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Why Your Clicks & Traffic Will Continue To Decline in 2019
In the last number of years, I've been privileged to earn my supper in a pretty exciting and growing industry, digital is booming, and if you want to measure it, forget about the numbers look at all the beautiful buzzwords and jargon, we can throw around.
- Growth hacking
- Big data
- and the list goes on
By sheer technical terms alone, we sound like we know exactly what we're talking about and exactly what we're doing. However, being in a space that evolves in such a rapid pace means you only confident in what you are doing for a short window period before it changes and you need to change. The more I learn about digital marketing and attempt to hone my craft the more I feel like I learn less and less about what works and more about what doesn't work or won't work for much longer.
Working that churn funnel without end
I often speak to various digital marketers, and it's shocking to see how happy some are to go about executing the same plan they used for the last five years because its always worked and produced results but as we know believing in the hot-hand fallacy is a sure way to have your hands burned. The environment has changed, consumers have changed, interaction has changed, and if you think the same strategies are going to work, you're sorely mistaken.
While I agree with some of the methods in reaching traffic, I think the focus on converting users as fast as possible is a race to the bottom for many businesses. Websites who are focusing only on converting users will continue to hand more advertising spend over to third-party platforms to equal or marginally improve on results, and while this may put money in the bank, it's not putting you in a better position.
Traffic will be harder to come by
As these third-party platforms continue to keep traffic behind these paywalls, it's only going to raise the barrier to entry. Which means many a small business will drop out of the auction while the more prominent players continue to push up the price per click as they desperately cling on to hopes of year on year growth.
This is precisely what these traffic monopolies like Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter want you to do as they search for ways to improve their revenue streams and bump up their share prices.
As these tech companies continue to dry up referral traffic for the rest of us, it will have a knock-on effect on all of us. As a lowering ride lowers all ships, it's going to start to get nasty so brands and businesses who are looking to survive will need to be prepared and should have started preparing for these changes years prior. If not, you will be blindsided and not in the delightfully uplifting Sandra Bullock movie sort of way.
If you want to dive deeper into the data you only have to look as far as SparkToros guides:
- Google’s European Monopoly (& Shrinking Click-Through Opportunities)
- Google CTR in 2018: Paid, Organic, & No-Click Searches
As the internet matures more businesses are starting to build their digital presence and make up for last time, the option of growing organically still doesn't seem very attractive to new digital companies and they're looking for instant results, which is why more advertising spend is being thrown at the big players. The more advertisers they have, the more expensive the real estate and we're starting to see the price for clicks increase year on year.
While the user population that has means to purchase has begun to level off due to a shrinking worldwide economy amid a possible recession we're going to see those expensive clicks return fewer sales as curious customers are not as impulsive to purchase as they once were.
As a knock on effect brands will all look to target higher LSM's and the attention from these audience members are going to come at a premium price. A price too high for many brands who will either have to scale down in other departments to fund marketing or reduce marketing and work on a lower acquisition rate.
Organic traffic from search engines and social media is going to become harder and harder to come by with these internet monopolies looking to reduce the amount of free referral traffic and improve its paid traffic; they will continue to tweak algorithms to do just that.
- Facebook’s organic reach for brand pages continues to drop, and if you're getting a 2% engagement from your followers, I'd say you're doing pretty well for yourself.
- Reddit has started to make external the exception rather than the rule, and it's becoming harder for external link posts to get traction as they try to encourage housing content natively on their site.
- Instagram, which never allowed outlinking and has limited opportunities for organic linking apart from your bio, stories and DM's for now.
- LinkedIn has started to reduce the reach of link posts and favourites native content like Pulse Articles and video.
- YouTube has started to hide links that appear below videos in the descriptions, often truncating video publishers’ descriptions to just before the link would appear.
- Twitter has also seen a favourable reach and engagement for tweets that don’t contain URLs.
