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Tracking Campaigns with Google Analytics December 19, 2009

Posted by Joe Kamenar in campaign tracking.
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tracking campaigns with google analytics

One of the most powerful tools of any analytics package is the ability to tell you what works and what does not work, as far as how your website is meeting its goals. If your marketing efforts go beyond building the site and hoping visitors will come, you need to determine how effective your marketing is. Marketing in this case is defined as any effort you take to get visitors to your site. It can include any of the following:

  • Paid Search
  • Other Pay-Per Click
  • Banners/Rich Media
  • Email Campaigns (purchased list, in-house list)
  • Newsletters
  • Blog Posts
  • Articles on Ezine Sites
  • Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace)
  • Online Classifieds (Craigslist, City Paper, etc…)
  • Video (YouTube, DailyMotion, etc…)
  • Forum Posts
  • Referral Partners
  • Affiliates

What you want to know with all of your efforts is – are you getting the bang for your buck (for paid marketing) or for your time or employees’ time (for other forms of marketing). If all you do is use the same URL in all of your efforts and do not tag it appropriately, you will not know the source of your traffic, and thus will not be able to optimize your marketing efforts.

In this article, I will show you some campaign examples and how to track them using Google Analytics. With proper tracking set up, you can then determine if your campaigns are bringing you the traffic you need for your site to make money or meet its business goals.

Google Analytics provides you with the ability to tag all of your URLs with a series of parameters (name/value pairs) that are known as UTM tags. For example, consider the following URL:

http://www.mysite.com/landing_page.html?utm_source=Yahoo &utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Holiday&utm_term=pet+supplies&utm_content=free+shipping

This would be a link for a paid search campaign on Yahoo for a holiday campaign for pet supplies where you are offering free shipping. Your goal is to see how well this offer and landing page do to both attract visits to your site and to then convert them to become a customer. Let’s look at what each of these utm name/value pairs mean.

If you are using Google Analytics and wish to create a campaign, GA provides you with up to 5 sets of tracking drill-downs. The first three are mandatory, and the last two are optional. Here is a list of these 5 parameters and some examples of how you can use them:

  • Campaign Source (utm_source)* This is the source of where you are placing the URL, or link to your website. Some examples include:  Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, search engine name, magazine name, ezine site, blog name, YouTube, classified ad site, newspaper name, forum name, referral partner, email list, newsletter name
  • Campaign Medium (utm_medium)* – This is the advertising or marketing medium (method). Some examples include: CPC (cost-per-click), banner, rtm (rich text media), roll-over, article, print, email, tweet, video, profile, classified, forum, referral, post card, newsletter, tv, radio, flash object
  • Campaign Name (utm_campaign)* – This is the name of your campaign. It lets you identify it across all marketing channels. Some examples include:  product, promotion, campaign ID, discount, city, flash object name, discussion group
  • Campaign Term (utm_term) – Typically, this is your keyword or search terms you are using. It can also be used to identify who contributed the content in the case of non-paid marketing efforts. Some examples include: keywords, contributor, topic
  • Campaign Content (utm_content) – This parameter can be used to segment keywords into groups, or to define the banner ad size, type or placement, or to do A/B split testing on the landing page if you are running the same ads to different versions of the landing page.

* Mandatory parameters

Once you have your marketing parameters defined for a particular campaign, you then build the URL. You can either do this manually, or use free tools  that Google and others provide. You can simply do a search on “google analytics url tag builder” to see links that let you do this. Basically, all you do is enter your tag for each parameter, and it creates the link for you. When creating your parameters, be sure to not use spaces between words. You can either use a plus sign, minus sign or underscore as a word separator. When finished, keep all of your links in a spreadsheet so that you have them available for every one of your campaigns.

Once your visitors start coming as a result of your campaigns, you can then use GA to look at your campaign sources. You can then drill-down to see which campaigns were most effective in bringing you visits and sales or leads, You can sort to see which search engines were better than others, which version of a Craigslist ad worked better, whether an offer for “free shipping” or “10% off” brought more traffic to your site, how much traffic you are getting from your FaceBook or MySpace sites, either from paid ads or from links you have in your profile or personal information. The amount of data you can get from using these tags can help refine your marketing efforts.

