Possibly the biggest mistake you can make when analyzing your own web data or reporting other people's data to them is stopping at what happened.  Here's an example....

"Search Engine traffic rose 20% in the last 3 months."

Sweet.  So, let's everybody meet at Outback for an awesome blossom with some extra awesome, right?  Not so fast my friend.  Let's add a little context to that little observation we made above.

Traffic Conversion Chart.png

So, looks like that increase in traffic didn't do you much good, right?  20% more traffic, 10% less conversions.  So, cancel the celebration.

But wait....what's that?  The sales cycle is 3-6 months long?  Well, maybe we don't have to cancel that celebration after all.  This increase in traffic we see will result in increased conversions down the road.  Let's just delay it.

6 months later...

Traffic Conversion Chart2.png

Oooo, uh oh.  Traffic continues to skyrocket, but conversions are decreasing.  No celebration for you.  In fact, its time to fire that web guy that said his new redesign in May would make a big difference to your business, right?  Not so fast my friend.

You forgot that your marketing department recently got more involved with social media and even started a blog on your site for your company.  Oh, and then there was that big industry trade show that one of your employees presented at and left a link to his presentation on your site.  Oh, and remember the news site that mistakenly reported that you manufactured the part in the latest, greatest kid's toy that is now banned by the government?

So, let's take out blog, presentation name searches, and the name of the toy part from our search engine traffic...

Traffic Conversion Chart3.png

Whoa, your search traffic is actually tanking.  But, your web guy was right.  Conversion rate has actually improved for this traffic.  So, give the web guy a raise and fire your SEO company, right?  Not so fast my friend.

You call your SEO company to find out that the $1000/mo you are paying them is chump change compared to what your competitors are likely investing.  Not only that, but your web team doesn't seem to want to implement any of the recommendations that the search engine optimizer has made.  So, your competitors are starting to overtake you in the rankings.  They are beating you in links, pages optimized, and the ever so popular category of "advice that we're paying for that we actually implement."

Oh yeah, and the PPC campaigns that you decided weren't too complicated and you could run yourself?  Acquisition is taking a hit because competitors are implementing new features like ad sitelinks, remarketing and mobile advertising.  But, you've never heard of those, have you?  You just added a few keywords and ads and figured you were good to go.  Your lack of attention, professionalism and care to it has started to affect results.  Looks like the blame is on you for underestimating the importance of serious investment in SEO and PPC.

Getting the Right Story

You can see in this little narrative how often times getting the right story can be difficult, if not downright frustrating.  Our minds tend to look at a piece of top-level data and then jump to their own conclusions (if only there was a mat for that) that aren't necessarily based in reality.

This is where context comes in.  It's only when you slice and dice the data in the context of other data that matters that you can drill down to the right story.  The time, money and energy investment opportunity that lies here is vastly underutilized and is costing companies tons of money.  The ROI of getting the right story is tremendous.

March 21, 2011

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.


Great dialog here man. Enjoyed your many analogy's. One comment that sticks with me is this
"You call your SEO company to find out that the $1000/mo you are paying them is chump change compared to what your competitors are likely investing"
This is so true. So many people out there think they can go invest in $100 buy yourself a 1000 backlinks package and you are set for the top of google. Thanks again.

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