Most online entrepreneurs pour resources into marketing and advertising strategies to attract more traffic to their websites — but what happens when your traffic doesn’t grow, no matter what you try? Why isn’t your traffic growing?
There are so many variables in the world of online marketing, I couldn’t possibly give you a definitive reason.
Instead, I’ll offer you 50 possible ones.
1. Your site has been periodically going down. Oops. If you’ve been studying your traffic patterns for months and you’re not seeing any traffic growth, it’s unlikely you’ve gone that long without noticing your site is down, but don’t rule it out as a possibility. Depending on your hosting provider and the nature of your site, all it takes is a few hiccups resulting in repeated downtime to significantly hurt your organic search visibility. Think about it — do you really check your site every day? Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to check. You can use Google’s own Search Console.
2. You haven’t announced your website launch. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? That’s debatable. If a website launches and nobody announces it, is it going to attract visitors? Absolutely not. When you first launch your website (or maybe shortly thereafter) you need to announce it formally and loudly — you can write and submit a press release via a service like PRWeb, or rely on organic means like social media promotion. But in any case, you need to get the word out.
3. You aren’t offering anything of value. This is more of a business problem than an online marketing problem, but it’s still central to your website’s ability to generate traffic. When people visit a website, they’re looking for some kind of value — that might be in the form of information they need, products they want to buy, or even just simple entertainment. Whatever the case, they don’t waste time on sites that don’t offer them any of the above. Accordingly, you need to do your market research ahead of time and make sure you’re able to provide a specific target niche with something they’re truly going to appreciate.
4. You aren’t saying anything new. This is another problem that says more about your business in general than your overall marketing strategies. Assume for a moment that you’re offering something of value — but you have a competitor who’s already been offering it for years. Why would people go to you instead? Obviously, you’re going to have some competitive overlap, so you’ll have to go out of your way to differentiate yourself. What makes your brand unique? What makes your offer more valuable? What can you say or do that’s never been said or done before? It’s a hard question, but a necessary one if you want to grow your traffic.
5. You have an “if you build it” mentality. This is a problem I consistently see with new entrepreneurs. The idea here is that so long as you have a good idea, and a good website to support it, eventually the traffic will come flocking in. And in an ideal world, this would hold true — good ideas would naturally be supported by audiences. The problem is initial discovery; once people start to catch on, any good idea will spread, but you need to seed those first few adopters if you want to succeed. That’s where marketing and advertising come in; if you aren’t going out of your way to get yourself in front of an initial target audience, you’re going to lose out.
6. Your site can’t be found (easily) in search engines. One of your best options for attracting new traffic is via search engine optimization (SEO). The potential traffic growth here is extraordinary, but you won’t be getting a single visitor unless those search engines know you exist, and have good reason to rank you highly in search results.
7. You don’t have a consistent brand. Users might be avoiding you if you don’t have a consistent identity. This is a sign that you know what you’re doing, and it defines you as a brand, giving users trust and some sense of accountability. It also serves as the foundation for all your marketing strategies. If your brand is inconsistent, or if there’s no clear characteristics present throughout your marketing campaigns, they may feel thrown off, or think that your company is amateurish, instantly lowering the value of your investments. For help, see Why You Need a Brand Audit (and How to Perform One).
8. Your brand isn’t optimized for a target audience. Let’s say you do have a consistent brand — was it developed based on your whims, or based on what your target audience would want to see? There’s a critical difference here. Brands should deliver something that consumers want or need, catering to a specific demographic and relaying messages that resound with that demographic. If you haven’t at least developed a customer persona to help you build a brand, that’s a good place to start.
9. Your brand isn’t present throughout the site. Your brand isn’t just something that exists in the abstract sense, or something you can toggle on and off — it needs to be present, and consistently, throughout your site if you want to attract more visitors. At the very least, your logo and company colors should be visible, and your “brand voice” should be interwoven with the content throughout your pages. You should also create space to show off your company mission statement, vision, and core values — otherwise, you’ll miss out on some serious returning visitor traffic and you’ll have a harder time growing your reputation.
10. Your site is poorly designed. Sometimes, there’s no excuse other than a “bad” design. It’s difficult to concretely define, but you’ll know it when you see it. This is often the case, but there are some principles of “bad” design you’ll deliberately need to avoid. Design that’s overcrowded, tacky, hard to look at, non-interactive, or poorly thought out will have a hard time attracting any traffic at all. Make sure you work with a professional, or at least use a nice template when building your site. Poor site design affects your organic search visibility, the potential for your content to be shared by your visitors, and the rate at which visitors return.
