D&C (EP 053) – How much traffic do you need to optimize – WORDPRESS

Drive and Convert (Ep. 053): How Much Traffic Do You Need To Optimize Your Site?

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about how much traffic a brand needs to start taking optimization seriously. They also discuss the difference between traffic and QUALIFIED traffic, and what impact that has on CRO efforts.

Listen to this episode:

About This Episode:

Most business leaders understand that you need a significant amount of traffic to run an optimization program that gets results. However, having 100,000+ sessions per month doesn’t necessarily mean that your site is ready to optimize with 100% confidence. Not all traffic is created equal, and you have to attract the proper quality and mix of traffic to stand up an optimization program that gets results.

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about how much traffic a brand needs to start taking optimization seriously. They also discuss the difference between traffic and qualified traffic, and what impact that has on CRO efforts.

Listen to the full episode if you want to learn:

  1. How much traffic you really need to start optimizing
  2. Why many brands overestimate the quality and volume of their site traffic
  3. What counts as “qualified” traffic in terms of optimization
  4. What you should do if you’re not getting enough qualified traffic

If you have questions, ideas, or feedback to share, hit us up on Twitter. We’re @jonmacdonald and @ryangarrow.

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Episode Transcript:

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert. A podcast about helping online brands to build a better e-commerce growth engine with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow.

Ryan:
Well, good afternoon, Jon excited about today as I usually am. Coming together and getting to talk to one of the best in the e-com world. I get excited about this

Jon:
I’m flattered.

Ryan:
Yeah. Last time I was looking at myself in the camera.

Jon:
Oh, okay. I was making sure. I was like, “Oh, he’s so nice.”

Ryan:
Today’s actually excited. Because I get to talk to you today or hear some things about you about traffic. And usually that’s my domain and we’re relating traffic in converge optimization. So I get to hear your opinions on traffic, which will be fun for me. So let’s talk about traffic. I think there’s probably a song about that from the ’90s. Let’s talk about traffic. Yeah. We’re not saying it here. We’re talking about traffic. So I know this and I assume most people in the e-commerce world know that all traffic is not created equal, but without traffic you have massive problems.
Can’t do much. You can’t sell things, you can’t do things, but you really can’t optimize without traffic. You can always drive traffic if you don’t have any, but you can’t really execute real CRO. And I know there’s a difference between what people often say CRO is and what it actually should be or considered. So today we’re going to hear from Jon about what does traffic look like to be able to do real CRO I think it’s going to surprise some people. So Jon let’s kick it off to think through or explain to us what it does mean when you’re saying qualified traffic in terms of optimization. Because that’s going to be a little bit different than what I think of qualified traffic coming from Google or Facebook.

Jon:
Yeah, for sure. And I think that that’s a good line to draw here because so many brands come to The Good and say, “Hey, we’re ready to optimize. We have more than enough traffic.” And on the surface, if you just look at total sessions or visitor accounts, then yeah, they have a lot of traffic, but if you really dive in, you start thinking, okay, is this qualified traffic for testing? So I really want to talk for a second about what qualified means. So thank you for that. I think that first thing to be looking at is unique sessions, not overall visitors, because you may have some visitors who come multiple times, you can’t really run multiple tests with the same people. So say you have a visitor who comes and then they come again, 10 minutes later, or the same day.
They’re doing that research. You don’t want to change the experience for them by running a test. And then they come back to the site and they see something different. So you need to focus on unique sessions and for Google Analytics, that session length is more, is what? 24, 48 hours I believe, they consider it a similar session. So keep that in mind first of all. Next, you really need to think about a few key areas. The first I would look at as locale or what’s the country of the visitor, because you really need to know, are they subject to GDPR or other regulations where either I saw an article this morning that Google’s now fighting that a European country came in and said, “Hey, Google analytics is in violation of GDPR.”
And Google’s like, “Well, if that’s the case, then we’re screwed completely. So let’s hold on here.” And so I think you have to understand is GDPR applying to your audience? If so, how many of those are opting in to the cookies? How many are not ignoring the cookie notification? They’re not declining it, they’re actually cooking except, now, I know nine out of 10 of those cookie things, they’re bogus. They people just put them up to be covered. They don’t actually change anything about what happens on the site. It’s a dirty secret, but it’s true.
So the reality though is if we’re going to be legit with this, we need to understand that they have to click accept in those categories. So if you’re European based, for instance, you need to know what’s the percentage of people that are opted into that. I think Australia has something similar, UK does. There’s a lot of these type of laws now that you really need to be paying attention to. And all you really need to know is have they accepted to be tracked? And if so, then you can count them into your traffic. But if only we’re working with a client right now where I think 20% of their traffic actually accepts. So that’s a huge chunk, where all of a sudden 80% of the traffic, you just have to throw out the window. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize for them. You certainly can, but it limits it to that visit, because you can’t track them across sessions then.

