We've all had it: That great month of growth that makes you think you're really nailing this inbound marketing thing. The next month, though, your traffic might take a nosedive — leaving you wondering whyyy.
If your website is hosted on HubSpot, you have a great range of tools to track your traffic (say that three times fast.) Here's how to identify where your traffic dropped using the Sources panel, and how to get it back!
The all-knowing sources panel
The sources panel in HubSpot is your best traffic friend. This nifty tool shows you where all of your wonderful visitors are coming from, and which of them are becoming leads. But first, you've gotta learn how to analyze these charts.
Go to your sources panel by clicking on "Reports>Sources" in your HubSpot app. You'll see a bunch of colorful bars, and each of the colors represents a unique traffic source: organic search, referrals, social media, email marketing, and direct traffic. These are all the great places sending traffic your way. (For now, we'll ignore "other campaigns," since that's something you set up unique to your business.)
Understanding different traffic sources can tell you if a dip is normal, or cause for a bigger fix.
Now, let's create some context. In the dashboard, make sure your calendar criteria is "This month to date." Scroll down and jot down the numbers (or take a screenshot) of how much traffic came from each source.
Next, change your criteria from "This month" to "Previous month" and compare your source numbers side-by-side.
Note: If you're analyzing a traffic drop-off from a previous month, just set your calendar criteria to a custom date range, for example, "June 1 - June 30." Then, you'll compare these numbers to the custom date range of the month before, for example, "May 1 - May 31."
In your comparison, you'll notice some numbers shifting in each category. This tells you which traffic drops had the biggest impact on your overall traffic metrics. Some are normal, and some are big "uh-ohs." Here's what a drop in each category could mean, and our suggestions for how to bump traffic back up.
Organic search is competitive stuff. Just because you've earned a front-page spot one month doesn't mean you're guaranteed that spot forever. Keyword rankings take frequent upkeep, especially competitive ones. Maybe you haven't blogged about a topic in a few months — this could cause a swift keyword drop.
HubSpot's SEO optimization reports
There's a tool in HubSpot you can use to identify small ways to boost your rankings. Just navigate to any blog post or content page and toggle to the "Optimization" tab. (You may need to click "Check for optimization errors" to run the report.)
In the optimization report, you'll see a list of suggestions for boosting SEO. Go green and opt for 100%! You can also click "ranked keywords" at left to see what you've been ranking for, aka possible phrases to optimize around. Run this report for any of your blog posts or pages that previously had high traffic, but saw a slip.
The drop could be for bigger reasons (which we'll get to below), but you might get the boost you need from simple optimization tricks.
If you're at 100% optimization and are still losing traffic to your HubSpot website, you need to put in a little more SEO oomph. To fix your organic search traffic drop, make sure you're putting out consistent, optimized content around a range of keywords.
It's no piece of cake, but organic search is often highly qualified, so it's worth the effort! (If you're having trouble pumping out enough content — like, two to three times per week — consider hiring an agency to help.)
Dramatic organic traffic drops
If your organic search traffic dropped dramatically month-to-month, you'll want to make sure you haven't angered search engines with any black-hat strategies. If Google thinks you're doing something fishy to rank higher, it can penalize you, causing a sudden plummet in ranking — and therefore traffic.
Here are some things you shouldn't do, and if you have done them, backtrack immediately:
- Stuff keywords into your content (you should only use them naturally, and also use natural variations of them.)
- Post duplicate content, aka multiple versions of the same article. This is especially relevant if you're currently curating blog content — stop that!
- Putting in too many ads above the fold.
- Buying backlinks to your blog.
It's also problematic for SEO ranking if your website is too slow. Run the Google PageSpeed Insights to make sure you're up-to-speed (ha, ha) and fulfill on any suggestions to make your site faster.
To refresh your memory, referral traffic comes from other websites linking to you. Some referral traffic is fleeting, and some is evergreen. If you get a quick shoutout from a timely website (like a newspaper), you might see a referral traffic spike in one month that isn't typical. Or you might have an article that's especially sticky in RSS feeds this month. Tiny monthly drops after the "buzz" from articles like this are normal.
