Archive for the ‘Web Analytics’ Category
How much traffic does your website get from organic search?
Easy question, right? If you use Google Analytics (which is likely, as GA is installed on almost 60% of all websites), just click on Traffic Sources > Overview in the left sidebar menu, and you’ll see something like this:
The problem is—this is almost certainly baloney. Hooey. Poppycock. Nonsense. BS.
For lightly trafficked sites, this chart may actually be quite close, within one percent or so. But for larger sites with more substantial visit counts, this figure can vary significantly from reality.
While researching how best to measure and categorize backlinks for WPOinc’s web presence optimization (WPO) Metrics Dashboard, we found that the way Google categorizes referring sites driving traffic is a bit, shall we say, misleading.
At first glance, determining how many different search engines drive traffic to your site (or rather, how many different search engines Google thinks are supplying visits) is an easy process: in the left sidebar menu in GA, click Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic > Overview, then in the small menu in the center of the screen click Sources.
GA will list “all” of the different search engines producing visits to your site, normally somewhere between eight and 12 sources; 16 is the highest we’ve seen. The list will usually contain well-known sites like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, AOL, Ask, Search.com and Babylon, along with perhaps Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia).
However, the actual number of search engines driving traffic to your site is likely higher—possibly much higher. In the case of one larger client website, which gets tens of thousands of visits per month, GA reported that the site had received visits from 24 different search engines in the past year. But in analyzing the specific URLs supplying visits to identify alternative search engines in the mix, the actual figure turned out to be … 246. More than 10 times the figure GA had reported as “organic search” sources.
To check this for yourself, in GA, click Traffic Sources > Sources > All Traffic. At the lower-right of the screen, set Show Rows to its maximum value. You’ll see a long list of individual URLs; how long depends on many factors, including overall traffic volume (for this client site, the list contained almost 1,400 URLs). Near the top of the list (assuming the default sort: by volume of visits, descending) you’ll likely see the major search engines, industry news and association websites, partner sites, popular social networks, and large online directories (such as YellowPages.com, Hoovers, and ZoomInfo).
But scroll a bit further down the list and you may see URLs you don’t recognize. Among these are blogs, lesser-known directories, and … search engines. Here are a just a small sample of the search engines we found miscategorized by GA:
blackle.com / referral
claro-search.com / referral
crawler.com / referral
endlessmatches.com / referral
fastestwebsearch.com / referral
goodsearch.com / referral
hotbot.com / referral
i-mysearch.com / referral
metacrawler.com / referral
pipl.com / referral
qiye.us / referral
safe-find.com / referral
Granted, these sites individually don’t (normally) provide large volumes of traffic, and even collectively in our experience usually skew results by no more than 2-3%. The errors, however, can be much worse in some cases: in one recent situation, GA reported that a site’s organic search traffic had increased by less than 1% on a quarter-to-quarter basis; but an in-depth look at “referring” search engines revealed that actual organic search traffic growth was nearly 20% for that period.
WPOinc is well aware that data quality is a problem in web measurement, though one might expect an organization with Google’s resources and brainpower to get something this basic right. This example is just a subset of a larger web data quality problem, that of accurately categorizing backlinks. That is, of all the sites linking to and/or sending visits to your site, what share are blogs vs. news sites vs. search engines vs … all manner of other sites? How does that profile compare to your top competitors?
SEO tools expert Ann Smarty has reviewed backlink categorization tools, but none offer much flexibility in terms of categories and all seem to suffer from some degree of data quality issues, which is why WPOinc needed to unravel the backlink blackbox. Over time, we expect third-party tools will improve in this area, providing marketers with better data to support web presence and search engine optimization efforts—we just couldn’t wait for them. When it comes to web presence optimization (WPO), you must be able to accurately measure and categorize backlinks and be able to benchmark your backlink strategy against your competitors to get a competitive edge.
So, just a heads-up: figure that your site is probably getting more (possibly a lot more) organic search traffic than Google Analytics is telling you.
As online marketing processes have evolved, the number and sophistication of software tools to support specific functions has exploded. Every discipline within marketing and PR has its own tools, among them:
SEO: backlink tools (Backlink Watch, SEOmoz, Majestic), keyword research tools, page optimization tools, SEO plugins.