Ryan:
And I think as you’re talking about local country visitors too, it’s also important to note that even if you can track them, every website I look at in the U.S. based businesses, has random traffic from countries that are not going to be buying anything. Like you’ll see people from Indonesia or India and some of it’s probably bought traffic, but-

Jon:
Oh yeah.

Ryan:
… you can’t consider somebody in Nepal looking at your site that you can’t ship to as a valid visitor.

Jon:
That’s a really great point. And I think it’s also where are you capable of shipping to? So that should limit the list, because even if you’re a U.S. based company and you get people from the UK and you’re like, “Well, they could be an audience.” Yes. But can you export to them? Can you ship to them? Are you set up to fulfill those orders? So you have to think about that too. It could be somebody is like, “That’s who I want as a customer, but can you actually fulfill the order?” I’ve seen that before too. So the second thing to be thinking about when you’re qualifying traffic is what site content or page are they landing on? What kind of content are they looking at, it is the vast majority of your site blog content. If that’s the large number of visitors and it’s not uncommon.
The eCommerce sites, the most number of pages they have on their site is blog content. Because they have 200 blog content items up, but they may only have 20 products. So then you start looking at that and yeah, it drives traffic. But the quality of that traffic is usually pretty poor. It’s people who have a painter, a need what you want. But they get to your site and they convert at extremely low rate because they really just want to know how to solve their problem. And they read your blog post, which answered their question and they left. Why is that? Well, the chance for optimization here is not to do testing because really, that traffic’s not leaving the blog. And I’ll talk more about why that is in a second, but really the opportunity here is to optimize those blog pages to bake in more of your product content, and to surface up your products as the solution and be more literal with it.
I think a lot of brands are like, “Hey, I don’t want to market in my blog content it’s to drive traffic.” You really need to say at that point, here’s the problem and our product solves this problem. And here’s how it works. And maybe offer up if you really want to back off of the sales approach, maybe offer up where you have some other solutions that are options. I’m not necessarily saying competitors, but maybe there’s alternative ways to solve the problem, et cetera. So that’s something to think about. But I often tell people when they have large amounts of blog traffic, that is the very top of your funnel. A homepage is actually below the blog traffic in your funnel, because homepage will often convert higher than a blog. And people who go from blog to your homepage are going to convert at a normal rate. Those who stay on your blog pages, they’re certainly not going to convert very high. So…

Ryan:
So for the vast majority of e-comm brands, would it be safe to say, and I hate making broad statements but it helps give guidelines, that blog traffic could for most companies boil down to some very specific best practices. At least have some links to your products that are solving the problem, but are you really going to optimize your blog posts to really take your business to the next level?

Jon:
Yeah, probably not.

Ryan:
Probably not.

Jon:
But now. What are they great for awareness if done right. If you’re promoting your products throughout them, they’re great for getting out there and getting seen and getting found in terms of, it’s almost as good as being linked up in a publication of some sort third party. So it’s great for increasing your domain authority, all the SEO type of stuff that’s out there because that’s going to help all of your pages across your entire site race.

Ryan:
Oh yeah.

Jon:
And SEO value. So I’m not saying eliminate a block by any means. I want to be clear about that, but what I am saying is the traffic’s not going to be that great, and you need to be okay with that. You’re doing it for other reasons. Always traffic generation.

