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.
Well, for now my blog doesn’t have any of the sign you have stated here. My luck :D but I know that there will be a day when maybe all of them will come.
And there can be one more sign i think:
You are losing Subscribers or Your subscription rate is decreasing. Right??
Thanks for the share.
Good suggestion, Mr. Jatin. And there could be one more that will say: ” Your likes, followers ad pins are decreasing in Facebbok, Twitter and Pinterest profile, respectively.” But, with new challenges comes new improvements.
I’ve faced the similar situation lots of times with my blog, but thankfully I too turned that around by keeping my hard work going on and my only focus was to make my blog something that catches the first time visitors eyes.
So true Ashkan. Also, when Google does their algorithm changes and Panda like updates it can wreak havoc on our sites. When I started my blog I knew nothing about blogging and somewhat blindly followed the advice of what I read.
If I could start over I would be much more careful and I would make sure I followed the guidelines. Oh well, live and learn.
Thanks Ashkan! for a new blogger like me these warning signs are too precious to know. Looking for more tips from your side :)
I agree. Great insight on what to look for and work on improving before losing my audience. Many thanks for sharing.
Great topic! I had a blog a few years ago that was getting more than 15k visitors per month. A combination of my loss of interest and a couple of Google updates dropped it to about one third of that in a few months.
Here is another one to watch for: dropping subscriber numbers. If you are used to gaining a couple of new subscribers per day then it goes to one or two per week, even if your traffic is the same, that’s a danger sign.
I think my blog is still too young and small to make accurate estimates of increasing or declining traffic. A mere sway of 5-6 visitors can create a noticeable spike in either direction for me. But I will keep these factors in mind when I have a larger audience.
Thanks for the tips.
Just realized problogger is pre-dating posts … The current date and time is: 12/23/[email protected]:39PM EST and this post is dated 12/24/12 while the actual time for the problogger server is currently 12/23/[email protected]:39 PM
Clever way to be “first to post”
Problogger is based out of Australia
I might also add that if visitors are not clicking on your links that could be a warning sign. I don’t mean advertisements, I mean if you post an article about a service or resource (lesson plans, educational sites, tools, etc) and no one is clicking on them, then your articles are being skimmed and dumped. Conversely, if you post about a tool and there are numerous click throughs, it seems like people are consuming and implementing.
Good overview and pointing out the basics but congrats yourself for your climb within a short period of time.
I love that you included Warning Sign 3 (Traffic Increasing Without Much Effort)! This is something we continue to fight against – a false sense of security and growth. Nothing beats hard work, great content, and respect for your tribe. Thanks for this reminder.
Make it a great day!
I don’t see how #3 applies at all. I’d love for my traffic to increase with little to no effort.
This is amazing, you got me right on warning sign 3. Normally, I got like 70 visitors per day and time later, I didn’t really work on my blog and I went check, its grow up to 140 visitors that’s day – only that day. Well, I really don’t want to lose my passion just because of it and just decide to bring my readers valuable stuff they like.
You mention that one of the causes could be the staleness of a blog, and that’s true. I would like to add that most of it comes from the owner who tends to think that he/she has it all, and fails to look at trends.
Good points. Just this week I went to my Google Analytics and, for perhaps the first time, looked at where my traffic was coming from for a given week. I’m not a huge blog so it was good to see the traffic coming from 19 different places out of my top 20 I examined. And my traffic has slowed down over the past week or so. I’m hoping it might be due to the holidays.
This truly a great review. Hitting at the top of the leader with a short time is fun but fades away when ones passion begins to shun away.
I am still learning this whole blogging thing. Where is the best place to get help learning the ins and outs of blogging and actually making a decent living from blogging. I am trying to do it myself by just researching and reading, then I read a post like this one and it scares the crap out of me. Thanks for any feedback.
Great post…I also faced almost all the above…but now i am perfectly alright about my blogging…any way thanks for a very informative post…
This certainly brightens up our paths in blogging, thanks for highlighting the important stuff. Appreciated!
Sure, if blog is not “feed” with fresh and trendy content it will lose traffic and readers. I don’t think that it require a bit more than basic common sense to figure out that.
My first blog has experienced a major downturn, and I think it’s a combo both of Google and my change of direction with it. I’ve decided not to worry about it, because I have other irons in the fire that I am focusing on this coming new year.
Thanks for your insights Ashkan! Back in 2010, I had the same massive drop experience and were it not for articles I read on this site, explaining why and what to do, I would’ve thought the world was ending. It’s true that we must stay vigilant and keep our content fresh and varied but the holidays and mid summer vacations do have an impact too, albeit a small down tick. Thanks for the reminders! :-)
Happy Holidays All!
Good post pal. I’ve just created a new blog and this post will definitely alert me when my blogging become worse. Thanks.
Excellent post. I think that each and every month, we should compare our stats, If the stats of this month is better then previous month then your blog is doing well !
A very nice post. great and incredible insights. and i consider “don’t put all eggs in one basket” like a key to success. this post will definitely help me. I will keep these warnings in my mind.
I am quite an analytics obsessive, and amongst the many hundreds of hours I have spent studying the stats, I have learnt many things about my site. I am a writer and I run a guitar teaching site and my message to start ups would be to think about the best way your content could be displayed. By this I mean video, written, infographic etc. For my target market video is hands down the best way to create interest in my brand.
I do notice that there has been a decline in traffic due to the Christmas holidays but I guess traffic does start to plateau after some time. I don’t think #3 is a bad thing to have increasing traffic due to past efforts.
Effective post. Really i must to know this sign. Thanks a lot.
All of these are very true. When you spot these you need to act. It’s hard work to keep a well-maintained blog, but the rewards are definitely worth it!
I think the worst thing that can happen is losing the driving force that let you begin blogging in the first place, if you’re no longer passionate about the topics then everything slowly goes down
Thanks for sharing this warning post. I have recently started blogging so shall take utmost care of these warning signs so that I can prevent deflation of my blog.
Even, I also agree with Yassin that the worst thing is losing your blogging passion. It is though feasible to increase an all the more decreasing traffic but it is difficult to re-kindle the broken spirit.