"I can increase your website traffic by 100% in two months".
"My site got 10,000 hits today".
These are words that people wrote all the time. Naturally, my initial thoughts were, "Oh, traffic must be extremely important!" Sure enough, when I started practicing SEO and diving into the community more, many people I met constantly talked about the volume of traffic that they either could drive, or were driving to a client's site. As you can imagine, this translated into client reports and it became a justification that some marketers used to stay in business with certain clients.
Client: "What have you done for us this quarter?"
Analyst: "Well, we are proud to say that we managed to increase the traffic to your homepage by 100%!"
Client: "So more people are looking at our site?"
Do you see an issue with the above conversation? I don't think it's crazy to say that this would be a typical conversation with a typical marketer and a typical client years ago. I remember constantly focusing on increasing traffic because I thought if I could show the client more people are coming to their site, they would never leave. If the client never left, then I would get more money, right?
I quickly came to realize that everyone was so focused on getting traffic that we never really stopped and asked ourselves if that traffic was healthy traffic. Did that traffic matter? How did that traffic help the client? What good is increasing traffic to a site by 100% if users aren't converting?
These are the questions we should all ask ourselves because it can be easy to get into the traffic game.
Am I saying increasing traffic is bad? Absolutely not. But as marketers, we need to be mindful what kind of traffic our sites are attracting, and if that traffic is in our client's best interests. If I have a client who's a plumber in Seattle, what's the use of me bringing him 5,000 hits from Texas? Sure, there's the branding factor but if my client just wants more jobs in the area I'm not doing my job by bringing him users in Texas.
Using traffic the right wayTake a look at your client's analytics and break down the traffic. Here are some examples of what you might take a look at:
- Top landing pages by organic
- Top queries from organic
- Percentage of conversions based on location
Take your data and begin to understand where users are coming from, what they are searching for, and what their goal is when they get to your landing page. Do they just want to call the business? Are they looking to learn more about the services you offer? Maybe they need to see some credible reviews? Whatever your data is telling you, reflect on it.
Webmaster ToolsI'm a huge fan of going straight to the source. After taking a look at the analytics of a site, why not jump into their webmaster tools and cross-analyze data? Pro-tip: be sure to link Google Search Console and Google Analytics together for more data. Some interesting data you might pull from Google Search Console could be:
- The amount of pages Google has crawled
- The amount of 404 errors found on your site
- Structured data markup across your site
Make ChangesIf you see an area for improvement, start focusing in on it and make your changes one a time. Don't make changes to 20 different pages if you're trying to test something out. For example, maybe you are finding that people are not converting on the contact page as much as you would like (we've all been there). Open analytics, find what queries are driving traffic to that page, and think on ways you can improve the conversions. It sounds simple, but I'm amazed at how many people don't take the time to do this.
The PointThe point I'm trying to get across here is that traffic is irrelevant if it isn't the right kind of traffic. It's much easier to get 1,000 to visit a site than it is to get 10 of those people to convert. However, when you utilize both traffic and your data to execute calculated changes you'll start seeing the irrelevant traffic fade away and the users you are looking for to appear.
Bonus TipsMake sure to filter out your IP and your client's IP addresses from registering as legitimate traffic in analytics. Also, if you are getting ghost spam or traffic in analytics be sure to filter these out as well. Here is a good post on how to go about doing that. Don't forget to add a RAW view before making these changes so you always have an unaltered view to fall back on.
I'm hopeful that as a community we aren't just focused on driving pointless traffic to websites and instead focus on actually thinking about the user, what they want, and how we can best help the search engines serve it to them accurately.