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Understanding Multichannel Analytics January 29, 2010

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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While web analytics can give you a pretty accurate picture of how well online buyers respond to online marketing activities, it fails to tell you anything about how your online marketing affects offline purchase behavior and how offline marketing affects online behavior. If you website has a 3% conversion rate, what about the remaining 97% of your visitors? If you send out 50,000 coupons and get a 2% direct response rate, what about the other 98% of those who got the coupons? Is there a way to measure what they do? Enter multichannel analytics.  Multichannel analytics is a process where all marketing channels are analyzed to develop a more complete view of visitor behavior.

The Four Marketing / Purchase Quadrants

While there are four quadrants of multichannel analytics as outlined in the figure on the right, this post will discuss the two online/offline combinations shown in red. I will briefly explain some of the issues regarding multichannel analytics, some methods of tagging offline marketing and offline purchases, and show you some of the benefits.

The biggest problem with tying in offline efforts or offline conversions is lack of a common point between the two. You have two different databases, one of online data and one of offline data. Unless you have the equivalent of a primary key, you cannot join the two data sets together. Imagine a customer walking into your store or calling your order link and giving you their unique visitor cookie. That would make it fairly easy to tie in their online behavior to their offline purchase. You would be able to track what brought them to your website and what they did before coming to your store.  Unfortunately, in the real world we cannot tie these efforts together, so we need to develop solutions. Solutions for both of the red quadrants will be discussed as they relate to the multichannel analytics integration process, as shown in the following figure:

Tracking Offline Marketing to Online Purchases

There are two solutions to tracking your offline marketing efforts. The first solution is to use vanity URLs in your offline marketing efforts. For example, if you go to DellRadio.com, you will be redirected to a dell.com URL that has some tracking code. In the URL string, you will see a parameter titled “cid”, which is used by SiteCatalyst as a campaign ID. Thus, any purchases from visits to DellRadio.com will be credited to their radio campaign.

You can do the same thing with all of your offline efforts. Put vanity URLs on your newspaper or magazine ads, in your mailers and coupons, on billboards and other forms of display advertisements. Use specific vanity URLs in your radio and TV ads, and simply have your IT department do a “301 redirect” that converts these vanity URLs into coded mainstream URLs that your analytic tool can process.

The second solution to the offline marketing effort is to promote the use of tracking codes in your offline media such as infomercials. Someone watching the infomercial can either call the phone number or order online. If they enter the promo code on the website, you will know that the order was the result of the TV ad. However, what this will not tell you is the percentage of those who came to the site from the infomercial but did NOT buy. If you simply want to allocate revenue to an offline marketing effort, a promotion code will work well with any offline media that drives traffic to your main URL. Within your analytic package, you would tag the code entry as an event, and then look at the revenue that is associated with each event (specific code for each offline activity).

Tracking Online Marketing to Offline Purchases

Now that you have a way to track how your offline efforts work to get visitors to your website, how do you measure what they do when they don’t order online?

Capture Visitor Intent

If your business is both online and retail (physical store), you can measure intent to come to the store by tracking results of your store locator and directions links. By setting these as goals, you can then see what searches were done by visitors who have expressed intent to come to your store. To help capture the buyer while he or she is in the buying mood, some stores like Barnes and Nobles offer the ability to enter a zip code to see if a book of interest is available at a local store. If so, the customer can reserve it online and go pick it up right away. If you can offer this type of service, you need to tag this event so it can capture what brought the customer to the website, and be able to tie in the physical purchase (offline) to the online marketing that resulted in the purchase.

Generate Campaign-Based Coupons for Offline Purchases

It is also possible to have your website generate a unique coupon ID that can be for the particular product that was searched.  By creating an ID that represents marketing segmentation (campaign type, campaign source, media placement, keywords, and so on), you can store this information in both your analytics package and your store database. If you use a campaign translation file for your analytics platform, you will want to include the same campaign ID as a prefix to your coupon. The same coupon concept also applies to service businesses such as insurance, reservations, home and professional service businesses, etc…, where you give the prospective customer a coupon ID that they can use to get a discount. If your business takes orders or inquiries over the phone, you could have your site coded to include the coupon code next to the phone number on all pages. By tracking the redemption of these coupons, you can compute a click-to-store conversion rate, and factor in offline revenue that was attributed to specific online marketing campaigns. This will give you a higher ROI and perhaps provide justification for more web-related investment.

