Businesses Suffer Huge Web Traffic Drop - How Does Yours Compare?

Posted in Digital Marketing by Jon Payne

The majority of UK SMEs have seen a catastrophic drop off in website traffic since the UK's COVID-19 Lockdown (23rd March 2020).

77% Of Websites Report Huge Losses In Traffic

 

  LOSERS WINNERS
  % of websites with decreases in traffic % of websites with increases in traffic
Total across all sectors 77% 22%

websites with traffic change since lockdown

The significant majority of the sample has had a reduction in website sessions in the first 8 weeks of lockdown. Look a little closer and it's clear that the size of the loss or gain is not evenly distributed. You can see from the graph below that there is a long tail in how much traffic has reduced.  

77 percent of uk sme report web traffic drop since lockdown

To add a level of detail on this:

  LOSERS WINNERS
  % drop in traffic % increase in traffic
Average (mean) across all sectors 40% 64%

In other words, business websites that have seen an increase in traffic have won on average bigger than the companies that have lost traffic - so there are some real winners and real losers. 

Of those reporting growth in lockdown - up 64 percent on average

It's reasonable to assume that those winners will see an increase in revenue, matching their growth. The bad news for you, if your website is one of the majority that falls into the losing category, is that your traffic drop off will be at least matched in a similar drop off in revenue. Unless business owners do something to mitigate that drop off at the top of the marketing funnel (more on that later), there's going to be some serious repercussions. 

B2B versus B2C

Our theory was that B2C websites would definitely be doing better than B2B websites in lockdown.  After all, retail therapy is what you need in the middle of a global pandemic, right?  Wrong.

 

 

LOSERS

WINNERS

 

% of websites with decreases in traffic

% of websites with increases in traffic

B2B

67%

33%

B2C (including retail)

78%

22%

 

Nearly 80% of the B2C websites we sampled had a drop in traffic. This is total sessions, so it doesn’t take into account reductions in Google Ads or other spend on paid sources.  In some sectors businesses cut their ad spend entirely as they were unable to sell or distribute their products. In others ads costs increased due to spikes in demand for certain search phrases, also leading to a drop in traffic, unless the budget was increased.  https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2020/03/18/covid-19-google-ads-data

Also, as you will remember, with all non essential shops closed it still took a while for distribution centres to bring in social distancing, so surfing the web was kind of pointless as they couldn’t deliver.  More than that, online shopping  isn’t so alluring when you're on furlough and wondering if you’ll have a job in 6 months . . .  No wonder consumer confidence is down as well as website traffic.

Surprisingly B2B hasn’t been as decimated as you might expect - a third of our B2B sites had increased traffic.  

But some big B2C winners 

Looking at the % increase or decrease in traffic of sites:

 

LOSERS

WINNERS

 

% drop in traffic

% increase in traffic

B2B

35%

51%

B2C (including retail)

41%

79%

 

So for the 78% of B2C websites that had a reduction in traffic, the average was down by 41%.  Pretty miserable.  However, for the 22% of B2C websites that had an increase in traffic, the average was UP by 79%.  In other words, the winners won BIG.

Looking at the individual examples of those B2C sites it was clear that they fulfilled a particular need during lockdown and had the right infrastructure in place to keep their services going.  For example, ecommerce sites that didn’t have to halt delivery, or sites selling products related to DIY, gardens or stay-at-home projects.

New call-to-action

A similar situation is true of B2B sites.  Those that have increased their traffic did so by an average of 50%. Not at all bad, but this varies between sectors:

Sectors have fared very differently

 

LOSERS

WINNERS

 

% of websites with decreases in traffic

% of websites with increases in traffic

Automotive

94%

6%

Leisure & Hospitality

89%

11%

Legal

85%

15%

3rd Sector

80%

20%

Recruitment*

78%

22%

Construction

75%

25%

Ecommerce

67%

33%

Technology

50%

50%

For the losers, how much traffic have they lost?

For those websites that lost traffic, the graph below shows how big the average loss was by industry sector.

lockdown web traffic loss by sector

Mostly you’d probably predict these sector results, taking into account the drop in consumer confidence plus the shut down in normal life.  Leisure and hospitality has been hugely disrupted, a 89% drop in web sessions is the least of their problems.  Equally who is looking for a new car when your existing car is sat on the street not able to go anywhere?

There are a few stand out stories though.  The recruitment industry must have been a brutal place to be in early lockdown as the shutters came down on ‘normal’ working practices.  Unless, that is, you were a recruiter for the health and social care sector - recruiters for nurses, care workers and ambulance drivers did still see reductions in traffic but by no means at the same level  The average reduction in traffic across the recruitment sector was 78%, but for companies with a health component, it reduced an average of 50%.

For the winners, how much traffic have they gained by sector?

lockdown web traffic gains by sector

When we looked through the legal sector winners, it became clear that a few companies had done exceptionally well with a number of legal firms’ web traffic up by over 80%.  Without exception all of these sites provided free Covid-19 resources.  Whether those sessions were being driven by organic traffic to relevant content, from well targeted newsletters, social shares or indeed from a small number of people repeatedly searching for legal advice, we don’t know, but we do know that whatever the strategy it worked.

Being generous with their legal expertise in a time of crisis was good for website traffic - we can only assume that this strong brand association at a time of crisis will be good for their long term business too.

Many of the winners in the construction sector were trade suppliers, able to run "click and collect" from their website - with or without ecommerce enabled. There were also a few outstanding performers who already provided construction services based around replacing and servicing air cleaners and other products which proved in high demand in the early weeks of lockdown.  

Is your business a lockdown loser?

The new normal most likely will be lower traffic to websites for at least a while and that businesses will need to compete harder for customers.  If you use the legal sector as an example, then valuable, free resources will be one of the drivers of web traffic and providing content will be an important part of brand building.

However, with lower traffic the key to growth will be converting a higher percentage of those visitors into customers.  And then hanging on to those customers so that they become evangelists for your brand, products and/or services.

This process is something increasingly known as Inbound - attract website visitors with great “high level” content, convert them into leads with contextually relevant engaging content, and then using marketing, sales and service automation, delighting them as customers. It’s the sort of thing we’ve been helping people like you do for years -  need a hand?  Why not start with our excellent webinar series Business as Unusual?  Each week I talk to an expert about exactly how to pivot your digital marketing so you can survive and thrive in the new normal.

Actions you can take

Put your customer data to work - we can help you do that with HubSpot - new users check out this exclusive HubSpot offer and if you're already a HubSpot user, check out this testimonial about how we helped a business just like yours.

Do more with less - think about a Conversion Rate Optimisation project. Check out these CRO talks - pre lockdown CRO and post lockdown CRO.

Check out these resources for Digital Marketing with no budget.

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About our sample data

This survey is based on 210 Google Analytics accounts of UK based SMEs.  We’ve looked at website sessions for the first 8 weeks of lockdown (23rd March to 17th May 2020) and compared it to website sessions in the previous 8 weeks.

Things to note:

  • This is session data, not the number of unique visitors to each website
  • It's total sessions and does not differentiate between organic, paid or referral sources
  • Wherever possible we’ve used raw GA data, without filters 
  • It takes no account of ‘normal’ seasonal variations
  • I'd LOVE a bigger sample of data for my next report - hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn and I can include your site (without any identifying data, obviously)

With thanks for the kind assistance of Somerset Design, Bison Grid, T&S Communications and James Bailey.

Jon Payne
Jon Payne

Founder and Technical Director of Noisy Little Monkey, Jon blogs about SEO and digital marketing strategy.

Meet Jon Payne

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