Google is doing everything in their power to keep users in SERPs longer than ever before with instant results, instant answers, suggested questions with answers these SERP markups are making it easier for consumers to get high-level data without having to click through to the source. While there is a relatively slow growth of no-click searches, it's still bad news for SEO and it's going to get worse.
While no-click searches have yet ti cannibalize enough to start eating into growth in the sector Google is trying everything it can to encourage brands to opt for paid search if they want visitors to their site.
What you can do to shield yourself from this trend
Build your own audience
I've been saying this for some time, and I will continue to say it, you need to start building direct relationships with your visitors and turn them into customers over time.
Websites should not only focus on their conversion rates, leads and average basket values but also look at how to improve metrics like
- Newsletter sign-ups
- App downloads
- Browser push notification subscribers signups
- Personalised on-site prompts
- User experience personalisation funnels
- Referral programs signups
- Loyalty programs signups
- CRM strategies funnels
- Remarketing & retargeting
By speaking to consumers directly and providing personalised experiences, they can't get anywhere else you're going to see an improvement in your retention. It's cheaper to speak to and convert an existing customer or someone in your ecosystem than it is to convert a stranger.
Double down on channels that work for your brand
I see this mistake so often, brands think they need to be present on every platform even if they don't have the resources to do so and I see this is a fatal mistake. Each digital channel has its own subtle nuances and idiocracies that make it special and why there are specialists in each field like Paid Search, Display, Remarketing, SEO, Social Media, Email marketing and more.
If you have the money to spend on specialists, by all means, go ahead, but if you don't, you're only going to do your channel a disservice. By asking your SEO to do paid search or your Email Marketing Manager to handle CRM strategies, Your Paid Ads Manager to run display campaigns all you doing is spreading your budget too thinly and you're actual messaging and optimisation is going to take a hit.
Rather allow these specialists to focus on what they do best and fine-tune their campaigns and strategies to the best of their abilities. Once you reach the point where you cannot afford to push a channel any harder, you can look into leveraging new ones.
Adjust your marketing strategies
Digital marketing is a dynamic medium and consumers are not your colleagues. You may be able to entertain the office by bringing out that same old 2-step at the end of year staff party but customers aren't easily impressed by rehashing the same old thing. Consumers become more resistant each year to part with their disposable income and if you don't appeal to them in ways that resonate, you're going to find conversion hard to come by.
Your content will be as important as your product and your messaging so ensure you have a comprehensive content strategy that has a begining, middle and end for each stage of the customer journey.
Prepare your stakeholders
If you've been reporting on metrics like traffic and your stakeholders aren't the most digitally savvy they're going to see we pay you X or X+10% this year for the same or less traffic and the onus is going to be on you to explain why performance is dropping. It is important to educate your stakeholders on the change in the market and for them to understand external factors and how you aim to deal with these issues.
For example, traffic may not be your go-to metric for performance but rather the quality of traffic such as:
- Reducing bounce
- Improve time on site
- Time to conversion
- Retention rates
- Database acquisition from traffic
Why it may not be such a bad thing
We have been used to getting cheap traffic, and many businesses have built their foundations off the back of these platforms but we're giving them too much power, we're letting them be the sole middleman between customers and services on the internet and that should not be the case. These platforms should be used to engage initial connection and its up to brands to continue to encourage the relationship which may result in a longer customer life cycle or network referrals.
Perhaps its time for brands to reduce their dependency on Google and Facebook for customers and start building direct funnels and building brand association.
Build a successful churn rate but build a better retention rate
If your business is going to survive this squeeze in traffic, you're going to need to take care of your customer journey post click and make sure you treat the traffic you do get with the best user experience and customer service. We may have all these fancy tools and channels but building a successful online business will still boil down to superior service and building a brand around that customer perception.
Tell us your traffic story
Have you been losing traffic to your website? How has it affected your business or your earnings as a publisher or blogger? Share your story with us in the comments.
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If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles.
If you have some time to spare and would like to dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is digital marketing, then why not check out the following posts.
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- How To Take Advantage of Digital Marketing For Free
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- Why Your Local Business Cannot Be Found Online