Implement Phone Number- Based Tracking

Unique tracking phone numbers can also be used to measure the impact of your online marketing efforts to offline purchases. A service like Voicestar provides these tools. You can place trackable phone numbers on your site, or use services like “Click to Call” and “Form to Phone” options. Their system has an API that lets you get data right out to your analytics tool and dashboard. Tracking phone calls is very important, as it is human nature to still want to talk to someone on the phone before making a purchase decision. When using a phone tracking service, or even if you have a block of your own phone numbers to use, it is important to not have the phone numbers as a part of the static content. The phone numbers need to be integrated with an algorithm that can associate the phone number with a particular campaign.  To further tie in the visitor to the phone number, a cookie should also be set that relates to the tracking source. Thus, if the visitor leaves the site, and comes back at a later time, the initial campaign that brought him or her to the site will still receive credit for the sale.

The biggest drawback to this type of campaign tracking is that depending on what level of detail you want for your marketing segmentation, you can end up needing dozens or hundreds of phone numbers. This can possibly become expensive and difficult to manage. Instead, you can create a 3 or 4 digit “extension” that is tied to a web-related order number, and when someone calls the number, the phone operator asks for the extension. This has no incremental cost to implement.

Another phone tracking service is offered by Mongoose Metrics. Their service integrates with most web analytics tools to create an automated URL postback after each call is made.  You can perform the same type of analysis, ecommerce conversion and segmentation that you would from any other page to be analyzed. You can see instantly how well your online marketing activities are generating online revenue.

There are many ways to implement phone-based tracking, and they all require integrating your site code with your analytics platform and your backend system. Edgewater Technology can provide you with the needed expertise to implement such a program.

Utilize Site Surveys to Understand Buying Behavior

Another way to gauge consumer intent is to use online site exit surveys. Companies like iPerceptions, ForSee and others can provide you with surveys that your site visitors can take regarding their online experience. You can ask about the likelihood of them making a purchase offline, and how much their online experience would influence their buying decision. On your online order forms and lead forms, you can also ask the question, “How did you hear about us?” in the form of a drop-down select or radio buttons. Include your offline marketing methods as choices. If the online traffic source is “direct entry”, then you can assign credit for the sale to the way the customer said they heard about your site.

Assign Values to Online Leads

If your business model is to let visitors fill out a form to be contacted by an agent or representative, there are a couple of different ways to tie success (revenue) to a campaign. Some analytic packages let you assign a dollar value to goal conversion pages, such as filling out a request for information form, a pre-application, or other form of customer contact. This dollar value is based on two factors – the average close rate of online leads, and the average dollar value of each deal. For example, if your company closes 15% of all of its leads, and the average deal is worth $500, then the value of each lead is $75 (15% of $500). Thus, your web analytics package can compare that value to the cost associated with generating the lead, and the nature of actions that lead up to it (pages visited, items downloaded, actions taken, and so on). If your analytics tool is set up to give credit to the first campaign touch point (PPC campaign, banner ad, referral site, etc…), you can still assign credit for the lead to the original campaign, even if the visitor does not convert until a later date.

The drawback with this method is that you are dealing with averages as far as the value of a lead. With average lead values, you cannot measure if a particular campaign brings in a higher-value customer than does another campaign. You can, however, get an average picture of how effective your online campaigns are right within your web analytics tool, without having to import any external data. For many organizations, this will provide much more insight than they are already getting about their offline purchases. It does require fine tuning the value you are using as the average lead value, based on your close rates and average dollar value of a new customer.

Track Campaign IDs with Lead Form Submissions

An alternative to this is to create an offline method of tracking online campaigns when a form is submitted. Your campaign code that you use in your web analytics package can be stored in a cookie and submitted as a part of your lead form. If all these leads are entered into a database, the campaign code can also be entered, and later receive credit for an eventual sale. The exact dollar value of the deal can then also be assigned to the campaign, just like for an eCommerce site. The integration of the online and offline data would then need to be done. Edgewater has expertise in merging online and offline data and can help you develop a comprehensive measurement system.

