Your business does not exist in a vacuum

If only businesses existed in vacuums, data & experimentation would be more repeatable and predictable. Most business owners would acknowledge that outside factors will play a part, but these seems to be forgotten when there is drop in visitors or a change in visitor behaviour on the site.. the knee-jerk culprit always seems to be poor old ppc campaign.

There are many factors that affect a businesses performance on the web. Some of those factors are online and some are offline. Here are a few things to consider when something unexpected happens, Remember “Nothing is constant. Things always change.” If you didn’t change, you can bet something or someone else did.

Online Changes:

Google rolls out another algorithm change for its search engine.
Keep an eye on this page, it lists them and the related dates.

Key Effects. Your organic search position & visitor numbers changes. Can be positive, but odds are it was negative for you.

Side Effects. Don’t be lulled into thinking that an Organic search change won’t impact on your AdWords Campaigns.
(PPC) price, click-thru-rates (CTR), quality scores & position become volatile. This often settles after a week or so. And usually results in a new market high for the bids, before it slowly decays again.

e.g When Panda 2.1 aimed at removing spam listings rolled out in Oct 2013, it was so successful at improving the quality of organic search results that its impacts were hard felt in many AdWords accounts. Ads that had a historic high CTR 15%+,  suddenly found their Ads weren’t getting clicked on at the same rate when the organic results were improved.

This resulted in poor quality scores because the Ads & keywords were now performing below their historic “expected click rates”. Keywords stopped serving as QS dropped from 8-10 down to 3 or below. Bids were increased in reaction to try and get them showing again. People with auto-pause or auto-bid on, found over the space of a weekend that either all of their keywords had been paused or their bids were way up. Campaigns set on “optimise for Conversion” failed to reach their targets and Cost Per Acquisition blew out. The run-on effect of all that machine optimising was not unlike the machine-led sell-off on the stock market . Because the Panda roll out started before it was officially announced, many people were scratching theirs heads at these sudden fails in their accounts.


The rise of mobile: This has been a long slow change, but it is gaining speed.

Key Effects: Reducing desktop search volume. Increased mobile & tablet site visitors. Different user behaviour. We are not in a multi device world. Research on mobile / tablet, purchase if easy, else may revisit on desktop. Expect to see increased Sessions to Conversion as they jump from device to device before purchase, but unique visitors will stay roughly the same.

Side Effects: In some industries it may lead to much reduced searching as major players position an app that locks people into reusing them – they’ll never need to search again. Has this happened in your industry? Just how much has your “new visitors” from search dropped?

Key Take-Aways

1. Flash is Dead! Yay! (thank you Steve Jobs). Odds are that at least 30%* of your site visitors can’t see your flash-based promo video on your site. Test it yourself with an iphone or Safari on new Mac. Can you see it? If not ask your web developer for help. HTML5 Video is the new way.
* check your own site stats in Google Analytics under “Audience / Technology / Browser & OS / Flash Version”. Look at how many (not set) you have in the “Flash Version” column. 

Offline Changes:

Events in the real world impact too. There are too many to list them all. Here are few to get you thinking.

Weather: Rain is great for umbrella sales, (and chocolate coated ice-cream oddly enough). But it isn’t so great when it is a flood and your in tourism. You may think that a flood or fires or any other natural disaster in a different city of your state won’t affect you. But if you are reliant on international visitors, they may not see it as geographically isolated as you do. Tourism to all of Japan suffered after the tsunami, all of QLD suffers when Cairns has a cyclone or Brisbane has flood.

A heatwave in a cool climate will impact on their desire to visit your tropical get-away.

Stock Market Volatility: Yes there are the obvious crashes like the Global Financial Crisis. But equally when the market is unstable it can affect consumer confidence and spending habits, just as much as the threat of unemployment can.

To be continued…

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