Growing Online Traffic: How long will this take?

Jed Morey

Jed Morey
Published September 06, 2017


As Inbound marketers, it’s essential to set expectations at the beginning of a relationship, because our methodology differs from that of other marketing agencies. The Inbound process is extremely deliberate, and our shop painstakingly follows the best Inbound practices. When we enter a retainer relationship with a new client, we set the tone by explaining what we do  A) WORKS and B) TAKES TIME. The obvious questions then are: “How does it work?” and “How long does it take?”

I have a quick answer to the first question, and then several resources if you’re interested in learning more. The simplest way to define Inbound Marketing is to explain how the relationship between buyers and sellers has completely changed over the last decade or so.

There was a time, not long ago, when sellers possessed the power in the relationship. Pricing was difficult to measure, reviews were often hidden or hard to find, and the loudest voice in the room (the biggest ad budget) usually got the most attention. This is clearly no longer the case.

Consumers have been empowered in a way never before seen in history. They have access to customer reviews, the ability to shop prices in an instant, and they trust their own search instincts over marketing messages. Inbound marketing takes this power shift into account, and puts some of the power back into the hands of sellers, by generating a substantial amount of quality content that answers consumers' search queries and provides easy access to information that is important to the buyer’s decision.

For a more detailed analysis of Inbound and to further understand the process, we have a podcast called 'Inbound & Down' that guides curious business owners and prospects through the entire Inbound journey.

So, how long does it take to be successful with Inbound marketing? I’ve put together a brief snapshot of the Morey Publishing portfolio's organic traffic trend. Generating growth in organic traffic is the cornerstone of Inbound Marketing, so it’s the metric we examine most closely. However, it’s important to note that it’s not the only tool in our toolbox. Organic traffic is the best measure of success, because it directly correlates to our content generation efforts. While other channels, such as pay-per-click and social media, are effective in certain instances, we see them as complementary efforts. Take a look at the chart below, which examines the trend line of seven of our longest-standing clients. (I’ll explain in more detail below.)

Average Organic Traffic Growth of Morey Publishing Clients

Average Organic Traffic Growth of Morey Publishing Clients

Behind The Numbers

The above chart demonstrates the average trend line of organic growth for the first 21 months in a client relationship. You can see that the first several months are fairly flat, with traffic beginning to heat up between months six and nine.

Once we enter the second full year of a relationship, things get interesting. The growth month-over-month is more consistent as the content takes root in the search engines. (The reason I dropped off after month 21 is because the numbers actually skew a little too much in our favor. We had a client experience hyper growth in year three, and fewer than six clients after month 21, so the efficacy of the sample begins to deteriorate slightly.)

There are a few other factors at play when you look at the above chart.
  • Seasonality – Two of the clients in the sample set above have extremely defined seasons, which actually amplifies the case for Inbound, because the growth line is stable.
  • Industry Competitiveness – Certain industries are extremely competitive, with literally thousands of businesses vying for the same keywords and results. Others have very little competition in the digital space, either because their industry is slow to adopt a digital strategy or the company is highly specialized. The former situation typically means our efforts will be slow and plodding for the first year. Conversely, the latter allows us to make serious headway early in the process.
  • Holidays and Short Months – Because the months above aren’t absolute (meaning they don’t follow the calendar, rather they adhere to the onboarding date of the client), the average trend isn’t affected much. But it’s important to understand that there are certain months that are killers. February tends to look worse than it is because it has fewer days, but the average daily traffic is consistent. December is tough for almost everyone outside of retail.
  • Weekends v. Weekdays – I always point this out, because we had an anomaly this year where it seemed organic traffic fell for nearly all of our clients in a month-over-month comparison. It turned out to be a pretty innocuous factor. The second month had fewer total days, but more weekend days than the one prior. This actually took us a couple of days (and a handful of Xanax) to figure out, because we were overthinking it.

What is the difference between Inbound agencies and other agencies?

