We are in the SEO industry for a while now, wearing many hats: digital marketers, tool developers, advisers, researchers, copywriters, etc. But first of all, we are, just like you, site owners. And we’ve been through ups and downs regarding organic traffic, and we were in the situation of trying to understand why the Google traffic dropped dramatically at some point as well. Having all these in mind, we’ve thought of easing your work, and we’ve put together a list with the top 16 reasons that can cause sudden traffic drop, unrelated to Google algorithm changes or penalties.
James, you give a great template for how a business needs to move forward in their chosen niche online. Quite informative and the meeting of minds has been something a number of us have done online and in person to gain better insight into our small similar businesses. Thank you for sharing your detailed approach to increasing organic traffic...content still is king.
Google claims their users click (organic) search results more often than ads, essentially rebutting the research cited above. A 2012 Google study found that 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks happen when there is no associated organic search result on the first page. Research has shown that searchers may have a bias against ads, unless the ads are relevant to the searcher's need or intent 
Forums are probably one of the least effective forms of free traffic, but it all depends on the forum. You’re looking for large, active communities where you can carve out a bit of a reputation for yourself. Sure, you can dominate a small forum, but the returns won’t be worth it. Conversely, too large a site and you may have trouble attracting attention at all. It’s a hard balance to strike.
Now, there's one more little group that might fall into direct traffic -- it's something you might have heard about as "Dark Social" if you've been staying up to date on, well, dark social as a referral source. Basically, dark social is what some people are calling the social site traffic that most analytics programs can't capture since it lacks referral data, but is coming from things like emails and instant messengers (which, technically, are social mechanisms). Often, this unidentifiable traffic -- anything without a referring URL -- is also bucketed into direct traffic. Now, as BuzzFeed so eloquently puts it, "all 'dark social' traffic is direct traffic, but not all direct traffic is dark social."
Organic traffic is a special kind of referral traffic, defined as visitors that arrive from search engines. This is what most marketers strive to increase. The higher you rank for certain keywords, the more often your search result appears (increasing your impressions), ultimately resulting in more visitors (aka clicks). It’s also important to note that paid search ads are not counted in this category.
Man I need to sleep after reading all this. Just thinking about doing all these is making me tired! Also reading all the stuff I'm *not* doing is embarrassing me. I've found that forum posting works great if you're really into the niche. If you're just there for the links it becomes a chore and people can tell. I've never thought about submitting images to Reddit. I see a lot of traffic coming in from Google Images, so I should probably give it a shot. This is a bad-ass post, Brankica!
Hey Diana, out of these 50, you know all of them will work different for different blogs and I haven't fully "milked" some of them, but my top 10 are: commenting, Stumbleupon, Twitter, guest blogging, Reddit, Networked blogs, Blogengage, Bloginteract, round ups and Linked In. Not necesarily in this order of course. I do have to add that one of my top traffic sources (actually the number one) are search engines. Also, I have a lot of subscribers so they keep coming back too. If you have any questions, just post them and I will try to explain better :) Thanks so much for the comment!
The "Direct Session" dimension, not to be confused with the default channel grouping or source dimension, is something different. It can tell you if a session was genuinely from its reported campaign (reported as No), or if it was simply bucketed there due to the last non-direct click attribution model (reported as Yes). I didn't mention this dimension in the article because it has some flaws which can cause brain bending complexities, plus it goes a little beyond the scope of this article, which I tried to gear more towards marketers and non-expert GA users. It's certainly an interesting one, though.
For a small business, it is better to start with Organic SEO because aside from it is a low-cost investment, it will build your internet presence gradually and eventually have a solid foundation in your own niche – provided that you are doing the right way. It is not bad to invest in non-organic. You just have to make sure that you are investing on the right campaigns and not on the overly artificial ways to gain traffic and rank. Avoid investing too much on paid advertising and instead invest on creating relevant and useful content.
Lee Wilson is head of enterprise SEO at Vertical Leap and has been leading digital marketing teams since the early 2000’s. He has headed up the SEO department for a top 10 leading search and digital agency (Vertical Leap) from 2010 to present. In 2016, he had his first solely authored industry book published (Tactical SEO – the theory and practice of search marketing).
