Better traffic (and risk) diversification
Drawing visitors from several traffic sources helps diversify the risk associated with any one channel. With channel independence, any one of your channels could slow down without crippling the entire business.
In previous years, there have been shakeups and changes in nearly every major platform that organizations have come to rely on for traffic. This includes changes to Google’s ranking algorithms in Google search, updates to terms and policies in AdWords, reduction in organic reach for businesses on Facebook, and many others. Add in legal and compliance changes, particularly those associated with GDPR, and you have a lot of upheaval in the various channels that websites rely on for traffic and customers. Digital marketers cannot predict the future, though we can and do speculate and attempt to future-proof our strategies. We always need to have a backup plan, because this year’s golden goose traffic source can easily become next year’s lead pigeon.
Channel independence greatly reduces the risks associated with unexpected shifts in the landscape for any one channel or platform. No matter great the short-term numbers look, it’s simply not prudent to have more than 80% of a website’s traffic tied up in any one channel. Speak to any website owner who was hit with a Panda or Penguin penalty in Google or that had their Facebook reach reduced by anywhere from 40% to 50% (or more!) and you’ll get a painfully learned lesson: no one ever expects the bubble to burst, but when it does, the results can be devastating.
Reveal new multi-channel journeys and touch points
Channel independence also helps broaden our understanding of the complexities of user journeys and all the various touch points that our potential customers may have with our brand before they finally convert. Very few online conversions are secured from brief, single-channel journeys anymore. Multi-channel journeys and multi-channel attribution models are now commonplace and critical for sustainable long term success. To study those journeys, multiple channels must be actively used to reach customers and each channel should be tracked and measured to better understand the buyer journey.
Although many channels are independent of each other, that does not mean they are not interrelated at various times. By fostering channel independence for a website, and encouraging engagement on a variety of platforms, analysts can identify unexpected and new user journeys that they may not have been able to predict before.
For example, single channel conversion analysis might show that email drives only a small share of traffic and few conversions. But multichannel analysis may reveal that email is the most common touch point for conversion regardless of the first or last channel through which a customer engages with a site. Or, multichannel analysis might reveal that when an organic search visitor to a web site also visits the company’s Facebook page, it doubles the likelihood of purchase over the next 60 days when compared with visitors who only interact with the web site. As these examples show, a site that does not engage in email or Facebook marketing, simply because organic search provides the bulk of their traffic, might miss these insights and the opportunity to convert more traffic.
One of the best aspects of channel independence is that decisions about user journeys, interaction and conversion patterns are not heavily skewed by data from one channel. When a site is dependent on one channel, we tend to make strategic judgements based on how users behave within that channel, but channel independence allows for a broader understanding of how users respond to content, calls to action, and value propositions. It also provides the ability to act on that intelligence.
The Freedom to Experiment
Finally, channel independence allows for the freedom to experiment. The corollary to the freedom to experiment is the freedom to fail. We don’t talk enough about failure in digital marketing. While failures on specific channels or platforms can feel at the time to be a waste of resources and a loss in market share, most organizations can still derive some value from an experiment by learning. New platforms will always emerge and the performance of any given channel will wax and wane over time. But there is no substitute for smart analysis and adjusting efforts based on data and experience.
Channel independence provides the space to try new things and experiment within single channels without worrying about the impact on other channels or even overall performance. Some platforms, such as Google AdWords even have feature sets and infrastructure set up specifically for experimentation. So, try switching from manual keyword bidding to a fixed Cost-per-Acquisiton (CPA) bidding strategy for that underperforming ad group, and see what happens! When you are channel independent, the influx of traffic from other channels can help sustain site activity even if the new PPC strategy fails to meet expectations.
Organizations who leverage the freedom to fail acquire insights and experience at more rapid rates than those that don’t. And unlike the failures themselves, which are quite specific, the lessons learned will usually be applicable beyond isolated contexts. In this sense, the resource that cannot be simply secured through more budget or even staff is knowledge, experience and wisdom.
Channel independence protects us from stagnation when by providing the freedom to try something new. When you engage with users through multiple channels, you may also have the benefit of applying lessons learned in one area to growth strategies in another.
If you already have a healthy distribution of traffic sources, take a risk! Try out that new social platform everyone has been talking about in meetings, but no one has complete confidence in. Come up with a hypothesis you’d like to test for your paid search campaigns and set up that A/B experiment you’ve been kicking around in your head. Take the hard-earned liberty to fail and try something completely off the beaten path, even if you have doubts. It just might be the lesson that you’ll point back to and say “This is when our eyes were opened”. Finally, use strong and clear digital reporting to analyze and attribute value to the visitors you’ve earned from each channel. Look beyond the major KPIs for touchpoints and user behaviors that influence conversions, even if they aren’t the direct source.