Archive for the 'Web Analytics' Category

Seven Contrarian Resolutions for a Web Presence That Wins

Last week, I issued a press release suggesting that business and nonprofit owners and executives could benefit from some contrarian thinking when creating their web and social media strategies for 2012. My “contrarian” stance was prompted by Vint Cerf’s wonderful comment on my recent book:

“Some of the anecdotes are counter-intuitive . . .”

I took that as a great compliment!

Here are my counter-intuitive suggestions for your 2012 web strategy, based on some of my favorite rules:

  1. Avoid Industry Best Practices: unless you’re sure that you’re using valid comparisons, these can give you a false impression of your specific situation.
    Read more in Rule 4: Beware of Benchmarking and Best Practices

  2. Counter the Competition: many businesses are wary of giving away their “secrets” online – but not showing your expertise and track record can hamper your growth.
    Read more in Rule 12: Consider the Competition (available in full in the free sampler)

  3. Stop Taking “One Size Fits All” Advice: many “experts” hype their online marketing results – yet there are few really effective short cuts. Make sure that their tactics apply to your online markets and goals.
    Read more in Rule 15: One Size Does Not Fit All

  4. Ignore your Search Engine Rankings: – until you’ve figured out which of your keywords really pay off in leads and quality traffic, and then focus on those.
    Read more in Rule 22: Rankings Don’t Matter

  5. Attract Invisible Buyers: think about your behind-the-scenes influencers and decision makers, and create copy that engages them too.
    Read more in Rule 28: Talk to the Buyer Behind the Buyer (available in full in the free sampler)

  6. Beware of “Feel-Good” Numbers: “dashboard” summaries of web analytics reports are convenient for busy managers, but rarely tell the whole story – and can be quite misleading.
    Read more in Rule 35: Drill Below the Dashboard

  7. Feed the HiPPO: sometimes the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” (which can be both wrong and strongly held) should be overcome with proven web metrics data.
    Read more in Rule 37: Numbers and Testing Trump Politics (available in full in the free sampler)

Since it’s now halfway through January, these are probably the last set of resolutions that you’ll consider adopting. But do give them some thought – after all, last is not necessarily least!

Should We Be Worried about Privacy Trends in Web Analytics?

Big changes are afoot in the availability of web analytics data. Some are already happening, and some are on the horizon:

  1. Google has stopped providing organic search term keywords for visitors who are logged into their Google account while browsing (these now show as “not provided” in your reports).

    Although when this was announced, Google predicted that this would affect only about 10% of site visitors, I’m already seeing over 30% of incoming keyword searches blocked, both on my website and those of my clients. Not knowing the keywords that attract our visitors has major implications for our ability to evaluate how well we’re meeting users’ needs and expectations.

    Avinash Kaushik provides some great advice, and some workarounds in a recent blog post. Yet even he talks about “impossible analysis . . . in the complete absence of data :) And his suggestions are wonderful for web analytics gurus, but I’m concerned that many small business owners simply won’t have the time or the mindspace to dive into custom reports at the level that he’s talking about.

  2. In Europe, the European Commission cookie directive requiring that all sites allow users to opt out of cookies completely is being implemented. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office website includes a link to the Google page where people can opt out of being tracked by any Google Analytics implementation. If this is widely adopted, many site owners will no longer be able to obtain accurate visitor numbers, making it very difficult to evaluate the return on their online investment.

Both of these measures are ostensibly being driven by privacy concerns, although it’s not clear to me how much of the expressed fear is legitimate, and how much is largely driven by hype.

Obviously, since we’ve come to expect good and useful analytics information, some alternatives and other solutions will need to be created. Perhaps in Google’s case that will require business owners to pay for data that was previously free to them. Perhaps we’ll find some way to distinguish unique visitors that is more acceptable than cookies.

Either way, 2012 is going to be interesting to watch for developments in web analytics, both in data developments and in regulatory trends. I’ll be interested to see what the analytics world looks like this time next year.

Beware of SEO Experts With Silo Vision!

Last week I talked with a small business owner. She had just spent $6,000 over the past 4 months for search engine optimization services – which was a significant budget item. Of course, the SEO company was sending her ecstatic reports about her improved positions for targeted keywords, and increased click-throughs to her site.

So I asked her “How are all these new visitors responding to your site? Are they taking a good look around, or are they leaving immediately? Are you getting more calls and leads? Do you know which of the keywords that you’re optimizing for are performing best for you, and whether any are a waste of effort? Do you have any idea of what you’re getting back for your $6,000 investment?

She replied that she didn’t have the answers to these questions, that she’d just assumed that things were going well because that’s what the SEO company was reporting, and then she sighed: “I think we just fell into the classic small business trap!”

Now don’t misunderstand me – I believe that the SEO company was doing exactly what they’d been retained to do.

But this company was only evaluating her success from their perspective – and they’re looking at her business from a pretty narrow silo.

I’ve seen this situation many times. Last year, I spoke for a group which included a manufacturer of kitchen appliances for the restaurant industry. They only sold to the trade, not to individual consumers. Again, they had an SEO company who’d got them to be #1 in search for keywords like “mixer”, and the CEO was thrilled with the increased traffic numbers that the SEO folks reported.

