This is a refresh of an old post because as we come to the end of 2023, it matters now more than ever. As Google’s algorithms are constantly shifting and AI and ads are taking more real estate at the top of the page, small business traffic may begin to lessen year over year, meaning focusing on the right traffic that drives leads is more important than ever. Setting up conversion tracking is as imperative as it has ever been. But here is a refresher on the basics of why.
Does small business SEO traffic matter? The obvious answer is yes, but the type of traffic, and understanding why traffic is valuable, is far more important. Focusing simply on traffic volume is inefficient and can often lead you to chase the wrong goals, or even lead to poor decisions. On the heels of my post last week about whether rankings matter and how it is important to focus on the right metrics if you want to succeed and grow, I wanted to touch on why focusing solely on traffic can get you in trouble as well. Below are some things to keep in mind when looking at traffic reports.
Which Traffic is Which?
I have sat down with many business owners who look at monthly reports that don’t even break down the type of traffic. This post was more about segmenting your SEO, or organic traffic, but first you have to narrow down to that level. I have seen “SEO reports” that show total traffic, which includes traffic from paid search, direct visits to the site, and referrals from other websites where you may have links or advertisements like social media, chambers of commerce, etc. If you aren’t segmenting, these reports can easily be manipulated by dishonest providers. For SEO success, you want to start by at least focusing on organic traffic. A provider can manipulate these total numbers by simply visiting your site directly over and over, or putting a little money into very cheap display ads that will bring in many clicks for free. Though they can also manipulate your SEO numbers, you can drill down further (explained below) to get to the right traffic.
Where is Your SEO Traffic?
As mentioned above, there are further ways to drill down into your traffic to measure the right things. This isn’t just to avoid letting an unscrupulous provider mess with the numbers, but to make sure you are growing in the right places. You can segment your organic traffic by location, so you can see if a vast majority seems to come from their SEO provider’s office (which I have actually seen before) or at least that your growth is coming from your target market. Though the world is globalizing, many small businesses have a fairly specific geographic target market. Though blog posts that “go viral” for being helpful are good for your SEO plan, their traffic may have a different type of value (exposure and collecting links) than the pages that drive your business. A local roofer that sees giant gains in overall search traffic, but drops in traffic from his own market, may not be seeing any actual business growth. It is important to define your target market and keep an eye on progress where it matters. Blog posts have a different value, and should be measured, but don’t typically have as much of a direct connection with converting business. Speaking of converting business, that is the most important metric to keep an eye on. With recent updates to Google’s algorithm, it is also less likely for local small businesses to get national or global traffic from blog posts, so you may see traffic drop off, while conversions are actually up.
What Traffic Converts Customers?
You should be measuring conversions from all of your forms of traffic. If you are trying to drive phone calls, you should set up tracking of calls directly to your traffic in Analytics. If you want form fills or direct online sales, it is important to measure these and tie them to your traffic. (see above) This way you can see what type of traffic is converting at what price and make the right decisions. I have actually had a client let me go years ago when their traffic dropped. They soon found that their leads dried up and brought me back. The traffic that had dropped was blog traffic that didn’t convert business, but someone had convinced them that this was all that mattered, and not converting new customers. Make sure you set up your analytics to measure what is important and not just generic traffic numbers. You can dig as deep as you want. You may find that one page or service concept converts at a much higher rate but with less traffic. You may want to focus on growing your positioning here and less on the higher volume keywords, which again may lead to lower traffic, but higher conversion. Focus on the bottom line. If you need help setting things up to measure your traffic the right way, please reach out. Of course traffic matters, but you need to dig deeper than that. Make your business decisions based on the right type of traffic.