Shortening Your Tagged URL

One drawback of using Google Analytics to do your campaign management is that each URL you post can become long and cumbersome. At times, you may not want to post such a long URL on certain sources, like social media sites, classified ads and other campaigns. Fortunately, there are tools you can use that will shorten the URL for you.  The site tr.im lets you take any long URL and shorten it to something more manageable, letting you “trim” your URL. For example, suppose I wanted to discuss our web analytics services on a LinkedIn group discussion, and then measure how many visits our site received. Since LinkedIn does not let you create a URL link, similar to an HTML link (where you see the link name, but not the URL), I would have to include the entire URL in the comment box or discussion box. Thus, if I wanted to tag this campaign to this landing page, I would have the following URL:

http://www.edgewater.com/management/InternetCommerce/webanalyticsservices/Pages/WebAnalyticsServices.aspx?utm_source=LinkedIn &utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=e-commerce_network&utm_term=tracking_campaigns&utm_content=post

Imagine putting something like that into a post! If I were to post this in Twitter, I would be in trouble, as a tweet can only have 140 characters. So, I can shorten this URL by going to tr.im and pasting this nasty link into the input box, and then converting it to: http://tr.im/HZNy. Now, I can post this into my LinkedIn discussion, or Facebook profile (changing the campaign parameters first), or anywhere else where I don’t want to post a long URL. When one clicks on this link, it goes right to the desired page with the desired campaign string.

Measuring Offline Marketing Efforts

While these campaign tagging methods work well for online marketing where you can include a complete tagged hyperlink to your landing page, what about for offline marketing like print ads, direct mail and such? Clearly you can’t have a visitor enter a complicated URL to get to your site, and if you simply enter your website domain you won’t be able to attribute the visit to your offline campaign. So, you need to create either a new domain, sub-domain, or navigation path to use on your print media then work with your web host to use what is called a “301 redirect” to send these visitors to your tagged URL. Here are some examples of these types of links:

  • New domain: offer10atyoursite.com
  • Sub-domain: offer10.yoursite.com
  • Navigation Path: yoursite.com/offer10

Creating new domains can be a bit of a hassle for each campaign, as you need to register each one and pay an annual fee of about $8 per domain. Creating sub-domains can be a bit easier to do as most web hosts let you do this by yourself and there is no charge to do so. Creating a navigation path is the easiest to do as you simply do that in your HTML design with no server configuration needed. It can though be the least accurate, as some visitors will just type in the URL and not the path name. Thus, the visitor would not get redirected to your tagged URL and would simply show up as a direct visit to your site’s home page.

Summary

Campaign tagging is a powerful feature of any web analytics platform. By using this feature, you can determine which campaigns are the most effective at bringing visitors to your site, bringing in qualified visitors (they take a desired action such as reading specific content or request more information), generating leads (ask to be contacted), and generating sales and revenue to your company. In this article, I showed how to do campaign tagging using Google Analytics. In a future article I will show you how to do this using Omniture’s Site Catalyst and WebTrends. Regardless of the tool your company uses, it is important to first clearly define your business goals, set up your campaign strategy, develop tagging specifications or a tagging specification guide, test your campaigns for data collection accuracy, set up your analytics tool to report on these activities and then determine how to optimize either your marketing activities or site to better reach and serve your desired market.

To learn more about how Edgewater Technology can help your business get more value out of its website, visit http://tr.im/I0sx.

Advanced Web Analytics Using Google Analytics December 15, 2009

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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In the past, Google Analytics was seen as simply a quick “DIY” analytics tool that gave some useful reports. All you did was just add some code to each page, include a JavaScript file on your site, and you were finished. The tool costs nothing to use as far as license fees, and the learning curve was simple. However, no “real company” would use Google Analytics (GA), as it did not provide any real insight that would let management make any data-based decisions. Most mid to large size companies would use enterprise-level tools, such as Omniture’s Site Catalyst, WebTrends, CoreMetrics, or other subscription-based tools. However, the cost of using these tools can add up to some serious coin, making it hard to justify an ROI on the results you would get.

In the past year, GA has narrowed the gap in functionality between its older versions and paid services like Omniture and WebTrends. Now, more and more larger internet retailers and service providers are using Google Analytics, including Garmin.com, RitzCamera.com, FatBrainToys.com, several BCBS websites, UnitedRentals.com and many more. So, what kind of enterprise-level features does Google Analytics now provide that have caused companies to take a second look? In this article, I will show you some of the features that you can now get with Google Analytics.