11. Your site’s color scheme sucks. People need to be able to read your content if you want more people to visit your site. There are many factors that affect content readability, but the coloration of your words and backgrounds can particularly interfere with readability (as demonstrated below), as can your font style and size. You also need to make sure your content is readable on mobile devices — but I’ll get deeper into mobile optimization later.
12. Your site is obsolete. It could be that your site had a great design — by standards set a decade ago. Take the oft-referenced Space Jam site as a hilarious example, as it remains untouched since 1996. Design trends seem to change by the minute, and it’s a good idea to make tweaks to your layout on an annual basis. If you can’t remember the last time your site design was updated, you can probably bank on it being obsolete — and obsolete sites can hurt not only your traffic, but also your brand. They’re particularly upsetting when viewed on mobile devices.
13. Your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices. Now we get to mobile optimization, which can refer to a number of technical and aesthetic elements. Put simply, mobile optimization is the process of making your site more functional for mobile users. It includes making your content easy to read without zooming or scrolling, ensuring the compatibility of your images and videos, and making sure your buttons and forms are easily interactive. A responsive design can help you secure the basics here, but don’t forget — you’ll probably want to do more than the bare minimum. Mobile users now make up the majority of traffic from search engines, and should be especially catered to, because that trend is only going to continue.
14. You haven’t optimized your site for important keywords. I already talked about the importance of optimizing your site to be seen and indexed by search engines, but if you aren’t specifically targeting keyword phrases important to your audience, you could be missing out on valuable organic search ranking opportunities. The idea here is to execute keyword research to find keyword queries that get lots of search volume, but minimal competition. Then, you can seed those keywords (so long as they’re relevant to your brand) strategically within your site content to increase your chances of ranking in organic search results for those keywords. This is only effective in combination with other SEO strategies, but it’s an important start.
15. You’re treating your website like an online brochure. If you only have a home page and a contact page, it’s no wonder why your traffic isn’t increasing. Your website isn’t an online brochure to advertise your business. Instead, think of it as a content hub; a home base that you use to build your brand through content that provides value to your target audience. This isn’t a free license to create as many pages as possible, though. Instead, create as many pages as your users will want to see — usually this includes a home page, about page, contact page, a handful of product and service pages, and an ongoing blog, at a minimum.
16. Your titles and descriptions aren’t compelling. Your title tags and meta descriptions are the pieces of information that Google usually displays in its search engine results pages (SERPs); the title is the headline, and the description is the explanatory text underneath it. You have the opportunity to customize these bits of information in the backend code of your site, and you’ll want to do so if you want to attract more organic search traffic to those pages. Otherwise, if your headlines and descriptions are boring or nonexistent, users might see you in search engines but never feel compelled to click your result. Make a compelling offer, and be as accurately descriptive as possible with your title tags and meta descriptions.
17. You don’t have enough on-site content. I like to think of every new page of content as like dropping a new hook in the water, to use a fishing metaphor. More hooks means more chances to catch a fish, just like having more content means more chances to appear in search results for various keywords, and thus acquire more visitors. Just remember: if each page is like casting another hook in the water, then the quality of the content on that page is like like the quality of the bait on the hook. Better bait will get more bites, and better quality content will earn more traffic. For help coming up with ideas for your blog content, see 101 Content Ideas For Your Website or Blog.
18. Your on-site content is poorly written or untrustworthy. Again, it’s not enough to merely stuff your site full of fluff content; you have to have high-quality, valuable, well-written content if you want any hope of ranking for search engines and attracting new users. What qualifies as high-quality content? It’s a bit complicated, but fortunately, Google publishes a document called the search quality raters guidelines, which will help you understand what search engines look for. Ultimately, content is evaluated based on E-A-T criteria — that is, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. But don’t forget, your content needs to appeal to readers too.
19. Users can’t tell what you do. Imagine you’re someone who has never heard of your brand before, and has no idea what your industry actually is. Now imagine you’re seeing your company’s website for the first time. Are you able to tell, at a glance, what it is you actually do? If you use an overabundance of jargon and buzzwords, or if you aren’t upfront with what your company does, you’re going to lose a lion’s share of your traffic. Instead, be almost painfully upfront about it (even if you think it’s obvious to begin with).
