Data Driven Web Site Design

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re in a meeting and your throwing around ideas about how your website should look. Your partner says, “Let’s not use drop-down menus, I hate using them and hurts the quality of the site.” Meanwhile you ‘re thinking, “I don’t mind drop-down menus. I think they’re practical.”

Then you say, “OK, but I think that we should use the red logo instead of the blue one, I think people will relate to it better.” “No way,” replies your partner, “the red logo does a much better job of calling people to action.”

And so the same conversation goes that has plagued meeting rooms ever since advertising was invented. The belief that most web users are like us is enough to produce gridlock in the average web design meeting. But behind that belief lies another one: the belief that most web users are like anything.

Web use is idiosyncratic. There are no “right” answers. The better solution: make a hypothesis, test it out and see what works. Be driven by the data. If a higher percentage of customers who land on the page with the blue logo and the drop-down menus, than use it. After you’ve crossed that bridge, make another hypothesis, test it and see if it works.

Page Views, Hits & Visitors in Measuring Traffic

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the data the Google Analytics provides. Here’s a look at three units to measure – hits, pages views and visitors.

A “hit” DOES NOT actually refer to the number of times a user visits and/or clicks on a Web page. A “hit” refers to the user request for a Web Page “hitting” the web site’s server. Thus, you could have multiple “hits” to the server but only one view of the Web page. For example, if you have a page with 10 pictures, then a request to a server to view that page generates 11 hits (10 for the pictures, and one for the html file).  A page view can contain hundreds of hits.

A page view is each time a visitor views a webpage on your site, irrespective of how many hits are generated.

A visitor counted only once in a specific time frame. So if someone visits the site today and tomorrow, they’re are counted as 1 unique visitor and 2 page views.

Google Analytics Blog does a good job of describing how to measure visitors accurately on Google Analytics.

The ultimate goal is to measure quality. One way to measure the quality of a site is a low bounce-rate or the visitors who move onto another site immediately after visiting your site. What does a high bounce rate tell you? Avinash Kaushik defines it as, “I came, I puked, I left.” So in other words a high bounce rate isn’t good.

Keywords Determine a Customer’s Stage in the Buying Process

The key to a successful PPC campaign is determining the keywords/phrases that your target audience will search for to find you.

The first step is creating a “keyword universe”

  1. Think about what words your customers use when referring to your product/service.
  2. Use a keyword tool to get a list using those initial keyword ideas. Google’s keyword tool and the SEObook keyword tool work great.
  3. You can also have Google go through your site and come up with more ideas.
  4. With that list expand it with common misspellings, plurals and abbreviations.

Now, all of these different keywords can be used by customers at different stages of their buying cycle. With some analysis you can understand to a degree what the customer’s motivation may be.

Learning Stage: the customer is gathering information. They use broad keywords like TV.

Shopping Stage: the customer is comparing products, brands and features.They use a little bit more refined keywords like Plasma TV or High Definition TV.

Buying Stage: the customer is ready to buy. They will use exact keywords of model numbers like Sony BRAVIA 46″ 1080p HDTV.

Is this strategy fool proof? No. But utilizing your web analytics to measure the success of certain keywords will allow you to see those keywords that are catching people too early in the buying process. If a lot of people are bouncing quickly, they may be too early in the buying process.

How To Work With the New Online Gatekeepers

Thanks to the internet, the barriers to entry have fallen. We are in a publish first and then sort-out-the-good-stuff-later environment. The gate keepers, who once had control of limited shelf space and limited TV stations, used that scarcity to their advantage by having a say in what made it through to the masses.

Now bloggers are the new gatekeepers. Instead of saying what should and shouldn’t be published, they create buzz and spread the word about what has been published. Most bloggers aren’t paid for what they do so a mediocre press release will not get their attention. The main asset that bloggers have is their audience and they will appeal to them fist and foremost. Any blogger that disregards their audience for the sake of making some cash to plug a product will loose their credibility with their audience.

First identify the blogs that actually do have an interest in what you’re trying to have featured. Use technorati. Read their blogs and interact with them. Post comments, submit useful articles that don’t necessarily have to do with your business and build a relationship. Then in time, with something relevant about your business, submit it with a personal note and it will be read.

In online marketing, 1% makes all the difference

In Seth Godin’s book, Meatball Sundae, he describes how in just about every community, only 1 percent of the people are the givers. In Wikipedia, for example, 1 percent of the users create and edit articles. 1 percent of readers contribute comments on blogs. 1 percent of readers Digg articles.

The hard part, Godin explains, is that you don’t know who they are. You don’t know which 1 percent of your customers and prospects are the ones who want to post about their experience.

And, 61% of respondents to a recent survey said they check review sites, blogs and other customer feedback forums before buying a new product or service.

Word of mouth spreads further and faster today than ever before. Take advantage of it.

SMM is About Creating a Cause to Die For

I finished reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and dug what he had to say about groups being able to form through social networks because of the new tools made available from the Internet.

