Web Metrics | Search Marketing
Site Strategy

"In a nutshell, Jason created our marketing analytics capability. He was able to figure out what data we collect, where it is, what was missing, and hook it all up so we canget meaningful, actionable data. Our marketing efforts have improved leads and conversions in some cases by an order of magnitude. He knows his stuff."
Chris Foleen, Marketing Project Coordinator, TransCore, Inc.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Which Touch? Going Past Last Touch Attribution in Google Analytics, a response

The guys at SEOMOZ have done some great thinking in their article "How to get past last touch attribution with Google Analytics" describing how to tinker with Google Analytics to get more than last touch attribution out of organic search referrals.  

Referencing Avinash's post on the value of "Upper funnel" keywords and several very interesting articles on how to build custom filters, they lay out a theory for how this could work.

"First touch attribution" is the first topic they take on.  Here the theory is that first touch keywords (upper funnel keywords) are the real stars.  Since they do the introducing they should be getting conversion credit.  Repeat visitors who use branded phrases and convert are only there because of the topic first touch.  This accounts for the higher conversion rate of branded search repeat visitors, but credit should really be given to the first touch.  The SEOMOZ guys do an interesting job of showing how to create the filters and settings to show first touch attribution in Google Analyics.

This is an interesting proposition and worth investigating.  However, I am skeptical.  In my experience, low priced products convert better from topical search while high priced products convert better from branded search.  For topical search conversions, we don't need to dig any further.  But branded higher priced purchases speak to the power and improtance of brand in the psychology of the buying cycle. This is ignored (maybe even discounted) by first touch attribution and the SEOMOZ article.  Even if topical search is attracting new visitors, brand is an undenighable influencer in big ticket and/or multi-touch purchasing decisions.  If you were to start taking your eye off your branded, repeat traffic in favor of first touch metrics, you could very well misunderstand your audience and their motivations.

The only way to work out the value of this and how to weight the metrics would be to run a test and see the results.  The test would have to collect all touch data so it could be evaluated.  This gets to the second part of the SEOMOZ article--multi-touch attribution.  

"Multi-touch attribution" is involved collecting all the referral data and then, normally, weighting it. First touch and last touch are the main points of interest.  The content and quality of the touches in between are informative.  Everything is given an "assist" value to weight its importance.

Here the SEOMOZ article has an interesting, but most-likely unworkable solution, especially if your website has any real volume of traffic.  

I appauld them for pointing out how it is possible by using a combination of filters and scripting to collect this information.  I also applaud them for recognizing that this would absolutely require a data export and external manipulation.   However, where they say a pivot table, I'm betting it would be more like a database and some creative SQL if your website has any volume at all.  This is because by concatenating the sources together into the _setCustomVar value in Google Analytics, you are essentially creating automatic segmentation and your variations are going to multiply uncontrollably.  Eventually you could have a quantity of segments equal to the number of visitors you have.  Only those who followed exactly the same series of keywords and sources could be aggregated together.  Because of this, I have a hard time seeing how this could be applied in any way outside a test environment unless more software and infrastructure was inserted into the mix to handle the post-processing of the GA data.

They also mention the concept of assigning value to the assist visits, but this is more completely thought through in C3 Metrics' whitepaper.  

Overall, I think the guys at SEOMOZ have done a great job in starting to unravel the intricacies of crediting multiple sources and how that might work with Google Analytics.  And, honestly, I'm thinking about how to start working some of this into my own clients' analytics.  However, there are a lot of assumptions going on here, some untested theories, some early summer dreaming, and implimentation in a production environment seems pretty far away.  

But then, isn't that how everything great starts out?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Social Media is Changing the Game for Small Business

Contributed by Tom Bennett

Small businesses often need to focus marketing that creates immediately measurable results, usually focused at having people take action (buy or sign up, or call). Historically this has created a very tactical approach to marketing. It’s about spending dollars to make things happen. Now with the rise of Social Media, there is a new opportunity to use low-cost tools to engage in more sophisticated activities like customer engagement and brand development.

