Call Tracking for Marketers Presentation

[Update: Slides posted]

Here are the slides from last night’s meeting. The crowd may have been small, but the vibe was enthusiastic. Most of the content was voiced over and the slides are sparsely worded. Hopefully the images and text convey enough meaning, otherwise you’ll never understand the references to the Dharma Initiative (and cake).

Wondering how to measure phone calls in addition to standard web metrics and online conversions? Are you in or near Richmond (or can be next Tuesday)?

I am presenting Phone Call Tracking for Marketers at Refresh Richmond‘s monthly meetup. I’ll come up with some interesting ways to cover the following topics:

  • What is phone call tracking?
  • Why track calls from your marketing campaigns? (hint: because your clients don’t know they need it yet)
  • Build or buy?
  • Merging call data with campaign data
  • Optimize, refine, repeat

Here are the details:

  • Date: Tuesday, January 18th
  • Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm (after party at Popkin’s Tavern)
  • Location: INM United office, 201 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA

Hope to see you there!

You’ve Optimized Your Site. Now What?

Are you running out of ideas to further optimize your site and online presence for search engines? Did a recent redesign or SEO campaign address ALL of the accessibility, relevance and credibility issues your site faced? Do your internal processes include SEO input and are all your customer-facing teams active contributing to your SEO success?

Congrats, my friend. You’ve reached SEO Nirvana. You should write a book!

In reality, SEO is never done. But for the sake of argument let’s assume you’ve maxed out your SEO potential and need something else to justify your salary and follow up on your “big win”. What do you do next to continue to improve your business?
[Read more...]

5 Steps to More Efficient Online Marketing

Ron PopeilWith all due respect to the great marketing master Ron Popeil, online marketing is not as simple as “set it and forget it”.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, achieve profitability and maximize the return on your marketing investment, you must continually refine and optimize your advertising and website content to turn more visitors into customers.

Here are 5 of the most basic principles to retain and convert visitors to your website more effectively and efficiently without resorting to infomercial-style gimmicks:

1. Measure Visitor Activity

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” ~Peter Drucker

It sounds basic, right? Yet I’m surprised how often I hear of mid-sized companies that have no clue how many visitors their website gets, where they come from, or how many turn into customers.

At the bare minimum, sites should be running one of the free website analytics packages. Some of my favorites are:

With any of these tools, you will get a basic set of metrics for site visits, content usage, and traffic referral sources. Advanced capabilities include conversion tracking (how many visitors took a desired action?) and ad campaign tracking (how well are my ads working?).

Not sure how to set them up? Check with a qualified website analytics consultant to get started (hello!).

2. Remove Distractions

Web users have short attention spans. They don’t give you long to get to the point and you only have a short time to get them to take action on your site. Think about all of the obstacles and distractions on your site that are preventing them from converting or finding the right content…and get rid of it!

Less truly is more, and your visitors will appreciate being able to complete their desired actions quickly and easily.

3. Test Everything!

And I mean EVERYTHING! Designing and running simple A/B tests is usually free (except for development time) but can uncover invaluable insights in a short amount of time.

Okay, so testing everything can be a bit overwhelming. Start with the basics:

  • Ad text, banner ad images
  • Landing page headlines and body copy (hint: they should reinforce your ad text!)
  • Images and buttons
  • Forms (less is more)
  • Contact info placement
  • Calls to action
  • Special offers and promotions

Ready to jump in with the big fish? Try the Google Website Optimizer to test multiple combinations at once.

4. Give Visitors What They Ask For

Whether you use banner ads or pay per click advertising, don’t just drop visitors on your home page. If you mention a specific offer in your ad, your landing page better reinforce that message! Otherwise you run the risk of losing hard-won (and costly) visitors that can’t find what they were promised.

Looking for more customization? Mine your site search logs or search engine data to find out what people are searching for, then create content around common themes.

5. Be Ruthless

Don’t be afraid to cut any part of your marketing plan that does not provide a demonstrable return. Social media, email marketing, pay per click advertising, skywriting and FourSquare may be fun, but don’t waste your own valuable time or money on these channels if you aren’t sure whether or not they are working.

It’s okay to hit the “pause” button on any marketing initiative while you re-assess your capabilities to track the results. After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

How Much More Traffic Will I Get From SEO?

Note: This is the first in a series of “Free Advice” posts that I will start publishing in response to Twitter requests. Want your SEO or PPC question answered? Ask me on Twitter.

“How much more traffic will I get to my website if I optimize it for keyword X?”

It’s a very common question from prospective clients and was posed by Rick Whittington on Twitter. The answer should help build value for the SEO engagement by demonstrating the potential gains and how to measure them. In this example, we’ll focus on ACME, Inc., a Richmond-based widget reseller with operations throughout Virginia.

