This episode was inspired by our own older podcast episodes that helps you diagnose anomalies in your analytics data. We get questions from our clients on a regular basis when something in their data doesn’t feel right, has had a sudden change, or just doesn’t make sense. Here are some common issues:
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1. Drop in Organic Search Traffic
We get this scenario A LOT. To help diagnose the cause in a year to year decrease in organic search, we need to look at more than just the overall traffic numbers.
First, take a look at the landing pages. Is there one particular landing page that is losing most of the traffic, or is the loss site-wide? Is there a blog post that had been getting traffic for some reason that has now stopped? This can happen when a page shows up in an answer box in Google and then stops.
Use this information in conjunction with Search Console. Look at Google Trends for keywords for those pages to see if demand has decreased. If you are in a vacation destination, ask your CVB, or even friendly competitors in your market, if they have seen the same trend.
Don’t overlook the technical side of SEO. If you’ve recently launched a new site, are 301s correctly in place? Is the robots.txt correct? Canonical tags? No follow tags accidentally carried over from the staging site?
2. Very High or Very Low Bounce Rate
I’ve said this a lot on this podcast…bounce rate is not a metric to live and die by. However, there is some merit to it, when used correctly, and if it’s artificially high or low, that’s not going to do you any good. A typical hotel website will have an overall bounce rate of 20%-40% (again…use this data with caution, and break it down appropriately).
If you see a bounce rate of 1%-3%, there is almost guaranteed something wrong with your analytics tracking. There are two likely tracking issues that will cause this. The first is that the analytics code is triggering multiple times when the site loads. This could be an old version and a new version of Google Analytics; it could be a Google Tag Manager script triggering analytics along with a hard-coded version of the script; it could also be that the script is in the header and hard-coded on each page.
The second possibility for low bounce rate is some other element on the site besides a page load that is causing the analytics script to run. A common example is a popup. Sometimes code is getting added to a popup getting served when the site loads, even if the consumer has not interacted with it. This should be avoided whenever possible. A popup should never be seen as a page view in your analytics reports. It makes a mess of any kind of pathing data. It is 100% acceptable to track an interaction with a popup, but you’ll also want to figure out if you are tracking the close button, if that should really count as an interaction that would affect bounce rate, or if you just want to see that people closed it.
On the flipside, is a very high bounce rate. Assuming you are looking at this data by landing page, some pages might be OK or understandable to have a high bounce rate, like some types of blog posts, or your directions page. However, if we are talking about a rooms page or your home page, we would definitely want to investigate further. Could you have a cross-domain tracking issue? Check out our instructions on fixing that: https://www.fueltravel.com/blog/google-analytics-cross-domain-tracking-hotels/
If cross-domain tracking is not the issue, what is the source of traffic? Did this change?
3. Analytics Revenue Doesn’t Match Booking Engine Revenue
This is another issue that pops up very frequently. It’s important to understand EXACTLY what is and ISN’T reported in your analytics data. Theoretically, it should only report revenue and traffic from real consumers that have visited your hotel website. Your booking engine revenue may show other sources of revenue other than that. A giant culprit of agita for us is call center revenue.
4. Paid Search Traffic Increases/Decreases
Paid search can be one of those wildcard sources of traffic. If you are not thoroughly involved in the PPC strategy, you may be surprised when traffic suddenly increases or decreases.
Budget: Budget changes in either direction can drastically affect traffic to the site.
CPC: If your budget has remained the same, but CPC has had large shifts in either direction, that can greatly affect the amount of traffic.
Ad Copy: Are you running different ad copy, maybe a special that is affecting traffic?
Analytics Linking/tracking: Maybe this should be first on the list. Are your AdWords auto-tagged? If not, GA will see this traffic as natural search instead of paid. A BIG no-no. Is your AdWords account linked to your GA account? Without this, you cannot see the cost data, etc. that comes from AdWords in your GA data.
5, Email Traffic and/or Conversions
Email can be another wildcard source of traffic that fluctuates dramatically. We’ve said many times on this podcast that a content calendar for email is highly recommended. If you’ve got that, then you should easily be able to compare what email content was sent last year vs. this year. Of course, your emails should be tagged in a way that you can also see that data easily in your analytics tool.
Keep in mind that it’s not just the number of emails sent that can affect traffic and bookings, but the content of the message as well.
6. Your Domain Shows as a Referral
Oof. I hate this one. It’s a very common ailment, causing yet more agita. The most common source of this problem is some combination of cross-domain tracking issues and your referral exclusion list not set correctly in Google Analytics.
The latter is easier to diagnose. Look at the property section of the admin console in GA. Go the referral exclusion list. Make sure your domain and your booking engine domain are listed there. We recommend JUST the domain (no www or http, etc.).
If you’ve fixed that, but now your revenue is 90% attributed to “direct” traffic, go back to our cross-domain tracking check list and do all of those things.
Always, always, always remember that traffic doesn’t make you money. CONVERTING traffic makes you money. Be careful not to get trapped by vanity metrics. When you look at traffic changes, be sure to look at the revenue changes with it. If you’ve lost unqualified traffic that didn’t convert, that’s OK!
Always check your technical tracking of things before going off the deep end. Sometimes, a simple analytics fix is the issue and isn’t a traffic issue at all.
In The Newsaroos:
- UK bed and breakfast association petitioning government to make brand bidding by OTAs illegal.
- More Changes to Google Hotel Ads
Submit your questions and topic ideas on Twitter to @fueltravel.