Entering the Death Spiral

I am looking for a house in the Seattle area…

Actually, that’s a lie.
“Looking” would imply that I’m actively doing something and the truth is that I am hoping that the perfect house will just fall from the sky. (No Wicked Witch analogies please. I said Washington, not Kansas.)
A couple weeks ago, I was coming back from a meeting in Bellevue, right outside Seattle. The traffic was horrendous, as it usually is in that area, and the wireless signals were wacky. In an attempt to prevent myself from going into violent convulsions (a symptom of early onset cell and BlackBerry detox), I was arguing with my always-one-step-past-Road-Rage driver, Charles, about the shortest route back to my hotel.
To say I am directionally challenged would be the understatement of the century. I get lost in a paper bag and when I drive myself, the GPS Chiquita constantly barks at me to make “a legal U-Turn when available.” Needless to say, the thought of me giving driving advice to anyone is beyond laughable.
Charles, in his best efforts to distract me, was pointing out various landmarks in the area (In other words, he was reading the signs out loud, s-l-o-w-l-y, as if I needed help with the big words – hospital, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and so on.)
Out of the blue, something caught my eye. Since I could have walked faster than we were driving, I rolled down the window and took a closer look.
Beyond the obviously-newly-planted trees, there was a gorgeous housing complex right on the lake.
I am not much of an apartment-condo-townhouse type person, as I don’t particularly like neighbors or being, well, neighborly. (I am sure that comes as a surprise…) However, these townhomes were picture-perfect right down to their impeccable landscapes and breathtaking lakefront views.
“Pull in there, please.” I said as I pounced out the door, darted like Frogger across the traffic and through the freshly-painted walkways to the property manager’s door.
I burst into the room having mentally already-purchased and moved into one of these fine luxury homes. There was nobody at the reception desk, but I could hear someone speaking in the office behind it so I barged right in and demanded a tour. (Ok, so that is a slight exaggeration, but I am sure that’s the way “Richard”, the manager, would have told the story.)
“Richard” (not Dick, Rick or Rich) reminded me of the hotelier from Pretty Woman. Except he wasn’t very nice. Officious and professional? Yes. Pleasant? Not exactly.
He humored me with a tour of the grounds and the “last four bedrooms available.” I distinctly remember being amused at that piece of information. I mean really, the place was dead and there were only a handful of cars dotting the lot. They surely had more than ONE available.
Richard had obviously been an FBI interrogator in a past life. He went on and on with his questions about my marital status; payment/financing; exactly who’d be living there; and oddly enough, queries about my family, especially my grandfather. He had a seemingly bizarre fascination with my only living grandparent.
As we walked around, I fell in the love with the place. The lake. The trees. The quaint cobblestone walkways dotted liberally with hand-crafted teak benches. The never-touched fitness center. The on-site luxury spa.
As I was decorating my new place in my mind, Snooty-Snooty Richard stopped in his tracks and oh-so-rudely interrupted my thoughts.
“What are your intentions?” he demanded.
“Intentions?” I asked quizzically, convinced that he had tapped into my brain while I was planning my faux murals and knowing for 200% sure that he’d like the walls to remain snowy white.
“Ma’am, this is not a place to find yourself a Sugar Daddy so if that is your dream…”
Before I had time to choke on my own spit (or smack Sir Rude-a-Lot in the face), he continued sternly…
“This is a respectable community and we do not cater to those of your ilk.”
Good Lord.
I honestly had no idea. (And, I mean NO idea whatsoever.)
I had overlooked every clue – from the ten handicapped spaces per parking area (instead of the usual one or two) to the UNBELIEVABLY huge sign on the gates…
You know, the one that said something to the effect of “SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY.”
I was so caught up in what I was doing and how beautiful my surroundings were that I completely missed all the warning signs that told me that I was in the wrong place – doing the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong person. (Yes, I know: STORY OF MY LIFE.)
Richard took one look at me and chuckled.
My shock was genuine and obviously all over my face.
“You didn’t know?” He softened.
I mumbled something about Charles being right. I did need help with big words like hardware store and supermarket, as I obviously couldn’t read them on my own.
I was earnestly trying to buy a house in a community I would not technically be qualified to live in for over twenty years.
And, the truth is that I should have known better.
I see it at least once a week (although lately it’s been happening a lot more frequently.)
Companies come to us for help with stories of sales being down twenty or thirty percent – sometimes even more. They tell us things like “we redesigned our site about nine months ago and it’s been downhill ever since then.”
Downhill meaning triple black diamond – not a bunny slope.
Most of the time, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when their conversion started to tank. They just didn’t happen to notice it.
If folks were looking at their analytics on a regular basis, instead of trying to persuade their kindergarten class of 1968 to become “friends”, most of them would have known they were entering the Death Spiral.
Yes…. The DEATH SPIRAL. The never-ending plunge to darkness.
They get so caught up in working IN their business that they forget to work ON their business. They stop looking at the forest and only see the individual trees. They miss the signs – the ones that are staring them RIGHT IN THE FACE – the indicators that alert them to what’s right and what’s wrong with their business – and more important, how to fix it.
One of the very best things about the Internet – and web marketing in general – is that you always know where you stand, you just need to look.
Don’t know where to start? I’ve given you a list of my favorite (and most meaningful) stats below. Remember, when it comes to web analytics, or say choosing the perfect place to live, you don’t need to look at everything, only the things that make the difference.
Take it from a girl who knows.

