Monday, May 14, 2007

Probable Reasons for Website Traffic Fluctuations

I was doing some analysis and Anil Batra’s article Who moved my traffic really helped me. I liked the way he explained the probable reasons on why there is a difference in traffic every month. I would like to cite 2 scenarios I came across in the form of graphs. Let’s assume these graphs are for a small scale shopping site called This is a shopping site which has a business model similar to This website has Omniture tagging setup and appears on the first page of when we do a search on ‘online shopping’. The homepage has 40 % of its traffic from Search Engines.
I will try to explain the possible reasons for the traffic fluctuation for the graph below. The reasons are in bold.

January starts with an average visit count of 10000. This is the expected average visits for this site.
In February you’ll notice there is a slight decrease. This might be because of February having 28 days. The next 3 months experience average traffic inflow.
June experienced a drop off along with July. The most likely reasons for this drop are:
New competitor: A new competitor joined the race along with other online shopping portals which meant that some share of the traffic went to that portal. I say this because 40 % of the overall traffic to came from search engines and the inclusion of a new website on the search results page distributed the traffic.
Tagging not placed on all the pages: The previous months had 60 % of the traffic on the homepage but this month the homepage had 40 % of traffic which disclosed the problem of untagged pages under the This was one of the main reasons for the discrepancy in traffic when I used to do analysis in my previous job.
Worldwide event/news: This scenario is the cause for the drop of traffic even on some major portals. The traffic might drop if there was some breaking news and people were busy visiting news websites or were mostly watching the news on TV.

The visits again picked up and the traffic came back to normal for the following months.
The traffic again went down in November and December. Below are some more possible causes:
The Website server was down: This is highly unlikely but I have come across such scenarios.
Search Engines did not display this website on the first page: Maybe due to some changes being made on the homepage etc, the Search Engines were not able to index the page and people were not able to find this website on the initial SE pages.
Tagging was accidentally removed: Again rare but a possibility.

The next graph is the opposite of the above graph and should be more appealing to website owners. Below are some the reasons related to increase in traffic:

Link Exchange: As the year passes by, more and more links are being exchanged to and fro with other websites which in turn increases the Page Rank of this website and thus increasing it’s ranking in search engines.
Search Engine Optimization: SEO is one of the key factors responsible for driving traffic from Search Engines. Page Name, Title, keywords and description have to be relevant on the page for search engines to index/cache the web pages.
Search Engine Marketing: Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter etc are the necessary tools that enable businesses to advertise by selling specific keywords. This mechanism of buying keywords is important for a website that isn’t on top of the Search Engine’s organic ranking.
Banner Ad Campaigns: Advertisements on the homepages are a good medium to attract more clicks and thus driving more traffic to the content pages.
Multiple tagging: A rare occurrence but again something I’ve noticed in my past analysis.
Weather and Festival/Holiday: You’ll notice that November and December have the most visits. The most appropriate reasons for this are that people tend to stay at home and browse the internet regularily during winters. It is also possible that they might be buying gifts from this website for Christmas.

These were some of the possibilities that might cause the traffic to fluctuate. Hope you like this post and feel free to add your suggestions/comments.

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