Last week, I arrived a few minutes late for the Orion Panel on Measuring Success in a 2.0 World at SES London 2009.
Taking my seat at the front and pulling out my trusty digital camera to snap a few shots of the participants, John Marshall from Market Motive was heard to cry - “It used to be so easy!”
He was referring to the good old days when websites were mere appendages of real world businesses who thought they ought to have one, but were not sure what to do with them, and where counting “hits” was all anyone cared about.
Well times have changed, and in this session a few experts discussed the current strategies and state of the market, giving some advice on how to approach the vital discipline of measuring business success in the middle of a financial crisis.
One of the themes was about WHAT to measure.
Neil Mason from Foviance explained that it’s important to define what you mean by success. If web analytics is about observing behaviour, how does that behaviour contribute to the success of your business. Have you defined what success might look like? Are you after sales, revenue, sign-ups, more time on site? Defining what’s successful is the hard part, but once you know what your goals are you can track behaviour and optimise your site to positively influence it.
Social media was then thrust into the spotlight. John said email marketing may struggle as a channel in the future, as the youth of today is spending more and more time on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Miles Bennett from TargetStone suggested that brands start measuring their online reputation, grading conversations about their products and services by tone and then engaging with those networkers to better understand their needs. He said that there was still a lot of work to be done by website owners to track sales from different referral sources (social media sites) and optimise accordingly.
Discussion then moved to tools. With the proliferation of different digital touch points, and the fact that users are often driven offline to buy – how can we measure it all and get an accurate picture of how successful we’re being?
Richard Zwicky from Enquisite gave a nifty analogy about the difference between a camera phone and a digital SLR, basically saying you get what you pay for, but both are just as useful and relevant in the right context depending on what you want to do and how fast you want to do it. He then suggested that we’re not tying in offline and online activity very well at the moment and the only technology we still have to be able to make sense of it all is the human brain!
“It’s all comes down to people!”
I then posed the question - “We’re now we’re in a recession. Marketing budgets are being cut, people are losing their jobs and we’re all having to do more with less. How much time should businesses be devoting to measure their sites success?”
Miles - “It’s a full time job!”
Richard - Define your goals and business success metrics, and build a role around the accurate reporting and analysis of them, making sure you leave enough time to take action.
Neil – Gave an analogy of a yacht sailing on the high seas. We’re in the middle of a storm right now so it’s more important than ever to have someone skilled on deck 24 hours a day trying to navigate the rough water and pointing the boat in the right direction.
My two favourite sound bites were from Richard who said, “Your site is not an island – it’s an integral part of your company.” And John who quipped, “Traffic is a bad word. Intent is what you should be looking for!”
The session was pretty indicative of a lot of the conversations that I heard at the conference. Although search marketing is hard, in these lean economic times it will take more time to get things right and that data, and people who make sense of that data, are still your best assets.
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