Step 1: Determine Your Current Search Traffic Segments

Segmentation is the key to deriving value from your website analytics package. In this case, I am talking about segments of keywords related to a particular theme. For ACME, the keyword segments can be defined as:

  • “Branded” – Company name, brand names, etc. (including common misspellings)
  • “Virginia” – Containing “VA” or “Virginia”
  • “Richmond” – Containing “Richmond” and surrounding towns
  • “Widgets” – Containing “widget” or “widgets”, i.e. “blue widgets” or “widget for sale”
  • “Doo Dads” – Other names for widgets and keywords consumers are also likely to use

In your Google Analytics Keywords Report, select only the keywords from each segment. For example, to select only “Virginia” OR “VA” keywords, use the | separator in the Filter Keyword box at the bottom:

Keyword Filter

Do this for each segment, noting the total traffic volume and number of unique keywords for non-paid search traffic:

Keyword Volume

Plot all of your keyword segments on a chart and you’ll end up with something like this:

Keyword Segments Chart

Now we know how many unique keywords we have and much traffic we are getting from each segment. Hold on to this chart for a minute.

Step 2: Gather Search Volume Estimates

Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to calculate rough estimates of search volume for particular keywords. To find it, click on the “Opportunities” tab in AdWords, then “Keyword Tool” in the Tools section on the left.

Type in your keyword segment seed keywords and make a table of the estimate local (U.S.) search volume for Phrase Match to include all combinations of your keywords. DO NOT use Broad Match, it will give you the wrong results for this analysis. You’ll end up with something like this:

Keyword Search Volume

Step 3: Look for Patterns and Gaps

Notice the pattern in the search volume data? “widgets” keywords (and many of the most popular variations) are searched more frequently than the same variations of “doo dads”, by anywhere from 25-100%. Example: “virginia widgets” and “virginia doo dads”.

Now, look back at your chart from step 1. ACME’s site is drawing a fair amount of traffic from a wide variety of “widgets”-related keywords but almost no traffic from “doo dads” keywords.

This is certainly not in proportion to the search volume that we KNOW exists for “doo dads” keywords. Hence, a gap in the SEO strategy and an opportunity to optimize the site for “doo dads” keywords (without taking your eye off of the “widgets”) keywords.

Step 4: Take it One Step Further

Want to be a true analysis ninja and really impress the client? Perform the same analysis but instead of looking at JUST organic search visits in Step 1, substitute conversion rates or conversion counts (leads, sales, revenue, or whatever) by keyword segment and demonstrate a tangible benefit to their business.

But This Doesn’t Answer the Question!

Before you say that this analysis doesn’t tell the client exactly how many more visits their site will receive, keep in mind that that is an unknowable number and no legitimate SEO consultant will guarantee particular rankings or traffic volumes. Clients that are only focused on traffic volume are usually focused on the wrong metrics. It’s all about finding the RIGHT traffic, not just the MOST traffic.

It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s an honest, fact-based assessment of how to improve the client’s business by segmenting data and looking for patterns and gaps. That should make any client happy. I know mine are.

Attention: The Most Finite Resource

Attention Span

Attention span may be the most endangered resource of the information age. Increasingly, web users seem unable to focus on any particular thought or task for more than a few short moments before being interrupted by an incoming message or other stimulus.

The Battle for Attention

Think about it. That is, if you can spare a few brain cells for more than a few seconds. We cannot create more attention. We cannot manufacture time. There is more competition than ever for eyeballs. The battles of the future will be fought over the brain cells that control thought and attention.

Thanks to the spread of technology, there are more ways to communicate than ever. There are also more people to communicate with. With social media sites and omnipresent mobile technology, you never have to lose touch with society.

Implications for Your Business

Whether it cost $300 or $3,000,000, your website is designed to attract and retain visitors until a desired action is completed.

Visitors and web users have many more external distractions that can take them away from your site in a split second. Unless you can capture and retain their attention, your website is likely losing a lot of potential business to other, more intrusive interactions.

Engage and Resonate

How do you reach and retain people that are just a click away from a competitor’s site? First, you have to engage your visitors. Give them a reason to stick around and navigate to your “money pages”. A compelling design, a unique interactive element, and valuable resources can go a long way towards keeping people interested.

Second, your message has to resonate with the visitor. This means it has to stand out in their mind amongst the thousands of other ads they’ve seen that day.

Measure and Refine

Website Analytics

Data! Glorious Data!

