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Jack Hammer

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I have a small side project selling an app from my website. Lately, most of my sales has come from SEO, but I've seen a confusing pattern over the last few months- for a week or two, I'll get a solid stream of sales and then it'll suddenly stop and I'll get virtually no more sales for the rest of the month. The pattern will then repeat sometime the next month. I don't see any meaningful change in my website traffic. There's nothing that suddenly drops when the sales dry up. This doesn't feel like the usual ups and downs of a business, but like an arbitrary on/off switch, as if some algorithm at Google decides to send me the type of people who buy stuff for a while and then decides to only send me people that don't typically buy stuff.

Does anyone know what could be going on here? Any idea how to keep that switch in the "on" position all the time?
 
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Bekit

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So traffic is the same, but conversions fluctuate?

Is there any seasonality or monthly cycle in how much people feel the pain point that your app addresses?

Or if sales come in at the beginning of the month, maybe your customers just got paid?

If there's nothing you can come up with on that front, it would be interesting to run a test.

Recruit a group of people to regularly enter the keywords that will lead to your page being shown. Have them search these keywords over the course of a month or two and log the results of what position your page ranked in the organic results.

Even better, recruit two groups. One that's very similar to your buyers, and one that's very unlikely to buy.

Then, see if your "good" group sees your page higher up in the search results for a short time, only to have it disappear from the rankings after a week our two. And see if your "unqualified" group suddenly starts to see your page rank much higher.

If you're able to run this experiment and confirm your hypothesis, that would be interesting.

One note: think through the instructions that you use to run this experiment. For instance, if your target audience is searching for your keywords and NOT clicking on your result, but just logging what position they saw it, that could cause unfavorable results for your ranking, especially if your test group is large enough to represent a significant proportion of the search volume for your keywords. A large amount of impressions and a low click through rate can train the algorithm to think, "this is not a good search result for this term."

In addition, if you are instructing people to click on the result and then they immediately close it and click on a different search result, this high bounce rate can also train the algorithm to think that your page is not a good result for your best search terms.

But on the flip side, once a user has visited your site repeatedly, it can skew the search results that they see if their IP is logged as "someone interested in seeing this search result," which is also why it would be hard for you to run this experiment yourself from your own computer, as the data will be skewed.

I'd be interested in seeing how someone like Neil Patel or Marie Haynes would interpret your data and run an experiment. We know that Google can identify "people likely to convert" for the purpose of paid traffic. I wonder if they're now shuffling the ranking for organic traffic based on whether they think the person is likely to convert.
 

Empires

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I wonder if they're now shuffling the ranking for organic traffic based on whether they think the person is likely to convert.
That would be interesting.

Does anyone know what could be going on here? Any idea how to keep that switch in the "on" position all the time?
Do you have analytics set up so you can see what search terms your website visitors are coming from? Is it possible that your amount of traffic is not changing but the search terms that they are coming from is?

During certain parts of the month you may be getting website visitors from search terms that don't have buyers intent. They may just be searching for information.
 

Jack Hammer

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So traffic is the same, but conversions fluctuate?

Is there any seasonality or monthly cycle in how much people feel the pain point that your app addresses?

Or if sales come in at the beginning of the month, maybe your customers just got paid?

If there's nothing you can come up with on that front, it would be interesting to run a test.

Recruit a group of people to regularly enter the keywords that will lead to your page being shown. Have them search these keywords over the course of a month or two and log the results of what position your page ranked in the organic results.

Even better, recruit two groups. One that's very similar to your buyers, and one that's very unlikely to buy.

Then, see if your "good" group sees your page higher up in the search results for a short time, only to have it disappear from the rankings after a week our two. And see if your "unqualified" group suddenly starts to see your page rank much higher.

If you're able to run this experiment and confirm your hypothesis, that would be interesting.

One note: think through the instructions that you use to run this experiment. For instance, if your target audience is searching for your keywords and NOT clicking on your result, but just logging what position they saw it, that could cause unfavorable results for your ranking, especially if your test group is large enough to represent a significant proportion of the search volume for your keywords. A large amount of impressions and a low click through rate can train the algorithm to think, "this is not a good search result for this term."

In addition, if you are instructing people to click on the result and then they immediately close it and click on a different search result, this high bounce rate can also train the algorithm to think that your page is not a good result for your best search terms.

But on the flip side, once a user has visited your site repeatedly, it can skew the search results that they see if their IP is logged as "someone interested in seeing this search result," which is also why it would be hard for you to run this experiment yourself from your own computer, as the data will be skewed.

