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Why have your website sales fallen and what can you do about it?

By Alexandra Gavril - March 17, 2018

It’s what every small business owner fears the most: an inexplicable drop in sales on your website. It could be a sudden, jump-off-a-cliff type drop, or it could be a slow and consistent drop.

You look at your site and everything seems to work well. But something has changed for the worse, and the cash flow looks awfully anaemic. But what’s changed? Is the site taking too long to load, or are you calls-to-action weak? There are lots of possible explanations for a drop in sales.

Before you panic, consider this: every business site experiences highs and lows. It’s normal. The best thing you can do now is to analyse and determine what might have gone wrong. Once you do, you’ll be one step closer to getting your site back on the road to recovery.

In this post we’ll look at six things to look at when your sales begin to sink. Hopefully, these will help you to quickly diagnose what crippled your site’s cash flow and what to do to get back on track.

1. Your traffic has dropped

When you notice a drop in sales, the first thing you should check is your traffic. Have your organic or paid traffic declined?

So, first step – log into your Google Analytics (GA) account and check whether a decline in traffic is what’s causing a loss in revenue.

Hopefully you’re already using GA, but if you’re not, then we’d recommend taking our free Google Analytics course as soon as possible. By the end of the course, you’ll learn how to use this powerful tool and where to find the most important insights into your visitors’ behaviour on your site.

If you’re already using GA, then then go to your account and review your site’s traffic over the past few months. If there’s a traffic drop, this could explain why you’re getting fewer sales.

Next you’ll need to identify why your organic traffic has dropped. Here are a few possible reasons:

  • Google’s not indexing your website properly. Go to your Google Search Console (GSC) and check the Index Status section to see whether there’s a problem with how your pages are being indexed, or whether Google has penalised your website. (If you’re not familiar with the GSC and want to learn how to set it up and use it to get more insights about your site, make sure to read our beginner’s guide to Google Search Console.)
  • Your target audience has shifted to using different keywords when seeking information related to your business or website. Time to do a new keyword research and find out what other terms people are using to find you in the search results, and then optimise your site accordingly. This guide shows you how to do your own keyword research so you can be successful in the search results.
  • You’re not actively promoting your website. Having a website isn’t enough. If you want to drive traffic and draw more customers to your site, you need to put promoting your site on your everyday to-do list. This includes writing relevant and useful content on your blog, being active on social media, reaching out to influencers to help spread the word about your business, to name a few. Check out the best beginner’s guides to online marketing to learn how to spread the word about your business.

If you want to dig deeper, Yoast has a useful article with other things that may lead to a drop in traffic.

Now, if your paid traffic dropped but your spending has remained the same, it’s likely because your ads are no longer as effective as they were before. It might be time to experiment with different copy, keywords and calls-to-action to get better results.

What to do about it

Use Google Analytics to check if your traffic has dropped and, if it has, try to determine the reason behind it – whether it’s Google indexing issues, using keywords that your audience is no longer using to find you online, or not promoting your site enough. Once you know why your traffic has dropped, take the necessary steps to recover.

2. You’re not taking seasonality into account

Seasonality affects every business. If you’re looking at your traffic and sales and seeing a downward trend, make sure to put it into context.

For example, if you’re selling school supplies, it’s normal for your traffic and sales to spike in the month or weeks before school starts. But when you’re approaching summer, and several months after, when the school is out, it makes sense for your traffic and sales to drop.

What to do about it

Before you panic about your sales dropping, make sure you have a good understanding of your business’ seasonality and when people buy your products and services most. Make sure you use Google Analytics to identify your seasonal peaks and troughs, so you can easily tell if a drop is “normal”, or if it’s a sign of something else.

And of course, you can always run special offers to encourage people to buy from you in your off-peak season.

3. You’ve made changes to your website

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to redesign your website or parts of it purely for cosmetic purposes, without a second thought about their impact on sales.

Any redesign should be powered by insights from web analytics. So if you’re making changes to your site based on a hunch or just because you feel like it, hoping it will be successful and turn more visitors into customers, then you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not digging into your analytics to determine which pages or elements are performing badly, you won’t know what’s preventing visitors from taking that next step and buying from you. And post-redesign, you also won’t know the exact changes you’ve made that are causing your sales to drop.

