Adam from Mixam explains how their website revenue dropped suddenly for no apparent reason and shares his checklist for finding the cause and the solution.
So your website revenue has dropped suddenly and you can’t immediately figure out why? There appears to be no decline in traffic, but your sales and revenue are performing poorly.
Now, before you start panicking or pointing at possible factors based on gut feeling or little evidence, you need to approach analysing this in a pragmatic, methodical fashion. And to do that we’re going to help you create a checklist.
This will ensure that you follow a careful process, leaving no stone unturned. It will also help you to reassure your boss that everything that can be done is being done. It also covers your backside against any oversights, rushed research and being let down by other departments or suppliers.
This article is focussed on helping you find the possible cause of a sudden revenue drop. However, if your revenue has been slowly declining over a long time, these processes may help.
Table of contents:
- Average Order Value
- Channel Patterns
- Website errors
- All pages
- Google ranking Cannibalisation
- Google SERPs
- Short term actions
Start by creating a checklist in Excel or Google Sheets. Write out each task. Tick off each task as it’s completed. This will help you to ensure that no stone has been left unturned. It also gives you a great looking piece of work that demonstrates what you’ve been doing with all your time.
We start with Google Analytics. Findings from Analytics can often lead to us asking other questions about changes in our business and in our market.
If your data by Day isn’t very clear, you may need to resort to data by Week. While this will add to the lead team of your assessment, it will prevent you from being led astray by strange data from a single day.
The first thing to check is each of your channels of traffic separately in Google Analytics.
Have any of them suddenly declined in traffic or revenue? Sometimes one failing channel can be masked by another successful channel when you’re looking at all your traffic and revenue as a whole.
If only one channel has fallen, this gives you a clear route to investigate. If all of them have fallen at the same time, this would suggest a technical issue or other change to your business.
You need to check pretty much every single metric and cross this off a checklist. Has there been an increase in bounce rate? A decline in transactions or revenue? Perhaps the average sales value has fallen?
If the number of transactions suddenly drops, this could mean a number of things. A website error that’s preventing customers from completing a purchase. A price increase that prices you out of the market. Or perhaps a competitor is offering a deal that’s simply too good to be true?
Once again, check each channel separately and tick them off in your spreadsheet as part of a thorough investigation.
3) Average Order Value
Check if your sales value has suddenly declined. While transactions and traffic may be consistent, one of your biggest customers may have stopped buying. Product prices may have been updated. Some products may no longer be available.
Always take seasonality into account. Some industries thrive with the seasons. The same goes for particular products and audiences. So always compare your numbers to the previous year and not the previous month, unless you like riding that emotional rollercoaster. Also bear in mind that some channels may fluctuate at certain times of the year too.
5) Channel Patterns
In some industries revenue and sales can be prone to extreme fluctuations. Be sure to study the fluctuations of your revenue by channel. It’s entirely possible that your drop in revenue could be caused by several channels falling at the same time, only to present a more consistent overall revenue pattern a few days later.
Brexit, the rising cost of imports, the changing stock market and even extreme weather conditions can cause customers to suddenly stop buying. Especially if your business relies on impulse purchases or has a short conversion period.
7) Website Errors
To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer. Which is why website errors are the most common cause of revenue crashes, panic attacks and belief that the sky is falling.
Check with your developers when website updates have been rolled out and see if there is a correlation based on date on time in Google Analytics. Your developers should be keeping an automated log of these updates.
8) All Pages
One way of finding website issues is checking the performance of your pages in Google Analytics. If the bounce rate or exit rate has become unusually high, there’s a possibility that there is a problem with that page. This is a great way of identifying pages that have stopped working and product pages that are out of stock.
You can also check if the number of page views and entrances have declined, indicating that an important page may no longer be live or indexed by search engines.
10) Google Ranking Cannibalisation
You should be running a regular search engine rankings report for your business. Ideally, one which reports on which page is ranking on a daily basis. This will help you to spot any rankings cannibalisation.
Rankings cannibalisation is when Google suddenly isn’t sure which of your pages to rank for a particular search term. Sometimes this is triggered by an algorithm update or one of your pages simply acquiring natural links from another website. It can also be triggered by a change in your onsite optimisation or from a link building campaign.
What this means is that one day Google ranks a page that converts and makes money. The next day it decided to rank a different page which does not convert and does not make money.
11) Google SERPs
Take a moment to manually type your top search terms into Google. You should know where you rank organically. But are you seeing any changes to Google’s search engine results page?
In June 2019 I discovered that Google had suddenly added 4 paid ads, shopping results, maps and information boxes to all of the top search terms in my industry. This was the cause for my sudden revenue drop!
I double checked this against my organic traffic and it began to paint a clearer picture.
To find out how I solved this problem, read my article about improving Click Through Rate Optimisation and how Google took away 50% of my growth. But I managed to claw back 40%.
12) Short Term Actions
Horrible as it sounds, if your revenue has only dropped for a few days, it’s possible that you may need more data before you can make an accurate assessment.
However, that doesn’t mean you can sit back to ‘wait and see’ what happens. You can still do something about it right now! Consider taking short term actions to help grow your business quickly. This can help to buy you time to find and fix your revenue problem.
Marketing and development usually takes time, but here are some ideas that can usually be rolled out with little time or resources.
1) Email marketing
If you don’t usually email your customers, now is the time to do so! Just check the GDPR rules first. If you already email your customers, send them something they are certain to engage with, like a special discount. My business has had a lot of success by emailing customers who have not ordered in X months and offering them an incentive. Also, email gets the word out to a large number of people very quickly.
If your website receives a healthy amount of traffic every day, consider offering a first purchase discount or free delivery for a short time. Some businesses post the discount code at the top of their homepage to be manually added to the checkout by their customers. You could also push this out via an email to customers who have previously purchased from you. Once again, consult the GDPR rules before emailing anyone.
If there’s something you can turn on instantly that should result in more traffic and revenue, it’s pay per click advertising. Namely, Google AdWords. If you’re starting from scratch, it can take you a day to set up. However, you won’t build up any trust value and be able to reduce your cost per click for at least 2 months. Although it is a quick and easy solution. Just don’t be afraid to be bold with your spending, because trying to ‘tickle’ it with a tiny spend won’t yield fast results.
If you’re already running a PPC campaign, now is the time to do a quick assessment and increase your spend – provided this channel isn’t the cause of your revenue drop.
Google Display retargeting is a cost effective solution as well.
The problem is that we spend so much time looking at traffic, when it comes to analysing revenue, it can be really challenging. Especially if your business is on a constant growth trajectory and subject to a lot of seasonality.
The other challenge is that it can take time to launch an intelligent solution to improve your sales revenue growth.
This is why, when my business was affected by a sudden change in Google’s SERPs, I quickly increased my email marketing and relaunched my PPC advertising. It took me a few days to diagnose the problem (in between the day to day marketing tasks) and action an intelligent response. But until that could happen, I was actively doing something which could be actioned quickly.
Thankfully, I was able to find a solution to my organic revenue drop and action it within a few days. But if it had taken weeks or even months, my other channels would have had to pick up the slack and keep the business ticking over until a solution was implemented.
So when you experience your own sudden revenue drop, don’t panic. Take a methodical approach by keeping a checklist to investigate and tick off each probable cause. And quickly formulate a back up plan that can be rolled out quickly in a worst case scenario.
Adam lives a life of swashbuckling adventure online as the Digital Marketing Manager for Mixam – A plucky print company with a whole lot of heart and grand ambition to make printing easy for everyone