Ryan:
Yep. And look at remarketing different on those too, because their intent wasn’t often to purchase coming to your site. So the remarketing return is probably going to be lower than people that are on the category and product pages. So for extended levels of driving traffic, you might want to target them different and nurture them different, and have had different expectations.

Jon:
Yeah. And again I think this traffic could definitely be optimized, but we talked about some ways to do that, but I would leave it out of the calculation for what is considered qualified traffic for testing. The other thing to think about is bouncing traffic. So if you have visitors who are coming and staying only a minute or two minutes, and then they bounce, probably not going to be seen a whole lot of them be opted into tests and actually be able to interact with your site enough where you’re going to be able to get relevant data off of them and during testing. So I would not focus on this traffic because you need traffic who’s going to visit more than one page. Your whole goal, first of all is to push them further down the funnel, but with optimization. But beyond that, if you are going to be doing testing, you need to make sure that you’re actually have people who are going to visit more than one page.
So again, there’s some best practices that you could put here, but I would leave them out when you think about qualified traffic. I think it’s more indicative of challenges with your ads if people are bouncing right away, because that means there’s some expectation that was set in the ad copy, that’s not being met when they hit the landing page of your homepage. So that can generally be a bigger issue of, okay, maybe it’s some copy that needs to be redone on your homepage. I mean, Ryan, you tell me, but I would imagine the best strategy for sending traffic in an ad is not to send them directly to the homepage. Maybe that’s a whole another episode we should have. But…

Ryan:
Yeah, if you’re sending all your traffic to the homepage, call me, get a high bouncer of your ads, just call me. There’s some problems there that are probably going to be pretty obvious.

Jon:
There you go.

Ryan:
That’s your brand, general phrase match brand can go to your homepage.

Jon:
I see. Yeah. So if somebody searches for your brand name, you send them to the homepage box.

Ryan:
Exactly. As long as there’s no brand plus product that they’d need to go to a category. So there’s going to be some ad traffic there, but direct visits going to homepage is going to be pretty specific to organic brand searches going there and then people typing in the browser. But it does bring up an interesting point that I’m curious about, source medium tracking is a favorite of mine analytics to decide what traffic I like, what traffic I don’t like, what I want more of. Have you seen the broad stroke statement of the types of traffic from a source media perspective in analytics that most people would be like, “Oh, I can get that traffic.” That’s the best for CRO? If you’re going to get 50,000 visitors or so, or somewhere around that for a CRO, what do you like to see it coming from?

Jon:
I don’t care if it’s paid or direct. I think that’s fine. As long as you’re sending them to the right place, the higher the direct traffic, the better, that typically means there’s brand awareness and people have heard about you elsewhere, but that’s really, really a long shot. That’s a long play. People are spending on traffic because it’s a shortcut to getting people to your site, and it’s necessary. You have to advertise in that way. But the direct tells me if you have a higher percentage of direct tells me that people know of your brand, how many people are clicking on an ad for Nike versus typing in nike.com. But very, very few brands are Nike, so you have to think about that. It’s likely not your brand. So that’s something, I think also in terms of channels, I think we’re seeing that social is the landscape’s changing quite a bit, but I think that if you are sending people, we are seeing quite often a high conversion rate from people being sent from TikTok, et cetera, where it’s an influencer type of game.
Where it’s those type of ads are doing extremely well right now. And I think that’s because a lot of people are dumping money there versus Facebook, just because Facebook wasn’t getting them the row ads that they really wanted to see. But I think that part of that is just a changing landscape, changing ecosystem. But for me, I don’t as much care where this traffic’s coming from as much as I care where it’s being sent to, if that makes sense.

Ryan:
Yeah. So if it’s coming from TikTok and they’re looking at a specific product, you’re not sending to the homepage, you’re sending them to the product page or that product category in your site. Make sure that the expectation aligns with where it’s coming from to what they’re expected to see.

Jon:
Exactly.

Ryan:
And what the messaging was.

Jon:
Exactly.

Ryan:
As long as it’s aligned to traffic, I guess I’ll say that, but it’s not going to be, for example, a lot of email traffic I’m guessing.

Jon:
Well, I will say email traffic should already be your highest converting channel. Because there are people who have opted in, there are people who are interested in your brand, they have some familiarity with your brand or they wouldn’t be on the list at least. Hopefully I can understand, maybe somebody bought a new-

Ryan:
You might a spun a wheel.