You might be hearing a lot about Facebook and Twitter, and all might seem a bit silly. How can a small company take advantage in this space when it’s all grannies and frat boys? Why would a company want to “invest” time and effort? How does this help my small business?

Social Media is especially good for small business

Think of it this way: If there was a town square, where everyone went to have a huge party, share ideas, ask for referrals, and talk about their favorite solutions for things, wouldn’t you want to be part of that conversation? If you didn’t go, and you later heard that people were actually talking about your business anyway, and it wasn’t very flattering, is that worth your time to correct? People are out there talking about everything you can imagine. They are talking about you. No one can speak better about your company or brand than you can, so participate.

When someone goes to a social network like Facebook asks their friends for a referral for a good plumber, (and this happens, believe it.) they’re essentially looking for an easy way to know and trust a partner. They don’t want to spend time calling around for a plumber, hoping that the first guy that shows up knows how to wear a belt. They want a shortcut to a good relationship with a pro. Consumers are 78% more willing to believe recommendations from friends, or even from other consumers before they will believe advertising. Small businesses that can recognize this need and make it easy will win.

So how do you get started? Starting with an email address, it’s free to setup a Facebook account. Get on there and look around, and try it for yourself.  Be a consumer, and ask friends for information. See how they react and share. If you want to get started with marketing, there are lots of resources on Facebook itself, or ask us we can give you pointers.

The important thing is to start. It costs nothing, and you’ll learn a lot quickly.  It is about sharing and contribution, being present in the networks, and fostering a relationship with customers and prospects before they need to call you. That kind of work can build brand equity for your business: and that’s worth real money.

About Tom
Tom is a Marketing Strategist at The New Group in Portland, Oregon, where he guides online marketing for major brands in B2B and B2C. Besides pursuing the latest in communication and marketing technologies, he is a big fan of how Social Media will bring changes in how we communicate and collaborate. 

Attain SEM Success Through Authority

Build authority and improve ROI for your brand by combining SEO, PPC, and Social Media
Contributed by Ben Lloyd

A lot of the thinking we do about search these days revolves around this concept of authority. As the SEM industry has matured, we are beginning to understand that the interplay of PPC and SEO and Social Media enhances the perception of your brand as an authority and improves results.

The driving principles of SEO have always been content and authority (in the form of links). Since Google came around – this principle has never changed even as the tactics have. As the search results page has gotten more competitive, and social media has started shedding light on a brand’s strengths and flaws - it has become more important and difficult to cut through the noise and capture attention. Improving the perception of your brand as an authority can help you do this.

To command more authority – combine a well-executed paid search campaign with your organic presence and experience the pay off with better results from both. When your site shows up for your targeted terms in both the organic and paid portions of the results page – you’ll experience increased click through rates and conversion rates from the search results page. Not only do you own more of the search results page real estate, which gives you a better shot at capturing a click, but one could argue that there’s a gain in brand perception and credibility as well. When your brand appears in both organic and paid listings, users are more confident in your brand and therefore more willing to click through and buy from you.

Both of the following charts reflect data uncovered in a 2009 NYU Stern School of Business study on the effects of having an Organic (SEO) and Paid (PPC) presence in search engines

Figure 1: Click Through Rates increase for terms where you have both an organic (SEO) and paid (PPC) presence.

 Figure 2: Conversion Rates increase for terms where you have both an organic and paid result. Perhaps having a presence in both improves your credibility?

Building on this idea of authority, a 2009 eMarketer study “The Synergy of Search and Social Media” demonstrated two key points.
  1. Consumers exposed to a brand in social media and paid search were much more likely to search on the brand.
  2. That consumers exposed to paid search along with influenced social media had a 50% increase in click through rate on paid search ads. 
Demonstrating your command of and authority in the space enhances the perception of your brand and encourages click through.

Figure 3: Searchers exposed to your brand on social media and paid search (like Google PPC) are MUCH more likely to keep your brand in mind and search on it again.

Figure 4: The effect is even more pronounced when it comes to product terms rather than brand terms.

