When we start speaking to new clients, we often see the same problems from time to time: we hear that they’ve increased website visitors exponentially over the past two years or so, but leads and sales haven’t increase at all.
More visitors and no increase in conversion rates usually point to one or some of the following external factors:
- Your website and/or its contents has aged comparatively within its market, and as a result it doesn’t convert as well as it did in its prime
- Your market has become more crowded or a supplier is aggressively eating up market share, which is causing your market to do more shopping around and resulting in more visits per sale in your industry
- Your product isn’t as competitive as it used to be
- There’s an external force, perhaps not a supplier, causing your market to do more shopping around, resulting in more visits per sale in your industry
It’s not guaranteed to be external factors and remember that most often in this scenario web traffic has been increasing so we’re not anticipating that the market has become smaller. Sometimes it can be internal factors that are the cause – for example you are acquiring more visitors but not using acquisition tactics that qualify the visitor: you have more people coming to your site, but they aren’t interested in your products and are less likely to convert.
The difficulty with metrics in most analytics suites is that it’s difficult to distinguish which of these reasons is causing the anomaly. Any one of them could increase bounce rate, decrease pages per session, and decrease goal conversion rate while at the same time increasing visitors, total page views and entrances. Your problem may be a mix of all five factors so identifying it is even more difficult.
How to know if your web traffic growth is valueless
First of all, before worrying whether your traffic growth is adding value, run these checks vs the previous year for seasonal businesses (e.g., tourism, education) and previous period if it’s a business less affected by seasonality (used car sales, property rentals).
- Bounce rate
- Average pages per sessions
- Average session duration
- Goal conversion rate
It doesn’t matter whether you have 100 or 100k visitors a week, these average and ration metrics are tell-tale signs of how visitors are performing on your site. You may want average session duration to go up or down depending on objective, but they allow you to monitor site-wide behaviour and to get a clear picture of performance. Put simply, as visitors increase, these metrics should stay as they were before to benefit from that growth.
We sometimes use sums like this to determine if traffic growth has been worth it:
Month 6 of 2020, 26,000 visitors with a bounce of 62% – 9880 non-bounced visitors
Month 6 of 2019, 22,000 visitors with 52% bounce – 10,560 non bounced visitors
In that scenario the brand had an 18% increase in website visitors for month six 2020 but an 8% decrease in visitors that didn’t bounce. Whether that’s good or bad is your decision but most brands we work with want their visitors to navigate around their website, to get to know their brands and products and in the best-case scenario, purchase something or make an enquiry. In most cases brands want their visitors to view more than one page, they don’t want them to bounce so with that in mind this is bad. This is 8% worse than last year and we need to find out what’s going on with those extra 4000 visitors a month who seem to do nothing more than skew our metrics for the worst.
What to do if you feel your web traffic is valueless
If you’ve run a few checks and you’re convinced you have traffic growth but no value, we recommend looking at the following areas:
Analytics and conversion rate optimisation
You can use analytics tools and conversion rate optimisation tools to get a thorough picture of your website users’ behaviour and to understand what is leading to action and what is not. If you’ve been doing this for some time, you’re able to compare past data and identify when something that worked before isn’t working so well, and seek improvements before a minor decrease in website performance has an impact on your sales.
Market and product analysis
Take a look at your competitors, how they are acquiring web visitors, what they say about their products, how their site and marketing material look and what communications methods they are using.
We worked with a language school who were acquiring just as many visitors as the year before but nowhere near the same amount of conversions. It turned out their biggest competitor had added a chat app to their website, and were converting at a much higher rate. A bit of research helped us discover that some were enrolling with the competitor before our client had even sent their brochure! The competition had become more aggressive in no other way than its communications and enquiry methods, but by speeding up their enquiry and sales process they were eating up market share. What happened? Our client added a chat app, they manned it in business hours and set up automated responses using AI for out of ours. The result was that their goal conversion rates and sales very quickly returned to normal levels before anyone in the industry had instant messaging apps on their website.
The means of acquisition is the most common problem we encounter when we’re trying to solve this. Most business managers have a good knowledge of their product and market, it’s usually that expertise that helped them launch the business, but marketing acquisition isn’t as common a skill and is frequently outsourced to staff or agencies. The lack of control and a belief that an increase in website visitors is good can blind business owners to reality.
Last year we were approached by a hospitality and restaurant brand, they had a major issue with one of their London sites: web traffic had doubled since the same time last year, but sales had decreased by 30%. Other sites in the group were doing as well as the year before and they weren’t aware of any external factors that could impact trade.
Five minutes after getting access to Google Analytics we solved their problem. About 14 months before our conversation they had an SEO agency contracted. The SEO agency were delivering content marketing to acquire visitors to the site (a valid and effective tactic) and one of their pieces of content was a highly sought but rarely supplied tagine recipe. You can see the logic, right? People who dine out like food and therefore like recipes? Or as we pointed out, people who like recipes are based all over the world, may not be interested in visiting one of our establishments and need a recipe, not a restaurant. The recipe in question accounted for 65% of all site entrances. At the same time their value-adding traffic (acquired through other sources) had decreased 30%. The business had decreased 30% but this was being hidden by 100% traffic growth. During the loss period their reports looked great, the SEO agency was celebrated, and it took a very bad year for them to begin to wonder if all was not as it seemed.
If you’ve been experiencing an increase in website visitors recently but are not seeing the leads, don’t hesitate to get in touch to book a website traffic analysis and get a clear picture and what’s adding value and what’s wasting your time.