6 Stats You Simply Must Look At:

1. Bounce Rate, Entrance and Exit Pages.
How many people as a percentage are coming into your site and then leaving immediately or within the first 10 seconds? What pages are they coming in on and what pages are they leaving from? This is, by far, some of the most boring data you can look at, but it’s also perhaps the most helpful.
It’s important to note that your bounce rate number should be in line with how much direct/no referrer traffic you are getting. A lot of folks tell me, “Oh, my consultant said it’s ok that we have a forty percent bounce rate because that’s the average.” First of all, acceptable bounce rates are less than 5%. Second, if you are sending a lot of direct/no referrer traffic to your site, it’s typically qualified traffic. Therefore, to have almost half of it EOE (exit on entrance) is beyond unacceptable. That’s why you need to figure out what your bounce rate is and then dig into why they might be leaving that particular page so quickly.
2. New Traffic and Repeat Visitors (as a percentage)
How much new traffic are you getting and where is it coming from? How many of your users are repeating (in other words, coming back to your site again?) Online businesses are typically built on repeat visitors. If you don’t have a 40% repeat visitor rate, it’s often an indication that there’s something wrong in River City.
With that said, you also need to make sure that your new traffic as a percentage is enough to get those repeat visitors, so if you have all repeats and no new traffic, it probably means your pipeline will fail in the not-so-distant future. Every site has an optimal activity traffic balance level and you need to figure out what yours is.
3. Abandoned Carts.
How many of your folks are coming to your site, starting a cart and then leaving without completing the sale? If you’re not an ecommerce site, then look at abandoned leads, quotes, or sign-ups — whichever is most important to you.
The key to this metric is to figure out how many abandoned carts you have, as well as identify exactly which step they are leaving on. For example, if a high percentage of your abandons come from your payment page, you may be offering too many or too few payment options. Or, it’s possible that you forgot to adequately address security and privacy issues which are paramount on that page.
4. Conversion
Look at each activity on your site and determine the corresponding conversion level. How many people are signing up for your newsletter or Webinar? Requesting a quote? Ordering from your site? Do you have multiple add-to-cart/buy now buttons on every view? Are you asking for the order often and aggressively? Do you have phone numbers on every page for the quarter of the folks who don’t and won’t place their order on the Web?
How many people are finding something they want to buy and then adding it to their cart? Abandoned carts are easy to fix but getting people to start their carts takes a bit more work. This is a big issue for many companies and one of the best indications that they’ll soon be entering into the Death Spiral.
5. DTS (Days To Sale)
How long does it take to get a sale from the first site visit? (Again, if you don’t have an ecommerce site, measure whatever matters to you – how many days does it take to get a quote, for example.) This is a killer statistic because it’s one of the things that will make the BIGGEST difference when you develop an e-mail campaign. If you know what the number of days to sale is, you can often shorten it by e-mailing more over a shorter period of time. Many of our clients have seen huge differences in their businesses by using trigger e-mails for this purpose.
6. AAUS (Active Average User Session)
How long does the average user remain ACTIVELY involved on your site? – meaning each click happens in less than 40 seconds. Since over 80% of transactions occur in 10 minutes or more, this is an excellent benchmark for you to know. My general rule-of-thumb is, “the more they stay, the more they pay”, so this is a metric I pay a lot of attention to.
I look at a site’s AAUS and user drills (actions) to figure out if they are staying long enough to accomplish a particular goal. For example, if you want someone to request a quote and they are only spending 1.2 minutes on your site, it’s not likely to happen – that is, unless your site is ONLY a lead form!

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