Almost every phrase has seasonal swings in search volume. You can’t expect to receive as much traffic to your outdoor furniture website during the winter months as you do during the summer. It’s easy for an off-season ranking drop to go relatively unnoticed because volume is down anyway. How can you can you get a more clear picture of your site’s reach during off months when search volume is drastically different? One very good way is to keep track of your rankings in major search engines. That’s what I would call “finger on the pulse.” However, you may have had slight changes in ranking which had big impacts that you just haven’t quite realized yet. You need to dig a bit and do some math so you can compare apples to apples.
To correct for seasonal differences in traffic you first need to be familiar with Google Trends. It’s a great tool that tells you about seasonal changes in search volume (among other things.) Plug in some phrases that represent your site’s focus and look where search volume hit 100%. Compare that with current search volume. Let’s say your most relevant phrase hit 100% volume on August 5th. It’s now February 13th and Google Trends reports that your phrase is currently running at 56%. That’s a 44% difference in total volume available. Now get into analytics and compare the number visits that arrived via Google organic on both high and low days to see if the difference is proportional to the seasonal swing in volume. If not, you should probably go a step further to normalize the data and get a better understanding of your site’s current reach.
To normalize the data you need to see what February 13th’s organic traffic would have been if search volume was at 100%. Let’s say on 100% Day (August 5th) you received 10,486 visits, and on February 13th you received 6,280 visits. Google Trends already told you that February 13th’s total search volume was 44% less than it was on August 5th, so normalizing is pretty easy. The formula is [current traffic] / [percentage difference as a decimal]. In this case it is 6,280 / 0.44 which equals 14,272. The math shows that your site’s reach is 36% greater than it was during 100% volume of last year. If you didn’t do this math, your increase in reach could go completely unnoticed and you’d leave a huge opportunity on the table.
Pro-tip: If you really want to dig deep you can compare multiple years to see how much your reach has changed year over year over year. That gives you a much better picture.
There are many other factors involved so this exercise does not predict the future with any certainty. It’s fairly good and if you act on it you have a much higher chance to shine than you would without this info.