Archive for Web Analytics

Inverted U Curve Of Online Marketing Attribution

Inverted U Curve Of Attribution Analysis
I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants where he discusses the concept of the inverted U curve which explains how having more of something can be counterproductive. I think attribution analysis in online marketing applies to the same curve.

In my graph you can see that more information from attribution modeling does in fact produce better investment returns. But each additional piece of information yields less marginal utility – known as the law of diminishing returns – and, at some point, additional information begins to have the opposite effect.

Count of visits before purchase is increasing. Amount of sites visited before purchase is increasing. Time spent researching before purchase is increasing. Amount of devices used to access the internet is increasing. Amount of sales offline influenced by online research is increasing. Amount of time spent online generally is increasing. All these factors combined turn attribution analysis into a brutal rabbit hole.

Eventually, assigning specific value to any individual interaction is an exercise in futility. Gone too far and it will begin to take away value. I think the online marketing manager of the future will employ a kind of marketing mix strategy rather than a channel ROAS strategy.

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Quantifying The Necessity To Do Display Remarketing Ads

In Google Analytics under Audience > Behavior > Frequency & Recency you can find the count of visits report. Add the Built-In segment Visits with Transactions. This way you can see how many visits it takes for people to purchase. Compare year over year count of visits for purchasers. There is a good chance the amount of visits it takes for people to convert has gone up year over year.

Count Of Visits

A few thoughts on this:

  • As the internet becomes more ingrained in our daily routines we all browse more. A visit to an ecommerce site is no longer a signal of high purchase intent like it used to be.
  • Retargeting is more important. Visitors are taking more time comparing prices and sites. While they’re weighing their options it’s worth it to remind them of your offering with display ads.
  • Do you offer discounts so often that visitors waiting for your products to go on sale?

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The Curse And Blessing Of Direct Traffic

One reason to analyze traffic sources is to identify which sources have the most value and to generate ideas on how to get those high value sources to perform better. If you were to ask what is the value of $100 on AdWords, your analytics tool can give you an answer. Often paid search and other channels are combined along the path to purchase causing a multi channel funnel, but there is still a significant amount of sales that search is solely responsible for.

Not so with direct traffic because unlike other sources, it doesn’t work alone. Direct traffic is not really direct for two reasons. 1. The way all analytics tools work is that if they can’t identify the source, they will call the visit direct. 2. Even if it all really was direct – people typing the url in the browser bar, direct traffic is hard to analyze on it’s own because something else always has to cause it to happen. You don’t go typing in a URL in your browser without learning about that URL from somewhere else. You can never really know what initiated someone to come to the site directly. So direct isn’t really a source, it’s an action. A better label for direct would be unknown.

Direct being unknown is not necessarily a bad thing. Direct traffic should be used in conjunction with analyzing all other channels. All the work those other channels do will contribute to direct. This forces you to think of your site’s acquisition strategy in terms of an ecosystem rather than channels working in silos, independant of each other.

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Treat Different Site Visitors Differently

When I used to do sales I would beat myself up about getting rejected. Then I started to keep track of how many people I talked to who were actual decision makers and realized I was mostly getting rejections from people who weren’t the decision makers and couldn’t buy anyway. This made me feel better because I realized my conversion rate was much higher once I got in front of a decision maker. The same applies to websites.

A less than 2% conversion rate seems bad when you think about it; 98% of people don’t buy. But if you were to whittle down the people who were actually there to buy your conversion rate would be a lot higher.

Take a look at all the different reasons someone would come to your site. There are visitors there to check their order status, contact customer service, browse, compare prices, find a store locator or are not interested in buying at all and leave after one page view.

If you can measure all the actions on the site that infer a certain kind of customer cohort than you can build something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 3.11.46 PM

In this graph I’ve spit up all traffic into five segments:

  • Service – visitors checking order status or contacting customer service.
  • No Shot – visitors that show no interest in buying, visit <=1 Page. Who knows why they showed up we have no information on them to infer anything from.
  • Browsers – visitors reading blog posts, relase calendars, looking at
  • Buyers/Instore – choosing the pick up in store option, visiting the store locator, getting driving directions
  • Buyers/Online – behavior that matches that of the Visits With Conversion segment

With this new view in mind you can measure accurately how well your site is converting those shoppers who actually have an intent to purchase. And you can accurately measure the task completion rate of those other visitors there to go to customer service or shop offline. You can also segment these buckets by marketing channel to see how many qualified leads each channel is providing.