Multiple Profiles

Within GA, you can set up multiple profiles for an account, and apply specific filtering to each profile to create specific views of visitor behavior. For example, you can have a profile that is only for paid search traffic, or for events, or for segments of the site that are for specific departments. It is recommended that you keep one unfiltered profile, to retain all non-filtered data, as once you filter the data, you can’t go back to the raw data. Specific filters can be done to create profiles that are for content groups, paid search, internal traffic, and so on. Within the unfiltered profile, advanced segmenting can be performed on historical data to drill down on specific types of visits or visitor behavior.

Conversion Funnels

A conversion funnel is simply the desired path you want a visitor to take to become either a customer, a lead, a registration, or whatever other goal you have in mind. It is a list of pages that represent the start of the path to the end. Within each stage, you can see what percent of visitors made it to the next step, and what percentage left the “funnel”. In the past, GA limited you to just 4 goal conversion funnels across your site. Now, you can have up to 5 goals in each of up to 4 profiles, for a total of 20 goals to analyze. Conversion funnels can help you pinpoint where your site is not delivering, as far as meeting your company goals.

Event Tracking

GA can now do event tracking, similar to SiteCatalyst. It is done a bit differently, but you can assign an event to any activity broken down to a category, action, label and value to any site interaction. An event can be used to track how videos and Flash objects are used on your site. You can see how many times an item is viewed, how far they get through it, and if your desired message is being viewed. Using events, you can see how specific actions impact conversions on your site. On a per-visit basis, a total of about 500 page views and event calls can be sent to GA by a visitor. Once you have these events captured, you can then segment on these events to look at things like conversion rate. For example, you can tag a “Get Quote” button, and then see what percent of those who clicked this button converted.  If you have a retail site, you can tag a “shipping cost” link, and then see what percentage of those who go to this link make the purchase. When used properly, events  can let you capture more than just page views and visits. It can truly let you see how visitors are using your site. Google is looking at creating event-based goal conversion funnels as well as page-based funnels. With an event-based funnel, you can track visitor actions to see how they get to your end goal. Just by using the event tracking properly on a site, you can now get more granular insight into visitor behavior.

There is no limit to the number of events as they are not assigned to a particular variable as in Omniture.. The total number of calls to GA on a per-visit basis is about 500. Also, with the event tracking, it gives you a total count of each item, and a unique, per-visit count.

As an example, suppose you run a truck rental site. You want to track specific events. The event tag looks like this:

_trackEvent (category, action, optional_label, optional_value)

Thinking along the lines of rental activities, you can set up the tagging like this:

  • Category: Itinerary, Pick-Up Location, Drop-Off Location, Contact Info, Trucks and Options, Quote and Payment, Review
  • Action: Get Quote, Search Pickup Locations, Search Dropoff Locations, Select Pickup Location, Select Dropoff Location, Add to Quote, Change Quote, Enter Payment Info

The label and value are optional. For the label field, if you are tracking Flash videos, you would do something like this:

  • Category – video
  • Action – press play (or reached a certain percentage of the file, or any other embedded action)
  • Label – [title of video]
  • Value – time to load, perceived dollar value, quality points, etc…)

When you think about the event method, you can use the optional label field to store something about the visitor as well. If you were to store a unique ID for the visitor, or segment type (see below), you can then do a query on the label field to see what actions were taken by a particular visitor or segment.

Segmenting

Segmenting is a powerful tool that lets you see how specific audiences act on your site. We often talk about analytics in terms of averages – average time on site, average pages per visit, average revenue per sale, and so on, but in reality, there is no “average” visitor. They can be segmented into specific groups, and the behavior of each group analyzed to gain insight into how they can be better served. Segments can be based on visitor type (new vs. return), visit method (direct, paid search, organic search, referral), key words (branded, unbranded), and even a custom defined segment (more on that later). Within each segment, you can apply filtering to extract visits that meet you desired criteria. Filtering an include queries like matches exactly, does not match exactly, contains, does not contain, starts with, ends with, equals, greater than, less than, and others.