I'd be interested in seeing how someone like Neil Patel or Marie Haynes would interpret your data and run an experiment. We know that Google can identify "people likely to convert" for the purpose of paid traffic. I wonder if they're now shuffling the ranking for organic traffic based on whether they think the person is likely to convert.

That would be interesting.


Do you have analytics set up so you can see what search terms your website visitors are coming from? Is it possible that your amount of traffic is not changing but the search terms that they are coming from is?

During certain parts of the month you may be getting website visitors from search terms that don't have buyers intent. They may just be searching for information.

I really appreciate your replies. There's nothing seasonal or cyclical about need for my app. That's interesting about the experiment. I'll have to give some thought about how to set it up. It's probably not trivial, but maybe there's a service out there (or maybe there isn't- entrepreneurial opportunity!).

Just to give some data, last month's streak lasted from the 4th through the 21st. Here's a plot of my Google search ranking for my target term with a box around the last streak:

Average position.png

And here's the average CTR for that same term:

Average CTR.png

I looked at the other terms too (excluding searches for my product name specifically) and didn't see any obvious patterns.

It appears this month's streak started yesterday, so I'll see how it goes and maybe I can learn something from it.
 
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BizyDad

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I wonder if they're now shuffling the ranking for organic traffic based on whether they think the person is likely to convert.
I see this streakiness happen often. Sometimes there's legit reasons, like how social security checks coming on certain Wednesdays leads to busier than normal days for my mobile mechanic client. "The algorithm" isn't always the answer.

That said, I can confirm this "intent ranking" has been taking place for some time now and continues to be a bigger part of the algo. If you have the right phrase (none come to mind atm) one great way to see the difference is have 2 people search for the same term and see what kinds of ads show up. There are times when certain phrasess show shopping ads and other times when the same phrase won't show shopping ads. This is triggered based on the uniques user's presumed intent. We know Google personalizes search results based on intent to users as well.

I have a theory, totally just my theory, that Google shuffles the results to improve diversity and send more traffic to a greater number of businesses, so sometimes you show up in position #5 and sometimes you don't show up at all (or maybe just on a deep page people don't go to). Think of it like you and 3 other busiensses are "sharing" position 5.

If this were true, by not being there are all for some of the searches, your average ranking chart will not be affected.

Here's a chart from a little phrase, I didn't want to hunt for a better example, but you can see what I mean. We've been solidly on the first page most of the year. But htere was a minor jump in august and another one in late November. It makes sense to have a jump in impressions when we get to the first page, but how do we unlock more impressions once we are already there? I have another client who has been on the first page for this term and similar terms for 3 years, so I can rule out seasonality, and I know this terms gets more impressions than what this is showing.

1612300795205.png
So in my theory, I am guessing that we are "unlocking" more impressions that are usually there, but we aren't usually showing up for.

I see this kind of fluctuation most on a site Google is increasingly trusting (which fits your increased ranking chart), but also on terms where Google might not be sure what the searcher is actually searching for. In the case above, this is a phrase that might be a "buying phrase" but it might be an "informational phrase".

But the chart doesn't have to show increases for the "sometimes there, sometimes not" phenomenon to happen", which may be what is happening to you.

If it is, the best way to overcome this is to send Google signals that your site is of a higher quality than all the rest. Then you "earn trust" (that's how I explain it to clients, obviously not seo-speak) and show up more often. There are many tactics to trigger that quality but the goal is to get them to not keep searching for an answer, or, failing that, get them to spend more time on your site than they do on the others.

For me, the best way to do that is throw on a chat and keep the interested parties interested in chatting on your site. If you are patient with the informational folks, and answer their questions, you'll rank there more often for both them and the shoppers.

To be fair, I haven't messed much with tracking CTR on the effect, so thanks for giving me the idea. Historically, Google has admitted to rounding errors and innaccuracy in the search console click tracking, so I didn't trust that data as much, although my sense is it got considerably more accurate in 2020 (maybe late 2019).

Hth.
 

SEBASTlAN

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Have you looked at your analytics? heatmaps? visitor recordings? conversion path? Do you know which keywords are converting and which ones aren't?

Does this happen with paid traffic or only organic? Hard to put the blame on the source/medium if your data doesn't prove it so.
 
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Jack Hammer

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I see this streakiness happen often. Sometimes there's legit reasons, like how social security checks coming on certain Wednesdays leads to busier than normal days for my mobile mechanic client. "The algorithm" isn't always the answer.

