3 steps to diagnosing declining website traffic

I’ll let you in on a little secret. My website hasn’t been doing as well lately. In fact, performance of the site has been downright poor in the last 3 months compared to the past. Are the glory days over? Has my writing substantially declined in quality? I needed to find out what was going on.

The path to understanding your website traffic, good or ill, is straightforward: audience, acquisition, behavior.

The first step is to understand the audience. Which audience are you losing? I fired up Google Analytics and looked at the two most basic segments of audience, new and returning users. Briefly, if new users are declining, it typically means you have an acquisition problem. If returning users are declining, it typically means you have a content problem. If both are declining, you typically have a structural problem behind the scenes. New users have been substantially down:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

But then, so have returning users:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

Something’s amiss, and I suspect it’s structural. The next step is to look at acquisition. Where am I losing my traffic from?

All_Traffic_-_Google_Analytics

It would seem I’m losing my traffic from direct and organic search for returning users, which means people have lost bookmarks, forgot to type in my domain name as part of their daily reading, or don’t find me again through search.

Let’s check out new users now. Where am I losing them from?

All_Traffic_-_Google_Analytics

The same two culprits, but on a much larger scale. I lost half of my organic search traffic. Yikes! I think it’s safe to say we found the problem: search. Both new and returning users rely heavily on search to get to my website.

Knowing that there’s a search problem, the next question is: what kind of search problem. For that, we head to Google’s Webmaster Tools. I looked at the dashboard and it said I have 1,289 URLs indexed under the Sitemaps panel.

Full stop. I know there’s more content on the website than that. There are thousands of pages on this site. What gives?

I looked a little more closely. My sitemap wasn’t reporting most of the URLs on my site. It turns out that when I updated an SEO plugin, it munched my previous settings for sitemaps, and was only reporting 1 out of every 5 actual URLs. I resubmitted my sitemaps to Webmaster Tools, and you can see the difference:

Webmaster_Tools_-_Sitemaps_-_http___www_christopherspenn_com_

That’s a pretty substantial difference right there. 75% of my work wasn’t indexed by Google because it didn’t know about it. Now it does, and I’ll expect to see an increase in the number of pages crawled and indexed in search results in the near future, which should translate into bringing people back to my website.

When you face a situation where you’ve got declining traffic, follow the same framework. Which part of your audience is ailing? Where do they come from? What do they do? By following that structure, you’ll quickly identify what’s broken and the solution to fix it may leap out at you.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


The tactical advantage of new things

A very brief strategic thought about why you shouldn’t wait to try new things in the world of marketing. New things capture the attention of the early adopters but the laggards and the mainstream are slow to catch on. There are thousands of marketing managers out there waiting for the case study to come out, and when it does, they’ll flock to the not-so-new thing like lemmings, causing considerably more poor performance. The best time to exact incredible performance from something new is before the masses arrive.

For example, when LinkedIn Sponsored Updates first hit the marketing world, very few brands were trying it. As part of my work at SHIFT Communications, I jumped in with both feet (and corporate credit card), and got some astonishingly good results from it. Just a week later, so many more of the rest of the crowd was trying them out that performance was a full 20% lower. The space got crowded quickly.

Here’s one of the few guarantees of marketing: if you’re waiting for the case study of the industry leader, you are guaranteed not to be that industry leader. Jump in as resources and time permit, experiment, and constantly be ahead of the crowd, ahead of the competition. You don’t have to go all-in and put all your chips across the line on every new thing, but you do need to at least ante up.

Where do you go to find new things? Search the final frontier. Read lots of blogs. Read developer notes. Use developer sites. The new stuff is always happening in development first, and eventually finds its way to marketing.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


Klout Perk Review: Keurig 2.0

I recently received the new Keurig 2.0 brewing system via Klout as part of a Klout perk. While the instructions from Klout say that I’m under no obligation to review it, I will anyway. So, here goes.

The system itself has a larger footprint than equivalent current models.

IMG_9919

The simple buttons have been replaced by a somewhat intuitive touchscreen, though the navigation gets confusing when you try to brew a carafe rather than a cup. I intentionally did not read the manual, because not reading the manual best simulates my state of wakefulness prior to coffee.

The newest feature is the ability to brew a carafe with a significantly larger K-Cup than the single service K-Cup.

So, is the system any good? For the positives, it’s much quieter than the older table-top models. Instead of the loud buzzing sound it makes when drawing water from the reservoir, it now makes a quieter pulsing sound. If you’ve ever tried to brew a K-Cup early in the morning while not waking anyone up, the new machine is definitely quieter.

For the negatives, a couple of big sticking points. First, the new system incorporates what is effectively DRM. The system scans the top of K-Cups for the Keurig logo and if it doesn’t see it, it won’t work. I predict a cottage industry in taking used K-Cup foil seals and cutting out the logos to stick onto third-party cups to keep them working.

IMG_9920

Second, the new carafe feature is nice in concept but the results are poor. K-Cups already tend to be a little on the weak side – in order for me to get a cup of coffee that matches my tastes, I typically have to brew two 6-ounce cups of one of their bold roasts. The carafe setting has no ability to control how much water goes into the carafe vs. coffee, so you get a weak, watery pot of coffee. If you like weaker, watery coffee, then the carafe is going to make you deliriously happy. I, however, am unimpressed, which is a doubly bad state for me prior to coffee:

IMG_9921

The verdict? If you own a Keurig system already and it’s not broken, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade. Don’t spend the money for DRM that doesn’t benefit you, and a carafe of weak, watery coffee. Stick with the Keurig you already own. If you don’t own a Keurig, the Keurig 2.0 is a capable machine with tradeoffs. If you want to use your own coffee with a reusable filter, you’re out of luck unless you glue a used Keurig label on your K-Cup holder (and I’d recommend an Aeropress for that anyway).

As always, thanks to Klout for the Perk and to Keurig for the machine. It will be available for purchase in September. I don’t know how much use I’ll get out of it, but at least it’s pleasant looking.

Disclosure: I received this Klout Perk for free. No other compensation was given.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!