How a 30% decrease in site traffic led to a 26% increase in leads

Google Analytics numbers can be misleading. Finding the truth behind the limitless numbers available takes practice, guidance and the ability to step back and ask yourself: “Is this right?” Only by first identifying where your high-quality traffic is coming from can you create a successful marketing plan. When creating a report or analyzing a campaign there are two simple rules I follow.

Rules to Follow:

  1. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  2. If it looks too bad to be true, it probably is.

By examining your Google Analytics account with these rules in mind you will be able to cut to the core of where your traffic is really coming from, and how much of that traffic is actually worth your time.

Rule #1 - If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Breaking_down_your_sites_traffic__where_is_it_really_coming_from_-_Google_Docs.png

If you are headed into a stakeholder meeting with the above image in your slide deck, you are probably feeling pretty damn good. Basically, a 100% increase in sessions compared to the previous quarter, along with an increase of 10,000 new visitors to your site. With numbers like these, you might be on track for that promotion you’ve been chasing.

After you are done dreaming about the new riding lawnmower you are going to buy with your raise, one of the stakeholders asks, “So if we are seeing such a huge increase in traffic, why are we not seeing an increase in revenue from the website?”

This is when it helps to understand where your traffic is coming from. In this case, if you had looked further into the analytics, then you would have seen that the majority of your new traffic comes from the Referral source, which converts at a .01% rate. You also would have seen that 90% of this referral traffic came from Moscow, Russia through a site called monetizetraffic.com. The best way to identify if your traffic is legitimate is to follow these steps in Google Analytics: Acquisition >> Channels >> Click On Each Channel and make sure you recognize the source of the traffic.

In this specific case, if we look at all the data, and not just the 99% increase in traffic, we see sources that actually produce leads, like Direct and Organic, are actually down. This stakeholder meeting might be headed in a very different direction that you expected.

Referral traffic in Google Analytics

Rule #2 - If it looks too bad to be true, it probably is.

Again, we take a look at a surface level view of Google Analytics traffic. These number are enough to make any business owner sweat. A 30% decrease in traffic! Numbers like that can never be good, right? Google Analytics is a complicated world, and as we dig deeper into these numbers we can actually prove that a 30% decrease in traffic can result in more leads.

Sessions in Google Analytics

Once again, by keeping our heads level and following the same steps of Acquisition >> Channels >> Click On Each Channel we can see that the sources that convert are actually up across the board.

As we begin to understand where traffic comes from, we see that the largest decrease comes from the channel (Other), which in this case turns out to be Facebook ads that were running. For example, this particular company was dumping a ton of money into Facebook ads and only saw nine goal completions after 1,002 sessions. So we reallocated their marketing spend into more lucrative sources like AdWords and content to increase organic visibility.

By reviewing this large chart we see that the increase in Paid and Organic traffic has resulted in a 26% increase in goal completions, despite reducing high traffic sources like Facebook ads. This is a perfect example of examining where your traffic is coming from, what type if traffic is leading to conversions and changing your marketing plan to boost those traffic sources.

Goal completions in Google Analytics

Beyond Sources, Where Is My Traffic Coming From?

Forget Paid, Organic, and Referral for now. Mobile vs. Desktop, geo-location, and age are also interesting indicators of where your traffic is coming from. Under the Audience >> Demographics or Mobile or Geo there is information worth analyzing.

Mobile and desktop users interact with a site differently. Mobile users generally visit fewer pages and spend less time on a website. In the home performance industry, we see an average of between 70%-80% of goal completions coming from desktop. The mobile-first world has not reached our entire customer base just yet. Mobile still makes up about 30% of all traffic so it is nothing to ignore, that is why we are careful to keep all of our sites friendly for all devices.

The Geo tab can be used to understand what city or state your traffic is coming from. It can also help identify where spam is coming from. In the first example, the spam traffic from Russia could have also been identified here.

The demographics tab can show statistics such as the age and gender of visitors to your site. This can help you decide where to place ads to make sure you are reaching a demographic that converts at a high rate. In the screenshot below it appears that people convert a higher rates as they increase in age, so it would be good to run a campaign to those over the age of 40 instead of targeting young adults.

Three simple clicks to understanding your site traffic

If you have not made it past the first page of analytics, I recommend making three clicks:  

Acquisition >> Channels >> Click On Each Channel

This will help you understand where your quality traffic is coming from, and where you are spending unnecessary marketing dollars. And remember, if you see some unexpected numbers, good or bad, there is most likely an explanation that can be found by taking a deep breath and examining the data. 

Google Analytics is a powerful, yet complicated tool that is constantly evolving. It is rare that something so useful is actually free. But this means that there is a low level of support and a high learning curve.

Understanding, measuring and tracking your traffic sources should be a fundamental part of your marketing strategy and hopefully these steps can improve your marketing decisions.

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