Attending Omniture’s Web Analytics Summit has made me realize the extent of segmentation and analysis an analytics suite can provide for an organization. As stated in a previous article, about half of search marketers use analytics. This is a surprisingly low figure; however, of this 50%, how many online marketers are aware of the advanced features that can help focus and drive their overall search marketing strategies? Having analytics in place is just half of the solution, actually using them and tailoring them to provide solid information and reasoning is what separates those on the leading edge from those on the bleeding edge.
In this article I will provide some insight into some of the complex analytics features that are not readily apparent to many of the marketing professionals in the search industry. (Please note that the topics discussed are a little advanced, but continue reading because they can be applied to any search marketing strategy, large or small, and will undoubtedly lead to you making the right decisions more often than not.)
Finding the best solution doesn’t always happen right out of the gate; if that were the case, having a career .300 batting average wouldn’t be a sure way into Cooperstown. What does separate the winners from the losers is the constant re-evaluation of the norm and never being satisfied with the status quo. A/B and Multivariate testing can be crucial in helping you find better ways to engage your customers so that they spend more time on your site, increasing conversion and retention rates.
Take for instance; introducing a new landing page in a sponsored campaign. A/B testing, or running the two landing pages concurrently, can quantify user’s preferences and help you choose the best landing page for any given ad title or description.
But what about a new homepage design? Without using multivariate testing, how can you ever truly know the best layout, design, or content? Nobody has the time to conduct A/B testing on these scenarios, making minor adjustments with each iteration and waiting for the traffic or lack of traffic to come rolling in; because in the online medium, timeliness is too much of a necessity to be wasting it waiting too long for the numbers necessary to make informed decisions. That’s probably why so many online marketers blindly jump into new designs when things go stale, crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. But reconfiguring your analytics can make it possible to run multiple homepage designs at the same time, each getting the same amount of traffic, in order to quantify and determine the optimum design choice. (Once the tests are complete, I highly recommend that you run some confirmations on how these changes affect the rest of your site, to see if there were any side effects [i.e.: decreased conversions, visitors, page views] in different site sections.)
Too many online marketers fail to quantify user behavior patterns, but the fact of the matter is that by utilizing the advanced features in your Analytics you can put numbers to user preferences – and numbers very rarely lie or lead you astray. In short, A/B and Multivariate testing can help you deliver the right experience for your customers and the best and timeliest return for you, but only if you are tracking all the key variables properly with your Analytics software.
Tracking Media Content
Media content such as audio, video, Flash, and AJAX are quickly becoming the most popular features on websites. Although less search engine friendly than plain text, these media variations play a key role in enticing users to stay and interact with your website. But is the benefit worth the cost? How can you ever know without using Analytics? Search marketers can use their Analytics to track KPIs like impressions, time spent on page, and percent completion to lend “real” numbers to the decision making process. By developing custom media players and using analytics software such as SiteCatalyst, site owners and marketers have the ability to track abandonment rates within the audio or video files by running pathing reports. Wouldn’t it be useful to determine that of all the visitors who listen or watch your media file, half of them drop out at 30% completion and only 2% of those finish it entirely? Previously, when tracking Flash, we used to only be able to see the number of page views the container page had; however, with recent Analytics software updates and the increased demand of users, we are now able to track various functions within Flash like the popularity of links, video, and other form elements.
Using Internal Search as a Marketing Tool
Internal search is another common feature on many websites today. But internal search is as much a marketing tool as it is a navigation alternative for users, all you need to do is use your Analytics. Capturing internal search terms is an excellent way to determine how users perceive your website. By understanding what users are searching for or associating your website with, site owners should be able to establish site adaptations or re-workings that give their target market exactly what they are looking for. For example, if you have a research website, and after analyzing your site’s search terms you determine 1,200 visitors searched for “whitepapers” you can simultaneously modify conversion paths so that the whitepapers are more easily accessible from the most popular point of entry. Imagine that, being able to retrofit your website based on actual user preference instead of what focus groups or consultants think you need. From an implementation perspective, capturing internal search terms is relatively easy so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be tracking them and using that information to guide any site redesigns or content improvements.
Every individual Analytics program is a little bit different in how it is set-up or configured, but most have advanced features that offer so much more than you are probably using. With a little investigation and work, you too can start to get the most “bang” out of your Analytics and start making the right decision more often. In other words, these advanced features are the surest way for any online marketer or site owner to get into the online equivalent of Cooperstown: larger returns.