GA also lets you set up a custom segment variable, and then set it as you wish. Suppose you have a health insurance site that caters to various audiences, such as non-registered users, subscribers, brokers, employers, providers (doctors and hospitals), and employees. Depending on how they identify themselves as in logging in, which type of login they use, and so on, you can segment these individuals into their respective groups. You can then see how users in the particular segments behave on your site, and to see if your site is meeting the desired goals.

You can also do your conversion analysis or other analysis based on the values stored in each segment. The user defined segment cookie lasts two years, and can be overwritten on subsequent visits. The biggest problem that I see with this variable is that it is read at the beginning of the session, and any changes that are made during the visit are not used until the visitor later returns to the site. Thus, if someone comes to the site an anonymous, then later registers, any activity will be attributed to the anonymous segment. Only when the visitor returns does this change to “logged in” or “member”. Thus, the next time the visitor returns, he or she is tagged as a “member” or “logged in”, even if they do not log in on the next visit. Thus, while having this user-defined segment can be useful, it can also give misleading segment information.

Google is planning on expanding the number of user-defined variables shortly. Right now, if you want to store multiple types of data, you would create a string that can be parsed or joined in JavaScript, then store the entire string in the user-variable cookie. To access the data, in the profile you would then create a custom segment that extracts out the portion of the string that contains the section of interest. You can then correlate that with other items in the string to create a more narrow segment. I have seen some JavaScript code available that creates mini-functions that either add an item to the string or remove an item from the string.

Essentially, you can store anything in this variable, including a login ID. Google, of course, prohibits storing any personally identifiable information, and this includes things like an email address, SSN, full name, drivers license number, address, phone number, credit card number, etc…

Google now gives you 5 custom variables that you can use to do segmenting and analysis. Within each variable, you can store data that is either permanent, session-based or page based. With each variable, you can set a name-value pair that lets you create a segment that can be visitor-based, visit-based (expires after 30 minutes or when a browser closes or visitor exits the site), or page-based, such as defining content groups for each page. This new feature give you much more power to create reports that have meaning.

Traffic Sources

One of the most misleading stats I see in web analytics is in the organic search area. Often, the top search terms are the website’s URL. If you know the URL, why search for it? The answer is in the sneaky way that browsers’ home pages are loaded. If you have Internet Explorer and your default start-up page is MSN.com, the curser drops right into the search field. On FireFox, often the default load page is the Google page. Instead of moving the curser to the URL bar, many users simply type the name of the site they wish to go to in the search box, then they click on the top result, which is the site’s home page. If the top result is also a “paid search” link, and the visitor click on it, the search engine makes money, as do the browser folks. Thus, the organic or paid search results can get skewed.

To keep your stats in line, GA lets  you change the traffic source from “search engine” to “direct” or “referral site” to “direct” by adding some lines of code to the GA code that goes on your pages. Thus, those who come to your site by entering the URL in the search field will not be classified as search visits.

Custom Reports

GA also lets you create custom reports, where you can select your dimensions and drag it to the report, then select which metrics you want to show for that dimension.  With the dimension section, you can add sub-dimensions to the list, such as “Keywords -> Search Engines -> etc…”. You can then add a series of metrics to the report, letting you drill-down on each dimension to get more refined data. This feature is seen in the paid analytics tools, and lets an experienced analyst create multiple views of visitor behavior.

Search Filtering

Within searches, such as keywords, instead of getting a massive list, you can apply filtering, to only look at keywords or other items (like page views) based on a metric range.  You can “nest” conditions to include or exclude specific terms or metrics to generate a more refined search.

Motion Charts

A new feature titled “Motion Charts” lets you create a 4-dimension view of specific metrics, such as keywords. It lets you assign x and y axis values, then show additional metrics in the form of the size and color of a dot. You can place the chart in motion to show how the performance of any keyword changed over time. You can see the dots move up and down or left and right across your grid to see changes in two of the dimensions, along with seeing the size and the color of the dots change to see changes in the other two dimensions.

Internal Site Search

Internal site search is a very useful tool that lets you see how easy it is for visitors to find what they want on your site. It is important to see what visitors do when they find or do not find what they are looking for.  Internal site search can also be tracked to show additional metrics, such as average pages per visit, time on the site and conversions for those who find site results and those who do not.

API

The API tool lets you export out a complete report, based on specific queries that you make. The GA API tool seems fairly robust, as you can send URL based queries via the API and receive an XML file in return. There are a variety of third-party tools that have already been developed using the API that integrate GA data with Excel data and display it within PowerPoint, desktop applications, email marketing platforms, and mobile platforms.

