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6 Jan 2009

2008 first year with no growth, was it the Crisis?

We've started RomanReference in 1997 and our website is online since 1998. 11 years on three/two digits growth has been constant. Not so in 2008. +3.94% in turnover (compared to an average growth rate 98/08 of 46.18% per year!); growth in visit to the website was a grim 5.69% (108,088,000 visits against 102,265,000 in 2007). Most notably, while the first half of 2008 saw a year to year growth of ca 30%, the second experienced an equivalent slowdown.
Was it the Credit Crunch Crisis?!
Yes, but not just.
Being an internet based company we're very dependent on the online business, more precisely the organic searches which determine over half of our unique site visits and shows a dismal -0,20% decrease.
What happened?! In March/April 2007 we revolutionized our website. Translating it in over 10 different languages (it used to be english only); creating instant booking, clients' feedbacks and interactivity. Perversely these major improvements, along with a SEO who didn't really know how to cope with dynamic websites optimization (or just didn't care to work properly), affected our google ranking dramatically making us disappear from queries results (only english and italian ones luckily) since the beginning of this year. Google's organic searches alone represent over 40% of our traffic so it's easy to figure how hard a blow...
Since last June we've finally changed SEO and we're slowly climbing back up the ranking mountain.
And the crisis? Hotels are laying off staff by the hundreds in Rome. If I listen to my competitors I should assume that's biting in too. Also looking at the average search volume for queries like Rome Apartment or Apartments Rome if I compare december (which is normally above average) with the yearly based monthly average I see a 20% decrease in searches. Let's face it, we're right in the middle of a consistent slow down.
I guess than it's a combination of the two. Maybe after all the website improvements will help us thread through the crisis period. We'll see.