What’s Causing the Fluctuations in Your Web Traffic?

Lindsey Weedston Online Marketing, website design, Website SEO

In the wake of Panda 4.0, a lot of you may be wondering how much these kinds of updates affect your day-to-day web traffic. If you use an analytics program to keep track of this (which you absolutely should be doing), you’ve probably noticed that your traffic will fluctuate daily, weekly, and monthly. It can be difficult to pinpoint why this happens, especially if you haven’t done anything special. How excited or concerned should you be about a sudden rise or drop in traffic?

Google does roll out small monthly updates to their algorithm which will often have a small effect on your search traffic. These updates are called “refreshes” as all of the data within the algorithm is reapplied. Usually the effects aren’t noticeable enough to cause any concern, but may be responsible in slight dips or rises.

Crazy Graph

Blue line = views, red line = unique views, pink line = AHHHHHHHHH

The rest of the fluctuations can be caused by any number of hundred of factors. The most common ones for small businesses are listed below.


  • New Competitors – New competition is going to be popping up from time to time, and they’re all going to be getting websites. When you have more competition for keywords and phrases in search, traffic from search engines is going to dwindle.
  • Scraper Sites – These annoying pests may pop up every once in awhile. A scraper site is one that steals traffic from you by copying your website under a similar domain and get ad revenue from traffic that is rightfully yours. Report these sites as soon as possible so they can be taken down. They are not real competitors and are often in violation of copyright law.
  • Holidays & Events – There are certain times of the year when people are less likely to be on their computers. Unless you’re an ecommerce site, you’ll probably see less traffic during the winter holidays when everyone’s out shopping. If you are selling goods, then you’ll likely see a rise, especially in mobile traffic. If there’s a sudden event like a natural disaster, traffic will divert to news websites.
  • Inbound Links – If a popular website creates a blog post that includes a link to you, this can cause a substantial increase in traffic for a few days. At the same time, if a quality link is removed or becomes broken, traffic will fall.
  • Trending Topics – If some bit of news breaks on a topic that you’ve written about in the past or that relates to your industry, you might see a sudden surge in traffic. For example, if Ronald McDonald’s reintroduction as a mascot turns into a horrible disaster, we might get more traffic due to more people searching about the campaign. This is why it’s a good idea to be topical in your blog posts.
  • Reputation Changes – When SEO started to get a bad reputation because of all the cheap, spammy, ineffective practices that were peddled to unsuspecting business owners, the amount of people search for the services fell drastically. When something like this happens, you might have to relabel your services and switch up your keyword focus.
  • The Economy – Improvements and declines in the economy are going to affect how people search. If you’re offering discount products or services, a bad economy might actually work in your favor. Those offering high quality, however, are going to take a hit in both traffic and sales.
  • Search Engine Penalty – If you see a significant drop in search traffic, you should always check to see if you’ve been penalized by Google for violating their Terms and Conditions. If this has happened, you want to work to rectify the problem as soon as possible.
  • Major Algorithm Update – If you keep up with tech and marketing news at all, you’ll hear about the update before you notice the traffic change. But if you do notice a change, do a quick search to see if there’s been a major update. If your traffic is dropping, what you’ll need to change depend on which algorithm has been updated.
  • Changes to Your Site – Any changes to your website will usually come with at least a slight change in traffic. A new design, fixing errors, or a change in the frequency of published content all affect how you’re ranked in the SERPs.


Night Time Highway
This list is really only scratching the surface, but they’re some of the first things you should check for when you experience an unexpected and significant change in traffic.

Fluctuations in traffic are normal. No matter what you do, you’re going to have your ups and downs. Everyone experiences drops in traffic during certain times of the day and certain days of the week. The goal is to get a gradual overall rise in traffic over time, hopefully with some good boosts every now and then when you launch a new marketing campaign.