This guest post is by Ashkan of fanappic.com.
Looking at your analytics and seeing that your blog traffic is going down is not a pretty sight.
For those of us who have been blogging for a while, the chances are that we all have experienced periods of downturn and are used to such stormy weather. But what if, heaven forbid, the situation is even more serious, and the downturn looks as if it is here to stay?
Nothing is more painful than seeing the demise of your labour of love; if you make your living from your blog, even worse!
The question is, “How do I spot the end of a growth period?”
How can we spot the warning signs that the decrease of visitor numbers is the start of a long downturn, and requires drastic action?
I have owned a couple of blogs, including fanappic.com. This multi-contributor blog grew really fast last year, but then reached a peak before entering a period of deflating visitor numbers.
Thankfully, we managed to turn that around, but you can imagine the panic that I went through during that awful period!
Having analysed all the factors on my blog, I can pinpoint six key warning signs that you’ll need to pay close attention to if you want to spot the downturn early on.
Warning sign 1: Declining pages per visit
You should be able to get this figure from any analytics tool. What it reflects is the average number of pages a visitor views every time they visit your blog. Generally, if a visitor likes your blog then they want to click on other links to find out more.
If you look at this figure over the past three or six months and notice the Pages per visit figure is decreasing, then the chances are that your website appeal is also decreasing.
Warning sign 2: Declining average visit duration
This one normally goes hand in hand with the first point. If the reader doesn’t find the content they are looking for, or they’re not happy with the quality of your content, then they will spend less time on your website and abandon the page even before they reach the end of the post.
Warning sign 3: Traffic increasing without much effort
You put all that hard labour and those long hours in at the beginning and you managed to grow your blog traffic dramatically.
Now you have entered a period where it all looks too good to be true! You are not doing anything new and not promoting the blog actively, but still the traffic just keeps growing!
Well you know what they say: if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Nothing in the real world comes easily, and sooner or later either your competition or the Google algorithm is going to catch up with you. There is no room for complacency.
Warning sign 4: The majority of traffic comes from one source
I think that this one is a well-known point but it’s still worth reminding ourselves of it. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket!
If 90% of your blog traffic comes from Google, you run the risk of being hit by algorithm updates. I know from personal experience that doing something about this can be very challenging, seeing as most people find the content they’re looking for by using search engines. So, if your ranking is decreasing what can you do?
There are many other ways to get traffic, such as: social networks, links from other websites, videos, banner advertising, and more. A good article to get you thinking about these options is, How to Build a Traffic-siphoning Marketing Funnel.
Two sources that I successfully generate good traffic from are my email newsletter, and creating viral content that gets shared in social media.
Warning sign 5: You are losing passion and dedication
Is it getting harder and harder for you to dedicate time to your blog? Are you suffering from the dreaded writer’s block?
The challenge here is to maintain the level of passion and energy that you had for your blog in the beginning. If you are a creative person, then like many creative people you may love to start things but then struggle to do the same thing year after year.
I must say that I don’t have a definitive answer here, except to say that you should focus on a bigger goal: the purpose of your blog and your writing. Think about how much your readers are benefiting from your blog, and stay in close touch with your biggest fans.
At iPhoneAppCafe, we constantly get together and brainstorm ideas or think of ways to attract new writers to our blog so that the passion for the topic remains strong—and is clearly communicated through every post.
Warning sign 6: Your blog’s topic is losing freshness and urgency
If the initial traffic arrived because your blog’s topic was trending, it is possible that, with time, your topic of focus will lose its popularity.
When iPhoneAppCafe launched in 2010, the iPhone was more of a hot topic than it is now. We considered covering Android apps as well, but we decided that there was too big a risk of losing focus on our original goal if we covered that too.
Instead, we diversified the breadth of our coverage by doing more accessory reviews, video reviews, news, and insights.
Watching for the warning signs
These are the six warning signs I’ve noticed usually indicate my blog traffic will plateau or fall. What signs have you noticed? Share them with us in the comments, so we can all watch for them, and take action before it’s too late.
Ashkan (@AshkanTalk) is the founder of iPhoneAppCafe.com, a community blog dedicated to reviewing and sharing the best iPhone apps. He started the blog in 2010 and got it to 5000 visitors a day within 9 months. For his day job, Ashkan manages e-commerce projects.