Check to see if your website analytics package tracks pageviews, time on site, time on page, bounce rate, and other engagement metrics. If so, you’ve already got a lot of information about what people are doing on your site once they get there. Use Google Analytics’ Event Tracking capabilities, Time on Site or PageView goals to assess whether or not visitors are engaging with your content.

Do they stick around long enough to absorb your message? Do they click through past the landing page that brought them in? Pick an engagement metric and think of ways to improve it. For example, try to decrease your landing pages’ bounce rates. Depending on your business model, you may want to try to increase the number of pages viewed by your average visitor or decrease the number of obstacles that prohibit them from accomplishing a task.

Now You Know

What other ways can your website compete in a world with shorter attention spans and consumers with non-stop Oh look, a butterfly…Oh look, a butterfly!

LA2M Analytics Slides

Thanks to all of you who attended my LA2M Advanced Google Analytics presentation! I barely had time to fit everything in and unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for questions at the end. I know, I’ve already been told I talk a lot when I get excited about something. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions that I didn’t cover.

I’ve posted the slides below and a recap of the presentation (and outline with links) on a separate page. If you can’t see the slides in the RSS feed, click here to see the full version.

Google: Ad Position Doesn’t Affect Conversion

Good news for Pay Per Click advertisers, you can rest a little easier knowing that your lower-ranking text ads are likely converting at the same rate as higher-ranking ads.

Google set out to answer the question, “How does conversion rate vary by position?” (Note, “position” in this context refers to Average Position, or where your text ad appears on a search results page)

Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian released these results on the Inside AdWords blog:

We have used a statistical model to account for these effects and found that, on average, there is very little variation in conversion rates by position for the same ad. For example, for pages where 11 ads are shown the conversion rate varies by less than 5% across positions. In other words, an ad that had a 1.0% conversion rate in the best position, would have about a 0.95% conversion rate in the worst position, on average. Ads above the search results have a conversion rate within ±2% of right-hand side positions.

Trust, But Verify: Test It Yourself

If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of testing findings like this. It may work for some but you don’t want to invest money in something that may hold true for your business.

To test Google’s findings, you can isolate your ads’ Average Position by activating the “Position Preference” setting in your Campaign settings:

AdWords Position Preference Setting

AdWords Position Preference Setting

Now you can set the position preference on a keyword-by-keyword basis simply by clicking on the Position Preference column. A small pop-up lets you indicate your desired range of positions:

Keyword Position Preference

Keyword Position Preference

Finally, set up a pre-period where you measure the conversion rates of your ads in the “any position” setting. Once your conversion rates seem to level out, try setting the Preferred Position to different settings and keep an eye on your conversion rates.

If they don’t change (or stay within a 5% deviation), you have just proven Google’s findings. If your conversion rates do fluctuate, you might try adjusting your ad text or landing page offers. Chances are you haven’t maximized the conversion potential of your site.

(hat tip Marketing Pilgrim)

4 Website Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again. Daffodils are sprouting, trees are budding, and crickets are chirping. Tax day is over. You did remember to pay your taxes, right?

Most people take advantage of the nicer weather to do some spring cleaning around the house. Your website is no different. Chances are after a hectic holiday season and the excitement of a new year, your site has developed a few cobwebs of its own. It’s time to air it out and get it ready for prime selling season.

Here are five simple ways to clean up your website to get it ready for spring.

Prune Dead Links

Prune Dead LinksScan your website for “dead links”. These are links to pages that no longer exist on your site and generally result in a visitor seeing an error page (a “404” in web-speak). This can cause momentary confusion and a poor user experience.

You can find dead links on your site by looking at the “URL Not Found” report in Google Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t signed up for this service yet, you should do so immediately. Additionally, you (or your webmaster) can check your server logs to see which pages and files on your site are returning 404’s. Eric Lander has a great tutorial on log file analysis. Start there.

Sweep Away Outdated Content

Review all of the content on your website and ask yourself this question on every page:

Does this page help my visitors accomplish their task?

Many websites have old or outdated content that no longer serves the intended purpose. Perhaps it was part of a seasonal promotion or a landing page for a marketing event. Maybe some content been replaced or made obsolete by new pages.

Whatever the reason, take this chance to redirect those old pages to more relevant or timely pages on your site. Use a 301 “permanent” redirect so that search engines transfer the link equity of Page A to Page B. Or, simply freshen up the older content by re-writing or updating the references.

Analytics Check-Up

Abacus

Is your site analytics package configured to track and report on conversions? Check to make sure that your tracking code is properly installed on all of your pages and that your goals are configured correctly to provide the right information in the right format. If you are using Google Analytics, start with the Help Section. If you have a paid analytics provider, look through their documentation for conversion tracking and reporting. Lastly, if you are still relying on basic log file analyzers, consider upgrading to a reporting suite that can at least track conversions.