Jon:
Well, I mean, okay, that’s fine. But what I’m saying is don’t buy a list and then start blasting that list. That would be a-

Ryan:
It’s a no, no.

Jon:
For me, that spin to win is already down here. Buying a list pretty far down below that. And I think everybody listening to this, if you’ve listened for… we’re on what episode 53 or something, you know my hatred for spin to win, which Ryan likes to squeeze in there every episode a little bit. But the reality is that email should be your highest converting channel already. And so I don’t focus on optimizing for that too much because right off the bat. But I do include it in qualified traffic because again, I don’t really care where they’re coming from. I care more about where you’re sending them to. So you’re going to catch those quick bounces, blog traffic. If you send in your email, you’re just sending out blog traffic emails. That’s already going to get weeded out by the other qualifiers that we’ve talked about.

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, the podcast focused on e-commerce growth, your host, Jon MacDonald, founder of The Good, a conversion rate optimization agency that works with e-commerce brands to help convert more of their visitors into buyers and Ryan Garrow of Logical Position, the digital marketing agency offering paper click management, search engine optimization, and website design services to brands of all sizes. If you find this podcast helpful, please help us out by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and sharing it with a friend or colleague. Thank you.

Ryan:
Okay. The question and I know you get a lot and I get a lot as well. So qualified traffic to the site, check how much of that are you going to need? I mean, most brands need 5,000, 50,000, 100,000. Where are we at?

Jon:
Yeah. Somewhere in the middle. And here’s why? Well, first of all, it depends what you mean by optimization. Now let’s start there. If you want to do testing true AB or multivariate testing. That’s what we’re looking at for qualified traffic. Now, can you optimize? Yes, you could do… what was that term that you call it something optimization…

Ryan:
Conversion…

Jon:
Improvement.

Ryan:
Improvement, yes.

Jon:
Conversion rate improvement versus conversion rate optimization. We’re going to trademark that for you. So if you want to do improvements, you can do that with any traffic level and you should, these are the best practices, the small things you can do. If you want to do true conversion rate optimization, where you’re doing testing and making some big swings on your site, in terms of what you’re testing, maybe doing split testing, even et cetera, you need to have enough traffic. What does that look like? Generally, absolute minimum of 50,000 qualified sessions per month on average.
So 50,000 is a great baseline of just saying, this is where the cutoff is. That’s for the good, that’s generally where if you want to get onto our conversion growth program, that’s the minimum we want to see. Other than that, I don’t feel like we can get you a good return on your investment because we just can’t. If we were to get your conversion rate up to two points, it probably isn’t going still recover our fees, or get you enough of a return on those fees to continue wanting to work with us by the time you consider margin and everything else. So unless you’re selling a $500,000 products at okay margin, and probably not going to really be worth it at that point.

Ryan:
Does CRO work quicker when you have half a million a month versus 50,000? Or is it just, you’re-

Jon:
If you’re time qualified? Yeah. The more traffic, the faster you can move.

Ryan:
Got it. And is it generally about the same amount of work on your end or is it get more expensive, more complicated with more people?

Jon:
It gets more complicated the bigger you are, because we’re going to do more tests. We were talking earlier. I was mentioning how Google Analytics is bumping up against GDPR in Europe. Why is that? Well, Google Analytics actually knows a lot about you, because Google Analytics is on almost every site and Google is cross verifying that, Hey, oh, that IP address, and that browser specifically that fingerprint of that browser was on this site. Now it’s on this site. It did these Google searches. If you don’t think Google’s putting all that stuff together, I got another thing coming for you because I think it’s really important to state that the big challenges I know we can go in to Google Optimize which is integrated with Analytics and we have 100s of ways that we can segment the audience and run a test for. So what do I mean by that?
We can say pretty high level. Where were they before this? Have they been to the site before? But we can also get into age groups. We can get into local, but we can get into household income is one of them. And now it doesn’t know this for every single visitor. Again, another reason why you want more traffic than less, but there are 100s of ways we can segment traffic to decide who sees what variations of what tests, and who gets opted into tests. And so it’s really important that the more traffic you have, the more ways we can slice and dice that traffic to be able to run more effective tests and try different variations.

