It seems in life and in business we are always looking for answers, and are rarely satisfied. Could this be a product of the questions we are asking? I think so.

Most of us have probably heard the advice to interviewers to never ask a question that has better questionsa “Yes or No” answer. This is only interesting if you are trying to set a record for the number of questions asked in an interview. However, simply asking open-ended questions is not enough.

Here is a typical exchange at the dinner table with one of my boys.

Me: How was school today?
Boy: Good (As he returns to his meal.)
This is repeated four times as we go around the table.

Technically, that is not a “Yes/No” question but it can be answered by one word. A better question would be “What was the best thing that happened at school today?” While this can be answered with “I don’t know”, it still is a start.

Let us apply this principle to business, specifically digital marketing.

Suppose you are a marketing manager reviewing your Google Analytics. The report shows a slight month over month decline in sessions from search engines. Which do you think is the best question to ask?

  1. Why are we seeing fewer sessions this month?
  2. OMG! Are we penalized by Google?
  3. What do sessions look like compared to last year in the same period?

I would suggest that none of the above are perfect, but that question three is the best place to start.  There is often a cyclic nature in search due to seasonality or other factors (like budget approvals) that will preclude month over month comparisons. A good practice is to start playing with the time periods compared.

“Why are we seeing fewer sessions?” is a very broad question, although ultimately what you are trying to determine. Being so broad it lends little direction to provide hints for looking at the data.  It is really just a passive command to look into it.

A slight decline in sessions from search shouldn’t cause a panic, pulling all hands on deck to investigate, so question two is silly. If you see a sudden drop on a specific day, however, start looking at possible problems like a new algorithm roll out or the dreaded message in your Search Console.

A final thought –  rarely will you ask the perfect question the first time. To get the best answers keep asking questions based on your experience, the experience of others,  and the cleanest data you can find.

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