Last April we first posted our concerns about the sudden drop in traffic from BBOnline to our Bed & Breakfast in Freeport Maine. Our traffic had dropped 95% for the first several months of 2012 compared to the same time frame in 2011. Other innkeepers reported similar drops.
We followed up that article with another, detailing concerns about an email response to our inquiries about the traffic drops, then a third article about a more encouraging telephone response from BBOnline staff.
Is BBOnline bouncing back? Now that our busy season is three-quarters over, we wanted to see where things stand with BBOnline. Are they bouncing back and returning to their former spot as one of our top B&B directories? Or do they continue to languish at the bottom, sending us only a trickle of the former traffic?
We began our inquiry with Compete.com, which provides traffic analysis. This type of analysis only works well for sites with heavy traffic – smaller sites usually have too little traffic for Compete to be of use. As the accompanying graphic shows, BBOnline’s traffic plummeted in November, 2011, but didn’t hit bottom until January 2012, but seems to have recovered well in March and April, then dropped again from May through August of 2012. This coincides with our observation in our third article, in June 2012, that there were some signs at that time of a BBOnline recovery, but it was too early to draw any conclusions.
However, since the summer months are usually the highest web traffic months for B&B’s (even when you take into account different seasonal traffic in areas where the weather patterns are opposite), we really need to see how this “bounce” relates to other B&B directories.
Looking at Compete.com for BedAndBreakfast.com, BnBFinder.com and ILoveInns.com (the other directories have too little traffic to be a useful comparison), we see that BedAndBreakfast.com bottomed out for the season in December, then began to climb, while BnBFinder and ILoveInns.com hit bottom in November and began their climb in December. BedAndBreakfast.com hit its peak in July, while BnBFinder peaks in June, then remains relatively flat, and ILoveInns.com peaks in February, then again in June.
What stands out about this pattern for BBOnline? In essence, their traffic, when compared to the traffic leader, BedAndBreakfast.com, shows their extended low point that prompted us to write our earlier articles, but they seem to have bounced back to be following approximately the same traffic patterns as the other directories.
What about the bottom line?
First a couple of words of caution: (a) statistics from only one source (our B&B) are not necessarily a valid yardstick by which to generalize, and (b) sources of information that measure only the last source that sent traffic to your booking site are missing valuable information (as we pointed out recently).
That said, we measure effectiveness of our referral source with three separate pieces of information. We make no effort to combine them, as in some cases they would overlap, and in others they would be completely separate. We use:
- Guest statements about where they located us
- Google Analytics
- Ecommerce and Goal tracking by referral source
- Multi-Channel Funnels
- Intell-A-Keeper for mulitple source referrals
According to our guest information, BBOnline, previously a quite significant source of revenue for our Bed & Breakfast, dropped by about 40% from 2010 to 2011, but in 2012 dropped again, to about one-third of the 2011 levels.
According to Google Analytics, our 2012 year-to-date figures, compared with the same portion of 2011, shows that our referrals are still down – though not by the 95% we had found in the early part of 2012. Now the year to date comparison shows a drop in referral traffic of “only” 63%. Clearly that is better, but still a far cry from the 2011 levels, which are, in turn, much lower than the 2009 and 2010 levels (since 2009 was a recession year, to be lower than that is very significant). In addition, the “Bounce Rate” for visitors coming from BBOnline – the percentage of visitors who view only one page before leaving the site – has increased dramatically over 2011.
In the same time comparison, GA also shows “last click” referrals accounting for only a tiny amount of Ecommerce revenue – about 5% as much as the guests report for 2011, and none, at all, in 2012.
Checking the Multi-Channel Funnels of Google Analytics, we see again a tiny amount for assisted Ecommerce conversions in 2011, and none in 2012.
So far, our Google Analytics and our guest reports show about the same thing – very little revenue from BBOnline.
Next we checked Intell-A-Keeper’s stats for 2010, 2011 and 2012. We found that there was a drop of about 60% in bookings from 2010 to 2011, but, again, no bookings in 2012.
All our tracking sources agree that there is a very significant drop in traffic from BBOnline to our website, and that the revenue attributable to BBOnline is only a small fraction of its prior levels. While the Compete.com statistics (which carry their own margins of error) seem to indicate improvement in traffic to the BBOnline site, our own records indicate that this has yielded only a small improvement in traffic to our site. Indeed, with the increased bounce rate figures, it looks like BBOnline is sending fewer visitors, who are less likely to be interested in booking.
Have you seen different results? Please post your observations in the comments!