Ryan:
Got it. So I can see a lot of worlds in which there’s fun tests at different levels of traffic and cool things you can do as you get larger and bigger. But as most businesses officially are not big enough to do CRO the vast majority. If we just take a numbers perspective. And so what do these small businesses need to be doing when they can’t do CRO, but they know they need to like, Hey, my site, I can just tell my gut tells me I’m not converting as well as I need to be. I see some data telling me that, how do you direct them on what we’re calling at this point? Conversing and improvement.

Jon:
Yeah. Well, first thing I say is take the budget that you think you would want to spend on improvement or optimization and call Ryan and give him your money, because you need to start driving qualified traffic. That’s the first thing, get your count up to where once you do some improvements or opt true optimization, you’re going to see some return on that investment. Otherwise, you’re just a band playing in an empty room, because it doesn’t matter how good your music is. If no one’s showing up to listen, you’re never going to get signed for a record deal. So you really got to think here about whether or not you have enough traffic, that’s qualified to even start. And if you don’t, then you need to drive some of that traffic by paying for it. Other than that, I would focus on optimizing specific landing pages.
So you have your ad sets that you are running in your campaigns, direct those to specific landing pages. The biggest mistake I see is something I brought up earlier is the smaller, the brand more likely they’re just sending their traffic to a homepage. They’re setting up Google on autopilot because they have not had the resources to hire somebody yet to run their ads, or maybe they’re working with a freelancer. And the ads setup they’re not great. Maybe they’re directing it to product detail pages or category pages or home pages, then that’s it. So then it becomes a bit of an issue. So and this is going back to the first point of why they should really connect with you or professionals, because then they’re going to get much more quality traffic.
In terms of the improvements, you could go and get a one time audit of your site. That’s not out of the question. It just won’t be based on as much of the quantitative data, it’s going to be much more of the qualitative data. It’s going to be much more. What I mean by that is, you are going to be able to rely more on heat maps, especially when you can do artificial intelligence, heat maps with are widely available now. You can do user testing. And if you’re small enough, this is where I often recommend to brands just starting out to just go to your local coffee shop and take a laptop and tell people you buy their coffee in exchange for them, browsing your site and telling you what they think while they’re doing it. So go get the book, The Mom Test and follow of that to the T it’s a great way to kind of get validation and understanding if your site is performing well.
And then after you’ve done those more type of qualitative things, you can then get into the quantitative as your traffic grows, such as AB testing, et cetera. But for what I would highly recommend is doing an initial audit or assessment of your site and doing that as a one off engagement, that is going to be at a lot less of an investment level than doing ongoing testing. And that will get you the improvements, the patented Garrow conversion rate improvements versus the optimization. And it will get help you avoid that chicken and egg scenario, because so many brands come in. It’s like, “Well, I’m driving traffic, but it’s not converting.”
Generally, that to me means you haven’t validated the product yet. You haven’t validated your website yet, you’re spending money to drive traffic, but you can’t get enough traffic to be able to test with. And/or you’re not converting even at a decent level. I had a brand that reached out not too long ago, that was like, “Hey we’ve spent $50,000 or plus trying to drive traffic this year, and we haven’t sold one thing.” I was like, “Well, you’re talking to the wrong person. To me, you have the wrong product that either that or people just aren’t interested in it.”

Ryan:
Or you’re running really crappy traffic.

Jon:
Sure. But regardless, I can’t help you optimize that. Those are problems that you need to have solved before you get into looking to improve your conversion rate.

