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Don’t short-change your analytics

At Amplify Interactive, we look at statistical history when drawing comparisons to current analytic and pay-per-click numbers.  The search behavior of the world populace is a wild and wacky one; there are dips and gainsMost of the time, you can predict lower or higher search volume for any given month for an industry-set of search terms by looking at the previous years’ data (I stress “most of the time” here because sometimes it does not line up that way).

Comparing Last Month to This Month Doesn’t Give You the Big Picture

That being said, it’s nothing new for a client of ours to request a comparison of data of this month to last month.  So, for example, we would get a request to compare March numbers to February.  While I understand the desire to see this comparison (“Did we improve month-to-month?”), this measure doesn’t tell us a whole heck of a lot about whether we’re seeing improved site traffic / PPC numbers / etc.  Why doesn’t this month-to-month comparison work very well?

Yearly search trends for "homes for sale"
Yearly search trends for “homes for sale” – follows a fairly close yearly pattern

Look at the example above. If you were to compare November to December without looking at yearly data comparisons, you’ll wonder why December looked more positive for your PPC and analytics numbers.  Looking at things yearly, you can see that almost every year that’s quite a search volume increase for “homes for sale” from November to December.

Obviously, a lot of other factors may come into play about why you had gains / losses for your site analytic key performance indicators (KPIs) or your PPC stats.  These factors may include:

  • Organic search rankings
  • Paid search rankings
  • Offline marketing initiatives (look for increases / decreases in ‘direct traffic’ referrals)
  • Click fraud instances effecting your PPC campaign, boosting your bounce rate and lowering your average time spent on site / page views per visit metrics
  • Other elements (your site traffic may dip during the NCAA basketball tournament, perhaps major news events affect search behavior, news about more help for first-time home buyers may boost real estate-type search queries, etc.)

Look at the Big Picture

To sum it up, don’t short-change your site analytic or PPC performance comparisons.  If you’re providing month-to-month comparisons, that’s fine – but look at the big picture when providing analysis.  Look at historical performance and compare time frames from year-to-year to see if there’s a upward (or downward) trend.  Think about other factors like whether their organic search ranking presence improved or if an offline marketing initative was launched.  Simply put: short-sighting your comparisons is limiting your effectiveness to provide a detailed analysis for statistical comparisons.

About Christian Bullock