But the Director of Sales told a different story. Because the Website didn’t include any statements about who their customers were, or any language such as “minimum order”, the sales team were spending 25% of their time fielding completely unqualified leads! Now that’s what I call a leak in resources . . .

This type of scenario is why I argue so strongly for a “Website Ambassador” for any company. Outside practitioners (or less experienced employees) who you hire for one specific purpose can’t be expected to understand the ramifications of what they do on every other aspect of your Web presence and your business. Someone needs to have the 30,000ft view to ensure that all of your strategies and tactics are working together to maximize your ROI.

Otherwise, in plugging one leak, you could be creating several others!

Are Marketers Not Spending On Analytics, Or Are They Just Not Talking About It?

There’s an interesting article in today’s eMarketer about business executives’ plans for integrating social media and e-mail marketing in 2010. The report quotes from the “2010 Marketing Trends Survey” by StrongMail, which lists the various marketing tactics on which executives plan to increase spending.

But there’s no mention in the spending table of analytics or any method of evaluating the ROI on these activities. And the report states that 23% of marketers admitted that they didn’t know how to measure their results. Bill Wagner, Executive Vice President of StrongMail comments that “. . . companies need to adopt new tools and strategies to properly measure and monetize their efforts.”

So what’s going on here? Are marketers spending on analytics, and that’s simply not listed in the report? Do analytics come under a different budget? Or are executives really willing to put money, time and resources into campaigns without any idea of their return on investment?

Let’s say it again: 95% of the Websites that I’ve audited were leaving money on the table – and their owners had no idea . . .

Do your Online Markets Challenge your Traditional Business Model?

Last week while visiting the UK, I sat down with the Operations Director of a small academic institution.

We started to review their Google Analytics. As often happens, we were immediately faced with data that directly challenges the business strategy they’ve followed so far.

To date, the college has concentrated on delivering high-quality programming to in-person groups – and their marketing and fundraising has reflected this model. Yet without any focused online promotional efforts, their Website is attracting traffic from all over the world – far outside their physical catchment area. In fact, 35% of all Web visitors could not easily get to their campus.

This is a scenario that I’ve seen many times. There will always be visitors to your Website who at first glance don’t belong to your established target market or demographic, and your instinct may be to let them go.

However, in this case we can clearly see from the inbound search terms and the pages visited that these people are specifically looking for the college, or for the subject matter that they teach – this is highly qualified traffic. And 35% is a pretty big number of potential customers to turn away!

Of course our discussion turned to the creation of virtual courses, webinars, podcasts, e-books and other offerings that could be delivered anywhere in the world. This would be a major shift in strategy for the college, and like many non-profit organizations, they’re underfunded and tend to move cautiously.

From what we saw in the analytics, I believe that they’re missing significant potential revenue and outreach opportunities – which in my language means that their Website has some major leaks. At least there are proven visitor numbers to make that case to the Management Team and the Board – I’ll be interested to see how they go forward.

Starting to Take My Own Medicine . . .

As of today, my brand new Website has been up for 10 days, and it’s time to do what I recommend to all my clients, and start looking at my Google Analytics for some useful, actionable information.

This is a pretty salutary experience – my site is literally new and has almost no presence in search engines (Bing seems to be picking it up faster than Google) – so traffic numbers are pretty small.

I do see a couple of interesting things.  One is a great illustration of something that I tell my audiences a lot – there are always people who get to your site by mistake, and you need to decide whether you want to do anything about them.  I noticed a visitor who did a search for “Birkman study” and came to my site because I have a success story from some consulting that I did with Birkman International. This visitor left right away, which makes sense because clearly they were looking for Birkman’s expertise, not mine!

I’m also intrigued to see a few referrals to my site from Twitter, all of which record a 100% bounce rate (that is, visitors leaving immediately), and zero time on the site. Since someone retweeted the article that I’d referenced with a comment, I know that at least one person read the page, which meant that they spent time on it. Hopefully as the site traffic builds, I can shed more light on this.

Other than that, nothing earth-shattering, but there’s also not enough volume to make any findings statistically significant yet – there’s my next challenge!

The Trap of Linear Thinking

Today I provided a “Pick my Brain” session for Gavin Burt, from the UK site Running Injury Oracle (thank you, Skype!)

Gavin is a leading osteopath in the UK, and he has developed an online system to help runners diagnose and work with their injuries. Depending on their needs, he provides advice, checklists and videos for a monthly or annual subscription. So far, the response has been very positive, and he’s about to get major PR from the British running press.

So far, so good. But today we looked at his Google Analytics and discovered a problem that he hadn’t thought of. The site was designed for visitors to start at the home page and move logically through the process of self-diagnosis to get to their type of injury.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Visitors who find the site through search engines are entering at inside pages which are focused on specific keywords. These visitors don’t have any context for what they see – the content immediately jumps into the diagnosis and subscription information, which is fine if they’ve been down the logical path, but not if it’s their first impression.

Luckily, this is a new site and still very much a work in progress, so we can figure out how to make the concept of each page clear to all visitors.

I told Gavin that he’s not alone – so many people make assumptions about how their site will be traveled, and don’t think about visitors getting to pages in all sorts of random ways.

But right now, many of Gavin’s visitors who enter at inside pages are leaving the site too quickly – so we need to plug that leak!