Alerts

GA also provides analytics alerts that notify you when specific thresholds change, similar to the alerts that the paid tools provide. If your conversion rate drops below a specific threshold, or the number of orders you get exceeds a threshold, you can be notified right away, instead of waiting until you or your analyst does the report.

E-Commerce

Google Analytics collect two types of e-commerce data: transaction data and item data. Transaction data describes the overall transaction (transaction ID, total sale, tax, shipping, etc.) while item data describes the items purchased in the transaction (sku, description, category, etc.). Here’s a complete list of the data:

Transaction Data

  • Transaction ID: your internal transaction ID [required]
  • Affiliate or store name
  • Total
  • Tax
  • Shipping
  • City
  • State or region
  • Country

Item Data

  • Transaction ID: same as in transaction data [required]
  • SKU
  • Product name
  • Product category or product variation
  • Unit price [required]
  • Quantity [required]

When the e-commerce reports are enabled, you get additional reports, such as number of visits until purchase and the time to purchase. The Visits to Purchase (VTP) report shows how many visits a visitor generated before they converted. The Time to Purchase (TTP) report shows how many days it took from the first visit to make a purchase. If the TTP is “0”, it means it was on the same day, but not necessarily on the first visit.

For lead-generation sites that are NOT e-commerce sites, the e-commerce code can still be used to apply segmenting information and value information to leads or registrations that are submitted. By doing this, the e-commerce functionality can be enabled, letting the user see the VTP and TTP for a visitor who submits a lead or completes a registration form.

Third Party Integration

While Google supports its own A/B test tool, Google Website Optimizer, it does not integrate with third party tools from other vendors. Such tools can provide more advanced testing and behavioral targeting tools, email clients, multi-platform PPC management and so on.

Summary

Google Analytics can provide small to mid-size companies with the tools they need to create an actionable analytics plan and increase the value of the website. However, just like using paid tools such as Omniture, WebTrends or other more advanced packages, the tool is only as good as the mechanic who uses it. Companies like Edgewater Technology can help you develop a road map that looks at your company’s goals and creates an analytics strategy that helps you meet these goals. Edgewater can help you define key business metrics, create profiles and reports, define tagging specifications, tag your site, set up site optimization using the Google Website Optimizer, and train your team how to use these reports and continue to enhance your site.

With all the new tagging capabilities within Google Analytics, there is a fair amount of analytics enhancement can be done for those who are using this free tool. It can be a lot more involved than just placing the GA code on each page and the ga.js file on your site. By creating the right tagging specifications based on business strategy, Edgewater can help you get a better look at how visitors are using your site, and how you can better serve them.

To learn more, visit http://Edgewater.com or contact Joe Kamenar, Manager of Web Analytics, at 215-480-2737.

Ten Questions to Ask About Your Web Analytics Tool December 3, 2009

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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Web analytics can provide significant insight into how your website is doing as far as contributing revenue and leads to your company. Often times, a company will install a web analytics tool and simply use the “out-of-the-box” reports, including visits, visitors, unique visitors, top pages, average time on site, and so on. When used properly, a web analytics tool can provide you with the data you need to make decisions regarding web strategy, content, layout, usability, applications, paid media, referral partners, and personalization. If the goal of your website is to generate sales or leads, the bottom line is conversion of visitors to customers. To get more out of your investment in the tool and personnel who are using it and to increase your conversions, here is a list of ten questions that your analytics tool can answer.

1. Where are your visitors dropping off?

If the goal of your website is to generate revenue, either directly from sales of goods or services on the site, or by generating leads that are followed up off-line, it is important to know how effective your site is in getting to that goal. One of the more useful tools that your analytics tool provides is a conversion funnel.  A “conversion” is loosely defined as the desired outcome of a visit. This can be a purchase, reservation, subscription, registration or a form completion to request more information or be contacted for an offline sale. Depending on your tool, a conversion funnel can be called a “fallout report” or “scenario analysis”. It is set up by defining a list of URLs that represent the desired steps that a visitor should take to get to the goal. In some cases, you need to tag each page ahead of time. In others, you set up the pages in your analytics tool.

