This year has been especially busy with red flag emergencies. Sites that once produced sales or businesses whose leads stopped overnight wake up and see nothing, then hit panic mode. Do not be one of these business owners, instead read this post and process the situation before reacting.
Although there is not a one size fits all solution, I help companies with this regularly and am going to share some of the ways I approach these situations before developing a custom plan and strategy unique to theirs. Use these steps as a starting point and to help trouble shoot a way to work through the issues you’re website is facing. If they don’t work, feel free to contact me using the form on the right and I can help to troubleshoot with you.
Steps to Find Out Why Website Sales Stopped:
- Find the missing traffic or sales
- Look for where you can recover immediately
- Test your sales or lead funnel based on the channel or broken piece
- Find the right person to fix the specific issue
Now let’s go into more detail on each.
How to Find the Missing Traffic or Sales
The first and most important thing to do is to look for where the traffic went. Start by opening your Google Analytics account and go to acquisition and then overview. Set the date range from the start of the missing sales to today, select compare to previous period and then sort. Sometimes I start with the day before so we can make sure there was/is traffic.
Google Analytics will now show you a list of all channels including which ones still have traffic and which ones do not. If it is email that is missing, maybe you got blacklisted or your ESP (email service provider) didn’t send anything. If it’s SEO that dried up 100%, then you know where to look. Facebook or Pinterest could have updated their algorithms and you’ll see the drop in social media. This is the first place to look so you know where to start troubleshooting. If all traffic is still coming in and the same, it isn’t your traffic and we move onto the next test.
Next, click on conversions and look at your funnel. Which page has everyone leaving, freezing or no longer converting. That is step two. Before I get into solving some of the most common causes of a loss of traffic or conversions. It could be your add to cart is broken, you didn’t renew your payment plans or processing functionality or maybe your color sorting and size selection is off. But before we troubleshoot this, we need to think about how to sustain business or prolong our life so we can try to repair the problem without going under.
Look for Immediate and Short Term Solutions
If you’re a retail store, especially higher end or specialty items, you have inventory and need to move it. Although amazon, eBay and market places like WalMart may not be something you had considered in the past, you need money now and they have customers for you. Create an account and use your datafeeds to populate the product listings. There are numerous services that can do this quickly and easily and auto submit for you. Forget about your goals as a brand and remember that peoples’ livelihoods (especially your own) are on the line.
The marketplaces are strong in SEO and yes you’ll be distracting from your own brand, but at least you’ll have some sales coming in if you do it right. It always amazes me to watch business owners turn down these channels because they are too proud or think their brand is special or because it is their company that they shouldn’t have too; but if you don’t want to go under, use them in the short run so you can go back to the way it was later. Amazon for example is the department store of today. Years ago you would love to have your brand featured in Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc… That’s what Amazon is now…go look for authentic designer clothing and high end goods, they are 100% there and you are missing out.
If you’re a service based provider, Amazon has service listings too. You can also list on contracting sites and freelance sites. Yes, you wouldn’t normally do work like this, but when you need to survive, put your ego aside and do what it takes. Chances are if done the right way you won’t cause any long term damage to your brand or your company and you may even find some new channels or ways to liquidate old and overstock inventory creating larger revenue streams for you overall.
Test Your Sales or Leads Funnel
Now that you know what channel is broken or which part of your website no longer allows your customers to finish the checkout process, and you’ve created some ways to sustain your business, it’s time to troubleshoot why you’re missing sales and leads. DO NOT play the scapegoat game. Many times we look to SEO blogs and blame Google for updating and penalizing us. That is almost never the case.
This year I’ve had multiple companies tell me Google wiped them out with a penalty and they reference the big SEO sites who claimed there is an update. Guess what, there is always an update and we can always blame a big player, but blaming doesn’t bring you back. All but two of the companies I talked to in the last couple years actually had an actual penalty or something that wasn’t done by their own teams type of fix. The most common ones for missing search traffic are robots.txt being set to disallow Google. In this case we reset and fix the robots.txt file to crawl properly, fetch as Google inside search console and magically your site should get crawled, reindex and recover. This happened last week again. The IT team said there was nothing wrong, I sent the fix and they were back within a couple hours.
The others were more complex. The one just needed to block excessive keyword rich pages while creating copy to make the legit pages not compete with each. The other is a giant ht.access issue which is mostly out of my skill sets. Luckily I have contractors and friends who do that work and they jumped in to fix it. I also come across broken checkouts and forms on a very regular basis. The IT team forgets to check mobile devices, different browsers or simply makes things clickable.
The point I’m trying to make is to troubleshoot and stop blaming search engines, social media sites and your employees (unless they are the ones who did it). Even then, don’t yell at them. They are equally as stressed as you and you need them to fix the issue. So lets move onto discovering why you no longer have sales or leads.
Here are other tests to do when sales and leads stop coming in:
- Broken carts – shop from multiple browsers and mobile devices and in different categories. See if anything is broken when shopping or filling out forms.
- No shipping options – maybe your shipping options didn’t connect or haven’t processed prices. This happens semi-regularly.
- Does add to cart work – often times the add to cart can cause errors if the process wasn’t set up right.
- 4XX errors – crawl for 4XX errors using a spider or bot. (I have some I can recommend if you contact me). By finding broken pages you can then test those pages with conversion and recording tools or see if people reach a 4XX error page while going through your site and that is why they can’t finish checking out.
- Vendors and subscriptions need renewed – contact all vendors in the authorization process to make sure your accounts and subscriptions are up to date, registered and paid for. If your fraud checkers or payment processors aren’t up to date or haven’t been provided with new info, you could be offline even though everything on the actual site is working.
- Update plugins – check all of your plugins. If they are out of date they could be showing errors instead of appearing and being usable. This is especially common with companies that take leads and use forms.
Find Someone Who Can Fix the Issue
Now that you have the issue and you know what’s wrong, find the person who can fix the issue for you. Your own employees may be nervous and if they get defensive or start defending their actions instead of trying to fix it, move them aside and find a trusted contractor or company who has the experience you need.
Everyone makes mistakes, in this case a big one, but your employees are just as stressed and worried about losing their jobs. Don’t let their panic impact your decision making. If they aren’t in the right mindset to fix it (they keep apologizing and defending themselves), tell them don’t worry and find someone temporarily to fix the problem.
The most important thing to remember when your sales dry up overnight is to not panic. There is normally a clear and fixable explanation. There are cases where a channel dries up, but if you are a smart business owner you have built multiple traffic streams and a newsletter list so that you can survive these obstacles and recover from them. If you’re going through this, feel free to contact me here and I can do my best to help.