If your sales revenue has just dropped off a cliff it can be pretty scary – and sometimes quite difficult to see where the problem lies.
If you don’t have an analytics package in place (at a minimum Google Analytics) you will have an almost impossible time trying to ascertain the problem – it’s like driving at night with no lights! For detailed information on what data analysis package to buy you can do no better than going to eConsultancy and reading their latest analytics buyers guide.
Back to the present though – and assuming you have an analytics package, how can you use it to ascertain where the problem lies? The first step you need to take is to see whether the problem is in traffic levels or conversion – Have the numbers of people coming to your site dropped off or are they still coming to the site in the same numbers but for some reason are not buying?
ACQUISITION – LOOKING AT TRAFFIC CHANNELS
If traffic levels have reduced your investigation will now centre on what traffic channels have been affected and whether the drop has been gradual or sudden. Is it your natural search? Or have pay per click numbers dried up? Or is the problem with affiliates, comparison engines or direct traffic? Each of these channels will have specific drivers – which may be affecting a drop-off. Also bear in mind that a change in your traffic composition (ie your mix of different traffic channels) can have a marked effect on revenue – as different types of traffic can have very different buying characteristics.
FACTORS AFFECTING NATURAL SEARCH
For sudden traffic drop off the biggie here is changes to the main engine search algorithms. This will have an immediate effect – especially if you, or your SEO support, have been engaging in “Grey area” SEO techniques. For a summary of SEO best practice there is no better resource than Econsultancy.com – who publish an excellent SEO guide (you need to subscribe but it is well worth the expense).
Another question to ask is have you changed anything that might affect your search engine indexation and/or visibility. Have your web developers done any development or changes to your server configuration that might be affecting search engines indexing your site? Has your site’s server response time slowed markedly (as Google apparently now assesses site speed too). Is your sitemap being regularly updated?
COMPARISON ENGINES & AFFILIATES
There are two main potential issues here – firstly is your product feed operating correctly and have your competitors changed price (and therefore made traffic gains) recently? There may be further issues once the visitor gets to the site but these will be discussed later.
PAY PER CLICK
This should be fairly easy to pin point If you use Google Adwords, or similar, your dashboard will show the way in no time – and the problem is usually about budget.
You may need to re configure your campaign to ensure the budget you do have has a reasonable return – and that often means finding more specific key phrases rather than bidding on more general terms. Configuring PPC budgets is a subject that needs more that a few lines to cover, so if your problem is in this area then either speak to a professional – or have a look at the PPC best practice report from our good friends at econsultancy.com again!
DIRECT TRAFFIC & REFERRING SITE PROBLEMS
Problems in this area are either similar to natural search (ie what have you changed in your platform configuration) – as people bookmarking or using links into your site may not be arriving and therefore going somewhere else. For longer term problems the area to look might be more in Customer Retention – as returning traffic is more likely to come directly to your site rather than via a third party – which we will discuss later.
BETWEEN TRAFFIC LEVELS AND CONVERSION – BOUNCE RATE
When traffic first hits your site it needs to be presented with relevant content to ensure it does not “bounce” straight off it again. If your traffic channels begin to send you less relevant traffic then it will not find your site content of interest and will not stick around. If bounce rate has been increasing over the longer term then a review of your site keywords and PayPer Click campaigns is essential. For sudden problems, a regular cause of this is unscrupulous Pay Per Click rewarded affiliates – who don’t care if traffic is relevant or not. Another cause can be problems with your affiliate feeds – especially if your prices change regularly – a feed that hasn’t been updated will have links to your products with prices that do not correspond – and if the price of a product is greater on site than it was on the comparison engine then an immediate bounce is likely.