Once you have your funnel set up, you can see the percentage of visitors who either make it to the next step or who “drop off” or “fall out” of the conversion process. At first glance, you can see which pages become “bottlenecks”, where you lose a large percentage of visitors. You can then study the pages to better understand why visitors do not go any further. With a proper A/B or multivariate testing program, you can make changes in these pages and then test their effectiveness in increasing conversions, and thus, revenue from your site.

The second item to analyze is where visitors go if they leave the conversion funnel. Here some of the questions you need to answer:

  • What percent of visitors just exit the site?
  • What percent go to the home page?
  • What percent look for product reviews, privacy information, refund policies, FAQs or other content?
  • Do they get distracted by having too many non-conversion links on a key conversion page?
  • Do they have the opportunity to go back and change their mind instead of completing the purchase?
  • Do they read some content then come back to the funnel?
  • What percent use onsite search?

By analyzing the paths that visitors take from your conversion funnel, you can better understand your visitors’ behavior and thus make improvements to your site with the goal of increasing conversions.

2. Is onsite search driving conversions, or driving visitors away?

Onsite search is a powerful tool if your site has significant content or product pages. If they can’t find what they are looking for on your site, you may end up losing a customer. One of the first things that your onsite search report will tell you is what is most important to those who visit your site. If you don’t have pages that adequately cover these key search terms, then create them. Not only will this improve your visitors’ site experience, it can also increase your site’s ranking in organic search for these terms, increasing your site traffic.

If your site has onsite search, it is also important to determine how relevant the search results are. If the search results return pages that are not relevant, then you will tend to lose visitors. You can do your initial testing without using your analytics tool. Pick some in-depth site pages and identify key terms and phrases. Enter these in your site search, and look to see where the desired pages rank. If they can not be found easily, your search tool may not be doing its job properly. Your analytics tool can help by looking at pathing reports from your search results pages plus other metrics. Here are some of the questions you need to answer:

  • What percent of visitors are using onsite search?
  • What percent of visitors are leaving the site?
  • What percent of visitors are getting into your conversion funnel?
  • What percent of visitors who do not find any results leave the site?
  • What percent of searches do not return any result?
  • What are the search terms that lead to no result? What is the conversion ratio of those who use onsite search?
  • What are the top search terms and their corresponding conversion rates?

By answering these questions and making adjustments to your site, you can increase the usability of your site and thus increase conversions.

3. Are visitors seeing your key messages?

Content managers for websites often spend significant resources to create their brand message or “Why Us” message to differentiate your company from its competition. The question is, are visitors seeing it and how can you improve its visibility? Key message pages can be important in creating your company’s unique selling position and convincing visitors to do business with your company. In a typical analytics environment, a “Top Pages” report will be generated that shows that the key message pages received “x” visits and “y” page views, and that they were the number “z” page in ranking. While this top-level information is nice to have, you can go deeper and provide more insight into how these pages are used.

If your site has multiple key message pages or pages that focus on different topics, you can group similar pages into defined content groups. For example, a branded drug website may want to know how well their site does in the following areas:

  • Information about the disease and complications
  • How the featured drug provides benefits
  • Clinical studies and other physician-related information
  • Call to action (talk to your doctor, request more information)
  • Engagement (user tools, calculators, worksheets)

Instead of providing reports on all these page visits and views, you can simplify this by tagging these pages to place them in different content groups. You can then provide high-level metrics or KPIs that show what percent of visitors take part in each of these content areas. This will be more meaningful to those who manage the site’s content. There are several ways to tag pages, including hard-coding each content group onto each page, using JavaScript to identify the group based on the URL, using a content management system to place tags automatically, or even by filtering the content with your analytics tool.

Along with tagging content groups, your team can also identify “quality pages”, or pages that they deem important to either the site, brand or company, then tag these pages as a “quality page”. You can then create a metric that shows how many quality page views per visit your visitors see, and what percent of total page views are quality pages. If these pages are not resonating with your visitors, you can then look to identify reasons why. Some of these reasons can include:

  • Links are positioned “below the fold”, especially on laptops (link is below the initial visible screen area).
  • Links are hard to find
  • Links are embedded in Flash navigation that is not user-friendly

By tagging and testing link placement, you can improve the visibility of the links to the key message pages.

