How Is Traffic To My Site Trending?

The Teacup Analytics guide to how your website traffic is trending and why this matters

This Teacup report is a splendid way to keep an eye on the bigger picture. You can look over the last few months and note the overall trend of your website traffic and see whether it’s going up, decreasing or staying fairly static.

One of analysts calls this a “starter” report. What he means is that the How Is Traffic To My Site Trending report can answer a lot of different questions from a high level perspective. A report like this starts you down a path to insights by letting you know where to dig deeper.

How To Read This Report

Section 1: The Graph

The first thing you’ll notice about the graph is that it covers the past 12 weeks of your overall web traffic. By looking at your traffic’s performance over a few months, you can see, at a glance, how you’re doing. The mid to long term time period helps keep the ups and downs in context.

Note the dotted line, spanning the latest four weeks. This is a four week trend line to help visualize the trend of your traffic. Teacup’s analysts prefer to keep the trend line to four weeks to avoid outliers having an outsized impact on your true trend. A big spike in traffic can influence a trend line for a long time, obfuscating the real trend. By focusing on your most recent performance, we mitigate this and minimize the impact of outliers on the report.

The third aspect of the graph is the colorful filling. The teacup Team often calls it the Neapolitan style graph since it reminds us of the triple flavored ice cream. The colors you’ll see are yellow, pink and green. We grade each week’s quality against the average and indicate it on the graph with color.

Yellow indicates the average. Where you see yellow, it means that the week’s grade was a B or a C.

Pink indicates a drop in site visitor quality. If you’re seeing this color, it means that the grade that week was below average, like a D or the !.

Green is good news. This means that week’s visitors were of an above average quality – likely higher converting than normal or they spent more time on your site than usual. A green color for that week indicates a quality grade of an A or A+. 

Learn more about how Teacup calculates your grade.

The reason we include the color aspect is so you can quickly see how your traffic quality is correlated to your traffic volume. 

Section 2: Primary Metrics

This section of the report gives you the rundown of your latest week’s performance – both in terms of session volume and quality. You can see the breakdown of your week’s grade by each component.

Learn how to choose the right grading components for you.

While the Primary Metrics section in other reports may have more impact in your decision making, in this report, it’s still useful. Here, you can note your latest week’s performance and see if it’s in line with your goals.

Section 3: The Details

If you want to know why a week showed up above with a pink or green hue, this is right section. This part of the report is where you dive into the itty bitty nitty gritty to work hand in hand with the graph’s colorful features.

If, in your graph, a particular week is colored green, or had a spike in traffic, you can learn what contributed to that over-achieving week. Whether it was a specific traffic segment, perhaps new referrals, or whether it was a lower bounce rate, the Details section reduces uncertainty and informs your next steps. 

Insights and Inspirations You Might Find

There’s a lot you can learn in this report, beyond your traffic’s trend. We’ll discuss those learnings below but first, let’s chat about why the trend can be meaningful.

At a glance, you may think that up equals good, down equals bad. There’s more to analyzing the trend than that. A lot of the report’s power lies in pointing you in the right direction for further research. And yet, you can find some perfectly priceless answers embedded in the trend report.

What if my website traffic is trending downward?

If you notice your traffic heading down, don’t worry, sometimes that’s a good thing. Before deciding on a strategy, glance at the graph and dive into the details. 

The first thing I look for, in this instance, is the color of the graph. Often, a recent drop in traffic correlates to an increase in quality and if this is the case, you should see more green in the latest weeks than the start of the 12 week time series graph. In this case, don’t worry too much. It likely means that you’re no longer drawing the “wrong” traffic to your site. 

This is particularly noteworthy if you’re running an Adwords campaign. You want quality traffic over large quantities any day. This indicates that your adwords campaign is appealing to the right folks, but more importantly, you’re not spending money on traffic that isn’t reaching your goals.

Other channels where this matters is referral traffic and organic search.  Regarding the latter,  high quality traffic indicates a successful SEO strategy whereby you’re showing up for the right searches. Thinking of the referral traffic, it indicates that your link-building efforts are working and you’re being linked to by relevant sites. 

All in all, quality traffic gives you a more realistic idea of your true bounce rate, conversion rate and performance in general by whittling down the noise. Now, when you look at areas on your site to optimize, you can gauge your success against your true customers, and not random or wrong traffic. 

Eventually, your improved quality becomes the new average, so a return to the color yellow in graph isn’t in itself a bad thing. It just means you’ve got to exercise that medulla oblongata of yours and keep improving .

If you do take any actions, make use of Teacup’s Achievables and track the results to see the impact you’re making.

What if my traffic is trending upward?

An upward direction in traffic is marvelous.  By noting the where the gains are coming from, and making sure those gains are true gains, you’ll stay grounded.

Like I mention above, you can learn a lot from the color. If you see an upward trend, look for yellow. This means that your quality is holding steady, even as your traffic increases. If you see green, well, that should leave you feeling bucked and uplifted. That means your traffic quality is increasing along with your traffic volume.

It is quite common, however, to see your traffic volume increase along with a correlated decrease in quality. Don’t worry, it’s quite normal. There are steps you can take to see if it’s worth taking further action on. 

