When Bad Statistics Are a Good Sign

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When Bad Statistics Are a Good Sign

Up and to the right. This is what a good result looks like no matter what it is: shares, annual profit margins, social followers, website traffic. My sense of dread at seeing statistics drop is understandable, despite knowing that this was part of an intentional plan.

This decrease in traffic was actually a good sign. The robust traffic statistics had been masking the real numbers we should have been paying attention to.

Let's back up a bit and explain. As part of our agency rebrand, we conducted an in-depth, data-driven content review that revealed some hard truths about our digital estate.

The content audit, carried out to identify the most popular and relevant pages for our core audience, revealed that a single page attracted more than 20% of our traffic. “How to fix iPhone screen” was a very popular resource for many people… but it had nothing to do with what we do or who we are. There were a small number of similar blog posts that were also very popular and accounted for the majority of our organic search traffic.

We can assume that this traffic was not only useless in terms of driving interest in our business, but it was giving us a false image of our popularity.

By providing valuable resources to people who would never be interested in our products or our offerings, we were building inefficiency into a marketing process.

We had to face facts:

“Not all traffic is good traffic.”

It was clear that we needed to eliminate this “noise” in our system and really focus on developing useful content for current and potential customers. The second part of our content strategy helped with this.

Who are you talking to?

In order to write useful content, you really need to keep your audience in mind. Having written hundreds of articles over the years for search specialists, we had an innate understanding. As our service offering had grown to encompass Digital PR, Content Marketing and Creative Production, however, we hadn't stopped to think in detail about the people who are looking for resources related to these topics.

We solved it with a series of workshops, interviews and questionnaires that helped us develop the following four types of people:

Sam (SEO)

A technically minded specialist, Sam seeks in-depth solutions to intricate search-related problems.

He is motivated by gaining a deep level of understanding within his area of ​​expertise and relies on his colleagues to provide technical solutions. He looks for in-depth resources to do his job better.


Mary (Marketing)

Mid-level Marketing Manager, Mary successfully juggles a hugely varied workload.

She needs to maintain a broad understanding of all new marketing topics and techniques and seeks quick answers to solve general problems. She looks for articles that give her immediate information on how to most effectively execute an extensive marketing plan.

Dave (Digital)

Dave oversees all digital production within his organization and is supported by his peers, board members and guidance.

He enjoys reading strategic white papers around the future of digital and primarily focuses on improving the digital capability of his business and the digital capabilities of the workforce.

Dina (Director)

General Director of Communications and Marketing, Dina directs the strategic marketing direction of the business and a brand.

She relies on her team to execute her plans and fill any gaps in their knowledge, and looks for resources that can help steer the brand in the right direction. She actively seeks input from industry influencers who help shape her frame of reference.

What does this have to do with traffic statistics?

If we understand the people we want to reach with our content, everything we produce will be better adapted to respond to their needs. This will help us develop a more engaged audience that gets real value from our content.

Armed with this vision, we analyzed our success metrics and rewrote our content strategy from the ground up. Instead of focusing on overall audience growth, we started obsessing over engagement metrics.

We began producing content for multiple people, which allowed us to showcase our experience across the digital marketing spectrum, which much better reflected who we are as an agency. Our goal was to get more digital professionals reading more of our content for longer.

Six months after this change in strategy, we had made the following changes to our content:

  • Articles related to technical search represented approximately 30% of our content output (up from 90%).
  • Content marketing and digital articles PR. They joined the focused technical SEO pieces.

Which had a huge impact on our statistics. A comparison of year-over-year analytics showed that even though overall traffic was down as much as 30%, with an organic decline of more than 46%, the numbers that mattered were excellent:

  • Average page views per session increased by 12%
  • Session duration increased by more than 66%
  • Referral traffic increased by 24%
  • Social traffic increased by 132%

We were also seeing the diversification of engaged visitors. While the vast majority of newsletter signups have historically come from new organic visitors, sources have expanded to include referral signups, organic visitors, direct, social and email visitors.


Botton line

On a superficial level, our web traffic took a major hit to changing our content strategy.

On a level that mattered, however, we had turned an important corner. We were seeing a higher volume of relevant traffic from a more engaged audience. That audience was also more varied, interested in a broader range of content and spending more time exploring.