Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Marketing Agency Birmingham AL

His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. -Matthew 3:12

While it may not be as important as your eternal destiny, monitoring your analytics is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. How many people are coming to your site? What are they doing? How is this changing over time? You have to answer these questions in order to have an effective marketing plan.  
But are the numbers that you see in analytics really indicative of how your business is doing? We are seeing a huge spike in bad data in Google Analytics over the last few months. It is becoming a bigger challenge to separate the wheat (good data) from the chaff (bad data).
Let’s take a look at a case study.  This is a chart that shows the sessions for one of my customers from March of 2015 to August of 2015.  
Google Analytics
That is a negative trend, and that isn’t even the really bad news. The bad news for me is that I started working with these guys in April.  I was preparing for a monthly analytics meeting, and this chart made my stomach feel queasy.

Where Is the Traffic Coming From?

The next thing that I looked at was the traffic sources.  What was it that was working in March that is not working now? Here are the traffic sources in March.  

  1. / referral
  2. google / organic
  3. / referral
  4. (direct) / (none)
  5. / referral
  6. / referral

  7. bing / organic

  8. yahoo / organic

Something jumped out at me. Items 1, 3, 5, and 6 were driving 73% of the site traffic, but I couldn’t identify a legitimate connection between those sites and this business. I have seen some of those names popping up randomly on analytics reports for years, but some were new to me.  I did a little research, and these sites are actually robots that trigger Google Analytics, sometimes without even visiting the site.  
Why would they do that? It’s a marketing trick. All over the world, people are visiting those domains to see why they are showing up in analytics.  Many of these sites have some kind of strategy for making money off of that traffic.

Measuring Organic Traffic

There are a hundred different ways for someone to find your website. They might see it on a business card, click on a link, or find it through a search engine.  There are a lot of ways to get the word out about what you do, but generating search engine traffic to your site for terms related to what you do is one of the primary goals of content marketing. When we talk about the importance of a blog and frequent updates on your site, that number is one of the main ones that we hope to move.
Why is this traffic so valuable? Some of these folks have never heard of your company, but they are searching for someone who does what you do. A customer who is ready to buy but unaware that you exist finds your website. That is the holy grail.
So what did the story tell for this client? We implemented some basic SEO and started blogging in July. Did it make a difference? Let’s look at their organic traffic.
Online Marketing
Wow! When I saw this, I immediately went from dreading the meeting to looking forward to it. I also looked at the specific terms that led to this organic traffic.  For the first 4 months, virtually 100% of the organic traffic that reported the term used was someone searching their company name. That is not something is going to help us win in the long run.  August was the first month where a significant amount of traffic came to their site based on relevant industry terms rather than their company name. That is exciting news.  

The Tip of the Iceberg

We were able to get a much clearer picture of how we are doing for this client by removing the robot traffic from our analytics report and focusing on organic traffic.  But that is really the tip of the iceberg. Are the people who are finding the site in the geography that this client serves? Are certain pages leading to a good path through the site while others are leading to dead ends?
We haven’t even talked about the old standbys of analytics: Mobile Traffic, Bounce Rate, Pages Viewed, and Time on the Site.  
The bottom line is that while looking at your analytics is critically important, a quick review may give you a really distorted view of what is going on with your company. A strategy that appears to be working, may in fact be failing miserably.  Another strategy that looks like a failure, might be your biggest source of leads.  
In order for a digital marketing plan to succeed, you have to dig a little deeper. Then you will have the insight to make informed decisions on how to allocate your time and resources.  

Give Us a Call!

Do you need some help separating the wheat from the chaff? Are you feeling a little queasy at the thought of trying to separate the numbers that tell you something important from the numbers that are misleading?
We would love to work with you to make sure that your analytics are a trustworthy guide. We can help you implement a plan to help you bring those good numbers into the monthly reporting barn each month, while we send the evil robot traffic to the pit of unquenchable fire.