20. Users have no reason to come back. Repeat traffic is going to be one of your most important — and most valuable — sources of web traffic in general. These are people who you know are already familiar with your brand, and the fact that they’re returning means they’ll have a higher likelihood of engaging with you or making a purchase. But if you want them to come back, you have to give them an actual reason to come back. Is there one? It could be a kickass blog they can’t help but check in on for new posts, a changing slate of offers that evolves over time, or even a direct reward for returning.
21. You aren’t using a blog. If you don’t have a blog that you’re using actively, you’ve fallen far behind the times. Content marketing is one of the biggest marketing trends — ever — because of its practicality and universality. Literally any business can benefit from content marketing, and if you aren’t engaging in it, you’re missing out on a ton of potential in numerous other realms. Your content can be used as fuel for SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and advertising campaigns, and if you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can even sell it on its own to make a separate line of revenue. Seriously, get blogging — it’s not hard, and you can hire someone to do it for you. It’s essential for SEO, and there are a bunch of other benefits as well.
22. You don’t offer resources. Your blog articles shouldn’t be the only type of content or help your site provides. You should also have a resources section, where you offer peripheral materials that your visitors can download, read, or peruse to gain information or work through a problem. As for what resources you include, that depends on your brand and your target audience. For example, you might offer a selection of eBooks and whitepapers, or you might have downloadable worksheets and templates. You might even have links to off-site sources of information just to help your users out.
23. Your navigation is clunky and confusing. Your navigation plays a major role in how your site looks and functions, not only to users, but also to search engines. At a glance, your users should be able to figure out exactly what the main sections of your site are, how to get there, and why they’re important. This is also important for SEO purposes; not only does this improve the overall user experience, it also helps Google understand the hierarchy of your site, so it can organize your pages better in search results. Generally speaking, pages that are more often linked-to in your site are going to be seen as more important, and will thus rank higher in search results. They’ll also be more likely to show up in the “expanded sitelinks” when users search for your brand name. Here’s what that looks like:
24. Your site loads too slowly. Imagine a scenario in which a user finds your site, but when they click through, they’re met with an indefinite loading screen that seems to take forever. Would you expect them to stick around? Of course not — and they probably won’t be back, either. Your site speed could play a major role in how many interested parties eventually become full-fledged site visitors, so keep a close eye on your site’s performance using a tool like Pingdom, and optimize your site for speed by reducing image sizes, using a good caching plugin, and getting rid of unnecessary page elements. Site speed impacts user experience, but also has a significant impact on SEO.
25. You haven’t leveraged any social media tactics. Social media marketing belongs in the same category as content marketing. It’s free, it’s approachable, it can be used in conjunction with a number of other marketing strategies, and it has massive potential to scale. Even if you only take the effort to claim your social media profiles, that alone can make you more visible to potential searchers looking for a brand like your.
26. You haven’t used any bookmarking sites. Social bookmarking sites are opportunities for free publicity — as long as you have something good to offer. Sites like Reddit allow you to submit content you think users would find valuable — and give it a visibility boost, with the potential to have it go viral (if the community deems it worthy). You can’t spam these sites or you’ll get banned, but you should try using them for your best content.
27. You don’t have any strong personal brands. Personal brands are like corporate brands, but for individuals, and they’re a perfect way to improve your corporate brand’s reach. People trust personal brands more than corporate brands, and simply adding more profiles to your “team,” you’ll expand your social media reach. Personal brands are also ideal for promoting and building your blogging and guest posting strategies (more on that shortly).
28. You aren’t using email marketing. Though the numbers will obviously vary depending on your brand and your strategic approach, email marketing is purported to have one of the highest ROIs of any marketing strategy, with some claiming up to a 400 percent return. Since platforms like MailChimp make it easy to build templates and reuse them with new content, there’s no excuse not to have an email newsletter to attract and retain new followers of your brand. One word of caution; don’t buy a list. Instead, build one from interested people on your website and in your social circles. For help getting started with an email list, see 7 Ways to Build an Email List from Scratch.
29. There’s no personality on your site. People are tired of seeing and hearing corporate white noise. They’re sick of being sold to. They gravitate toward brands that demonstrate actual personality, so the more you include throughout your site, the greater chance you’ll have at attracting more people. Depending on your brand characteristics, this could include making more jokes, playing with your visitors, or showcasing the professionalism of your team. The key is to humanize your brand, and make it more relatable. These qualities will earn repeat visitors, shares, and word-of-mouth recommendations.
