Increase traffic to website – but know what it looks like

Every webmaster tries to increase traffic to their website. Strangely, few understand how to “see” a real increase in traffic. Website analytics packages can tell you if you’ve gotten more traffic this month than last month, but if you don’t know how to find the subtle reasons for a rise or fall, you won’t be able to reproduce what you did right – or avoid what you did wrong.

I’ll give you an example: In my previous life as an advertising agency blogger, a co-worker posted about a popular chain e-mail that was making the rounds. (I’d post a link to it, but prefer not to give them any more link love.) The post included the text of the e-mail. Since a lot of people who’d received the e-mail were interested in finding it afterwards, they searched for selections they’d remembered, and found themselves on our site. The post received about 200 comments in one week, and shot to #1 on Google for a number of key phrases in the post, particularly for the e-mail’s subject line.

So we had a good post. That’s all well and good. But, the increase in website traffic made our month look glorious too. That one post accounted for nearly tripling site traffic for the month it was posted.

The following month, without a similarly viral post to garner that kind of attention, site traffic dropped by nearly 300%.

Now, if I hadn’t been paying attention to the meteoric rise of our traffic because of that post, and was only aware of the monthly numbers, I might assume we were doing all sorts of things right to get more people. Furthermore, the following month would have looked like a disaster, possibly requiring someone’s head.

When you exclude the traffic from that post, however, the two months were largely similar in terms of visits, unique visitors, and actions completed. Sure, you want to have posts that seriously increase traffic to websites, but not every post does that for you.

When you look at the numbers for your site’s performance, you need to drill down into what is responsible for your increases in traffic, and why your website is doing better or worse in a given month. If there’s a change in traffic that you can’t explain, it may well be a shift in the market that you need to address. That, or some of your tech could be broken. Or if the majority of your traffic comes from Facebook, and they again change their site as they’re notorious for doing, this could devastate your traffic.

If you don’t know how to interpret your data, you won’t know why things are happening, and that could be the ruination of you.

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