Get the full story about your quality and volume increase by finding out what is driving the change in traffic. I describe this in detail below. Once you know more, you can decide on whether action is needed.

An increase in quantity with a resulting decrease in quality matters more if your traffic increase comes from Adwords or other Pay Per Click advertising. Unless you’re specifically aiming for awareness, and have some budget to burn, you ultimately want to make sure your ad spend isn’t wasted bringing low quality traffic to your site. An increase without conversions to match is wastefulness. This indicates you need to dive into your Adwords analytics to find out which campaigns, ad groups or keywords need your attention and optimization.

If your increases come from referral traffic, go explore the referrers’ sites. If these referrers are indeed relevant to your site but still low quality, you can decide to make the page they’re landing on, a little more enticing to them. Begin by making sure you know what you’d like these visitors to do, then go for it. A commonly useful change is to make the landing page content more relevant the visitor. 

An increase in organic search traffic, with a related decrease in quality, could mean you’re showing up in non-relevant searches. This isn’t ideal because you want Google to have a good understanding of what your site content is about. Dig deeper into your site’s Search Engine Optimization. While there’s too much to discuss than would fit in this little guide, some areas to look at are Google Search Console [link] to understand which search queries are bringing traffic to your site. If you’re having issues with organic search engine rankings, an expert might be needed to help get to the bottom of it.

Keep in mind that there will always be some decrease in quality with increases in quantity. It’s normal. One sighs, and passes on. If your traffic increases but your graph stays yellow (i.e. an average grade of B or C), it’s probably not worth fussing about in the context of this report.

What if my website traffic is relatively static?

Stability can be interesting and enlightening. If you’re seeing a yellow infused graph that appears somewhat flat, it means that week over week, your traffic and quality is staying consistent.

From an analysts perspective, this can feel like success in potentiality, a coiled spring! When there’s not so much going on, you can start trying out ideas.

Pop down to the Details section and start exploring. Do you see any specific traffic channel with a high grade but lower volume? If so, then you can start the mental wheels turning and see if you can think of ideas to grow that traffic segment.

This is the perfect opportunity to create a Teacup Achievable, take an action and see whether it makes a difference.

Finding out what drives the changes in traffic

This is one of the most powerful aspects of the How Is Traffic To My Site Trending? report. There are oodles of data points you can look into. Teacup tries to keep it contextual to the over-arching question. In the Details section you can quickly find out what was driving any significant changes without jumping from metric to metric like a mountain goat, leaping from crag to crag.

If you notice anything of interest, whether it’s an unexpected increase, a sharp dip in traffic or a clear change in quality in a certain week, you can find out where that occurred. First, look at the specific week in the Detail table. Then start exploring that week drill downs in the 2nd and 3rd columns. What you’re specifically looking for depends on what you’re looking to find out.

If it’s an increase in traffic, focus mainly on the traffic sources and channels. If there is a particular channel that is driving that increase, like Organic Search, you’ll learn that here. Next, just to be sure, compare that metric to other weeks to be sure that it is, indeed, different.

The next step depends on whether you’ve been taking initiatives or not. If you have indeed been implementing new strategies, you’ll get the confirmation you need that it’s working. If, however, you’re unsure what is causing the change, I recommend diving deeper still – more on that shortly.

You can find out more about quality and grade changes in much the same way. At a higher level, you can find out which components, like conversion rate, is pulling your quality score up (or dragging it down). Investigation into your quality begins at the component itself but it’s useful to also look at various segments. Before you make any decisions, try to find out whether your quality changed overall or for a specific segment like New Visitors or Mobile Visitors or, perhaps, a channel like Paid Search.

Again, if you’re been optimizing for a specific component, you’ll get the affirmation that you’re making an impact. If, however, you’re stumped as to why your conversion rate has dipped, it’s time to get granular.

You can sometimes find the information needed in the details table by looking at the 2nd and 3rd columns but to be totally sure, you’ll find to most granular information in the more focused reports. Are you interested in finding out about your Paid Search traffic, the most granular information will be in the How Much Quality Traffic Is Coming To My Site From Paid Search? If it’s a segment like mobile traffic you’re interested in, we have a How Many Visitors Are Using A Mobile Phone To View My Site? report that will be dashed informative. This is what we meant when we said earlier that the report can lead to insights by showing you where to dig deeper.

If you’re ever unsure which Teacup report will be best for you, you are certainly quite welcome to ask us.

Bite-Sized Food For Thought

  • Sharp drops in traffic and quality can indicate site performance problems.
  • This report’s graph has great visual indicators of outliers. Both spikes in traffic and color changes can bring outliers to your attention.
  • If you see mostly flat traffic and average grades, it might be time for some creative tests, initiatives and setting of Achievables.
  • Increase in traffic and decline in quality can indicate need to find better audiences. It could also indicate a need to optimize your landing pages.
  • Annotations are especially effective in this report. Annotate actions taken and note the trend direction in relation to the date.
  • This report is a great way to simply measure performance. Use it as a bellwether to alert you of any big changes in traffic or quality.

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