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It’s every digital marketer’s nightmare: You open up Google Analytics and see your website’s traffic has taken a sharp downturn. Is the website broken? Did a competitor invest heavily in paid search results? Worse, is your brand losing relevance?

We’ve got good news and bad news. The good: a precipitous decline is likely the result of a technical problem or SEO setback, not a reflection of your brand’s strength. The bad: it might be hard to locate and/or rectify the problem.

If you find your site losing traffic quickly, first review your most recent updates to the site (or other marketing medium). The fix could be easy. If traffic has plummeted on the site, check a few things. Did you accidentally block search engines from crawling your site? Did you mistakenly un-publish a popular page? Or — if your email campaign is performing abysmally — did you apply your UTM codes correctly? Did you omit an all-important https://?

If you find none of these human errors, it’s most likely that you’re losing visibility on search engine results. Often, this can be caused by lost backlinks. If a trusted website (Forbes, Gartner, the Wall Street Journal) links to a piece of content, Google will reward that content with higher search rankings. So losing those coveted backlinks — or having a competitor achieve newer or better backlinks — can have major results.

Losing a backlink can also be the result of human error: is it possible someone at the backlinking site removed a link by accident? Or did you change your page’s URL without updating the backlinking publication?

But maybe your content has lost relevance, or the link was simply too old to remain on the referring website. If you determine this is the problem, particularly if it’s happening frequently, you might have to ask yourself some tough questions: Why is our content no longer resonating? Is there something off about the tone of our publication? Are we having reputational problems? Depending on the answers, it may well be time to overhaul your content, SEO, and PR strategies.

This post was adapted from an article on Howard Breindel is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.

Howard Breindel About the author
Howard Breindel is a cofounder of DeSantis Breindel. He works with visionary leaders across B2B industries whose companies are at critical inflection points, helping them harness the power of brand to grow their business.