The Seasonality of Your Website’s Organic Traffic: A Break Down

November 13, 2020

Kerrie Ashall

With the festive season inching closer, savvy business owners are thinking about their end-of-year marketing campaigns and exactly how they’re going to capitalise on seasonal peaks in organic traffic. But it’s not just Christmas that promises extra ROI – seasonality is a part of every business, whether up or down, and no marketing strategy is complete without a consideration of these traffic flows. This is especially important when making useful projections when it comes to SEO optimisation or the launching of any new campaign. Here’s a break down.

Understand what you’re dealing with

Your marketing team needs to understand whether a sudden organic traffic boost is a normal seasonal phenomenon or a genuine response to their latest SEO efforts. In the same vein, if you understand that December is a particularly big month, for example, then you will know not to be alarmed at a sudden “drop” in January, and likewise that any new campaigns are not necessarily to blame.

Though it’s not always possible for newer businesses, the first thing marketing needs to consider is the baseline organic traffic – i.e. your annual traffic divided over twelve months. This lets you understand how each month fares compared against the monthly average.

Establishing a baseline allows you to make sense of any growth you track. Traffic boosts need to be compared to the year-over-year average, so you are seeing any traffic changes in context. In other words, the absolute traffic figures don’t mean much on their own. Be aware that any third-party traffic trackers will usually not factor in seasonality – which may or may not be useful information.

SEO projections and seasonality

Seasonality is important when it comes to making accurate and useful SEO projections. Your SEO team can set goals and estimates for how much they can grow traffic using certain strategies. From these strategies they can estimate possible traffic figures in high, medium, or low success projections.

Exactly how this is done depends largely on preference and your unique business. You could examine keyword rankings, the number and kind of keywords used, click through rates and conversion rates assuming an increase in traffic. You can then use these estimates to make educated guesses about sales and profit per sale, given what you know about your margins. The total profit minus what it cost to implement the strategies is essentially your return on investment.

Either way, always remember to consider seasonality when interpreting yearly or quarterly reports before making any conclusions. You need to understand the limitations of any gathered data so you can understand what fluctuations truly mean.

What are your seasonal peaks?

There is a wealth of detailed performance data available even to new businesses, but SEO experts can help you make sense of this data. Google Search Console is an obvious place to start looking for trends and ideas, but Google Analytics can also help you get a handle not only one your rankings etc., but exactly how to interpret them given your company’s unique seasonal patterns.

A great way to start thinking about seasonal peaks is to begin with your target market. Take a close look at your demographic and try to understand how their needs change with time, and why. Consider separate demographics within your market and think about how their interest in your brand changes month to month. By pre-empting and speaking to their needs this way, you encourage brand loyalty. Finally, common sense can go a long way to making best guesses about your seasonal peaks.

Optimising on seasonality

Depending on your business, you may need to plan and design seasonal pages for your website to capture any occasional traffic boosts. Promotional sales events like Black Friday or Christmas deals are great, but also consider more sporadic events like elections, sporting occasions or even tragic events. Use a hub structure to categorise your products to help people navigate eCommerce sites, for example – remember to use relevant anchor text and link liberally to other non-seasonal pages.

Make sure you’re creating relevant, supplementary content to share and remember to update things like seasonal business hours. You’ll also need to plan how you’ll end the promotion after the event has passed.

Try to plan ahead and understand whether your business is likely to incur traffic boosts related to temporary peaks in demand (for example, the rush for toilet paper during early lockdown or an increase in ice cream sales during heat waves). Google Trends could potentially help you uncover links between search demand and other variables, but the truth is that there’s some trial and error involved, too.

If you’re not comfortable distinguishing seasonal traffic from baseline performance, an SEO expert can help you tease apart the data, so you can make meaningful projections, year on year. Even if you don’t increase revenue over a seasonal event, you may well gather valuable information to analyse after the fact, to feed into future campaigns.

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