My client said this as he slid the sales statistics for the previous month and the last year across the table to me. It made for impressive reading. Their e-commerce website was leaping forward in double digit growth in what looked like a monthly sequence. They had sold more in the last month than most Kiwi companies would aspire to do in a year. But in reality, for me, it was a sign of bad news ahead.

Bad because we had failed to explain to him how our management efforts had translated into the surge in sales he was now experiencing. Personally, I hate mysteries like this. I would much rather know exactly why something is or isn’t working. Then, once understood, I can repeat the good stuff and alter the bad.

The old adage of knowing that 50% of your marketing spend is working but not knowing which 50% it is may sit well with offline marketing. But, as anyone with experience in this sector will know, any work in online marketing brings with it the opportunity to easily track and analyze its results – both good and bad.

While we had been very efficient at emailing him his monthly reports that told him where these nuggets of success lay, we had been remiss in ensuring he had taken the time to review them and see for himself the parts that were making the most gains.

So we cranked up the projector, put his Google Analytics account on the wall in front of us and I took him through the story of why his sales spreadsheet was growing each month. There is always a reason, once you know where to look for it.

Human nature is such that a website’s poor performance is usually more of a motivator for website owners to start digging into their analytics. When business is good, however, there doesn’t seem to be the same desire. So, whereas our reports get pored over during the early stages of working with a client, once things get under way and results start to flow through, then the attention they receive tends to slide.

Anyway, back to this client’s situation. Usually there are a few things that are working in unison that together provide a strong lift in performance. This case was no different.

The Google AdWords account we had inherited when we started managing the account had received some updates, which pointed to some of the success. AdGroups that contained twenty plus keywords had been broken down into ones that now had one or two keyword phrases. This had allowed the ads we used to now better reflect the search term the prospect was using – the result – a bump in click-through rate. But this wasn’t the only benefit.

Each ad could now point directly to the exact product page in their e-commerce , unlike before when the clicker was taken to the category page and then tasked with finding the product in the text navigation options. I always imagine that we have a finite amount of prospect attention to use and while before we used some up as they navigated to the correct page, now this was saved and allowed to focus on the product itself, which translated in a good lift in sales conversions.

Fortunately, their website had been built by a developer who knew some things about search engine optimization. Each product page was set up to allow Google and the like to trawl through it and have a strong chance of correctly indexing it. The only issue was that, while the site’s good navigation structure had helped the search engines find some of the site’s pages, there were not enough inbound links to give them reason enough to index all that was available. So, while they should have had say 10,000 pages in the index, they were sitting on a low figure of 6000.

A recent piece of work we had completed to grow the number of good inbound links to the site had prompted the search engines to come visiting again, bite a bit more off and index another 1250 pages. Since these pages were already content optimized, this allowed products that were previously hidden from the search results to start to appear and get clicked and be bought.

Both of these factors were made apparent when we compared the site’s traffic, month on month, and looked at the gains that were coming through. Google AdWords was pushing gradually forward as our ad group dissection started to create some momentum and warrant its effort. Likewise, our organic search volumes from Google were also increasing as keywords started to show for results where they had once remained hidden – all resulting in a nice flow-on effect of raising sales from this channel.

So, it was all there in their Google Analytics account ready to be revealed to those who wanted to go looking. But I realise that as parts of a business start to perform well the natural reaction is to take the focus off these areas and reapply it to business areas that are still struggling. However, it’s something I wouldn’t recommend. The data is all there to tell you why things are happening as they are – go get it and take the mystery away from your success.