Reaping the Benefits of Multichannel Integration

So far, I have touched on some of the ways to “tag” offline marketing activities so they can be read by your web analytics program, and how to tag offline behavior that is due to your online marketing efforts. However, to put it all together requires access to all the data, both online and offline, plus an integration plan that combines strategy, technology, business logic, web analytics data, BI data, implementation, analytics and other disciplines to provide the desired results. Since this process cannot be explained in a blog post, your choices are to use vendor-specific tools or the expertise of Edgewater to work with your business to develop a true multi-channel analytics capability. As a result of such a capability, you will be able to obtain actionable insights, such as these (some are industry-specific):

  • Enhanced ROI – Once you are able to assign additional offline revenue to your online marketing efforts and online revenue to your offline marketing efforts, you will see a higher ROI, enabling you to justify additional spending on both your online marketing and other web efforts, such as site testing and optimization.
  • Retail Merchandising Decisions – If your business is retail, your online data can be mined to see what items tend to be purchased together, enabling your retail operation to group these same items together for in-store customers.
  • Upsell Opportunities – If your offline customers tend to respond to particular upsell opportunities when they call in or get called back, you can use this information to target similar online customers or visitors, based on data that can be stored in tracking cookies.
  • Re-marketing Intelligence – If you know what online customers come back to your site to buy later, you can use this knowledge to market similar products or services to your in-house mailing or phone list.
  • Additional Retail Outlets – If you see a significant request for retail outlets in areas that you are not currently serving, you can have the data you need to consider expanding your physical presence.
  • New Promotional Activities – If you know that your online visitors express an interest in finding a store based on looking at particular products that they want right away or that tend to be expensive to ship,  you can create geo-targeted online campaigns that are designed to get more buyers to your store. This can also work well for seasonal or event-driven items (snowstorm, hurricanes, extended deep freeze, etc…), where the need for a product is now, not 7 to 10 days from now. By tracking these click-to-store visitors, you will be able to measure the success of these campaigns.

Hopefully, this post will give you some insight into how multichannel analytics works, some of its challenges, how it can benefit your organization, and how a company like Edgewater Technology can help you put it all together.

10 Actionable Web Metrics You Can Use – Part 2 January 13, 2010

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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In Part 1 of this post, I discussed 5 percentage-based metrics that can provide actionable insight. In Part 2, I will go over 5 index-based metrics that can also provide insight to problems that may need to be addressed in order to maximize the value of your website.

1. Campaign Quality Index (CQI)

This index measures how well targeted your campaigns are at driving qualified traffic to your site. Suppose 40% of your traffic comes from a particular campaign, but the traffic only provides 20% of your overall conversions. The CQI for this campaign would be the percent of conversions from the campaign (20%), divided by the percent of visits from the campaign (40%). A value of one means that a visitor from this campaign is as likely to convert (purchase, sign up, request information, etc…) as from any other campaign. A value less than 1.0 means they are less likely to convert, while a value greater than one means they are more likely to convert. If the value is less than 1.0, then you need look at the reasons. You can break this down to individual search engines, or even keyword groups for each search engine, and for each individual banner campaign or other paid campaign you use, including referral partners. Perhaps the targeting is not sufficiently narrow, or the message is not being carried through the site (high bounce rate). You will want to work with your SEM team and landing page design team to make the needed changes. When you make improvements, you can track their effectiveness by watching the index change. Ideally, your analytics dashboard should be created so that you can see the changes over periods of time.

2. New Customer Index (NCI)

This index is focused on transactions (not revenue) from new customers. It is defined as the percent of transactions from new visitors divided by the site percentage of new visitors. For example, if 40% of your transactions are from new visitors, and 60% of your traffic is from new visitors, your New Customer Index is 0.67. A value of 1.0 means that a purchase is equally likely to come from a new or returning customer. A value less than one (as in this example), means that a new visitor is less likely to become a customer. A value greater than one means that a new visitor is more likely to become a customer than a returning visitor. Your goal is to strive for a value of one or better. If the value is less than one, you will need to look at factors that contribute to a low value. To do this properly, you would want to create a New Customer Index for each type of campaign you run, and compare that to those who come to your site from direct entry. A low performing index for paid search or banner campaigns can mean that you are not targeting the correct market, or that your search terms are not correlated to those looking to purchase your product or service. If the campaign is a banner campaign, either the message is not on target, or the media partner you are using is not attracting the correct demographic.

