My Browser Media blog is often a reflection of my week, so today’s topic will be of no real surprise to anyone given it was reporting day yesterday!
There’s nothing worse than prematurely celebrating those green arrows in GA only to find that 60% of your traffic for the month came on one day. Sometimes there’s a perfectly reasonable (and positive) explanation for this – you might have sent out a press release or put a lot of budget behind an ad for example – however, when this isn’t the case, it can feel like a bit of a mystery.
Here are 10 things to check if you’ve seen an unexpected spike in traffic:
- What channel did it come from – an obvious one, but if you were unaware that someone in a different department sent out an email to your entire database, then it could be a case of mystery solved. If you notice the spike is predominantly coming from direct traffic on the other hand, this could potentially be a sign of spam.
- When did it occur – if all the extra traffic just occurs on one day and levels revert to normal immediately, this could be another red flag. On the other hand, a popular blog post that sees a really high number of sessions when published, then slowly trails off over the next few days, might be quite normal. It also makes sense to pay attention to whether the spike is on a weekday or weekend and if that’s unusual for you.
- Which page(s) are affected – if the spike is split across various pages or if it correlates with what you’re working on, then it might be self explanatory but if there’s a sudden burst of visits to just the home page, then it could well be spam.
- Where it’s coming from – if most of your traffic is usually from the UK, but on the day(s) of the spike, a larger percentage is from overseas, this could be another indication of spam.
- Bounce rate – if you’re looking at your traffic spike and the bounce rate is very high compared to your normal rate, these extra sessions might not be genuine users.
- Conversions – similarly, if your traffic spike is from genuine users, then other metrics will often be up to in relative proportion. If your traffic has shot up but you haven’t seen extra contact form submissions or sales, or even an increase in inbound calls, during this time or shortly after, then that’s also suspicious.
- Check last year – take a look back at your traffic levels at a similar time in previous years to see if you can find any clues or repeating patterns that might explain your spike in traffic.
- A change in your business – could there have been a change in product/service/operations that you’re unaware of that’s affecting traffic? Make a point of checking in with different departments in case there’s an easy answer.
- A change in your wider market – if there was a huge Google algorithm update tomorrow, and everyone’s search positions changed wildly overnight, we might see a little spike in traffic to the Browser Media site as people seek advice on what’s happened.
- Consider your level of traffic – if you enjoy a substantial level of traffic every month and you see the aforementioned spike of 60% on one day, then there’s no getting around the fact that *something* is going on, but remember if you typically have very low levels of traffic, then a small rise in traffic is going to naturally look spikier. If that’s the case and there are no other red flags, then there’s probably no urgent need to look into it further.
If you do get to the bottom of your mystery traffic spike, remember to leave yourself an annotation in GA for future reference!