4. Is your site’s content impacting conversion?

Once you have a handle on managing your site’s content, you can then analyze the impact that content has on conversion.  What you want to see is if those who view key content pages convert at a higher rate than those who don’t. You can look at visitors who visit key content before entering the funnel process, or those who exit the funnel to view key content, then return to the funnel.  By providing these metrics to the content managers, you can show what impact or “lift” their content has on conversions and revenue.

Along with measuring the conversion rates, you can also look at path analysis to see what visitors do who view content. Some of the questions you may want to answer include:

  • Do they tend to simply browse the site without initiating a purchase or other conversion?
  • Do they read the key pages and leave the site?
  • Do they engage in tools or other site applications?
  • Do they come back to the site at a late time to initiate a purchase?

Since not every site is designed to sell products or services, and not all initial visits to ecommerce sites end in a purchase, you can use these insights to create other metrics and KPIs that measure how effective content is to the overall performance of your site.

5. What value are you getting from your referral partners?

If your site gets traffic from referral links, either ones your company has cultivated or “organic” links that were done outside of your efforts, you can provide reports that show both the overall percentage of traffic that you get from these sites, plus the revenue associated with these visits. Revenue can be shown as an aggregate from a particular source, or broken down as revenue or leads per visit from each source. Thus, if you are using any “pay-to-play” referral sources, meaning you pay a fee for each click, you can determine how effective that referral source is in generating revenue or leads.

Since most analytic tools provide the ability to show top referral sources, you need to simply add the desired success metric to your reports. If you are paying for clicks from particular sources, you can compare the data that is reported from your analytic tool to the data that your vendor is providing to identify any discrepancies and prevent being overcharged. It is a way to keep these vendors “honest” in what you are being charged.  While there will always be a difference between clicks from a source to counted visits to your site, this difference needs to be agreed upon and monitored. Tracking visits to the site and revenue per visit can help fine-tune what your company is spending to deliver this traffic and increase profitability.

6. Are you generating sales but losing money?

The previous topic can be extended to cover all of your pay-per-click (PPC) vendors, and even cost-per-impression (CPI) vendors.  PPC marketing is typically paid search, while banners are the main source of CPI marketing.  While you may be getting sales or leads from these marketing channels, are they profitable sales? To answer this question, you need to either have to know your cost per visit and conversion rate, or have a tool that give you a metric titled “ROAS”, which stands for “return on advertising spend”. With either of these sets of data, you also need to know the average gross profit margin of the products or services you are selling. If you are measuring return on CPI spend, you also need to know the click-thru-rate (CTR) of these banners. Your cost-per-click (CPC) would be the CPI divided by the CTR.

If all you have is your cost per click (CPC) data for paid search, you need to be able to segment your data based on keywords, as different keywords have a different CPC. More general terms will have a higher CPC, while long-tail keywords will typically have a lower CPC. When setting up your tagging, you need to identify the start point of the conversion ratio as the paid search or banner landing page. Keep in mind that there will be a discrepancy between the reported clicks that your CPC vendor is telling you and the reported visits that your analytic tool is telling you. Since the reported visits are most often lower than the reported clicks, your true cost-per-visit (CPV) will be higher than your CPC.

Once you have your CPV and revenue per visit (RPV), you can immediately determine if you are in the red. If your CPV is higher than your RPV, your site may be losing money. I say “may be”, as it is possible that visitors return later to the site from a bookmark and convert. You will need more advanced analytics tracking to determine this.  Even if your CPV is less than your RPV, you can not tell if the spend is effective until you look at the gross profit margin (sale price less cost of goods sold) on a percentage basis. For example, if you are selling $1,000 worth of software where you get $200 per sale, you can afford a higher cost per visit than if you were selling $1,000 computers and getting $100 per sale.

One you know your average profit margin per sale, and your conversion rate of visits to sales, you can determine the maximum you can spend per visit to attract a customer. Knowing this, you can fine-tune your PPC bid management down to specific keywords to optimize your company’s revenue.

7. How is Social Media bringing you business?

Sites like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, along with blogs and Ezine article sites can bring traffic and revenue to your site. With these sites, you can create newsworthy events, videos, widgets, tweets, articles and other “buzz”. Sometimes, videos or widgets become viral in nature, meaning they propagate to thousands of web users with no effort on your part. Unlike regular referral links which may come directly to your site’s home page with no tagging, links from these sites can be tagged with a campaign ID, and linked to targeted landing pages. By creating unique campaign ID tags for each source and embedding these links in the targeted media source, you can measure traffic to your site from each source, and track the visits into your conversion funnel. From this, you can determine which sites are worth investing in, as far as content or increasing friends or followers, as you can measure revenue or leads from each site by adding the appropriate metrics to your analytic report. You can also measure the results of specific campaigns on each site, with targeted messages that direct visitors to specific landing pages.

