Keep in mind, though, that with any marketing venture, there are going to be fluctuations. Some weeks and months and quarters are going to be better than others. That’s just how it is.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a drop that doesn’t get corrected. A bad month that’s followed by another.
Barrell believes that any sustained downturn in your traffic or leads can be explained by something you’re doing. Or something you’re not doing.
So, let's dive in.
Fluctuation is normal, but when is it cause for alarm?
Between algorithm updates, seasonal changes, industry trends, and the general vicissitudes of the internet, it’s normal to see swings in your metrics. So, when is it time for alarm?
According to Barrell, you should be concerned if you’ve focused specifically on one goal over a period of time and not been able to move the needle.
For example, if you’ve focused your efforts on traffic-driving for the past three months and have actually seen traffic go down, it’s time to dig into why.
Or, if your primary focus has been conversion optimization and that hasn't materialized, you should investigate.
Remember, you’re playing the long game here. Don’t expect to turn things around overnight. Instead, Barrell says, it’s best to set your goals on a quarterly basis. This timeframe makes sense because it allows you to tweak along the way but isn’t as volatile as a weekly goal or as stagnant as something you’ll look at once a year.
Keep in mind, inbound marketing is a multifaceted undertaking, and you might not be able to fight all battles evenly at any given time.
So, if your traffic-driving effort has resulted in more traffic but your conversion rate is still low, that’s a separate problem that needs a different remedy. (Namely, to shift some of your focus from traffic generation to conversion-rate optimization.)
If you're an army of one or part of a small team, remember that you might not be able to do everything at once.
So, what can you do to see better results?
Can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong? Focus on these 5 areas
If you’re seeing a troubling downturn, remember to get back to basics and put your energy where it can best help you achieve your goals.
According to Barrell, these are the five ways to get back on track.
1. Dedicate time to historic optimization
If you’ve been producing content for a while and have built a library of published articles, you need to be spending a good chunk of your time historically optimizing older content.
Over time, even the best content can become stale. Links break. Statistics become outdated. As a result, searchers find the article less valuable, and it starts to slip in rankings, further limiting traffic.
According to Barrell, “you should spend at least a third of your time focusing on historic optimization.” But you should do so strategically. Use Google Search Console or Semrush to see which high-performing articles are slipping in rankings — and then flag them for updating.
Don’t focus on updating low-ranking content, and don’t stop writing new content. Just be sure to dedicate time to updating old content so it keeps driving traffic as it should.
3. Check with your sales team to make sure your content is really speaking to your buyers
You should always come back to what your customers are looking for, says Barrell. Ask yourself, Are my buyers really looking for the type of information that I'm supplying, or have their interests changed?
If you’re off the mark, the sooner you realize, the better.
How do you know you’re speaking in the language of your buyers? Talk to your sales team. Regular brainstorm meetings are a great place to get the most up-to-date information from the front lines.
Not only can this yield a trove of new topics to cover, but it can also help direct your historic optimization strategy. If sales reports a growing customer focus on product quality, for example, you can prioritize relevant articles so that your content speaks accurately to their needs.
If your traffic has stayed high but your leads have fallen off, you’re dealing with a conversion problem.
Barrell advises that you “make sure the buyer’s path through your site is clear and obvious.” If you want your visitor to take one specific action (such as downloading a guide or scheduling a call), don’t crowd your page with multiple conflicting CTAs.
Also, make sure what you’re asking matches their stage in the buyer’s journey. Don’t prompt a visitor to talk to a sales rep if they’re too early in their journey to be ready to do so.
Search engine algorithm updates are the boogeymen of inbound marketing. They lurk in the dark shadows, ready to jump out and feast on your successes, tearing you from your hard-won search result perch and flinging you back into oblivion.
In general, Google is always looking to improve the search experience for users, and it sometimes provides details of what changes you should expect. If you know an upcoming update will prioritize page speed or structured data, you can make updates and be ready.
Remember, keep any changes in context — and don’t lose heart!
Imagine a piece of content that drives loads of traffic but never converts a single visitor. Now, imagine a second piece of content with much more modest traffic numbers but a much higher conversion rate. Which would you rather have?
As marketers, we often want to swing for the fences and get the big, gaudy numbers. At the end of the day, though, your job is to drive business. If your piece of content helps bring in a prospect or close a deal, you’ve tangibly helped your company’s bottom line. And that’s almost always better than traffic.
It’s important to remember to keep your goals front and center.
If your focus is brand awareness and traffic, then that’s where your effort should go — and those are the numbers to watch.
If your focus is sales enablement, traffic might not even be on your radar. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s not the goal you’re after.
Therefore, keep your numbers in context. Be proactive to get them where they need to be, and divide your effort accordingly.