Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Northern Virginia Online Business Index - Cross Industry Online Visitors in 2010 and 2011

While much information exists with which to gauge the DC metro and Northern Virginia business economy, for example local unemployment rates or commercial leasing activity, there's not a lot of "real" data available (at least publicly) regarding online business activity. What segments of the local business community are seeing more Internet traffic? Are online shoppers looking for more local business services online? Can you expect, as a local business, more online buying or research activity soon? (And therefore, perhaps some online marketing or advertising budgeting deserves to be updated?)

We've put together a simple "Northern Virginia Online Business User Visits" index, that tracks in a bi-monthly fashion, the unique visit traffic to a broad segment of Northern Virginia business websites. This data comes from 30 of our Northern Virginia-specific Google Analytics and online marketing customers, representing a nice cross-section of industries - i.e. real estate, home and auto services, entertainment and media, consumer goods, healthcare and insurance, nonprofit, etc. The data is anonymized and presented in a way that shows simple, relative online user activity (i.e. the numbers don't mean anything, just the relative rate and direction of change).

Obviously, since these numbers come from Internet Marketing clients, they may as a group reflect more positive user activity than analytics from businesses who aren't using online marketing techniques. Also, particular businesses may have distinct performance metrics that buck the trends, due to particular news or compaigns. But it's interesting to look across all industry groups as a whole in the region, and see how the collective performed.

In short, aggregate online user activity to Northern Virginia business websites we tracked tumbled significantly in the first half of 2010, stabilized and improved a little through October, took a brief but very distinct holiday after Thanksgiving, and is now steadily (but not dramatically) trending back upwards.

The chart below shows the performance of the KME Index (adjusted for order of magnitude) as compared to the S&P 500 Index - a very definite lag but mirroring of the performance direction of this broader economic indicator.

What's it mean? Well, numbers can be manipulated and interpreted to mean most anything you want - but we're generally reading that there's some serious and durable growth in online business activity and consumer demand to be expected over the next few months, here in Northern Virginia. So it's time to repair your website, take note what the online competition's up to, and get your SEO in place to attract the coming growth in browser eyeballs and click-thru opportunities.

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