If you’re an SEO who interacts with clients, or even a small business owner keeping tabs on your traffic and visitor flow in Google Analytics, you have done the ‘Google Gasp’ a few times.

It’s that moment your eyes grow wide, you lose your breath, and your stomach drops to your feet when you see those glaring red traffic metrics. You become frantic, trying to figure out what went wrong and you begin to second guess yourself, your marketing team, or your strategic approach. What you should do is calm down, take a breath , and refrain from changing every page on your website.

What do you look for when you’re struck with the ‘Google Gasp’? Here are three typical ‘bad’ results that will help you see the Analytics glass half full:

  • Drop in Organic Traffic - Surprisingly, this drop has two positives that can come from it. The first can be tied to your Paid Search campaign. If you are utilizing paid search and your CTR, Quality Score, and CPC results have been their best ever, your organic traffic is going to drop. Since organic visits are those not brought to your site via adverts or paid search, any visitors that come to your site by clicking an ad will not be counted towards the total number of Organic Visits. The second can be seen by reviewing your site’s Referral Traffic. Referral Traffic can include a number of ways a visitor came to your site just by clicking hyperlinked text, or a link in a Tweet, without making a search query. Very few of these referred visits are considered organic, so look for increases in Social Media referrals, Content and Article referrals, and affiliate site referrals.

Google Analytics

Looking towards the right end of the blue line in the graph, we see noticeable increases in Paid Search.

Google Analytics

This is Organic Traffic from the same site, within the same date ranges. Notice the end of the blue line in this graph; it is noticeably lower in the same area that the Paid Search graph showed increases.

  • Drop in Visit Duration -When this happens, take a look at your Bounce Rate; did the Bounce Rate improve? A drop in the number of pages a visitor went to on your site doesn’t mean that they are not interested, nor does a decrease in time mean they are bouncing right off. Take a step back and think about any UX or conversion-driven changes you may have made to your site; have you made some content or design changes to a few landing pages? Did you conduct some navigation renovation or product re-structuring? If so, then a drop in the visit duration  per encounter and an improved bounce rate can be closely tied to an improved user experience. Even the smallest changes that improve the site’s navigation, product listings, or descriptions can reduce the amount of time a visitor spends sifting through a number of products to find what they are looking for.

Google Analytics

  • Decrease in New Visitors - When increasing your customer base and site visibility are your main goals, having less New Visitors is worrisome, but take a look at the other side of the story; how many of your site’s  visitors are returning? Returning Visitors are just as good, if not, better than having an influx of New Visits, because they have a different mind-set. The average consumer will rarely make a purchase on their first visit to a site and will often leave the site prior to completing the conversion or ‘checking out’. The reasons vary, from doing additional product research and price comparison to waiting for a sale or special offer. A majority of Returning Visitors will complete a conversion and make a purchase because they have not only familiarized themselves with your site, but with your brand, product offerings, or simply because you offer the best customer service.

Google Analytics

Looking at the negative in a positive light isn’t just a way to keep the fire from turning into an inferno; it’s a way to discover how some of these metrics inadvertently affect each other. It also helps you identify what is working and not working in your marketing strategy.  Lastly, it will allow you to make reasonable adjustments or changes to your site that will produce more positive results.