Social media: social media monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, SM2), social media management (HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer), Twitter tools, etc.
Web analytics: Omniture, WebTrends, Google Analytics, Clicky, and more.
All are very helpful, even essential, but most are designed for practitioners, that is: they help a specialist in a particular discipline do his or her job more effectively. Not only are they tactical, each focuses on supporting one functional silo or another. Not surprising, since this is how digital marketing is managed today—as a set of largely disconnected specialties. So much so, companies utilize different tools, resources, and in some cases, even different agencies to manage web visibility for brand, SEO, social media, PR, and paid advertising.
And of course, search has evolved—it’s no longer just 10 blue links. Today, web presence goes way beyond a company’s website. News and social links are as vital as are other points of visibility. What’s missing is the larger strategic picture needed for top-level decision-making and for managing digital marketing and PR in a coordinated manner. We’re all missing this because there aren’t tools to help us do it. Or are there?
A “Eureka” Moment
A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework. This model (evolved from a 2010 post) came about from KC Associates’ (KCA) client consulting projects. Operating as a cross-functional team, each consultant knew that a framework for optimization is useless unless there’s a way to track and measure gaiting factors that can be adjusted in order to move the optimization needle. So the group took a long, hard look at the tactical tools each consultant uses with a more creative mind of how they might be repurposed for WPO.
For example, SEO backlink tools can provide detailed lists of the precise backlinks to a competitor’s website. This can be quite valuable to an SEO consultant, but it’s mind-numbing overkill for a VP of marketing.
However, a graphical comparison of the type and quantity of backlinks pointing to the firm’s website and the sites of close competitors may be very enlightening (e.g., discovering that competitor A has twice as many media links and three times as many social links pointing to them)—particularly if these measures have changed significantly in a short period of time.
This simple change in thinking was truly eye-opening.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
First and foremost, the WPO framework provides the strategic and structural approach to the unified management of web visibility. And WPO metrics that support this framework provide the critical measurement necessary to enable the overall coordination of these disciplines to improve presence optimization and performance.
The set of 100+ WPO metrics that the group developed for KCA clients is driven by data collected by a host of off-the-shelf tools as well as some custom developed sources. As a collection, the attributes of these metrics differ from what most other tracking and measurement tools are set up to provide in six distinct ways:
- • Focus on management, not execution. WPO metrics are designed to support management decision-making (e.g., where should we devote more resources) rather than tweaks to specific tactics. Put another way, they are about the “what” rather than the “how.”
- • Provide a unified view of results. They provide leaders and team members with an overall picture of press (media outlets), social, website (organic search), industry (e.g. associations, research organizations) and paid web presence. The tactical tools available tend to focus on one or two of these areas.
- • Include competitor metrics. An organization’s digital marketing results don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to view results in the context of competitive activities. Competitive benchmarking is vital to developing strategy and allocating resources.
- • Reflect the value of owned, earned and paid presence, not just the company website. What customers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and others have to say about you is sometimes more important than your own content. WPO metrics show the value of all of your points of web presence, whether it’s your content or something produced by a third party.
- • Are actionable and NOT “everything but kitchen sink.” Too many tools try to report every possible detail, rather than just what’s important. The result is data overload and analysis paralysis. It’s confusing and too much to absorb, and therefore doesn’t get acted upon. Best-practice WPO metrics focus only on measures that support concrete action.
- • Identify clear priorities. While WPO metrics cover a lot of ground, not every measure matters all the time. For example, if your media share-of-voice remains about the same from one month to the next, but your AdWords conversion rate drops by half, WPO metrics focus on the latter result.
WPO metrics won’t replace tactical, execution-level tools, but they will help guide decisions about which functional tools to use and how to coordinate the tasks of different disciplines for a larger purpose. They fill a critical gap by giving marketing executives, and everyone on digital marketing and PR teams, a unified view of web presence that reflects a more integrated optimization effort.
One of the most valuable features of Google Analytics is the ability to drill into detail on traffic sources; not just how much traffic came from search or social media, but how much came from each specific search engine or social networking site.
First off, by definition, direct traffic is all visitors who “arrived at your site directly (by typing the url) or via a bookmark.” Technically, there are other possible sources for direct traffic as well such as clicks on links within an Outlook email signature or Word document, but direct entry in a browser address bar or bookmark click account for the bulk of direct traffic.
