The Panda and Penguin Google updates have certainly spooked a lot of people. The slightest move in website traffic volume is now being blamed on either one (or both) of these updates, and whilst significant drops in traffic are a worrying sign, a closer inspection sometimes shows the opposite to be true. I recently looked a website that had seen a 50% drop in traffic, and that drop coincided with the Google Penguin update.
Google Analytics is a great tool when used effectively. Using this tool, I could drill down into the various statistics for the both the day before the Penguin update, and for the day after when there was a significant drop in traffic. What I found to be interesting was that Google’s Webmaster Tools showed there was not a significant change in the average search rankings for the targeted keywords. So why the huge drop in traffic? Surely people didn’t suddenly stop using those search terms?
In this case, the drop in traffic came from two sectors, mobile, and Europe. For some reason this website had been ranking highly in search results in Europe. It was also ranking highly in mobile search. Neither of these two sectors were important to this business. They were not geared to provide a service to European customers, and being net based business, mobile traffic had tiny 0.01% conversion rate, so the loss of that traffic wasn’t harming the business.
Whilst there was a distinct drop in traffic numbers to this site, the number of sales were the same both pre and post Penguin. In fact, the post Penguin conversion rate as a number almost doubled – and so it should, half the traffic for the same volume of sales. When looking at traffic numbers from search results, it’s important to dig to find out exactly where you have lost traffic. Is it one page, is it site wide, is specific to a region or connection method?
If this business had kept a closer eye on their search analytics, the fact that almost a third of traffic was coming from Europe may have opened doors for new business. That window has closed now, however, they can look at much improved conversion rates.