Nuancing website traffic forecasting

Last week, I wrote about how I forecast my website’s traffic to predict future growth and needs that go along with that. Upon further reflection, while I was adjusting my own numbers with January actual, it dawned on me that I don’t just do it mathematically. I also nuance the traffic on certain occasions to avoid repeating flukes.

For the record, I’m the Director of Internet for Corus Québec, responsible for the sales, development and content of 12 radio station websites, mostly French like www.ckacsports.com and www.ckoi.com. Some are big, some are quite small. Some are automatically fed and updated, others are maintained by hand with original content.

There are multiple good reasons why you’d want to nuance (massage) the numbers, there are also many good reasons why NOT touch them.

  • Good reasons FOR nuancing numbers:
    • If you had an abnormal spike or dip in a past month you know for a fact will not repeat for clear reasons (website down for technical reasons, unpredictable news-related event like 9/11).
    • If you’ve gone from a small site with huge growth, but as you go forward, you know your site will be bigger and growth rates with shrink somewhat.
    • If you’ve got planned moves for the future and know for certain these will affect reach and traffic, you’d want to take that into account in your forecasting.
  • Good reasons AGAINST nuancing the numbers:
    • The more you play with the numbers the less relevant and exact the model becomes – what’s the use of calculating all this if you’ll guestimate anyway?
    • Invariably, you will over estimate the impact of future website changes
    • Because history actually does repeat itself, when everything else remains equal (your efforts, the quality and regularity of your work)

One other note, I make certain that whatever nuances I bring about in my Excel prediction model, I keep the original formula and apply a % growth or shrink factor + I highlight any changed numbers in RED to ensure I know which have been “judged” and which haven’t – just in case future numbers (between now and the changed numbers which could be 1-2-3 years away) need to be changed back to original or adjusted further. In any case, I’ve got a “trace” to understand in the future what I did in the past.

Do you see other instances where you’d want to nuance, or restraint the urge to nuance your numbers?

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