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Inbound marketing help: My traffic and leads are down — what am I doing wrong?

Make sure you're focused on these 5 things that will keep your numbers healthy.

Inbound marketing help: My traffic and leads are down — what am I doing wrong? Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue and Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

June 28th, 2021 min read

It’s the ultimate frustration. You’re doing all the right things for your inbound marketing, and you’re still not getting the results you’re expecting. 

This is all the more painful because you know it takes time to see results with inbound marketing. It takes buy-in. It takes commitment.

If you’ve been doing everything right — and have been doing everything right for a while — and you’re still not seeing results, you might be ready to throw your computer out the window.

But despair not. Use these expert insights to help you tweak, adjust, and recommit to the inbound fundamentals that will put you on the path to results.

Jen Barrell is a content trainer at IMPACT. She works with a host of clients to help them plan and measure their content strategy — and its effect on their inbound marketing.

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.

🔎 Related: How to historically optimize blog content

2. Learn how seasonality and industry fluctuations affect your numbers

The changing seasons affect every industry differently, but a dip in summer is fairly common. Knowing this can help you put your numbers in context. 

Barrell advocates for comparing your metrics to last quarter, in addition to the same quarter last year. This can help you better understand what’s happening. 

“If I only look at one of those metrics,” she says, referring to month-over-month or year-over-year comparison, “I don’t feel like I’m getting the full picture.”

At the same time, don’t ignore larger industry issues and changes that might be influencing your numbers. Covid- and weather-related supply-chain disruptions are only two recent examples.

🔎 Related: 'The Big 5' best business blog topics that drive traffic, leads, and sales 

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. 

🔎 Related: How to create sales enablement content your sales team will adore

4. Improve your conversion pathways

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.   

🔎 Related: 6 CTA best practices to push all the right buttons for your audience

5. Prepare for upcoming algorithm updates

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.

Not really.

The reality is that Google makes thousands of updates to its search algorithms each year. The vast majority are minor — but some are major. You can expect a major update (often called a “core update”) a few times a year. If you pay attention to search engine publications or watch Twitter, you should have plenty of warning when these are coming up. 

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. 

🔎 Related: The ultimate SEO checklist

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.

That’s how you win the day.

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