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Five reasons for website traffic's ups and downs

How B2B companies can make better digital marketing decisions


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Have you ever looked at your website performance and wondered why your web traffic dipped so significantly in November compared with October or other peak traffic months? Fluctuations in web traffic can be alarming, but they’re totally normal. Having a better understanding of the causes behind changes in web traffic can help B2B companies make better-informed digital marketing decisions.

As most digital marketers know, it’s important to look at both year-over-year and month-over-month data. Since most people perform searches for B2B related terms while they are working, there are a lot of factors that can cause a fluctuation in traffic, which in turn can have an impact on leads and conversions. Seasonality, day of the week, time of day, or even how many weekends fall in a particular month can all have a significant impact on both paid and organic search results.

Seasonality

If you look at your data month to month, November and December would give a misrepresentation of below average web traffic. B2B websites tend to see a significant dip in traffic during November and December; the reason here is obvious—holidays. However, most B2B websites see a spike in organic website traffic at the beginning of a new year.

It’s not just the winter holidays that cause the dip in organic traffic; usually B2B sites experience seasonal trends throughout the entire year. Here are other factors to remember when looking at monthly traffic trends and why it’s important to look at data year-over-year:

  • January – may be slow to start, depending on what day of the week January 1 falls on. If it falls on a Thursday, most people don’t go back to work until January 5.
  • February – is shorter by two or three days, depending on the year.
  • Mar/April – these months can be erratic due to spring break, Easter and vacation schedules.
  • May/June – these months tend to be more consistent year-over-year with average search traffic volume.
  • July/August – demand seems to be lower in these months because of summer vacations (especially if you depend on international search traffic).
  • September/October – these months tend to have the best productivity going into the end of the year.
  • November –during the week of Thanksgiving, demand is typically lower than usual on Monday and Tuesday and drops off significantly Wednesday through Sunday.
  • December - the second half of the month shows diminishing demand as focus is on year-end wrap-up. Depending on what day Christmas lands, the week following can be impacted differently.

Day of the week

Weekends are another moving target. Most B2B websites see a significant drop in traffic over the weekends, many times by as much as 50 percent. Depending on the year, some months have five weekends, which can impact your year-over-year analysis. For example, November 2014 had fewer business days due to the existence of five weekends instead of four.

B2B websites also tend to experience higher traffic Tuesday through Thursday. On Monday, everyone is starting the work week, digging through emails and prioritizing tasks for the week, not searching for new products and services. Friday is generally wrap-up time, especially in the afternoon when many people are focused on completing the week’s business and transitioning into the weekend.

Time of day

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz recently published an article titled, Days of Our Digital Lives featured in the New York Times, highlighting peak web search times. The article discuses Google’s recent in-depth reporting data, which includes peak web search time arranged by industry, right down to the minute.  In general, we see most search activity take place between the start of East Coast business day and the end of the West Coast business day.

Anomalies

Within each industry, there will be variations depending on your audience. For example, in the education sector, we see a huge uptick in traffic around the beginning of a semester or beginning of the school year. The end of December can also see a spike in traffic during the end of a fiscal year if there is additional money left in spending budgets. The trends mentioned above affect most B2B industries.  If you see a pattern that falls outside of normal SEO trends and is uncharacteristic to your industry, more investigation and possibly a change of strategy is in order.

Strategy

Implementing a marketing strategy to capitalize on website traffic peaks throughout the year and determine ways to potentially increase traffic during slow times will greatly improve digital marketing results. For example, it is important to allocate most of your paid search advertising budget during times that are most active to maximize exposure. Determine when and how you want to reach your audience, and cater to where their mind will be during that time.

B2B marketers should take all of these factors into consideration when analyzing website traffic trends. There are endless reasons why traffic fluctuates monthly and yearly, but these potential impacts should be part of the equation. Use this information to plan digital marketing efforts to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign. 

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Kristie Colby

Kristie Colby is executive account director at SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder-based search engine marketing agency that specializes in helping business to business companies improve their brand positioning and generate leads.

She can be reached at kristie@smartsearchmarketing.com Visit our blog at http://smartsearchmarketing.com/blog/

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