Ryan:
Yeah. I have some pretty simple rules I abide by, as I’m looking at sites and brands that, if you’re doing less than a $million a year online, you’re probably not at a point where you need CRO yet. You’re still building your brand, figuring out your identity and who you are. If you’re not spending at least 10 grand a month in ads across Google, Facebook, you’re probably not ready for CRO yet. You’re still figuring out where your lifetime value’s going to come from. You’re still trying to figure out what terms are going to be good for SEO long term. There are so many companies that likely so listen to people like you, Jon, about CRO and get excited, but they’re trying to jump two years into the future to a product that like, you got to go through the grunt work process of building a brand, that’s not easy.
Most brands fail. So if you’re still going and you’re getting close to that million, you’re doing really, really well. 1000s of brands that are never going to get to a million bucks, it just happens. It’s the process of as a business owner, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t, and failing. I don’t know how many, my wife could probably tell you how many businesses I failed at, but I don’t remember because I have a short term memory when it comes to the failures, but there’s been a lot I’m sure-

Jon:
As you should. That’s why you keep having some successes, right? You get back up on the horse.

Ryan:
But yeah, it’s trusting the process of brand building and growing a brand to get to the point where you can use Jon’s team to really take your brain from one, two, three million to 10 20, 30 million. Or if you’re already a 100, you’re going to go to or 400 working with Jon. But it’s being patient in that process not just wanting to throw money to problem that maybe that’s the wrong problem you’re trying to solve.

Jon:
Yeah. Great points.

Ryan:
Jon. Any last words? I mean, I like hearing you talk traffic.

Jon:
Oh, well that’s good. I always try to help you out there, but last words makes it sound like I’m being off. So the reality, I don’t have anything else to add to this. Again, I think come to us when you have about 50,000 visitors, I can help you determine if it’s qualified traffic. If you’re already working with Logical Position Ryan and his team can help you determine what’s qualified. I would rather talk to people than not because there’s generally an option of a way that I can help them. It may not be working with us and that’s okay. But maybe it’s that referral to somebody to who can’t help and solve a problem they’re having, or maybe it’s just helping them understand that they need to stop spending 10s of 1000s of dollars driving traffic when they haven’t validated the product yet like the one person I spoke with. So I’m happy to help. I’d rather have the conversation than not right?

Ryan:
Oh yeah. Anytime I think it’s fun. I think helping business owners work through some of those issues, a lot of times, we’ll start on paid search and I’m talking like, well, you’ve got, I mean, have you thought about that? That’s a, why are you doing that? And I learned something new by asking a lot of questions on calls. And so I just enjoy it. But you do have a product that EAI heat map, eye tracking stuff that you’ve created for the good, that is phenomenal, and can help brands that don’t have the traffic, because you can create the traffic through AI and let them see some stuff. And so you’ve got that starter conversion audit.

Jon:
Yeah. We call it the conversion growth assessment. And we’re able to basically, because we have access to these enterprise level tool sets, because of we work with a lot of larger brands. So we have access to these tools that we use on all of our clients. We’re able to provide that down to the price point that most brands normally wouldn’t be able to get access to this data, but we’re able to provide it. So we have, what we’ve come up with is which is our conversion growth assessment. And it’s about $2,000, which is much more reasonable for brands who are doing under a million. As you mentioned, maybe don’t have 50,000 visitors. They validated their product usually at this point, but they’re looking to improve the consumer experience on their site and know, Hey, I’ve seen some success, but I have a hunch that could be better. And so that’s really the point at which spending a couple grand can really, really pay off.

Ryan:
For sure. And I think that’s what I was hoping your punchline was going to be because I think a lot of small brands need to be thinking about that, that you can’t drive traffic, figure things out, but in that mix, keeping that couple $1000 budget available, to say, okay, now it’s time to go to Jon. Let’s at least see what some of the simple conversion rate improvements we can make are, to get us to that next plate or to get us to the next one to the next one.

Jon:
Yep. Perfect. Well Ryan, thank you.

Ryan:
Thank you Jon.

Jon:
Great chat as always. And I know we always say, “Hey, if we can talk about this topic over 15 minutes will be good.” And then your comment was before we started recording, well, we always go at least 30, based on that, and here we are over 30 minutes.

Ryan:
We do.

Jon:
So…

Ryan:
Hopefully people are getting some value out of it, but I’ve enjoyed doing this and I enjoyed this 30 minute conversation. So, thank you.

Jon:
Keep doing, have a good one.

Ryan:
Cheers.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to Drive and Convert with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow. To keep up to date with new episodes, you can subscribe at driveandconvert.com

James Sowers

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the Director of Marketing at The Good. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.