The thing about SEO in 2018 is that Google changes its algorithms more than once a day! Reports say that the company changes its algorithms up to 600 times a year. While the majority of those updates consist of smaller changes, among them is the occasional, major update like Hummingbird or Panda that can really wreak havoc with your traffic and search rankings.
Brankica, Very comprehensive list there. Can't think of anything else :D RT! I think the traffic sources that I hardly use is answering questions. I find that traffic conversion there is poor for me, so I don't focus too much on it. I think of all those in the list, focus on those that gives you the best kind of traffic. Forums can be a particularly useful one especially when people are there asking for help. Answering their questions and giving them a link that benefits their query is one good way of getting the right kind of traffic.
Understanding where your site visitors come from is an integral part of any marketing strategy. Your website is the heart of your digital marketing practices, with traffic acting as the blood. No traffic means your website can’t do anything for your business; knowing the different kinds of traffic and how they play into your website gives you the power to make educated decisions on how to improve your marketing practices.
The most common way a user can arrive at your website is by typing the URL into the address bar. This is known as direct traffic. Your visitor arrives directly without coming from anywhere else on the web. Other forms of direct traffic include clicking on a bookmark, or links from documents that don’t include tracking variables (such as PDFs or Word documents).
Encourage incoming links. Google prioritises sites that have a lot of incoming links, especially from other trustworthy sites. Encourage clients, friends, family members, partners, suppliers, industry mavens and friendly fellow bloggers to link to your site. The more incoming links you have the higher your site will rank. But beware SEO snake oil salesmen who try to trick Google with spammy links from low-reputation sites. Some links can actually damage your SEO.
11th point to me would be too look at your social media properties, work out how you can use them to assist your SEO strategy. I mean working on competitions via social channels to drive SEO benefit to your main site is great, working on re-doing your YouTube videos to assist the main site and also working on your content sharing strategy via these social sites back to the main site.
You are right. Actually, it is the same with answer site, I mean the same strategy. But you need to be smart using them, you have to answer the question and point them to a link. But with people's short attention spans, they are satisfied with what ever answer you give them and they don't go exploring links so much. Again it does depend on the niche and the type of question. I like that you tracked what converts on your blog, because that is the best thing to do to see what to focus your energy on. Thanks so much for the comment, Bryan.
Superb resource list Brankica, thank you. I've also included it this week's Erudition, not just because you're in a competition, but because it really is a resource we should all have bookmarked. Actually, I need to make it a study priority and see how many of the sources I can reasonably use on a regualr basis. Link to Erudition | Help files from Information Junkies Anonymous
Hey Ashok! Good question. I work with clients in a lot of different industries, so the tactics I employ are often quite different depending on the client. In general though, creating killer resources around popular topics, or tools related to client services. This provides a ton of outreach opportunity. For example: We had a client build a tool that allowed webmasters to quickly run SSL scans on their sites and identofy non-secure resources. We reached out to people writing about SSLs, Https migration etc and pitched it as a value-add. We built ~50 links to that tool in 45 days. Not a massive total, but they were pretty much all DR 40+.
By using the Content Assistant feature of Cognitive SEO, I’ve included the majority of the suggested keywords by the tool on the content assets we’re aiming to increase in organic visibility. I’ve also restructured the underperforming content and added new sections – to make the inclusion of the suggested key phrases more logical, natural and create relevant content.
Recent studies have found that upwards of 80% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now occurs via these private channels. In terms of numbers of active users, messaging apps are outpacing social networking apps. All the activity driven by these thriving platforms is typically bucketed as direct traffic by web analytics software.
You could get even more specific by narrowing it down to customer base. Is there a specific group of clients you tend to serve? Try including that in your long-tail key phrase. For example: “SEO agency for non-profits in Albuquerque NM.” That’s a key phrase you’re a lot more likely to rank for. Not to mention it will also attract way more targeted, organic traffic than a broad key phrase like “SEO agency.”