8. How can segmentation help you understand visitor behavior?

One of the most common terms in web analytics is “average”. We have average pages per visit, average time on site, average revenue per order, and so on. While averages are very useful for trending purposes and comparing metrics from month-to-month or year-over-year, you must keep in mind that there is no such thing as an “average” visitor. Each visitor to your site is unique, and to better understand visitor behavior and how to optimize your site, you need to segment visitors based on something in common.

Some of the most common segments are as follows:

  • New vs. return visitor
  • Paid search vs. organic search
  • Direct visit vs. referrer link
  • Google vs. Bing vs. Yahoo!
  • Geographic location
  • Returning customer vs. returning visitor
  • Paid search vs. banner vs. email campaigns
  • Online vs. offline marketing
  • Weekday vs. weekend visits

One you have the appropriate forms of segmentation, you can then look at metrics such as average time on site, average pages per visit, average searches per visit, average revenue or leads per visit and so on for each segment. By analyzing specific group behavior, you can create more targeted action plans to better talk to each type of visitor. By using cookies to store segment categories on each visitor’s browser, you can later read these cookies to enable more personalized or targeted content, with the goal of increasing conversions.

9. Are you measuring interactions with Flash objects on your site?

Developing Flash objects can often require significant resources in terms of man hours and budget. With proper planning and tagging, you can track the usage of these assets and determine if they bring value to your site and business.

At the most basic level, you can insert tags in the Flash source to count the number of times an object is “touched”. You can also go further by tagging interactive buttons on the object and then links to other site pages. If the Flash object is playing a video or an animation, you can insert tags at key stages in the progress. These can be at percentage points, such as 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% viewed, or when specific topics are reached. Depending on your analytics tool, you can create “events” at these measurement points, pseudo pages, or conversion variables.  You may be able to correlate visits to particular points in the Flash to orders or leads. You can also see how much of your message was viewed by those who engaged with the application.

If your Flash application has a “Call to action”, you can measure what percent of those who engage with the app take the next step to reach the action page. By tagging this as the start of a conversion funnel, you can determine the conversion rate of those who take the desired action, compared to your overall site traffic. By developing metrics around your Flash objects, you will be able to provide data on the effectiveness of the application, and whether to refine it or ditch it.

10. Is your tagging telling you how visitors use your site?

Many sites have tools such as onsite search, and some have third-party tools such as click-to-talk and click-to-chat. If these links are not tagged, your reporting can provide inaccurate or incomplete results. For example, if you have a reservation-based site, and on the payment page there is a click-to-talk or click-to-chat button, it is important to tag these links as pages. If not, your reporting may show that the “abandonment rate” is higher than it really is. If the visitor decides to click to speak with a representative and completes an order over the phone, or through a chat interface, your reporting will show that they simply exited the site. It would be more accurate to report that the visitor “visited” the chat or talk page instead.

It is also important to track where visitors are either clicking on click-to-chat or click-to-talk buttons along with using onsite search to better understand their behavior.  If there is a high use of these services on particular pages, it may indicate a usability issue on your site, or missing information that is needed to continue. In the case of onsite search, if you can capture the search terms associated with each step in the conversion funnel process, you can gain some insight to where visitors may be lost or missing information they need to continue with their purchase, reservation, registration or other desired action. By looking at patterns, you can make adjustments to your site and reduce these distractions, increasing conversions.

By properly tagging these actions, you may also be able to look at pathing from these stages to see where visitors go after they do an onsite search or click to talk or chat. By understanding their behavior, you can make the needed improvements. You may also be able to measure what percent of these actions still lead to a conversion, and which ones do not.

In summary, by creating a more robust analytics platform, you can obtain data that provides insight into how every aspect of your site is doing in increasing conversions at a profit.  From analyzing paid media to your landing pages, content, tools, applications, visitor segments, and so on, your overall web strategy will become more data-driven, more actionable, and more accountable.