Second, direct visitors fall broadly into one of two groups: let’s call them “old friends” and “new friends.” Old friends may include, among others:
- • Current customers (for example, clicking on a bookmarked link to your support page or user community area)
- • Partners (channel, technology, implementation services, etc.)
- • Vendors
- • Investors
- • Employees (accessing the site from outside the corporate network, e.g., from home or on the road)
- • Media and analysts already familiar with your company
“New friends” are (generally) predominantly sales prospects, but also include potential future employees, media who are new to your company, prospective investors and/or partners, vendors and other influencers. The “root” sources for this traffic may be online or offline.’
Online Direct Traffic Sources
PR / media relations: media exposure builds brand recognition. Visitors may type your URL into their browser address bars based on seeing a company profile, product review, news release pickup, subject matter expert quote or other mention in industry media.
Social media: social networking and content sharing also builds brand awareness and credibility. A click directly from Twitter, Facebook or another social media site will be recorded in Google Analytics as a social media visit of course, but there’s now question that some percentage of direct visits are inspired by exposure through social bookmarking and other social media activity.
Industry presence: listings in industry-specific directories, trade show sponsorships, industry association memberships and other similar industry presence links can lead directly to referral site traffic or build brand recognition that leads to direct visits.
Offline Drivers of Direct Visits
Face to face meetings and other “business card events”: the most prominent source of these direct visits is trade shows, but other venues may include Tweetups, conferences at which a company executive or subject matter expert speaks, social media breakfasts or happy hours, business networking events or anywhere a representative of your company is able to give out or exchange business cards with prospective buyers.
Printed media: yes, people do still use media like print advertising, direct mail and sales collateral. In fact, in a crowded online world, a well-crafted direct mail piece can make your company stand out–your prospects’ “real” mailboxes today are likely far less crowded than their email inboxes. An ad in an actual printed publication, a clever direct mail piece (more creative than a simple letter or postcard), or even a leave-behind or brochure handed out at a trade show can often lead to a “direct” website visit.
Old-fashioned word of mouth (WOM): while so much attention today is lavished on social media marketing (and not unrightly so necessarily), the fact is–people still talk. Particularly at the executive level. Whether at a breakfast, mixer, phone call, golf outing, conference or other event, executives and subject matter experts talk. If you’ve captured their interest and are relevant to someone else’s needs, your name is likely to come up. There’s no way to measure the effect precisely, but equally no doubt it affects those direct visit figures.
The segment of direct traffic worth optimizing for is of course prospective buyers. While it’s impossible to separate out this group with precision, it is possible to quantify and analyze the behavior of this group roughly be creating a custom segment in Google Analytics that excludes certain pages more likely to be visited by non-prospects (e.g., the media page, careers pages, and support area of the site) and known customers based on their network name.
Optimizing for direct traffic then requires a mix of online and offline tactics. Utilize best practices in social media marketing and online PR. Be active in industry groups, trade shows, conferences and local events where you can meet people in real life. And considering that paper production is actually up 180% in the past five years, don’t completely over traditional marketing channels like trade media advertising and direct mail.
Guest post by Lisa Cramer.
We used to analyze website effectiveness by how well it conveyed who you are as a company and how quickly and easily it informed visitors of the value you deliver to them. And while we continue to discuss website effectiveness in terms of conversions – providing content that prospects find interesting enough to be willing to give up some of their own information in order to receive it – now that’s no longer enough. Now, with more and more buyers doing their research online at your website and other sites, it’s important to be able to digitally track and see as much as we can about that company and person before they ever reveal themselves to us.
Online tracking of web visitors has taken on added importance for sales and marketing. While web analytics software tells us important metrics like how many visitors we have, which pages they visit and for how long, sales and marketing need more leads.
Using web analytics I can evaluate how my site’s doing as a sales and marketing tool, but now it’s time to take it a step further. I need to be able to actually see if the prospects I’m trying to attract to my website are indeed the ones visiting. I need to see what pages those companies go to and what exactly they are doing on my site. And even more to the point, I need to be able to turn that anonymous visitor into a known entity.