3. Return Visitor Index (RVI)

This index is simply defined as the percent of return visitors divided by the percent of new visitors. A value of 1.0 means that your site has an equal distribution of new vs. return visitors. A value greater than 1.0 means that your site is more likely to attract return visitors, while a value less than 1.0 means your site is more likely to attract new visitors. Depending on your type of site and your effort on attracting new visitors or keeping existing visitors, you can see how effective your efforts are and can then focus on how to improve this index. If your goal is to encourage repeat visits, then you need to be concerned with how fresh or relevant your content is, or how effective any email campaigns are in getting registered visitors to come back to your site. Any anomalies need to be investigated. As an example, I once saw a huge jump in new traffic in a client’s site that was the result of an email campaign, according to the analytics report. However, the email campaigns were only to registered visitors, so in order to have received the email, you would have first had to have visited the site. Thus, the email campaign visits should show up as return visitors. What happened is that the email contained an offer for a free exercise DVD, and the link URL was hijacked and placed on a few deal sites. When visitors clicked on the link, they were attributed to the email campaign, as the link contained the email campaign code! By looking at the RVI, I was able to see that there was an issue that needed to be addressed.

4. Branded Search Index (BSI)

Organic search can consist of generic terms that relate to content on your site plus searches that include your company name or your brand name.  Each can be of interest to your search manager. If more visitors come to your site from generic keywords or terms, it means that your site is well optimized for content. If more of your search visits come from branded terms, it means that more people are finding your site by your brand name instead of from non-branded terms.  You can track this by creating a BSI metric. This is defined as the percent of visits to your site from branded terms divided by visits from non-branded terms. Values greater than 1.0 mean that you are getting more of your traffic from branded terms, while a value less than 1.0 indicate that generic terms are winning the organic search battle. Depending on your search strategy and goals, you can use this information to help adjust your optimization or brand promotional efforts.

5. Site Search Impact (SSI)

Site search is very important for many types of sites. Visitors who come to your site may use site search to help them quickly find what they are looking for. If they find what they want, they may be more likely to continue to reach a goal, such as a purchase or lead submission. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they may just leave the site. The SSI index can tell you the impact your site search has on your revenue. To calculate it, take the per visit revenue from those who use site search, and divide it by the per visit revenue of those who do not use site search. “Per visit” revenue is defined as the total revenue or lead value for the month, divided by the number of visits. If your SSI index is greater than 1.0, this means that your site search is making you money, compared to those who do not use search. If the index is less than 1.0, it means that your site search is costing you money, meaning those who use site search are less likely to either make a purchase or become a lead. This can be the result of not getting desired results from the search, or result pages that don’t satisfy your visitors’ needs. To solve this problem, you would then need to dive deeper into your site search report to identify and correct the issues.

Hopefully this two-part post on 10 actionable web metrics you can use has given you some insight into how to make your web analytics program more actionable. While some of these metrics are fairly easy to construct, others may require filtering, segmentation, calculated metrics and integration with offline data. Depending on your analytics tool, you may want to use a presentation package like Xcelcius to create and display your gauges and create a dashboard. Edgewater Technology can help you develop an actionable analytics program based on the goals of your company, and can create the appropriate tagging and reporting strategy that will let you see your actionable metrics at a glance. Contact Edgewater today to learn more about how we can help you get more out of your web analytics program.

10 Actionable Web Metrics You Can Use – Part 1 January 13, 2010

Posted by Joe Kamenar in web analytics.
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The end goal of a web analytics report should be to provide some guidance on how to take an action to improve how your website is meeting its goals. However, many analysts simply generate canned reports using their analytics tool and send it to their management for review. In this two-part post, I will share with you 10 different web metrics that can “at a glance” tell your management how well a particular campaign or goal is performing, plus provide some relevant actions that can be taken to improve the underlying performance of the metric.

