for some keywords. If that is the case and they were wasteful clicks, you can prevent future occurrences. For example: you can isolate the Keyword in its own campaign and cap the budget.

SEO: Although Google dominates, there are other search engines. We administer a campaign that had a spike in organic traffic. We segmented the traffic by search engine and found that the traffic increase was caused by the Chinese search engine Baidu even though we had no Chinese on the website.

The arrow shows a spike in traffic coming from the Chinese search engine Baidu.

Although this is rare, first segment out the search engines.
The second thing to check is the organic traffic by location. In some cases, the spike can be caused by one country.

General: In rare cases, the analysis described above doesn’t yield any information. In that case, keep segmenting with other factors until you find the answer.