How to spot website traffic drops

Written by Cristina Muñoz on 27th April 2021

(Last updated 15th June 2021)

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How to spot website traffic drops

If you manage a website, whether you focus more on the technical aspects or content, you will be interested in analytics reports. One thing that should be high on your list of things to monitor on your website regularly are traffic drops. But what if you don’t have time to interact with the Google Analytics interface daily? If you want to keep an eye on your analytics but you don’t have a lot of time, there are some shortcuts you can take to help you save time. 

How can you spot traffic drops and take action ASAP?

A good solution for monitoring traffic drops without having to remember to look on GA is Google custom alerts.

Google Analytics Custom Alerts are a feature that can be managed in the admin tab. Here you can set up triggers and notifications. This is very useful if you want to get general traffic performance updates sent to your inbox. Custom alerts allow you to programme an email to be sent to you (notification) when your traffic drops by a certain percentage, or below a number (trigger). You can set it to notify you daily, weekly or monthly. We recommend setting this to daily, so that you know straight away when something is going on and you can take a proactive approach in investigating and fixing the issue, if there is one. This doesn’t mean you will be alerted daily, of course. It means that you will be sent an alert if your traffic drops below the percentage or number you have set. 

You can also set up a second alert for average monthly traffic using the monthly time range, if you want to see whether your traffic drops month to month.

Why does website traffic drop?

Any marketer has experienced traffic drops at some point. It’s almost inevitable that this will happen, and it can be due to numerous reasons. It’s important to know the common causes to sudden changes in traffic patterns so that you can start discarding possibilities as soon as possible, get to the reason behind the drop, act on it quickly and prevent any losses. 

What are possible reasons to website traffic drops?

  • Changes in Google algorithms: Google algorithms change frequently. Most times, it will go unnoticed in your analytics reports but, occasionally, major updates can impact your traffic and ranking negatively, so it is important to be aware of any upcoming major algorithm changes. We use Search Engine Land to keep abreast of Google algorithms updates.
  • Changes in your code: adding a new tracking tag or an analytics plug-in can result in traffic not being tracked correctly. Always check that your analytics code is installed correctly, and if you have concerns, contact your web developer.
  • Link losses: you should check whether your traffic drop is linked to a decrease in referral traffic in your reports. If you miss referral traffic from a source that used to get you a lot more traffic in the past, consider contacting their web team to check. Another reason for link losses can be not having enough fresh content on your site, or having outdated content.
  • Site redesign issues: if you have recently launched a new website and migrated content, you will need to check whether anything is broken. Check your site speed and broken links.

You don’t always have to react to traffic drops. For example, if your traffic drops on a Sunday, but then it regularly crops back up on a Monday, it just means that your target audience is not likely to visit your site on a Sunday. But it’s definitely good practice to keep an eye on them.

What about traffic spikes?

Traffic spikes can sound positive, but this is not always the case. If you are not expecting traffic to rise as a consequence of a planned marketing campaign or a similar push, it could mean that your website is getting a rush of spam traffic. Google Analytics custom alerts also allow you to automatically be notified of traffic spikes

How to set up a custom alert?

First, you need to decide what your trigger will be. To calculate your standard deviation, look at your traffic throughout a significant period of time, perhaps 3 or 6 months, so that you avoid setting a trigger that you regularly reach - this won’t show you any anomalies. For example, if your traffic consistently drops by 60% at weekends, consider setting the custom alert to 70% or 80%. You can quickly take a look at your traffic pattern on your Audience report on analytics to decide what the threshold will be.

To set up the custom alert, go to your admin tab and in the ‘View’ column, find Custom Alerts.

google analytics view admin panel

Then, give it a name and set the time period and the email address the alert should go to. You can add more than one email address here.

Set up your parameters - do you want to be alerted when the number of sessions drop? You can also set up an alert for only one segment, like mobile users or social media traffic.

You can set up more than one alert if you want to track drops or spikes in more than one metric or in different segments.

Summary

Google Analytics can seem daunting if you are not familiar with the interface, and there is an almost unlimited number of reports you can look at. But if you want a quick way to monitor when your traffic needs attention, custom alerts can come in handy.

This article was posted in Client Guides, Quick Tips, Tools by Cristina Muñoz

  • Cristina Muñoz

    Cristina Muñoz

    Cristina, our Digital Account Manager, has interests that read like a lonely hearts column - she likes walks along the beach, enjoys drawing and has a GSOH. She’s obsessive when it comes to analytics and is filled to the brim with ideas for our clients.

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