Here is a case study on a company whose site had a massive traffic change.

Possible Reasons the Site Traffic Decreased:

  1. A Manual Penalty – this is when a member of the search engine webspam team physically demotes the ranking of specific parts of your site (individual pages, tactics or the entire site).
  2. An Algorithmic Penalty – this occurs when your site has been impacted by changes in search engines’ algorithms (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird).
  3. Filtered Impact – if there is a sudden change in marketing strategies or page level infrastructure (a ranking page suddenly serves a 404 – page not found error).

In the case of a manual penalty, Google notifies you on Webmaster Tools (Search Traffic -> Manual Actions). To get your rankings back, you will need to identify the root cause and file a reconsideration request, although they can also resolve themselves with an expiration date. applied

Webmaster Tools   Manual Actions

Algorithmic penalties are the most difficult to recover from and require internal resources. The filter seems like it could be a either of the 2 penalty types so it is often misdiagnosed.

So Starting in Google Analytics to identify the exact time when traffic dropped. I confirm that something happened in May 2013 because traffic hasn’t been the same since.

Audience Overview   Google Analytics


Digging a little deeper into the date ranges – April 1, 2013 – January 31st, 2014.Audience Overview 2

Next I check Google Webmaster Tools for messages or alerts around that time period.

Webmaster Tools   All Messages

So now we’re starting to get some insight.

Webmaster Tools 3

Let’s recap what we know for sure.

  1. Starting May 24, 2013 the website had zero traffic for 4 days
  2. May 27,2013 Google sends Webmaster Warning message about dramatic traffic drop
  3. When traffic begins reporting again in Google it is roughly 1/3 of what it was before the “EVENT” < still haven’t figured it out but narrowing it down
  4. Also this also means that it likely a filter from Google and not a penalty.

Next step was to talk with IT to see if there were any site-wide updates or deployments to the site. Then I located an email from a vendor with the notification of the site being down.._email email site down

PROBLEM: Found – on May 24, 2013 the domain name expired and the registrar is located in Melbourne Australia.

I found alot of posts talking about accidentally letting their domain name expire and traffic never returning…