30. You don’t have enough (or any) inbound links. Inbound links are one of the most important parts of an online marketing strategy, and they play a particularly strong role in SEO. The obvious benefit here is that external links pointing to your domain have the potential to send referral traffic your way from people clicking on them. But links on high-authority sites also pass “authority” to your site, making it more likely to rank in organic search results for relevant queries in search engines. You can’t have a successful SEO strategy without them.
31. You aren’t guest blogging. As an extension of your link building and personal branding strategies, you should be seeking guest posting positions on external publications — especially ones with high domain authority. Doing so will improve your brand reputation, get you more referral traffic, and boost your domain authority to increase your organic search rankings. It’s tough to earn spots on high-authority sources right away, so start with small-time publishers, and work your way up.
32. You haven’t invited any guest posters. Don’t think that guest posting is all about your contributions on other sites; inviting guest posters to contribute to your site can also be very valuable. Not only will you get free content for your blog, you’ll also open the door to cross-promotional opportunities, which can expand your audience and send traffic to your site.
33. People can’t share your content. There’s really no excuse for this one. Assuming you’re already producing blog posts on a regular basis, you need to give your users the easy opportunity to share those posts with their friends and followers — simply adding share buttons could instantly and dramatically increase your reach. And guess what? It only takes a few minutes to do it.
34. You don’t have any local citations. Local citations are entries about your business found in third-party directories and review sites like Yelp. These will name your business, describe it briefly, include all pertinent information, and give users a chance to review it (in most cases). Google uses local citation information to rank local businesses in its local “3-pack,” which display above the fold of organic search results. It’s an easy way to outrank the national competition and get some extra search visibility, especially if your business serves a specific local geographic area.
35. There are competitors far better at this than you are. Let’s face it. You might not be very good at marketing, at least when compared to your competitors. They might be leeching all your potential traffic because they’re doing better than you. What to do about it? Learn from them. Mimic their strategies to learn what makes them effective, and add a dash of uniqueness to differentiate yourself along the way.
36. You have too many popup ads. Hopefully this doesn’t apply to you. A single popup, maybe one encouraging users to sign up for your newsletter, can be effective. But if you spam your users with popup ads for any reason, they’ll likely turn tail and never come back. Even worse, you could suffer a search ranking penalty due to Google’s Panda algorithm. Keep ads relevant and to a minimum.
37. You once engaged in black-hat SEO practices. It’s tough to “accidentally” engage in black-hat SEO tactics, which are explicitly forbidden by Google. These include things like keyword stuffing, link spamming, and ranking schemes designed to manipulate search results. If you do this, and you’re caught by Google, you’ll receive a written notice via Google Search Console and your rankings could plummet, resulting in sharply decreased organic search traffic with minimal chance of recovery (unless you can overturn Google’s decision to penalize your site).
38. Your template site is unoriginal. Template-based sites, such as those hosted on Wordpress, have been a godsend for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs everywhere. They’re a cheap and easy way to build a website on your own and not have it look like garbage. However, there are so many people using these templates that it’s easy to blend in as white noise. Despite the advantages that templates offer, you still need to find a way to differentiate yourself.
39. You aren’t updating your site regularly enough. Google and users alike enjoy seeing sites that are regularly updated with new content. Take the time to update your core site content whenever your brand goes through a major change, and post new material to your blog at least once or twice a week. This will help you earn higher search rankings, build an audience, and grow your reputation.
40. Your calls to click don’t match the content on your site. Occasionally, I’ll stumble upon a business that’s using language in their PPC ads or title tags that misleads users into thinking they’ll find something better than what they’re actually going to find when they click through. While I understand and agree that it’s important to pique users’ interests, it’s also important to set correct expectations. If you don’t, you could lose your reputation and lose those visitors as soon as they arrive.
41. There’s no user “experience.” When a user visits your site, what are they feeling? What are they thinking? What kinds of responses do you give to their inputs? The answers to these types of questions define your overall “user experience,” which is a subjective description of what visiting your site is like for the average user. This is critically important to ensuring that your incoming traffic comes back for more — and for earning referrals. In fact, it’s so important there’s an entire branch of design dedicated solely to promoting better user experiences. Make sure it’s both compelling and unique.
