Why has my website traffic dropped?

A downward pointing graph underneath text saying "Why has my website traffic dropped?" and Simon hiding their eyes with their hands.

Creating content on your website to get Google traffic is no longer a good idea. In fact, it’s now a waste of your time and effort.

Google recently announced that it is going to use AI to start answering search questions on the Google results page. It calls this “doing the Googling for you” but what it means in practice is that even if your content shows up as the ideal answer to a question, the searcher is unlikely to click through to your website. Instead, Google’s AI will come to your website, read it, learn it, and then use your content to answer questions.

This makes most marketing advice out there – even some that I have shared in the past – increasingly irrelevant.

The internet is changing. So what do we do now?

Traffic used to be the holy grail of marketing

In recent years, there has been a tendency in marketing to follow a tried and tested workflow. Broadly speaking, you identify your audience’s questions and then create content that provides the answers. This content is used to attract people to your website, where you have a signup form for an ebook or course/programme upsell. In other words, the more traffic your website gets, the more people will “convert”, and the more business you get.

I have written about this workflow, and it forms the backbone of the theory in my book.

But these changes to how search engines work will mean much less traffic.

Content in the ‘Age of AI’

The new AI tools you’ve almost certainly read about in the news absorb huge amounts of information. More information than humans could possibly imagine.

For example, ChatGPT version 3 is rumoured to have cost about $100 million to train the AI using the data it had. The new version is rumoured to cost around $1 billion and includes most, if not all, of the open internet.

Is this even legal? Well, that’s being battled in the US courts currently, but in the meantime, it’s happening. One thing is sure: your website, with all of its content, is already inside an AI model and being used to provide online answers and there is nothing you can do about it.

So, if potential clients are getting their answers direct from the search engine page, the marketing advantage of being on that first page of search results diminishes. A lot.

To be clear, I’m not saying don’t create content or that your content has no value. It can still be used to bring potential clients to your website. However, we need to reconsider what we are making the content for. And how we measure whether it is effective or not.

A lot fewer people are going to find our content (and website) without us pointing them towards it.

It’s time to stop relying on search engine results

In my book, I talk a lot about finding your audience and sharing your ideas with them where they hang out. In other words, don’t wait for them to come to you – relying on search traffic to make your marketing work – go to them. However, many people still rely on a handful of pages on their website appearing near the top of search results and bringing them new people in the form of traffic. That strategy will soon be out of date.

Now is the time to diversify how you distribute and share your marketing content. If you currently just write a blog, then you need to start thinking about how else people will discover it as clickthroughs from search traffic decline. The key is to get your ideas in front of people in a variety of different ways – I recommend starting with a podcast or YouTube channel to bring people to your website.

But … I’ve written a long, detailed answer to the question, Google can’t show the whole answer… can it?

I’ve heard this a lot lately. People insist that their content is still going to be shown, or be safe, because it’s detailed, in-depth, and can’t be summarised in a page of search results. To a certain extent, this is true; people who want to know more will still click through and read your content in full.

However, try asking ChatGPT to summarise one of your blog posts in 200 words or less. You might be surprised – it’s alarmingly good at this, and to be honest, a short summary is what most people are looking for.

Content can still be good marketing

Here’s the good news: making content is still a hugely worthwhile exercise. After all, you’ve just read a whole blog post, not a summary! And if you will, so will others.

However, we need to move away from relying on search engines to share our content. We need to build an audience and point those who are interested to our websites to learn more. This means showing up where your audience is hanging out.

The days of one blog post with a good search profile bringing you thousands of new readers/viewers are dissapearing. Now, it’s up to you to show up and share widely. It’s never been so important to start building your own audience, engaging and guiding directly and not leaving it all to Google.

If this blog has got you thinking, then I’ve got lots more content like this coming soon; you can be the first to know about that content as well as other marketing tools and resources I find useful by becoming a subscriber below.