For example, your new product descriptions and images might be more attractive post-redesign, but your new call-to-action buttons might not be as powerful as before, resulting in fewer visitors clicking the “Buy now” button.

But you won’t know any of that if you’ve made the changes based on a guess, without looking at your web analytics, without testing and without measuring the impact of those changes on your bottom line.

What to do about it

Before you start changing headlines and the colours of call-to-action buttons, make sure you first analyse the current state of your site and determine if what you’re planning to change will actually have a positive impact on sales.

That’s where A/B testing comes in. Basically, A/B testing helps to compare the effect on sales of a change to a page on your website. You can perform a test for a fixed period and then, if the results show an increase in sales, you can move forward and implement that change for good. But if they don’t, then you can try testing something else.

A/B testing is one of the most crucial skills you can learn so why not take our free course on understanding your website visitors, where we also cover A/B testing for beginners?

4. You’re ignoring mobile users

Did you know what the number of sales made on mobile devices increased by 65% between 2015 and 2016? Or that smartphone conversion rates are up 64% compared to the average desktop conversion rate?

So if a big chunk of your traffic is coming from mobile but your site isn’t mobile-friendly, then it’s no surprise that you’re experiencing a drop in sales.

What to do about it

Having a website isn’t enough. Your website needs to be optimised for mobile devices. Why? Because a bad mobile experience can turn customers away from your business. 

So if you haven’t already optimised your site for mobile, you need to do it as soon as possible. No excuses. Read our post to learn how you can get a mobile-friendly site.

5. Your competitors are doing a better job at winning over your customers

Sometimes a drop in sales has nothing to do with your actions, but with your competitors’ actions.

Is it possible that one of your competitors has released a new product, has improved it or is offering incentives like free shipping or significant discounts? These can temporarily take customers’ attention away from your offering.

What to do about it

Always keep an eye on your competitors to see what and how they’re selling online. This will allow you to adjust your marketing strategy to help address some of the loss in revenue.

So, for example, if they’ve started offering free shipping with any purchase, you should consider doing that as well. Or if they’ve improved their checkout process to allow users to buy without having to sign up for an account, do you think this might benefit you as well? Could you boost sales by offering a guest checkout option?

Here are a few simple ways to monitor your competitors:

  • Set up Google Alerts for your competitors
  • Sign up for their mailing list to keep up to date with news, updates and promotions
  • Keep track of what they’re doing on their website as well as on social media.

The following resources give you more information about various ways to keep an eye on your competitors:

6. There is a technical problem on your website

If your website is slow or down, or if you have broken pages that are returning a 404 not found error, then these might explain why your sales have dropped.

Here’s the thing: web users aren’t as patient or as understanding as you’d like them to be. In fact, 40% of your visitors will abandon ship after just three seconds. In addition, every additional second you make your visitors wait can result in a 7% decrease in sales.

Now, think about the impact that more serious issues, like a broken page or shopping cart, can have. If a user is just one step away from finalising a purchase, and then they get an error message, what are the chances that they’ll repeat the process? If they can find a similar product elsewhere, they’ll most likely leave your site and go to a competitor instead where everything works and they can actually buy the product.

What to do about it

If the drop in sales seems unnatural, take some time to check that everything works properly on your website.

Go to Google, search for a product you sell and then go to that product page. How long does it take to load? Now try to buy the product. Can you add the product to your cart? Can you sign into your account or can you checkout as a guest? Do you get any error messages along the way?

You should also set up goal tracking and alerts in Google Analytics. If you do that, you’ll be notified if there’s a sudden drop in sales, meaning you can investigate as quickly as possible.

Make sure to also check that your site isn’t experiencing any downtime or slowness. If it is, fix it quickly.

You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s speed score. Marks are out of 100 and anything over 90 is ideal, while a score under 80 indicates you have speed issues that need to be addressed. The tool will also make suggestions on what you need to fix in order to make your site faster.

For more information, read our article on why site speed matters and what you can do to speed up your website.

Wrapping up

If your website sales have fallen, there’s a reason for it. And with a bit of testing and analysis, you can get to the root of what’s preventing your visitors from making a purchase. Once you do, you can fix the issues and get your site back on the road to recovery.