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Ecommerce Blog Dashboard (Excel Download)

Many ecommerce sites have blogs as a means to drive traffic, help with SEO, drive new visits, engage with customers, make sales, increase credibility and more. All of the goals can fit into two silos: engagement and driving revenue to the site. The two depend on each other – the better the content the more potential people will click through to the site and purchase.<

I built a dashboard for measuring the success of these two silos on a monthly basis. Check it out:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Measuring engagement has multiple facets. How well does your content attract new visitors, get people to come back, bring in others via social sharing and just be all around worth reading? The top left column pulls in those metrics of measuring how engaging the content is by using comments, shares and likes as a proxy for quality. Likewise the first row of bar charts shows the count of visits, days since last visit and page depth – pulled from Google analytics, over the last 4 months. Seeing these trended out gives you an idea if your content is getting better or worse over time – same with the line social graphs in the bottom row.

Next, how well does the blog get people to buy from your site? The first step to driving a sale is to get people from the blog to the site, so the Visits to Website line graph and the Blog to Site CTR shows how many, and with what frequency people are clicking through. The middle chart on the middle row shows overall revenue and per visit value.

A dashboard is only as good as the actionable insights one can glean from it. This dashboard shows (the numbers are all made up mind you) that last month the content got better – people commented more, shared more and Liked more. The next step here would be to pull the All Pages report for the month and see what kind of content resonated so much, and then make more of it.
Despite less traffic overall the quality of traffic to the site increased as Per Visit Value increased – too bad not more people aren’t clicking through to the site, maybe more links to the site could help that. Were the links to the site product pages, category pages, the homepage?
More questions: Did the new visits this month convert? The count of visits from last month were higher, was there a theme of content that you stopped using this month? Anyway you can add onto the content that drove the spikes in visits from previous months? How does your cadence of posting affect the volume of traffic?

Download the Ecommerce Blog Dashboard in Excel.

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Making the Vaguest Marketing Objectives Measurable

Almost every marketing proposal and brief include one or more of the following meaningless goals: drive awareness and increase engagement.

Of course we want to drive awareness and/or increase engagement. What is marketing if not one or both of those things? The point of marketing proposals are to allow the thinkers on the team to collaborate and then give those ideas outlined to the doers on the team. Proposals, like most endeavors, are garbage in – garbage out. The more vague the objectives and strategy the more vague the results will be. So let’s how we can boil down “awareness” and “engagement” into unique actions that we can measure and get better results.

Objective #1 Drive Awareness
Awareness to who? Certainly not everyone. Moms with kids? Traveling businessmen? Baby Boomers? Teenager jocks? Go one step further and say “Drive Awareness to ________.” Then the doers can measure themselves against how well they are reaching that desired audience. Age and gender reporting are easily accessible in AdWords from the Google Display Network.
Also by using the myriad ways to overlapping contextual, interests one can measure the CPM and CTR of getting in front of the coveted demographic.Targeting new customers or return customers is also a consideration – how well can you reach past purchasers of product x who might have an affinity for the new product y? Remarketing lists can also be a useful tool to measure awareness. Getting the message in front of visitors who browsed certain categories or similar products can be counted as success. All of these tactics drive awareness and give you ways to measure how well that awareness was achieved.

Objective #2 Increase Engagement
Engagement is subjective and web analytics tools are inherently unable to measure the kind, positive or negative, of engagement and are left to only measure the degree of engagement. Measuring the degree of engagement is going to be unique to the experience of the site. Maybe it’s the amount of contest submissions, tweets, comments, video plays, likes, it all depends. There are a few standbys however: loyalty, recency, length of visit and depth of visit (all located under Audience > Behavior in Google Analytics. With all of these metrics see what the site average is and then use that as a baseline to achieve against.

So instead of being meaningless, an example objective on a marketing proposal could say:
“Drive awareness to our target 25 – 35 mothers with children who are trying to save time and increase the value of quality time spent with their families.”
Or
“Increase engagement by reaching more than X contest submissions while driving X new visits through user generated social shares.”

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A Web Analytics Measurement Model Strategy

We no longer live in a world where only last-touch direct response metrics suffice. The web influences both online and offline sales, every customer surveys competing sites and brands, they spend more time researching online and they research across multiple devices. This makes for a very convoluted purchase funnel. As people continue to browse constantly the amount of touchpoints before a purchase will continue to increase. So the question becomes how to quantify the value of all those touch points and create a strategy for growth?

Avinash has multiple great posts on this subject  micro-conversions, net income & goal values.  I’ve tried taking all of this in and meld together an approach to make all of these ideas work together. You should read Avinash’s posts first and then take a look at my conclusion. So I see three steps to putting together a strategy that values all the objectives of a website.

Step 1: Quantify All Actions Taken On The Site.

Look at all the micro-conversions that take place on the site and calculate their worth. This takes some creativity. You end up with something like this:

Micro-Conversion Value

Step 2: Extrapolate Those Value Across All Channels

You’ve deduced how much a new email subscriber is worth, now multiply that value to the amount of email subscribers organic search has driven in the last week. Do this with each metric and each channel and you’ll end up with a report that encompasses the value that each channel has for each micro-conversion. This is a good looking weekly report to show how the site is doing overall. But where should you focus?

