As an experienced SEO or PPC manager, there are certain performance trends you are accustomed to seeing when you're doing your job right. With SEO, as you optimize the site and your top keywords increase rankings, site traffic should increase and conversions should increase. For PPC, over time by optimizing your bids, expanding your KW builds, optimizing your ad copy and landing pages, conversions should increase as your CPA goes down. A search firm that does not expect to see these increases in performance and strive to reach these performance goals is not doing their clients justice.
However, while we all may strive for the above scenarios and give each other high fives around the office when they happen, sometimes in the real world it just does not work out that way. In instances where you've put your sweat and tears into optimizing your campaigns, but performance drops or remains stagnant, how do you explain it to yourself and to your clients?
Before questioning your strategy and the changes you made in the account, take a look into Google Insights. John at SEO Boy, wrote a great article on how he uses Google's Insights to project SEO leads and traffic.
Below are 3 examples when Google Insights, provided me with great data and “insights,” which helped to explain atypical search behavior:
Atypical Performance Trend #1 - Increasing Rankings but traffic staying flat or decreasing
I was recently working on an SEO client where we were killing in Google in terms of Rankings. We were ranked number 2 for the client's most competitive and traffic driving term. We had also achieved top ranking on numerous other high search volume terms. Yet, month over month we were reporting search traffic remaining relatively flat since January. To help shed light on this very frustrating situation, we turned to Google Insights. Below is the Search Trend of the Top Volume Keyword:
Upon showing this trend to the client, he understood why their search volume had not increased since January 2008. The search volume that existed had fallen since we started the campaign, so flat traffic was actually a win when overall interest in the product was declining.
In situations like these, it is important to emphasize to clients that as search marketers, we don't create search volume; instead we help our clients capture a greater percentage of the search volume that already exists. Atypical Performance Trend #2: PPC Client Conversions dropping over time At SEER, our PPC team creates optimization plans, where every 5 to 6 weeks we set goals on how we plan to improve our campaigns. One goal we may set is to increase our conversions over time. We then outline our plan to reach this goal. Recently, I set the goal to increase conversions for a client and, week over week, I optimized the account to reach this goal. I expanded our keyword list, optimized ad copy, ensured our positions were staying competitive and, to my dismay, week over week conversions fell. Again, I looked to Google Insights for my answer. Below is the search volume trend for the top converting keyword in this campaign:
Again, like in the above example, this graph brings clarity on falling conversions.
Again search marketers do not create interest; we just help to ensure that when the interest is there, our clients are getting a bigger slice of the pie than our competitors. Atypical Performance Trend #3: Unexplained Sky Rocketing Performance: Now, Google Insights can be a double edged sword. It can definitely help you justify stagnant or declining performance, but search marketers often have to put their egos aside when a client's performance suddenly skyrockets and ask is it solely the result of their hard work? I wrote a blog entry a while back that explains a situation I ran into when volume and performance spiked as a result of offline industry PR.
Below is the graph of the top searched term in this scenario.
From February 2008 to March 2008, conversions increased over 200%. I would love to say my optimization efforts were the reason for this dramatic spike, but just as my efforts did not result in the decline of performance in the above examples, my efforts were not entirely the reason for this spike.
Now, I don't want to sell myself short here, as I put my client in the right position to take advantage of this spike, but giving me all the credit is definitely not the entire picture! As Search Marketers we often have to break out of our bubble of rankings, bids, and keywords and take a look at the world around us to help explain our numbers, both good and bad.
Google Insights can help us understand market factors that are bigger than search and simply out of our control.