I wanted to know if our clients have experienced any sort of impact on their web traffic during these last few weeks.
So I looked at traffic levels across all of our clients, and segmented the traffic by the main channels (organic, direct, email & paid).
[So you know, I looked at absolute goal conversions, and relative goal conversion rates, to see if there had been any change. I compared the figures month on month, quarter on quarter, and year on year.]
The good news
I’ve seen organic and overall traffic levels remain steady across our clients – as normal, a couple have increased and a couple decreased.
But as a whole there hasn’t been a significant change in traffic or conversions. One exception to this is a business who saw one third of their traffic decrease month-on-month (MoM), mainly driven by a collapse in direct traffic.
(Although this was partly compensated by a 20% MoM increase in goal conversion rate, so you could argue that the traffic that matters has stayed. *shrug*)
The graph below is the trendline for organic and overall traffic performance for the past year, to date.
The blue line is overall traffic, and the red line is organic traffic, usually responsible for the largest chunk of traffic. Traffic is actually trending significantly upwards.
(CAVEAT: I’m going to keep monitoring this stuff to see how it plays out but please bear in mind it is almost certainly too early to observe the quarantine and pandemic’s impact.)
We’ve talked about this in the rest of the series but we can see it very starkly in the early data. When people react negatively to something (and I should stress it’s hard to draw a causal line), the response is quite drastic.
In one case we saw more than a hundred unsubscribes on the back of an email that, frankly, we thought was well short of the tone-deaf line (though it did mention COVID-19).
I’ll stress again that it’s hard to draw a causal line when you’re working with fragments of data and doing multiple things to target your list but the effect we’ve seen here makes me think we should be careful right now.
Even when the product is a relevant solution to a real problem organizations are facing because of the crisis, there’s the risk of a severe reaction.
For one thing, tone is hard to judge. We’re good at judging it and even though we didn’t work on that email, we still found our judgment wasn’t nearly as harsh as the audience’s turned out to be.
Now more than ever, the audience decides what’s relevant (and tasteful).
The key lesson for me is that crossing this (still pretty invisible) line can have an outsized impact on performance.
(We should also note that this kind of effect could be compounded by the fact that people may have more time to spend attending their inbox and unsubscribing too. I haven’t seen this effect in the data across our clients but anecdotally have heard there’s more of this happening.)
This is still just one small sample so you don’t want to extrapolate too widely.
But the only thing we can be sure of right now is that when people dislike something in the content of your communication, there’s a good chance they’re more sensitive to it.
If we’re playing with fire here, let’s play it safe.