I’m at the Search Engine Strategies 2008 conference in New York, working the Microsoft booth, meeting customers, spreading the word about adCenterCommunity.com and going to as many of the sessions as I can.
For any of your not familiar with the conference it has a global footprint and is totally dedicated to search engine marketing, both PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO (search engine optimisation).
But there are also a plethora of other tracks you can attend on social media marketing, mobile advertising and local search.
Fresh from two great sessions on Web Analytics, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write up what was said because the information was extremely valuable for anyone just starting out with web analytics, or the seasoned pro who was after some extra tips.
The over-riding themes of both “Web Analytics – Data Into Action” and “Web Analytics – Measuring Success” were of the importance of capturing data about your website’s traffic and then taking action on it.
Matt Bailey from SiteLogic.com, an enthusiastic and enigmatic presenter, was keen for website owners to move beyond simply reporting the same numbers every time. It’s good to know how many visits you’ve had or how long people spent on your site, but there’s so much more data you can glean if you use the data correctly. It’s about setting goals. Have a clearly defined set of targets with which to aim for, whether you want to increase sales, leads, downloads or page views. Having goals will force you to take action in order to achieve them.
Now he was keen to impress on the audience that there’s no such thing as accuracy in web analytics. Because different providers of analytics solutions track traffic using different methodologies they are unlikely to match up exactly. What you need to look for in the data are trends. For instance you might see traffic increasing at the weekend for a particular product or service. Why not offer a weekend discount to help you increase sales or work out why the weekends are so special and try a different tactic to your marketing during the week.
Matt then talked about segmentation. Don’t tar your traffic with the same brush, so to speak. Using most analytics tools let you slice and dice data, so you can break down visits and sales and tell a story for each segment or category. Let’s say you’re an electronics company that sells all manner of gadget paraphernalia. It’s not really optimal to have one CPA (cost-per-acquisition) goal for your whole site. Different products, or at least categories, should have different CPAs. The return on ad spend for a £2k digital camera may well be better than a $3 pack of batteries and you would want to have data on both in order to help your increase profitability for those products.
I once ran the advertising for a big airline company in the UK. They would have a separate CPA for each destination they flew to. They knew how much they needed to spend on each destination doing PPC to maintain profitability. If they were undersold on any flights they’d increase the CPA which meant less profit but at least a higher CPC meant more traffic for that destination, and an increased likelihood of a sale.
“Data doesn’t tell you what to do!” but Matt’s mantra was that having more data points adds context which tells a story about what people are doing on your site.
The next session was again full of great advice. Avinash Kaushik, author of "Web Analytics: An Hour A Day" split search engine marketing into five main stages:
- Keyword discovery
- Keyword management
- Keyword bidding
- Website landing pages
- Business outcomes
Where analytics is important is between the last two stages. It’s important that you gather data to infer the intent of your users when they arrive from a search engine results page. You have to understand that SEM is not about getting users to click on your ads but to get them to spend money or take action, whether it maybe registering for a newsletter or signing up for an offer. It’s not what you do to get people to your site, it’s what you do to make them do what you want them to do on your site!
When it comes to PPC, Avinash talked about NOT participating in what he calls “ego-bidding”. What he means is simply being number one to trump your competitor is not always ideal. It may not give you the best return to be in the number one slot. Sure if you’re in position three you may get less traffic, but you’ll spend less and may get better ROI. Of course you won’t know any of this if you don’t monitor and analyse your traffic closely.
The key takeaways from both sessions for me were:
- Don’t just report numbers, try and tell a story
- Segment your audience – e.g. product category, geographically or demographically
- Set goals – e.g. increase in page views, decrease bounce-rate, increase sales
- If the story doesn’t look like it’ll have a happy ending - TAKE ACTION
- Test, test and test again
Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be helping you achieve analytics utopia by writing posts that show you how to get the best from adCenter Analytics. We’ll be showing you how to use the tool to segment your audience, what trends to look for, and how to take action to channel your traffic more effectively.
Let us know if you have any questions or if there’s any analytics topic you’d like us to write about.
Mel – adCenter Community Team