A client once told us how many visits they thought their site currently received each day. He suggested increasing that number tenfold.
“Is that your goal?” I asked.
“It wouldn’t be enough,” he assured me. Their desire for traffic, he said, is insatiable. He got thoughtful for a moment. “Actually, I couldn’t handle 10,000 visits tomorrow.”
“Make a note,” I told a colleague. “Don’t send 10,000 visits tomorrow.”
Sure, we were playing. But traffic increases make sense as website goals. If you want more leads or sales, you must either increase your traffic or your conversion rate — or both. We’ve seen all three options work. We’ve also seen that it’s hard to set a traffic goal.
For many of our clients, “more traffic” makes sense as a goal. Steady increases are sustainable, natural, and lead to improvements in the long run. You can watch for a steady rise and look, when you don’t see that rise, for the reason. You can do more of what increases traffic and stop doing things that correlate with lower traffic.
Left to itself, the average website will not see traffic increases over time. We’ve seen that good websites with no ongoing efforts at content marketing or other online marketing will usually have just about the same traffic year over year. Since that’s the usual, choosing continuous improvement as your goal is reasonable.
But you might want to set a more precise goal. Google identifies two types of traffic goals:
- Internal goals, such as “continuous improvement” or “a 30% increase this quarter, to match last quarter’s increase,” are based on your own website’s results.
- External goals, such as “100 visitors a day, since that’s what our competitor has” or “a 100% increase year over year, since that’s what the New Yorker reported,” are based on someone else’s results.
Using external benchmarks is appealing. It seems to have more authority than internal measurements. Bear in mind that this information isn’t open for all, though. You cannot check your competitor’s analytics, so you don’t really know much about them.
Factors to consider
There are also lots of other factors. For example, we often see large changes in the first year we’re working for someone, because the difference between not doing anything and doing good stuff makes a big difference. We just reported a 4,000+ % increase in social media traffic to a client. We won’t expect to report the same jump next year.
OpenTracker says that their data suggests that sites without active efforts don’t change year over year. They’ve seen them go 10 years with no more than a 1% change in their traffic either way. That’s what we see, too, so we certainly believe it. That’s aggregate numbers from a couple of sources that see a lot of examples. You can probably feel confident of that information. You’re not going to be able to get typical numbers for sites that are making efforts, though. You can occasionally get reports from people like us, and you probably get wild promises in your inbox, but there really are no accurate benchmarks with large amounts of data.
We also know that different websites see different amounts in increase in traffic. The average for the most recent quarter among the websites for which we produce quarterly reports was about a 35% increase. That’s the average, though, the mean. It might not be realistic for your particular website.
It’s definitely not what people want. We have a client who feels disappointed with an 800% year over year increase. We know that the average year over year increase for well managed sites is usually less than 50% — and that’s the average. We’ve seen 3000% increases, but that’s what people want, not what people usually see.
Because of this, an internal goal may be more realistic. Look at the level of growth you’ve seen in the past — not when you had your website redesigned or started advertising, unless you plan to do something equally ambitious this quarter, but at a point where you were doing what you usually do. Try to beat your previous results.
If you succeed, celebrate.