When it comes to SEO – authority is the name of the game and links = authority. Social media has been a godsend for SEOs. Any SEO will tell you that link acquisition is the hardest part of the job… A solid Social Media strategy can make the job easier. Not only have search engines started to incorporate social media signals into their ranking algorithms, but social media also makes it easier to put your content in front of people who can and will link to it. The publicity that social media can give your content can help your site acquire links AND influence those social media signals that search engine algorithms are looking for. As a result, your SEO should be a key stakeholder in your social media strategy.

Let’s take a look at the relationships here:
  • SEO and PPC both benefit when your listing shows up in both
  • Users exposed to PPC and Social Media are more likely to keep your brand in mind and search for it again
  • SEO and Social Media can work hand in hand to drive links and create the signals that search engines are looking for
To sum it all up – when you properly execute and leverage SEO, PPC and Social Media, you can enhance your brand’s perception as an authority and help it stand out above the crowd.

About Ben Lloyd
Amplify Interactive is a boutique firm focused on search engine and social media marketing with clients ranging from the high-tech B2B sector to lifestyle and consumer goods companies. Ben is also a co-founder and the current President of SEMpdx.

Is Your Brand Ripe for Community Building?

If a bunch of surfers could do it, why can’t you?
Contributed by Kris Larson

Brand communities are about lifestyle and affiliation and they are nothing more or less than a place where people of like mind, with a shared passion or interest, can go to affiliate with each other and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

With that definition in mind, I point to one of the first brand communities built in the 60’s by surfers, of all people. Although this may be a surprise to some people, brand communities do not rely on social media to exist. Nor are social media communities necessarily the same thing as brand communities.

Surfers created one of the first lifestyle communities that evolved over time into a series of brand communities. Magazines and movies showcased a laid-back lifestyle that featured amazing images of big waves, and bold surfers with exotic names like Duke Kahanamoku, and Greg “Da Bull” Noll. Surfers even had their own music with bands like Dick Dale and the Deltones, The Ventures, and of course, the Beach boys.

 Movies like “Endless Summer” let us in on how surfers lived, traveled, and viewed the world. “Gidget” made surfing the most popular sport in America when it came out.

 Surfing (founded 1964) and Surfer (founded 1960) celebrated a counter-culture lifestyle and become the voice of a “tribe” of surfers and surf enthusiasts: people who just wanted to look like, sound like, and hang out with surfers.

Early marketers like Greg Knoll and Dewey Weber used their surf “cred” to build and sell surfboards with their custom marks that every surfer wannabe had to have.  Even Mickey Dora, AKA “Da Kat,” who supposedly rued the commercialism created out of the surfing lifestyle, was cashing in with his name-brand surfboards.

Smart marketers took notice and started leveraging the community to promote their lifestyle brands. Early adopters included Mr Zogg’s Sex Wax, Billabong and O’Neill.

So what can we learn about building a brand community from these people who did it so well?

First of all, marketers did not create the community. The community existed first, before anyone even thought about using it to sell stuff to people. The community was actually created by the enthusiasts. The marketers just found a way to cash in on it.

And this tells me that maybe brand communities can’t be created by every single company in the world who has something to sell. Maybe it only works well for those companies with a product or service that are already catering to an active and engaged community base. Take Harley Davidson, for example. There is a great case study of how they reinvented their entire business based on the brand their community of enthusiasts created for them. Source: Harvard Business Review: Best Practice Case Study: Harley-Davidson (April 2009).

Ideas of places where community and engagement make sense (and therefore social media makes sense) are those that contain an element of passion, hobbyism, or intellectual interest.

