Today’s article will benefit you whether you’ve just bought a content site, bought one some time ago, or even built one from scratch. 

I won’t be covering Saas or eCommerce sites, as they have a lot of different drivers of revenue.

At every stage in a site’s life, it goes through various plateaus. The most frustrating is obviously the beginning, but once a site has started gaining momentum, it can still seemingly stall in its tracks for no reason.

When this happens, it can be hard to figure out exactly what happened. Could it be diminishing returns on your link building? Could it be you’ve run out of content ideas?

Maybe a competitor has caught up with you?

Maybe Google hates you.

Or maybe it’s not related to SEO at all.

But Google still probably hates you.

Whatever the cause, you’re not going to fix it unless you have a system for first identifying what could be the problem. From there, you can try to figure out what you need to do about it.

Before we go any further…

One of the most painful parts about online business is that in many times, the feedback loop is long. You do something, you might not see results for a long time and have no idea whether your efforts are going to work later. They might not even have been the right efforts.

This means that you might never know exactly why your site has stalled, and also means it may not even have stalled at all…

This article is going to point you in the right direction and then help you take the next steps on that path.

If you don’t get complete conclusions, at least you’ll be able to rule out potential issues as well. Peace of mind is half the battle anyway.

How To Troubleshoot Your Site’s Sudden Lack Of Growth

The first thing you need to do is define that lack of growth. For most people, the metric we’re most focused on is revenue, profit, money…dollar bills.

For this article then, I’m going to be speaking within the context of a site that has seen good revenue growth, but has suddenly stopped growing. It might even have dipped slightly, without any sign of an algorithm update or penalty or anything like that.

Maybe it was earning quickly and suddenly stopped, or maybe it was slow and steady but then hasn’t kicked on to the next level.

Either way, we’re talking about how to get your site growing and making more money again.

There are two things you should try to do first:

  1. Identify what the driver of previous growth was. 

  2. Identify where you think the next growth would come from.

For most sites, the answer to both those questions is traffic, but not always. Sometimes a product stops converting, or sometimes you got huge growth because you added a new monetization model or improved your conversion rates. 

Once you experience the initial bump after that, you’re not going to keep growing until you add or improve the next thing.

How do you identify the above then? 

You just look at historical data.

If you’ve been growing a site from scratch, you’ll instinctively know what drove the previous growth, but if you took one over, you might need to go back and cross-reference the P+L with the Google Analytics, or with the time of year.

Usually you’ll see a clear pattern where higher traffic leads to increased earnings, or the completion of conversion rate optimization by a company like Convertica resulted in higher earnings. 

Or display ads were added to the site.

Once you’ve figured that out, you next need to dig down a step on that item. If your traffic increased, why was that? Was it Amazon Prime month? Was it Black Friday? Was it a seasonal niche? Did you send more emails? Or most likely, did you increase your search rankings?

A tool like Ahrefs or Google Analytics will help you here. 

For most sites, the answer will come there. Your site gained a few new top rankings for some keywords, and gained traffic. Until you get more of those rankings, your traffic won’t go up, and your income will stay flat.

But that’s where most people get stuck. How do they get more of those rankings? What if they’ve been adding content steadily and building links, but the rankings are stubborn and not moving?

This is the most common issue I see, and there’s a whole art (SEO!) to this very situation.

That’s also why it’s important you first identify that traffic is the reason for your site stalling, and that SEO is the reason for that. Otherwise, you’ll go down a major rabbit hole when it might not be the real problem.

When it IS an SEO Problem

The first thing I do with any new site is perform an SEO audit. I talked about that here, so I’ll save you the time of reading it again. Any good SEO agency will also help you perform a technical audit. Good audits will look at both the technical side of things (speed, broken code etc) and the onpage SEO side.

The next thing you really need to analyze is the link gap. Do your competitors have more links than you? Do they have a higher domain rating? Are they building links faster than you?

This last one often catches people out. They’re building links well, but if their competitors are too, it might not be much use. 

To beat them, you’ll either need more links, better links, more unique links, or a combination of the three. My recommended approach would be custom outreach, because you’ll get quality links that your competitors aren’t getting. I think a lot of people recently starting use the same agencies for guest posts, and they all end up with the same links, which isn’t exactly ideal.

Another thing you can look at is your content strategy. As well as having superior link building, a strong content strategy can help you find some untapped, or less competitive keywords. One of the simplest reasons why your site may have stalled is because you stopped producing content, or stopped producing content in a vein that is easier to rank for. 

What If It’s NOT An SEO Problem?

This is harder for me to give a definite answer on, because…it depends.

If your site traffic is growing still, and you don’t feel your SEO work needs improving, then you need to analyze exactly what is driving your sales. An increase in traffic but no increase in $$ means either the traffic isn’t going to the right posts, or raw traffic isn’t a key revenue driver for the site.

I’d start by identifying how the site is making money, which posts in particular are making the money (try to use unique tracking ID’s for your affiliate links on each post, or at least the top posts), and from there, the insights might let you identify what more you need to do to grow your revenue.

There are a few different things it could be, which make it hard to include in this post, but the signs will be pretty clear in your particular case.

Conclusion

There are going to be nuances depending on your particular site, but if you follow the steps above, you’ll go a long way to identifying what might work (and what might not work) for getting your site back on the path to growth.

Or you can play it safe and just do what the average SEO does, and just “Do all the things”.

Further Reading

Most Common Mistakes for First & Second Time Buyers

Examining Traffic Data Health Before Purchasing A Website

SEO Audit Tools

Dom Wells

Dom Wells

Dom Wells is the founder of Onfolio.co. He's been actively building, buying, and selling websites since 2012, and has learned from many a mistake over the years. Through Onfolio, he works with other investors to find, buy, and then operate content sites, without the mistakes.