42. Your site comes off as untrustworthy. We’ve all been to at least one site that screams “scam” or otherwise immediately makes us distrustful. If a site boldly claims to be able to make you lose 10 pounds overnight, or become a millionaire in a week, you know it’s deceptive, and you move on. Unfortunately, the prevalence of scams and deceit on the Internet is such that most users have ultra-sensitive senses of trust; even one subtle reason can be enough to dissuade a user from visiting you again. Run a clean sweep of your site to see if any headlines, descriptions, images, or other features make your site seem like its attempting to hide something or manipulate your users.
43. You don’t have any displayed contact information. This is a cardinal sin of website design, and it can instantly dissuade users from ever coming back to your site. You might be reluctant to post your contact information to limit the amount of queries you get or protect against spam, but there are easier ways to combat this, such as by using custom 800 numbers or by offering contact means like live chatting. The more options you give your users, the better, but the bottom line is offering contact information fosters a sense of trust.
44. You chose a marketing strategy that’s wrong for your brand. There are many marketing strategies to choose from, and if you’re new to the marketing world, all of them probably seem exciting. You might jump into one because it personally appeals to you, or because you read an awesome case study about how it worked for one brand. However, it’s important to remember that every brand is different and what works for someone else might not work for you. For example, Pinterest is a potentially powerful marketing platform, but it caters to businesses with strong visuals — if your industry is service-based, you’ll struggle to find an audience there.
45. You’re investing too little in marketing. New entrepreneurs are often reluctant to invest much money in marketing, and I can’t say I blame them. Most businesses start up with limited cash, and you’ll need to put that capital toward infrastructural developments. However, you have to remember that marketing isn’t an expense — it’s an investment. The more you put into it, in both time and money, the more you’re going to get out of it. If you don’t put a sufficient amount of capital into your strategy, it isn’t going to work. That doesn’t mean you have to go on a spending spree, but it does mean you should loosen up.
46. You aren’t leveraging your real-world audience. Don’t forget that you have an audience in the real world who is just as interested in your brand as Internet dwellers. Even if you don’t have a physical business storefront, you have potential customers who engage in daily life in the physical realm. You can take advantage of them by leveraging more personal, real-world marketing campaigns, or by getting your business involved in local events and gatherings. It’s hard to direct physical users to websites, but a QR code or adequate incentive (like a free gift) can easily get the job done.
47. You’ve hit a plateau. If you’ve been seeing a steady growth rate for a significant period of time, but you’ve only recently stopped seeing an increase in web visitors, it probably means you’ve hit a marketing plateau. This is common, especially for inbound marketing strategies like content marketing and SEO. Generally, the slowdown is due to a kind of stagnation — you’re doing the same things over and over again — so the best way to break out of it is to introduce something new and exciting to your audience.
48. You haven’t tried paid advertising. For much of this article, I’ve been referring to marketing strategies in the context of inbound marketing, like content, SEO, and social media, and there’s a reason for that. These strategies are more likely to be cost-effective, and have a much higher potential growth rate than any form of direct paid advertising. However, if you’re desperate to see an increase in traffic, or you want to hedge your strategies, paid advertising can yield a positive return of traffic. Give it a try if you aren’t seeing any growth.
49. You aren’t paying attention to your metrics. There are so many marketing analytics platforms out there to help you understand how your strategies are working (including free options like Google Analytics), there’s no excuse not to be paying close attention to your metrics. If you know where to look and how to calculate your ROI, you’ll be able to tell instantly whether a given strategy is working, and eventually why that strategy is or isn’t working. With that information, you can iteratively improve your campaign until you see the results you want.
50. You aren’t experimenting enough. Finally, remember that online marketing is built on a foundation of experimentation. Yes, there are certain fundamentals that tend to hold true for vast segments of the population, but the reality is consumers are somewhat unpredictable, and marketing is as much an art as it is a science. The only way to reliably improve your strategic approach is to try something new, evaluate how effective it is, then either scrap it or maintain it based on how it performs. Repeat this process a hundred times, and you’ll end up with a multifaceted marketing strategy that functions like a well-oiled machine.
There you have it. If you aren’t currently seeing your traffic grow, I can almost guarantee you one or more of these reasons is responsible. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a fast or straightforward path to fixing these problems, but it should point you in the right direction. The more time you spend in the online marketing world, the more sense these hundreds of interconnected variables will start to make — so stay persistent! And if you have a good relationship with the number “50” and want some ideas on how to generate more traffic to your website, see my article, 50 Easy Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website. Or, listen to my podcast episode on How to Quickly Drive Traffic to a New Website.