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How many worthwhile visitors is Google really sending you?

Everyone knows how important it is to appear strongly in the Google results. Very few people do as well as they’d like, of course, which is why “buying” prominent positions on Google, through Google AdWords, is now the dominant advertising medium for most small and medium sized businesses. But let’s look at how many of the visitors from the normal search results are actual sales prospects. You might be surprised and possibly a little disappointed with the answer.

If you just turn to Google Analytics and look under “traffic sources”, you’ll see that search engines probably send you a lot of visitors. And if you leave it at that (as many people do), you might be content with your situation, perhaps even rather impressed. But we’re going to turn on a couple of filters now which might reveal most of that traffic to be not what you might have hoped.

The first is to ignore people who were just searching for your company. While these might be important existing customers, we’re not interested in them here, because we’re looking at the new prospects which the search engines are bringing. So go to “Traffic Sources”, click on “Search” and “Organic”, and you’ll see all search engine traffic broken down by the search term which people typed in before clicking on your result. I’ll bet that the first result is your company name. And the second, third, and most of the top ten will probably be variations too. We don’t want those. So use the “advanced filter” and exclude keywords which contain your company name. You can add other exclusions too, such as brand names.

This will leave you with a list of general search terms, such as “Widgets”. This is the real “potential new customer” traffic which the search engines are sending. And the numbers will be a lot less than we saw previously.

That’s not all though. Remember last week I talked about segmenting out the people who didn’t previously know you, who were in the right part of the world, and who actually read what you had to say? We need to do that too. So now it’s time to call up your “advanced segment” of the genuine quality traffic. And the result? Take a deep breath, because you might find that the number of potential new customers which the search engines have sent you is about 5% of the total search engine traffic. Or less.

Doing well in the search engine results will get you a steady stream of prospective customers. But the vast bulk of the visitors which the search engines send you will be people who already know you, or people who see your website and immediately decide they don’t want to know you*. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a thousand visitors from Google means a thousand prospects. You’ll be lucky if it means a dozen.

*It should be stressed that with Google AdWords, the proportion of genuine sales prospects will be much, much higher than with the normal search results. That’s because your ads will only be running in the right part of the world in the first place, against searches where you want them to appear.

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