On December Web Traffic Declines – It’s Not an SEO Issue

“Search engine optimization is kind of like eating. You just have to do it every day.”

Frank, our head of digital marketing, said the above to me the other day and he couldn’t be more spot on. When helping our clients grow their web traffic, the team spends more time examining content marketing performance in Google Analytics than we’d care to admit. But one of the most common questions we receive about web traffic around this time of year actually has very little to do with search engine optimization (aka SEO) at all. Since we’re fast approaching the dreaded December web traffic slowdown, I thought it would be a good idea to spend a bit of time helping you to understand what’s happening.

Though most reports I’ve seen on the phenomenon are anecdotal based on individual sites or agency experience, a consensus among marketers is that the typical site’s traffic drops 20-40% during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years. Digging a little deeper, we can use Google Trends as a proxy for web traffic in various industries. As you’ll see below, search volume generally falls off a cliff in December. There are exceptions for consumer products and retailers that are heavily involved in holiday shopping, but by and large you should prepare for your lowest web activity levels of the year.

What’s Behind December Web Traffic Declines?

Don’t worry, your website’s search engine optimization hasn’t suddenly gone haywire. Web traffic declines in December because people spend much more time doing offline activities during the holidays: traveling, visiting with family, opening presents, carving the ham, etc. And, unless you’re in retail, entertainment, or consumer products, your site will likely see its lowest traffic levels of the year during this period.

So What Can My Business Do to Keep Healthy Holiday Traffic Levels?

Whenever you’re looking to drive organic web traffic, publishing volume becomes key. Continue your regular updates, understanding that you’re speaking to a much smaller audience. Because of that fact, you may want to take a moment to respond to those individuals who are visiting you on social media in December. You can also post more shareable holiday-themed content (if that kind of material lends itself to your business), and if you’ll be running year-end discounts or offers make sure to get your email marketing out early enough that people haven’t already tuned out their email.

The important thing is to recognize that December traffic declines are temporary. If you don’t see traffic return to normal by later in January, then it might be time to dive back into your search engine optimization efforts.