I recently wrote a post titled Search Marketing is Hard. In that post I argued that search advertising was especially hard for small business; it requires a paradigm shift from marketing by fiat and intuition, often dictated by the highest paid opinion, to a data-driven process integrating web analytics and content testing, a process designed to wring every last bit of value from every advertising dollar. What’s true for small business is even more true for agencies.
The Agency Challenge
Agencies who manage paid search are at a disadvantage. Much of what they need to know to maximize return on their clients’ advertising investment is invisible to them. Their line of sight typically ends at the click between search page and landing page. Beyond that, they’re blind.
In these lean times advertisers themselves have a fierce focus on what matters most to them: ROI. They want conversions, sales, profit. That means optimizing each step of the long, circuitous path from search ad to landing page to check-out funnel to sale. If anywhere along that path the prospect stumbles, they won’t become a customer. No conversion, no sale, no profit. The client holds the agency responsible. It’s not fair, it’s not reasonable, but there it is.
How does an agency gain access
to their client’s web analytic data?
Save them money!
It does no good for an agency’s account manager to throw up his hands and complain he has no access to the client’s web analytics and no influence on their web site if he did. It’s true but irrelevant. The only thing that matters is results and better results are achieved by managing the entire sales cycle from first to last. If not managing, then at least influencing.
How does an agency make the case for access to their clients’ web analytics? Save them money on worthless clicks. A paid search referral that hits a landing page and then bounces back less than 10 seconds later is a wasted expense. They were never a viable prospect. They were mistargeted by the search campaign. An agency with access to the bounce rate of that page could use the data to refine the search campaign’s targeting.
- Modify ad text
- Add negative keywords
- Demographic targeting
- Geographic targeting
- Day parting
Moving the Needle
The trending of the bounce rate acts as a needle. Move the needle in the right direction, you’ve succeeded in saving your client money. But never forget the ultimate focus: conversions. Reducing bounce rate while reducing conversions is counter-productive. Segmenting search traffic by conversion is a critical function of managing by analytics.
The practice of web analytics
is basically the scientific method
Web analytics isn’t an arcane art. Basically, it’s the scientific method with self-interest. Data is a proxy for behavior. Observe the behavior, create a hypothesis to explain the behavior, then test the hypothesis to see if the behavior changes in the desired direction. If it works, repeat; if not, revert.
Even in my superficial explanation, it’s obvious that testing is essential to the practice of search advertising. Learning the methodology of content testing is another challenge for most agencies.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor
If life were fair, clients would take responsibility for expertly managing search engine traffic on their site, analyzing data, testing their analysis, and optimizing conversions. Life isn’t fair, it’s Darwinian.
It’s my opinion that agencies must become expert in analytics and testing in order to optimize for the best results at the least expense. That skill set requires agencies reach beyond their comfort zone and account managers gain new skills.
- Familiar with major web analytics solutions currently on the market.
- Expert in analyzing data collected by analytic solutions.
- Capable of providing guidance to their clients on key performance indicators (KPIs) and analytic best practices related to PPC advertising.
- Comfortable with defining and interpreting A/B and multivariate tests.
Agencies not only have to become expert at data-driven decision making, they need to help their clients become expert as well. They need to become their clients’ trusted advisor. They need to master the use of testing and analytics because it’s immensely powerful and produces results. And results are what’s going to keep them in business when others fail.