When a company visits your website anonymously, technology can’t tell you who the individual is, but it can certainly tell you their company. And, with links to readily available data sources (including LinkedIn) you can easily find the individuals with the titles that are your targets. When a company comes onto your website it’s an opportunity for you to proactively take its anonymous interest and turn it into a lead. We know from client experience that taking anonymous visitors and converting them into identified prospects directly leads to revenue.
The key criteria in converting an anonymous visitor to a known lead is to not only know who the company is but what they were looking at on your website. For example, if Company A was visiting the LeadLife website and it spent a long time looking at pages and blog posts related to lead nurturing, then we would know to engage the VP of Marketing, CMO and/or CEO in a discussion about lead nurturing’s value to sales and marketing, and ultimately, to the bottom line. Conversely, it would be much more difficult to generate their interest if we had instead initiated a conversation on lead scoring.
What’s now available in technology and supported through process change can help you to make sure your website is performing for sales and marketing in the most effective way. It’s no longer only important to analyze website metrics such as the number of visitors; it’s now time to convert those previously anonymous visitors to known ones.
About the Author
Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead management solution that helps drive revenue by bundling a state of the art marketing automation platform with highly-experienced marketing and sales specialists. In 2009 and 2010, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five “Most Influential People” in sales lead management, and in 2011 was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in sales lead management. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisajcramer or connect on her B2B marketing blog.
Guest post by Hernán Gonzalez.
Experienced marketers understand added benefits are what make a sale and features are what provide value. That meant that campaigns with lots of bells and whistles were assumed to be more productive. Each accent added to a brand’s “wow” factor and more updates meant more sales would soon follow. However, the creation of modern day analytics tools has changed the marketing environment from hopeful anticipation to anxiety. Today, added benefits can actually be measured and thus, there is no longer a good reason to pay for features that won’t deliver.
Clients are now able see how much ROI they receive real-time. While this may useful, it also means that if metrics don’t add up, businesses are more likely to return to agencies asking why a campaign is underachieving. At that point, should the agency be responsible to change the site design, content and layout until performance rates are higher? Good Question.
The answer lies in better consultation practices, workforce preparation and adaptation. Even the most seasoned agencies can have trouble achieving a balance between all three on the first attempt, hence the need to include revision fees in the initial budgeting consultation. Clients and agencies alike understand the value of these services, and after all, there wouldn’t be a point in investing in them unless a profit was guaranteed sooner or later.
Marketers should no doubt place as much value on the results as their clients, since a reputation can easily be created or ruined depending on the success of a campaign. What can be done to eliminate concerns about metrics for both parties? The responsibility falls on to the agency, yet clients can at times be too fast in making their own evaluations in regards to what the resulting numbers really mean. For example, a site may convert fewer visitors into subscribers, but the percentage of customers out of those conversions is higher. The click through rate from Facebook may be high, but few products are being bought.
Determining whether a third party or the agency itself should interpret these statistics should be an important part of negotiations. Not only will establishing the importance of metrics assist in showing the agency’s concern for a campaign’s success, but it will help clear the air regarding the extent of their role in adapting to ever-changing analytics. Clients should be educated so that they recognize the difference between attractive statistics versus those that actually matter. A few primary attributes should serve as the basis for determining what’s worth a call for agency resources, such as monitoring actual sales as opposed to casual “Likes” on a Facebook page.
Despite the need to deliver measurable results, less tangible values should not be overlooked. Although they don’t provide monetary worth in and of themselves, “Shares” and page views could translate into the establishment of a broader customer base and increased media attention. Brand exposure and visibility are difficult and complicated things to measure, it not completely impossible. The benefits of both can help lead to more endorsement, brand reach and eventually may provide the exact sort of concrete worth clients are eager to see.
As long as a solid plan is established and agreed upon by the agency and client, marketers must return to the basics through the discovery of their customers’ existing problems or areas of growth. By confirming the results businesses are after- higher click through rate or conversions – marketers can set goals that are within reach and provide improved results. The most significant area of this practice is in the avoidance of cutting costs until ROI has been confirmed. While agencies should and do continue to adapt to the changing marketing landscape, they also need funding to maintain the resources needed for updates based on metrics’ fickle nature.
Hernán Gonzalez is Creative Director at Dutch Monaco.