In Part 1, I will look at five metrics that are expressed in percentages. In Part 2, I will look at five metrics that are expressed as an index. Ideally, these metrics would be designed to be seen as gauges on a dashboard, and some can have the ranges color-coded (green/yellow/red) to quickly show the impact of that metric. Here are the first five actionable metrics.

1. Campaign Margin.

If you are running any paid campaigns for an ecommerce site or lead generating site, you need to know your margin. In simple terms, your campaign margin is defined as your revenue from a campaign less its cost, divided by the revenue. Your goal is to stay as close to 100% as possible. You can create a report that shows the campaign margin for any campaign that involves external spend (banners, paid search, sponsorships, etc…), or an internal spend on employees’ time (social media marketing, forum and article posts, etc…). The smaller your margin, the less money you are making. With this metric, “0%” is breakeven. If you have a negative margin, you are losing money on that campaign. If you have a positive margin, you are making money. This type of margin can be shown as a gauge and placed on your analytics dashboard. If your margin is negative or near zero, you need to take action to look at why the campaign is costing so much or how you can increase the campaign’s effectiveness.

2. Percent Revenue from New Visitors.

This metric tells you how likely visitors are to order from you on their first visit, compared to ordering on successive visits.  In order to create this metric, you need to be able to segment your traffic by new vs. repeat visitors. To calculate the metric, take the revenue generated from new visitors and divide it by the total revenue.  If the percentage is more than 50%, you get more of your sales from first time visitors, If it is less than 50%, you get more orders from repeat visitors. If you see this percentage is low and you have limited repeat buyers, then perhaps you would want to do a better job to get a visitor to purchase on their initial visit. If you have a low percentage of revenue from new visitors, and you have a more expansive product line, then this metric is telling you that you get more of your sales from repeat visitors or customers, and you may want to focus on keeping your content fresh and maintaining campaigns such as email or social networking to keep your visitors coming back.

3. Engaged Visitor Percentage (EVP)

This metric is defined as the number of visits that contain an action or event that indicates engagement divided by the total number of visits. To use this metric, you must first determine what defines an engagement. This can be any of the following – visit a specific number of pages, visit particular pages of interest, subscribe or register to something on your site, post a comment, rate something, click on an ad, use a tool, navigate a map, download something, play a video, forward to a friend, or do anything else you wish to show engagement. By monitoring this metric over time, you can determine if your site is doing a better or worse job of engaging your visitors, if this is one of the goals of your site.

4. Utilization Factor (UF)

Some types of organizations have developed their website to encourage its users to conduct business through it instead of calling or submitting paperwork. For example, an insurance company may want claims to be processed via the web. A financial agency may want its brokers to process transactions via the web instead of sending in forms. If one of your goals is to encourage the use of your site to accomplish tasks, one way to measure this is to track the percentage of activities that are conducted on the web divided by the total number of activities conducted online and offline. This metric is a bit more complicated, as to do it entirely online you need to import the offline data into your web analytic program. You can also export the online data and create an Excel-based report that combines the online and offline data. Your UF can also be used to measure the percent of registered users who use the site to transact business. By monitoring the Utilization Factor over time, you can determine how well your efforts are to shift your transactions to the web. Specific actions can include training of your users on how to use your site to process transactions, or ongoing communications that remind your users to use the site.

5. Self Service Factor (SSF)

If your site is to be used to provide customer service, one of your goals could be to reduce the percent of customer service issues that are handled through the phone. Thus, the SSF would be calculated as the number of service issues that were resolved on the web divided by the total number of service issues (web + phone + chat + email). In order to do this, you would either need to import your offline data into your web analytics program, or export your online data into a spreadsheet to combine it with your offline data. If your company has a target goal for resolving service issues via the site, you can create a gauge that shows how well the actual percentage is compared to the goal, or color-code the result as red or green to show if the SSF is above or below the target. Part of your site’s optimization efforts would include analyzing the issues that are most often called in and updating the content on the website, or making the top 10 most frequent issues a sidebar on the customer service site.

In Part 2 of this article, I will show you how to use these five additional actionable metrics:

  • New Customer Index
  • Campaign Quality Index
  • Return Visitor Index
  • Branded Search Index
  • Site Search Impact

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.