If your referral traffic is pretty dippy, you should find some longer-term solutions. Some referral traffic will bring visitors to your website for longer durations:
- We've seen a lot of success with comments we've made in forums like Quora or Disqus: If it's in the comment section of a high-traffic article, that referral traffic could carry you for a while!
- Guest blogs are also a reputable way to build longstanding referral traffic back to your site. Look for opportunities with relevant industry publications to guest blog.
- You can also try sharing links of other great websites, which could prompt them to return the favor.
Overall, the takeaway is this: You need to consistently work to build up and maintain referral traffic, and if your referral traffic dips, you need to fire up some new referral campaigns.
The most important thing is tracking what's performing well so you can replicate it. Pay attention to which referral sources "buzzed" the longest, and invest your efforts there.
Like referrals, social media traffic requires lots of effort! Thankfully, you can set yourself up with a consistent posting calendar to avoid surprising drips in traffic.
The key to understanding social media metrics is publishing consistently to all your channels. For example:
- One Facebook post daily at 8pm,
- Six Twitter posts every three hours,
- Two LinkedIn posts (a.m. and p.m.), etc.
With a consistent schedule, you should see fairly consistent traffic. You'd also reasonably expect this traffic to grow over time. If you decide to experiment with a different kind of post or number of posts, you can easily see if the change help or hurt traffic by comparing it to previous weeks and months of data.
For example: I keep a consistent social media posting calendar. One month I tried posting fewer posts to Facebook to avoid fatiguing our audience. After running the experiment for a month, our social traffic dropped. I assumed it was from the Facebook change, and by looking through my Social Reporting panel in HubSpot, I confirmed this. The next month, I put my posting calendar back to normal and saw traffic remain steady again. On to new, better tests!
A sharp drop in traffic could mean several things. Is one of your accounts down? Did you get some kind of important retweet or social share in the past month, causing a spike to skew your metrics? Did you invest in a paid social campaign last month, and not do the same this month? You can isolate factors as traffic hurters (or helpers!) only if you first have a consistent schedule to establish a baseline.
If you're like a lot of marketers, you're trying a bunch of email campaigns to see what sticks. For that reason, your email traffic could fluctuate month to month, and shouldn't cause you real concern. Make sure you're trying new campaigns and, like other traffic sources, watching the success of each one to revise your strategy.
Since email traffic is almost exclusively revisits — people who've already been to your site long enough to submit an email address, and are coming back for more — think about how you're tailoring messages to your audience. Segmented emails will perform better and drive more repeat traffic. To get started with segmentation, check out these must-have segmentation lists.
If you're noticing a consistent or especially harsh drop in your email metrics, though, you might need to worry about your deliverability. If you've been getting marked as "spam" or doing some not-so-good email practices, you could not be making it to your recipient's inboxes anymore. Check out this article on email deliverability no-nos to stop bad habits in their tracks.
Since direct traffic is basically people who type your website address into the search bar, you don't have much control over who or why this is done. You could think of direct traffic as your "word of mouth" traffic. For example, we get a lot of direct traffic from people who refer us to their colleagues. It's people who found out who you are, and go directly to your website. Maybe they think you're so neat that they bookmarked you.
Don't stress too much over dips or rises in your direct traffic. If you're doing good work and delighting your customers, word of mouth will flow, and direct traffic will probably grow with time, too.
Traffic's in shape... Now what?
Traffic is the first step to a great sales funnel, and HubSpot can show you where people are visiting your site. By paying attention to monthly trends, you'll see dips in sources as opportunities to fix and grow your reach (not random events that leave you scratching your head.)
Go a step farther, though, and start thinking about what you're doing to guide people past that first visit. A good first step is learning how to qualify your leads into lifecycle stages. Then, you can learn how to nurture them into repeat visitors — and maybe even happy customers.