When business owners approach me about digital marketing, very few have ever heard of Inbound. That’s because it’s relatively new in the advertising and marketing world despite being around for a decade. The company that coined the term “Inbound” is HubSpot, the leading marketing automation and sales platform in the world.

(You can read more about HubSpot in this blog post.)

Morey Publishing is a “partner agency” of HubSpot, which means we have attained a level of expertise and certification in using its platform. Our experience with HubSpot and the results we have seen from utilizing it have been so incredible, that in 2017, we made the decision to develop exclusively on this platform.

Essentially, we lead with Inbound, but still incorporate many of the traditional work you might associate with advertising agencies. We place digital advertising campaigns, coordinate online video production, develop websites, create printed collateral marketing materials, and advise on branding strategies. The main difference with Morey Publishing is we perform most of these named services in support of our Inbound Content Marketing efforts. In the end, our job is to get our clients found online and generate more leads and customers for them.

More traditional agencies are heavier in the branding and advertising arena. Companies seeking to rebrand, do in-store placements, create slogans, and buy broadcast media such as television and radio, are more likely to wind up with a traditional agency. We can do these things, but don’t do them nearly as well. Likewise, some of the traditional firms are now dabbling in content marketing, but the same holds true. Thus, it’s important to determine your goals as a company before you retain an agency. It’s not uncommon for us to turn away business because the goals are misaligned with our specialty.

That leads to one last question…

Will Inbound work for my business?

As I mentioned above, if you’re seeking to buy broadcast media, rebrand your company and come up with new marketing slogans, then you’re probably not in the market for Inbound. If you have an established company with a defined structure and sales process and are looking to grow your sales through digital channels, then you might very well be a candidate for Inbound.

Here is a quick checklist I run through when interviewing prospects to see if they’re a good fit for us:

  • Will it work for your industry? Morey Publishing represents a wide array of clients from a mortgage bank and national online retailer to a credit card processing firm and hyperbaric oxygen therapy provider. Random, right? Not really. Each of our clients is in an industry that fits the Inbound model. Customers might rely on online research (hyperbaric therapy), product and price comparisons (national retailer), or transactional need (mortgages and credit card processing). Recently, we were approached by a defense contractor that wasn’t a good fit because they relied solely on government contracts. So even though we could have helped redesign their website and improve their branding and collateral, we knew we wouldn’t make an appreciable difference in their top-line revenue or bottom-line profit. 
  • Is there a good fit between our organizations? There are a few factors at play here. The first is culture. One of the things our clients say universally about us is that we’re highly responsive. We thrive on measurable goals and a high volume of tasks. In short, we like to be busy. This requires ongoing communication between our team and our clients. This begins by understanding our clients’ goals and organizational structure. What we ask in return is transparency, communication, and to “buy in” to our methodology. Because if the industry is right and our goals are aligned, Inbound works and it works every time. 
  • Is there someone in your company who is responsible for communicating with our team? There is a direct corollary to the question above. While we typically wind up communicating with all levels of our clients’ organizations, from C-Suite to sales rep, it’s important to have a point of contact on the client side that sees all and can help us navigate issues when they arise. 
  • Does your company have a short-term or long-term vision for success? This might be the most important factor of all. Yes, Inbound works. But–and this is a big “but”–it does take time. The greatest thing about organic lead conversion, however, is that it is the most authentic and effective source of growth. Customers that find our clients through Inbound channels convert at a much higher rate than any other channel. Moreover, they tend to be more loyal and far less expensive to acquire, so there are real benefits to a properly executed Inbound strategy. That’s not to say we cannot generate immediate results, as there are certainly several avenues by which to achieve short-term revenue. But as I mentioned, these avenues tend to be expensive and less effective when compared to organic results that grow steadily over time.

The Bottom Line: If you’re in an industry that lends itself to Inbound marketing, you have a long-term vision for growth and are surrounded by good people who buy into the process, then an Inbound agency like Morey Publishing is probably a good fit.

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