Micro Conversion Report

Step 3: Focus Strategy Going Forward Based On Categorization Of Micro-Conversions

At a very simplistic level most businesses work under a pretty basic premise: buy stuff at one price and then sell it for more than you bought it for. There are four main strategies to do this: price strategies – sell at a higher price, cost strategies – sell at the same price but lower your costs, market share strategies – take more customers from your competitors, & market size strategies –  go into new places where you haven’t sold before.
Divide your micro-conversions and other metrics that are important to your business into one of the four buckets.  Now if you want to focus your strategy on volume you know the micro-conversions and metrics that each marketing channel should be driving to.

Micro Conversion Net Income Strategy

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What Happens When Conversion Rate Is So Low It Doesn’t Matter?

Of course conversion rate will always matter but what happens when your site’s conversion rate is consistently below 1% or .5%? It won’t be long before conversion rates less than 1% are the new normal.

There are two forces at work here: 1. Increased com­pe­ti­tion as peo­ple spend more time shop­ping online—more shop­ping equals more vis­its per pur­chase and con­ver­sion rates will nat­u­rally fall. 2. Increased mobile vis­its where shop­pers seem to pre­fer to use smart­phones to browse, price check, and find store loca­tions – not purchase.

Lower conversion rates aren’t a bad thing since incre­men­tal traf­fic still means more revenue. What will be bad is if the only metric you look at to measure success on your site is your conversion rate. What about the other 99% of traffic? Is that not worth trying to quantify?

No one gets married on the first date, likewise no one buys something the first time they meet your site. How many little interactions, downloads, engagement, likes, views, subscriptions, reviews does it take to add up to a conversion?  Like Avinash says, If you solve for conversion rate are you solving for all your traffic and are you improving the website experience for all your customers?

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Web Analytics Starts With Asking The Right Questions

Web analytics tools are only as good as the questions you ask of them. Knowing how to use Google Analytics or Omniture – how to pull certain metrics and create reports, doesn’t do you any good until you have a reason to do so.

There are two kinds of questions: reactionary questions and investigative questions. Reactionary questions come from looking at trends and reacting to the results to find out why those trends happened.

Here are some reactionary questions:

  • Why did revenue dip week over week?
  • Why is cost per acquisition going up?
  • Why is site traffic increasing?
  • Why is bounce rate increasing?
  • Why is traffic decreasing from X traffic source?

Investigative questions are a result of discovering trends before they cause a reaction. These questions are the little discoveries that yield big results and the best questions are the ones that have a desired outcome tied into them.

Here are some investigative questions:

  • Where do my most valuable customers come from, and how do I get more of them?
  • Which keywords should I be focusing on in paid search and seo to decrease cost and increase relevant traffic?
  • What content is most persuasive at driving desired outcomes so that I can make more of it?
  • Which marketing channel is performing the best/worst according to sales and leads?
  • Is the content on my site causing people to return frequently and how can I make it more “sticky”?
  • How many page views does it take for someone to convert, is that the right amount or are we making it too hard for them to find what they are looking for?
  • In what stage of the shopping cart are people abandoning so that we can fix the leaks and increase conversion rate?
  • Which sources of traffic are driving the most new visitors so that we can continually add new prospects to the top of the funnel?
  • How do we get users to add more items to their cart so we can increase average order value?
  • What things are visitors searching for the most in site search? Are there opportunities to create content that doesn’t yet exist or make existing content easier to find?
  • How do smart phone visitors differ from tablet users and desktop users? Could we make a better user experience for those different users that would lead to higher conversion rates?
  • How long does the average paying customer spend on the site? Should we try to get everyone to spend the same amount of time or is it too long?
  • What effect would increasing rankings on organic search have on revenue and leads?
  • Which sources of traffic are assisting in conversions even if they aren’t the last source before the visitor converts?

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The Essence Of Web Analytics

The essence of web analytics is to boil down business objectives into unique actions on a web site. Its not about amount of visits, time on site, or most visited pages. When you match a desired outcome from a web site to a business goal and then devise a strategy around getting that desired outcome to happen more, by analyzing the data around that desired outcome, you’re doing web analytics.

Essence Of Web Analytics

Get enough of these and you can separate them into small objectives and large objectives where smaller ones lead to bigger ones, like it takes 10 sign-ups for every 1 sale. Then you build your marketing strategy off of these business objectives: “we need an increase of sign-ups if we are going to reach our sales goal so how can we optimize the content on the site by looking at bounce rate?” etc.

On a side note: Can the same methodology be used on optimizing your life? What is your personal life purpose and how can you boil it down into unique outcomes that you can track to measure your progress?

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