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Sudden Drop in Visitors How to Investigate

I am facing a sudden drop in visitors and i am clueless what to do



5:50 pm on Feb 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a blog I was receiving more than 10 thousand visitors since last few months and almost 12thousand since last week of January. But a few days ago my sites visitors dropped to 7000 and the next day 6000 thats a huge sudden drop. At first I thought may be its due to something wrong with my hosting making the site inaccessible to viewers. So I contacted support and they said my site is using all the memory allocated to my user account. The support team suggested that I install caching plugins on my wordpress blog and deactivate plugins. I did as I was told. I then contacted support and I was told that my memory usage has dropped significantly and there are no errors in my error files in logs. But still my sites visitors are down.

I use webmaster tools and sitemaps. I checked and all my pages were indexed and there were 3 not found errors which I was unable to resolve since those pages were badly linked by some site. I checked popular queries for which my site showed up at top positions in search results and all was fine there too.

I checked other top referring websites and they still had my links.

Now I am sitting clueless. Any one of you went through such situation? What you would suggest that I should do to investigate the issue and resolve it.


6:31 pm on Feb 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Same thing happened to me, I went from several thousand to under 100 a day....

Upon investigating ALL MY SEARCH ENGINE TRAFFIC was gone!

Read more in this WebmasterWorld thread .htaccess Hijacking Search Engine Traffic [webmasterworld.com]

[edited by: physics at 9:30 pm (utc) on Feb. 12, 2009]
[edit reason] Removed duplicate post, linked to new thread. [/edit]


8:35 pm on Feb 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

josjongejan, I checked my .htaccess and its just fine the way it should be. My visitors drop but not completely the traffic is nearly 40% lower than usual. I am still getting traffic from all major search engines.

I just can not understand the overnight decline from 12000 to 7000 views. thats what I need help investigating.


4:48 am on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Can you do a comparative analysis with google analytics and:

A) See what the most popular sections on your blog were before the decrease in traffic during a one week period before the drop

and compare it against the period of a week after the 'drop' and see if any sections show a MAJOR percentual difference?

Any sections that show a major drop or have disappeared, ensure they're working properly still.

B) Do the same but now for your referral sources

C) Look at the unique visitor percentage in both periods and see if there's any huge difference.


12:02 pm on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Actually I never used Analytics, I installed Analytics two days before this accident happened. While panicking to fix the problems I started undoing all changes I made during last few days which included removing the analytics code.

I use statcounter which tells me that percentage of visitors for keywords is as usual. like 31% for keyword-A 10% for keyword-B and so on I cant find anything unusual there. All the major referrars working fine too.


5:09 pm on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I had a client I eventually had to let go for precisely reasons like this, where he was looking for an answer that may not be found (or one he didn't want to believe.) Not saying this is your case, but you may have to accept that this can be a lull in your market or maybe a drastic change that has nothing to do with your site. His was real estate and well, we all seem to know what's going on there . . . .

So you start with the basics:
- Check your error logs, although every time you visit it looks like everything is fine but is it dying when you aren't looking? This is probably the most significant one.

- check RBL/blacklists, see if you've been reported for any reason.

- Run a DNS report on your site, it's entirely possible your host has made a DNS change and something may be hosed up.

- See if you can get feedback from your users, is anyone who does make it in having trouble? It could be anything from a AVG upgrade to a browser upgrade that may be errantly blocking or reporting your site in some way.

If it's all good, it might be that all you can do is wait it out.


6:01 pm on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That's still such a significant drop though, yes traffic can die quick but not overnight or not by thousands. I run a movie site and I had some christmas specials, traffic was huge during the holidays but it SLOWLY died off after christmas ended, even now I'm still getting several christmas movie sales every day.
My point is that I thought it would end abruptly but apparently it didn't.

Likewise there's no reason your traffic should drop so significantly UNLESS there was a site linking to yours and the link was removed. Likewise, maybe your site was mentioned on radio every day for a while (not likely but who knows) and that ended.

Hence the importance of statistics (direct visitors would be people that heard your url on the radio).

I hear people stress this a lot but imma say it again; tracking statistics is very very important (stats that lead up to sales but also plain website stats)


6:24 pm on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Perhaps you lost a link from a high-profile site? Or fell from the graces of the big 3 search engines. Did you make any structure changes to your site/pages in the last few weeks? Just because your traffic dropped last week, does not mean it was related to a change right before that... It could be related to something you changed a month ago... Or it could be nothing to do with you and a change to a search engine algorithm...

Also, you mentioned you installed Analytics 2 days before the drop... did you first see the drop in the Analytics reports? A number of folks have reported lower stats in Analytics than say in Awstats... Since Analytics requires the snippet of code to load before a visitor is counted... and in some cases if you put the Analytics snippet at the footer of your page it may never load if the visitors bounces out your door right away. If this is the case, check your old webstats software for comparison sake.


7:37 pm on Feb 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

maximillianos: I was using statcounter too at that time and the drop was reported on both stats and even my adsense impressions dropped significantly.

I added a robots.txt too before that. which reads:

User-Agent: *
Allow: /

User-Agent: Mediapartners-Google
Allow: /

before that I had no robots.txt

I checked my major referras again and again my links are intact. My indexed pages on Google are intact. Before the drop google was sending me 70% of visitors and it is still sending me 70% of all visitors. I am indexed on yahoo too and msn live.

What else I should do? Am I missing some important step to investigate this problem?


11:59 am on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Apparantely there was a new website something like digg they had a post of mine on their first page for a few days but then they got hacked. They used a weird script to redirect users to my website so my statcounter showed their visitors as referrer unknown. Statcounter has a small log so I was unable to trace down how many people were coming from unknown referrals. out of 500 entries theire were always 150 unknown referrals at that time but they went unnoticed by me. As for a site with 5000 unique visitors a day the log of 500 visitors is very low.

Coincidentally at the same when the referral site got hacked, my web host also ran into some problem and they started killing my php5.cgi processes claiming that they are eating too much memory. I use dreamhost and I am guessing thats one of the hazards of shared hosting. This problem fixed itself a couple of days ago. my error log is clean now.


12:46 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

thanks for posting the resolution, noumaan204!

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