"Why is my traffic down this month?" That's probably the most common question I hear from my SEO clients during our monthly progress phone calls, and it's probably the most common question any site owner asks themselves throughout their entire SEO campaign. Very rarely (unless it happened to coincide with a major search engine update) there is no one specific reason a website's traffic drips from one month to the next. In my opinion, unless you've lost the majority of your traffic overnight there is no need to panic about one slow month. It could very well be just that; a slow month. It's only when your traffic is trending downwards overtime (three months or more) that you need to really reevaluate your SEO actions.

But for many small to medium-sized businesses, a dip in traffic one month can cause managers and owners to panic. If you're feeling the pressure to explain why visitor growth didn't actually grow one month, here are a few things to consider:

1. Search volume is down.
The greatest SEO campaign in the world can't drive traffic to your website if there is no traffic to be had. The Google Insights for Search (part of the Keyword Research Tool) can show you the search volume for a particular keyword throughout the entire year, breaking it down month by month. For instance, the keyword "landscaping services" has a huge jump in search volume in March and April, but there is probably only a 1/4 of the search volume in November and December. A landscaping company is going to see losses in traffic in the winter simply because there is no one searching for their top keywords. This doesn't mean that their SEO campaign is failing; it's just an indication of the seasonality of their business.

2. What does your direct traffic look like?
A lot of site owners fail to look at each source of their visitors when traffic is trending downward. Where exactly did your site take a hit? It's possible that your organic traffic (those visitors that used non-branded keywords to find your site) is doing just fine, but it's your direct traffic that actually took a hit. Let's say 30% of your traffic came from branded searches. A 20% loss in direct traffic could have a noticeable impact on your overall visitor numbers. Your website's direct traffic is directly related to the amount of online and offline marketing and advertising your company is doing. Where is your company promoting itself? Did you have a major PR push last month that sent a lot of direct traffic but no PR this month? Did you cut your advertising budget and pull banner ads on popular industry sites? Marketing efforts like this, intended to create brand awareness, help send branded visitors to your site. When you remove those outlets sometimes your direct traffic will take a hit.

3. Seasonality impacts traffic.
If you look at your traffic from this month and compare it to this time last year what do you see? If there were similar dips from month to month last year then you know there is some kind of seasonality issue at play. Every business, regardless of industry, follows some kind of cycle. What are your business's slow months and what are the "growth" months? When you're able to pull historical data and know what's coming you'll know when any loss of traffic is just part of your business cycle and nothing to be concerned about.

As I mentioned before, unless your traffic vanishes overnight you really shouldn't panic over dips in traffic from month to month. Even if your site isn't impacted directly by a search engine update like Panda or Penguin, when a major update comes down the pipeline it can take a while for the dust to settle and your site might feel residual effects from those changes. It's more important to look at traffic over time and see the big picture. Where was your website at the beginning on the year versus where it is now? What kind of traffic growth are you seeing when compared to last year at this time? Month to month you'll have fluctuations, but keep your eye on the bigger picture and lookout for trends.
June 4, 2012

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, one of the premier full service SEO firms in the United States. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.

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