Here's a recent issue that came up in a private Facebook community of agency owners:
We recently lost a client (more accurately, they were 6 months behind in payment, so I took their site down - they subsequently hired a big box firm to rebuild their site and relaunched.) Stupidly, their big box provider didn't remove us from analytics access and I've been cruising results:
We've seen a 44% decline in their traffic since relaunch (see image below.) BUT.... their reported SEO traffic has jumped significantly. Some digging shows that this was, what we believe, a reallocation of "Direct" to "SEO". Some traffic previously showing up as direct was clearly not direct - i.e. no one would directly load specific pages on car accidents. We've seen this pattern with other clients - i.e. believing SEO traffic is incorrectly being allocated as direct. Our new hypothesis is that taking down the site and then having a new agency relaunch it - reset the GA code somehow and therefore its now accurately recognizing traffic and we are considering removing GA from all our sites for 24 hours and then reinstalling.
Any better suggestions/explanation? Anyone seen anything like this before? Here's the before/after GA report. (adding the screenshot that shows an increase in SEO traffic....)
There are a variety of possible explanations for this. My guess is intentional referral spam (call me cynical). Put plainly, some SEO shops will "fake traffic data" to make it look like they're doing a better job than they actually are. While there are ways to combat this tactic, at the end of the day, this is why you can't measure performance solely by traffic. Instead, you have measure inquiries, and ultimately, fees to their sources.
Inquiries from potential clients and fees simply can't be faked (well, I suppose they could be, but they're much easier to sniff-out).
If you suspect that your legal marketing agency is pulling this crap, don't hesitate to reach out, we'd be happy to take a look.
It is critically important to define the web marketing metrics that matter to your firm at the beginning of any engagement with a vendor or consultant. The easiest way to tell if someone is "legit" is to get them talking about how they will measure the success of their activities. If they're reluctant to have this conversation, move on. If they define success solely in quantitative terms (i.e. number of posts, links, likes, etc), move on.
If they're talking business metrics, including:
- Fees by source
- Clients by source
- Return on ad spend
They're moving in the right direction.
Ultimately, they should be asking a lot of questions about who your target client is and how your practice "works" (i.e. how you do intake, follow-up, etc).
If you're solely receiving ranking reports, top-level traffic reports, or twitter follower counts, it's time to reevaluate your relationship with the people marketing your practice.