Companies that are providing products, services and events (engagement) in these areas may be prime candidates for creating or leveraging a brand community:

Industries that require ongoing learning and development to stay current such as:
  • IT
  • Internet Developers
  • Marketing
  • Social Media Consultants
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Etc.
Products or Services that appeal to enthusiasts who share a love or passion for a sport, hobby, or activity such as:
  • Surfing
  • Skiing
  • Boarding
  • Rock Climbing
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Cooking
  • Art
Or products or services that can tie-into a community with a mission
  • Cancer patient support
  • Weight loss motivation
  • Political action groups
  • Youth ministry
However, if you or your client do not have a strong brand and is not affiliated with a big idea, lifestyle, or interest of your core customer-base, I’d recommend spending your limited marketing resources elsewhere. Because after all, who cares enough to spend their precious moments signing up for your Facebook page, Twitter account, and multiple blog feeds just to see the latest announcements about your product or company? What’s in it for them?

This is the question marketers need to be thinking about the next time they’re tempted to plaster a client’s home page with social media buttons. What exactly are you offering customers? Are you turning off prospects, or engaging them? Are you only doing it because the boss says its cool? What is your strategy?

If you’d like to test your company’s readiness to build a brand community, there’s a nifty little online quiz created by the Harvard Business Review called “The Community Readiness Audit”:

I’d love to hear your feedback on how you and your clients are using social media  -- either successfully, or not so successfully. I’d also like to hear your thoughts on other types of companies, industries or products or services that could tap into a lifestyle and create a brand community. Kris Larson’s blog is currently under construction, but I’ll be following the conversation here.

About Kris Larson
I’ve been building brands and creating integrated marketing solutions for companies for many years. Some of the companies I’ve worked with include: L.A. Gear, Computer Sciences Corporation, Technicolor and AnimationMentor.com.

Lose 10 lbs. with Google Analytics

Let me start off by putting two ideas out there:

1. I don't think I'm alone in admitting that winter usually brings with it a little extra. Holiday dinners and cold rainy weather have a tendency to keep me home and sedentary. But spring is here, and I'm ready for some outdoor activity. With my Droid, I have an abundance of apps that are made for tracking how far and how fast I can go.

2. There is a thing in analytics called "onclick tracking". Onclick tracking is when you make a call back to the analytics platform and tell it to record an event when something is clicked. This is really important for finding out things like how many people clicked on links that took them off your website. Onclick tracking is also good for recording how many people submitted a form when there is no "thank you" page. Onclick tracking is essential in AJAX environments. Onclick tracking can help you understand what people are reading when you use CSS to hide and display information on a page. Overall, onclick tracking is amazingly versatile and important.

One day these two ideas combined in my mind: Why not use Google Analytics to track and trend how much exercise I do? A simple web interface, a little math, and some creatively named onclick calls could bring it all together.
  1. Select the activity. 
  2. Start the timer. 
  3. Stop the timer. 
  4. Do some math to get the number of minutes. 
  5. Send those minutes up using an onclick call that records each minute as a specially named page view. 
  6. The date is automatically recorded by GA, and the info will be aggregated and trended effortlessly.

By nesting the names correctly, you could even track and set alerts for how much of each kind of exercise you want to do.

Re-purposing Page Views is the Key
For this you need to use page views. Why? Because, then we can configure GA to track our calories and/or minutes of exercise as "goals". Once we track them as goals, we can use Intelligence to send us alerts if we are not keeping up with our routine. Want to do 30 minutes a day of exercise? Set a custom alert to look for a value of less than 150 per week of Goal 1. You'll get a nice reminder from Google, letting you know that you are falling behind on your routine.

"Events" (the other basic unit of measure in GA) won't work because it cannot be used to set up goal tracking.  

You could track and set goals for all your exercise needs--calories burned, miles jogged, buckets sweated.

Track Anything with Google Analytics
You could open the horizons even further and track almost anything you need tracked--miles driven, client hours billed, dollars spent on groceries, phone calls received. Anything that can be distilled down to an integer recorded over time can be tracked.  The opportunities for what you could do with Google Analytics Life Tracking are huge.  

Build a web interface for your call center and integrate your incoming phone calls with your online campaigns using shared campaign codes and custom parameters. With a bit more work, web to phone tracking in one unified analytics view becomes possible.

All you need is a good web programmer, a solid analytics strategist, and some creativity to start looping those page views.

Before you know it, you'll have lost those 10 lbs. and have the analytics to prove it!