When you’re evaluating how business is going in a given month, you’re probably comparing revenue and traffic to the previous year.
Of course, there are probably periods in your data (such as 2020-2022) during which your revenue hasn’t followed typical seasonal trends. In cases like this, simple year-over-year comparisons—without context—can be misleading.
For example, this client saw a 404% year-over-year revenue increase in May 2022. However, that improvement is more about a slow May 2021 than a strong May 2022.
That’s why we create charts like the one above, to show multiple years of data. Despite a huge year-over-year increase, this business’s revenue is down 13% vs. 2019.
This data leaves a lingering question: Is this good? The answer depends—in part—on how much the customer demand has shifted.
The charts below are samples, with the black line representing theoretical customer demand.
|If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is outperforming the market.||If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is underperforming.|
Another way to look at this: If your website’s search traffic is down vs. May 2021, is that because:
- People are just searching less for your region or activity?
- You’re getting beaten by the competition?
One way to find this “missing” benchmark data is to look at the free Keyword Planner in Google Ads.
Select a keyword that is representative of consumer demand in your region. In this example, we’re selecting Bryce Canyon National Park, which has seen a 173% year-over-year increase in demand. In this context, the client’s 231% increase in organic search traffic, and 403% increase in revenue, suggest strong performance against the market.
Some important notes as you look at this data for your own company:
Your search term is crucial
The value of this data as a measure of customer demand depends on how good of a proxy the search term is for your own tour, activity, or attraction. It’s best to pick multiple search terms rather than a single one. And some businesses will have better “proxies” available than others.
DMO data is even better
Getting actual visitor count data from the local DMO, parks service, etc. provides an even better benchmark when such data is available. Watch your own guest count relative to DMO data to track your market share over time.
Look out for non-travel-intent searches
Be careful about the impact of the news on search demand. For example, Yellowstone National Park was in the news in June 2022 due to flood-related closures, which will drive up search traffic even though much of that traffic does not represent current interest in travel. Another example: when we were benchmarking search data for the phrase “escape room,” we found huge spikes in 2019 and 2021 due to the release of movies by that name.
Check your own data quality
It’s common for us to find data quality issues when we onboard new clients. For example, one client was sending very little data to Google Analytics in May 2021 due to a configuration problem, so their own year-over-year May 2022 data needed to be ignored even though it looked great. This is why we perform a measurement audit for all new clients.
What about Google Trends data?
We’ve seen mixed results when correlating the Keyword Planner data to our Google Search Trends report. Sometimes the data is very close; sometimes it’s not. We still use it as a quick way to get directional information (is demand up or down?), but data from the Keyword Planner tool might be more precise.