How about your conversion rates themselves? Is there room for improvement over last year? Are you getting the info you need to make informed decisions? Think through how you want to measure your success this year and in this economy. Do you have all the right pieces in place to get the information you need?

Evaluate Processes and Personnel

Do you have the right people on your SEO team? Is SEO represented during the appropriate touch points in your strategic, creative, development, and launch processes? Check to make sure that your website team is including your optimization plan during their work cycles.

It’s too easy to prioritize SEO out of the tactical implementation of website updates, so use this spring cleaning as an opportunity to re-incorporate the SEO strategy into your daily operations. If you are planning a site redesign or transition to a new domain, a little pre-planning will insure that your transition goes smoothly.

Using Web Analytics? You Don’t Count

Abacus

Analytics 0.1

One of the most common web analytics mistakes I see people make is self-counting. This means that their analytics package counts visits and pageviews from their own internal traffic. This oversight can result in serious flaws in your metrics. Luckily for you, it can easily be fixed.

If your business relies on accurate measurement of website traffic and conversion metrics, internal traffic could be muddying the waters and making it harder to determine your site’s true performance. How? Consider the following scenarios. How many of these have you done in the past month?

  • Your staff directs customers to your website by visiting the site themselves to copy a page’s URL or piece of content.
  • You regularly visit your own website just to make sure it’s still working.
  • You load your website while talking to customers on the phone so you can look at the same screen they are.

Excluding Internal Traffic in Google Analytics

If you run Google Analytics on your site, you’ll want to set up a filter to exclude traffic from your company’s IP address (or series of IP addresses, known as an “IP Range”). Follow the steps listed on these pages to create a filter and exclude internal traffic data based on your IP range. There is even a handy regular expression builder if you are among the 99.9% of the population that is intimidated by them (myself included!)

Excluding Internal Traffic in Omniture Site Catalyst

If you use a high-end analytics suite such as Omniture Site Catalyst, you might find this blog entry on building segments useful. You can use this feature to create a custom segment for visitors from your IP range and exclude them from your reports.

Although more complex, in my experience this functionality is similar (but superior to) Google Analytics’ custom segments feature.

Now What?

The changes are not retroactive. Only traffic from that moment forward will be filtered. If you just set up your analytics filters to block your internal traffic, you can expect to see your overall web traffic decrease slightly. This may concern some people that focus solely on visit and pageview data.

If so, gently remind them that web analytics are most useful when tracking conversion events, whether that’s a sale, download, newsletter signup, lead, or any other trackable event. Because there’s less overall traffic but presumably the same number of conversions, your conversion rates may even go up!

Rationale for Prioritizing SEO in a Site Redesign

A prospective client asked me for a few bullet points to show their VP of Sales why they should spend incremental money on an SEO consultant during their already expensive site redesign. I get that kind of question a lot, but had never formally created or documented a response.

My usual answer is to talk about their search engine referral analytics and compare their traffic volume and conversion data to actual search volume for the keywords that potential customers actually type in to search engines. Demonstrating this opportunity cost and potential ROI is typically enough to convince even the toughest marketer that SEO is a great investment and needs to be included in the site redesign.

However, in this case the client doesn’t have any analytics data so I promised I would follow up with a few high-level thoughts. Here’s what I came up with in just a few short minutes this morning. I’m sure this list could go on for many more pages, but I wanted to keep it simple. What would you add?

  • Opportunity – A new website will generally be “Search Engine Friendly”, meaning the content will be accessible to search engines. A truly “Search Engine Optimized” website will be accessible and highly relevant to the keywords and phrases that customers are actually searching for when looking for the types of products offered on the site.
  • Timing – Incorporating SEO into the site redesign process allows for greater collaboration and faster iterations with the content producers, designers, and developers.
  • Efficiency – The site content and structure can be reviewed at the time it is being developed and reduce or eliminate the need to retroactively update the new site after launch at an incremental cost.
  • Maintaining Equity – The current site has attained a certain level of “credibility” and “authority” with search engines, as measured by the quantity and quality of links pointing to it and the relevance of the content. A new site, when properly transitioned, can build off of the existing site equity. Without a seamless transition, the new site may have to start over with almost no foundation.
  • Scalability – Unlike other marketing channels, SEO is a relatively fixed cost with almost no limit on the potential return on investment because there is no cost per click or cost per impression associated with organic search traffic.
  • Qualified Audience – SEO is intended to capture the audience that has already stated they are looking for your products or services by typing those keywords into a search engine. Unlike traditional advertising models, there is no wasted spend to reach an uninterested audience.

What would you add to this list?