3 stories:

#1 The bank HSBC recruited students by promising checking accounts that carried no penalty for overdrafts. Then, HSBC decided to revoke the policy, giving the students only a few weeks notice about the change. But they didn’t expect students to create and join a group on Facebook called “Stop the Great HSBC Rip-Off!” Shortly afterwords HSBC caved in and reversed the policy.

#2 Flight 1348 was grounded in Dallas due to bad weather and sat on the ground for eight hours before passengers were let off. On passenger on that flight formed a group to represent the rights of passengers called The Airline Passenger’s Bill of Rights. She started this group by commenting on an article on the web which attracted more of the passengers and together they made an online petition with 2,000 names. The bill ended up at the Senate.

#3 A girl in New York looses her Sidekick cell phone in a cab and discovers that her phone ended up with a girl in Queens. She found this out by seeing photos taken by the thief with her old phone that were transferred to her new one. She asked for the phone back but the girl in Queens refused. So they created a website with pictures and a description of the events. Soon, thanks to sites like Digg, they were getting ten emails a minuet from people offering encouragement and help. After dozens of complaints to the NYPD, the cops were sent out, the thief arrested, and the phone returned.

What do these stories have in common?:

These groups were successful because of a cause that all the participants believed in. The saying goes: people will work for money but they will die for a cause. For your social media marketing to be successful you have to make it a cause people will die for.

Creating a Facebook page that consists of your business name will not attract anyone, let alone inspire them to recruit others. instead of “yourbusinessesnamehere Facebook Fan Page”, try a cause in your business industry: (if you’re a restaurant) “The Coalition to Stop Bad BBQ!”, or (if you’re a salon) “1 Million People Against Faux Hawks!”.  You get the idea…

Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

A new report from iProspect, conducted by JupiterResearch,  says

that 45% of search engine marketers do not integrate their search marketing efforts with offline channels and 24% of companies do not participate in offline marketing at all.

The study finds that just over half of search engine marketers (55%) intentionally integrate their efforts with at least one offline marketing channel. Specifically, that integration most often takes place with direct mail (34%) and magazine/newspaper advertising (29%), while both television (12%) and radio advertising (12%) trail behind.

Another study by iProspect, published in August of 2007, revealed that

two-thirds (67%) of search engine users are driven to search by an offline channel, and that 39% of those offline-influenced search users ultimately make a purchase from the company that prompted their initial search. Moreover, it also shows television advertising to be the leading offline channel that drives users to search (37%).

Makes sense: you see something on TV or in the paper that strikes your interest so you search for more info online. This correlates with the 61% respondents to a recent survey saying that they check review sites, blogs and other customer feedback forums before buying a new product or service.

#1 I think this makes it even more important to stay current with what is happening in your industry so that you can be present when people go online after having their interest sparked from seeing something offline.

#2 Since:

only 26% of marketers utilize the same keywords in offline campaigns as are used in search marketing campaigns in their integration efforts,

I think it makes since to correlate the two.

#3 So let’s say you put an ad in the paper with the hope that it drives people to your store as well as your site. How do you know if it’s successful? A spike in your site’s visits I guess.

#4 I think this is also saying that because of your branded advertising efforts a consumer will pick your site instead of others because they recognize your name in the search results and therefore trust you more.

Still, this doesn’t negate the Faith and expense it takes to undertake advertising to the masses.

The Slight Edge in Online Marketing

I finished the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson the other day. Applying it to marketing online is easy: new media and new tools online are really easy to use like setting up a Facebook page or starting a blog. And every action that is easy to do, is also easy not to do. Why are these crucial things easy not to do? Because if you don’t do them it wont kill you…at least not today.

If you post in your blog and comment on a couple other blogs today will your Business change? Probably not. If you don’t do those things will your business fall apart? of course not. No success is immediate and no failure is instantaneous.
We live in a results focused world. With the flip of a switch or click of a button we want to see results. But the real definition of success is: the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.
Seth has commented on this many times:

The irony of the web is that the tactics work really quickly. You friend someone on Facebook and two minutes later, they friend you back. Bang. But the strategy still takes forever. The strategy is the hard part, not the tactics.

I discovered a lucky secret the hard way about thirty years ago: you can outlast the other guys if you try. If you stick at stuff that bores them, it accrues. Dripdripdrip you win.It still takes ten years to become a success, web or no web. The frustrating part is that you see your tactics fail right away. The good news is that over time, you get the satisfaction of watching those tactics succeed right away.

It’s more like 35 semi-fell swoops that do the trick. And deep down, we realize that. But, now that we’ve said it out loud, now that you acknowledge that you’re going to need 35 web visits or permission-based emails or 35 different conference appearances or 35 blog posts or whatever, dripdripdrip… if you know that you need 35, not one, how would write/appear/act differently?

Drip, drip, drip goes the Twit:

Publishing your ideas… in books, or on a blog, or in little twits on Twitter… and doing it with patience, over time, is the best way I can think of to lay a foundation for whatever it is you hope to do next.

So get started and make incremental steps toward the goal even if they seem inconsequential at the time.