That said, I can confirm this "intent ranking" has been taking place for some time now and continues to be a bigger part of the algo. If you have the right phrase (none come to mind atm) one great way to see the difference is have 2 people search for the same term and see what kinds of ads show up. There are times when certain phrasess show shopping ads and other times when the same phrase won't show shopping ads. This is triggered based on the uniques user's presumed intent. We know Google personalizes search results based on intent to users as well.

I have a theory, totally just my theory, that Google shuffles the results to improve diversity and send more traffic to a greater number of businesses, so sometimes you show up in position #5 and sometimes you don't show up at all (or maybe just on a deep page people don't go to). Think of it like you and 3 other busiensses are "sharing" position 5.

If this were true, by not being there are all for some of the searches, your average ranking chart will not be affected.

Here's a chart from a little phrase, I didn't want to hunt for a better example, but you can see what I mean. We've been solidly on the first page most of the year. But htere was a minor jump in august and another one in late November. It makes sense to have a jump in impressions when we get to the first page, but how do we unlock more impressions once we are already there? I have another client who has been on the first page for this term and similar terms for 3 years, so I can rule out seasonality, and I know this terms gets more impressions than what this is showing.

View attachment 36627
So in my theory, I am guessing that we are "unlocking" more impressions that are usually there, but we aren't usually showing up for.

I see this kind of fluctuation most on a site Google is increasingly trusting (which fits your increased ranking chart), but also on terms where Google might not be sure what the searcher is actually searching for. In the case above, this is a phrase that might be a "buying phrase" but it might be an "informational phrase".

But the chart doesn't have to show increases for the "sometimes there, sometimes not" phenomenon to happen", which may be what is happening to you.

If it is, the best way to overcome this is to send Google signals that your site is of a higher quality than all the rest. Then you "earn trust" (that's how I explain it to clients, obviously not seo-speak) and show up more often. There are many tactics to trigger that quality but the goal is to get them to not keep searching for an answer, or, failing that, get them to spend more time on your site than they do on the others.

For me, the best way to do that is throw on a chat and keep the interested parties interested in chatting on your site. If you are patient with the informational folks, and answer their questions, you'll rank there more often for both them and the shoppers.

To be fair, I haven't messed much with tracking CTR on the effect, so thanks for giving me the idea. Historically, Google has admitted to rounding errors and innaccuracy in the search console click tracking, so I didn't trust that data as much, although my sense is it got considerably more accurate in 2020 (maybe late 2019).

Hth.
Chat's probably not practical since it's just a one-man show right now, but there are a few other tricks I can pull to increase visitor time. Right now, it typically averages between 1 to 2 minutes. Thanks for the suggestion!

Have you looked at your analytics? heatmaps? visitor recordings? conversion path? Do you know which keywords are converting and which ones aren't?

Does this happen with paid traffic or only organic? Hard to put the blame on the source/medium if your data doesn't prove it so.
I've looked at analytics and conversion path. I haven't gotten heatmaps or visitor recordings, but that's a great idea. This has been pretty much all organic traffic. Conversion paths are hard to figure out because normally, someone would download it, try it out, then come back perhaps through a link from the software itself or just do a search for the product name, and then buy it. I don't have a good way of figuring out how a buyer found me in the first place. I ask in checkout and sometimes they answer, but they usually say something like "Google" or "Web search", rarely the search term. Basically, I need better data. I appreciate your thoughts!
 
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SEBASTlAN

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I don't have a good way of figuring out how a buyer found me in the first place. I ask in checkout and sometimes they answer, but they usually say something like "Google" or "Web search", rarely the search term. Basically, I need better data.

If you can, I recommend you invest in some paid traffic. This is the best way to see what keywords/positioning is actually resonating with your ideal customer profile. This will subsequently enable you to optimize for search engines with confidence.

P.S. Hotjar is a great, free option for heatmaps/surveys/visitor recordings.
 

Jack Hammer

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If you can, I recommend you invest in some paid traffic. This is the best way to see what keywords/positioning is actually resonating with your ideal customer profile. This will subsequently enable you to optimize for search engines with confidence.

P.S. Hotjar is a great, free option for heatmaps/surveys/visitor recordings.
I'll add Hotjar soon. It's been on my mind a while, so time to actually do it. My forays into paid search have been expensive and fruitless so far. Maybe I need to try long-tail terms.
 

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