By Paul Berry
We've been working with publishers a long time and we frequently hear from clients panicking at a sudden decline in Google Analytics traffic. (Btw, you may also be seeing the decline in Chartbeat, if that's your preferred analytics tool -- we love clients that rely on Chartbeat's real-time numbers and know where they should be at any hour of any day of the week.)
When those numbers drop, that directly impacts your business. So it's important to understand what to look at when this happens. Here is how you keep a cool head, take steps to diagnose the problem, and be prepared to fix it.
Check Platform Health on RebelMouse
You can check status.rebelmouse.com or check in with an Account Manager. If your website is loading normally and your real-time analytics and GA traffic are showing a decline, then there's something more to dig into. If RebelMouse is having some type of issue, we'll pro-actively provide you with email updates.
If you want to actually understand what's happening this will tell you. It is the first thing our team would do. You can actually read way more than you thought. We know, it's really nerdy, but it's the year of the nerds, right? So try looking at this link and reading through it, you would be shocked how much power this information gives you:
BONUS: Use it in mobile mode where, almost surely, all your traffic is. Find out what's breaking your sites.
GUESS WHAT? The ads broke it. They always do. See if that conflicts with any core analytics calls or if it's creating issues with Facebook etc.
Chase Down Bad Ads
Some ads that are served through the networks are really horrible. They do things that will get you banned on Facebook, who has no way to know the difference from you, innocently trying to monetize your content, and the horrible scammer spammer. So that bad ad that traps a user - it's on you. You have to talk to your ad networks. Think of it as talking to an airline in the Denver airport on New Year's Eve, when all the flights have been cancelled. Be charming and determined and relentless. Maybe use more reputable ad networks. But remember, even the best networks get hacked and spammed at times.
Review Ad Blockers
Some people get fancy activate ad blocking in their Google ads manager. Ask your ad ops team if they have played with those settings. You can check it yourself through the JS console and in view source:
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Review Your Lazy Load and Load Priority Settings
If you have been playing with page load optimization settings (i.e. figuring out which components to lazy load and how to prioritize JS components) then suspect any of those changes are responsible. Where you place the Google Analytics code and how you prioritize it on the page will 100% effect the reporting totals.
It's always better to load the ad scripts in a sync mode so they're not blocking the page rendering and you have a great page score in Google PageSpeed Insights. You can always check your page score here at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights
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Check If Facebook Instant Articles Is Activated and Works
In Google Analytics, in real-time, you can go to Traffic Sources and see Facebook Instant Articles. Is it a healthy number? By healthy, I mean a significant portion of your traffic?
Because that where the audience is. If you are doing it right, you have a lot there. If you don't, then get a little paranoid about whether you should be turning it on. And if you thought it was on, check your articles on your phone - do they have the lighting icon and go to Instant Articles. Check in with an Account Manager if not.
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Find Your Google WebMaster Tools and Run a Systems Check
If you don't have access to and aren't set up to own your Google webmaster tools, then welcome to the best (or the worst) part of the Internet .
This is webmaster tools:
You might need this:
Run through to check if you are being indexed, crawled, if there are errors and if AMP is registered / working.
Reading Your Real Time Better
1 - Check your traffic sources. Anything missing? Some big normal traffic source suddenly gone? Find out if you have a particular source that has gone down. Normally it's seen as a decline in Facebook because Facebook is the biggest source of traffic.
2 - Check Facebook insights and messages and notifications. Did you get a bad ad that blocked you? Did a viral post get banned because of copyright reports? Go dig into any Facebook messages and your Facebook insights.
3 - Check your top post. Check them in developer mode in Chrome, and in mobile. Is something off? You can isolate craziness there quickly.