DSL Marketing Myrlte Beach

Friday, January 29, 2010

3 Metrics for Evaluating Site Performance

Brought to you by Jason Prescott

As CEO of several vertical search engines and directories, I often overhear conversations between my customers and salespeople that tell me marketers are constantly making the wrong decisions after installing Google Analytics because they don't know what to do with the data. Analytics is a vital component for success in the B2B business world, yet this tool is greatly misunderstood.

When asked, "Doesn't every marketer understand the importance of analytics?" Google's Avanish Kaushik told Search Engine Land: "Numbers are hard to come by on this, but in my humble experience, a tiny fraction of people who should use data productively access it, and a tiny fraction of that actually ends up using data effectively. We, as a universe, have a long way to go."

Many small businesses are rushing into analytics without knowing how to use the software. They have no benchmarks and absolutely no understanding of the metrics provided and what they mean. A lot of the problems are due to poorly constructed websites. While many marketers blame the search provider for poor traffic and low conversions, the key is going back to their website to find out why users aren't converting. Perhaps these consumers are converting in other ways and the marketer just doesn't know it; the consumers could be making phone calls, bookmarking and coming back a few weeks later, requesting a catalog, or visiting a trade show and forgetting to mention where they first heard about the site.

Conversion attribution
From my observations, few marketers bother to define and track a conversion or a user. Even fewer recognize the attribution problem in SEM. In a B2B world, not all conversions come from the first click because many products are complex and have longer sales cycles. Some users may need telephone assistance, while others put a product or service on their "to do" list.

Additionally, marketers can use multiple media in an ad campaign. As a result, it's hard to attribute conversions directly to online search advertising.

Due to the sophistication of search algorithms, paid search is complex to begin with, and understanding analytics data is difficult as well. Kaushik has an excellent post on Occam's Razor about conversion attribution that can give you a better understanding of your SEM campaign performance. He covers the following five points in this post:

- Identifying keyword "arbitrage" opportunities
- Focusing on "what's changed"
- Analyzing visual impression share and computing lost revenue
- Embracing the ROI distribution report
- Zeroing in on the actual user search query (and match type)

Tip: If you're new to analytics, don't rely on sites like Compete or Alexa because they don't count incoming paid traffic to websites due to their own unique user-defined criteria. To make a decision based solely on the reporting metrics of an independent analysis system without transparent rating measurements would be foolish.

Three simple metrics to better site performance

It's important to know your site goals and how to determine whether or not you are achieving them. Analytics is the foundation for your online business strategy and can make the difference between success and failure. Below are three tips that can help you improve your site performance.

1. Identify your site goals. Specify how many conversions you want per week or month. Get a baseline by monitoring with Google Analytics. Then, if you aren't meeting your goal, find out why users aren't converting by studying your conversion funnel. Many times, minor adjustments are all you need to guide users to the "submit order" button. For most sites in the B2B world, it could be a sign-up or registration form and not necessarily an order form. Also, Google Analytics allows for benchmarks to be set. If conversions are low, it could likely be the user interface on your website.

2. Know the difference between hits, visits, and conversions.

- Hits: Defined as a server request for an item on a specific webpage (e.g., image, animation, download). When a browser opens a page in your site, you can get many hits, but they don't translate into traffic or conversions.
- Visits: Defined as a user landing on a page in your site or navigating to other pages before exiting and counting as one visit. This metric is useful because you know how many visitors go to your site and how many items were requested by the server from each page. The "new visitors" and "returning visitors" metrics help you analyze how much new business you are attracting and compare it to repeat customers.
- Conversions: Defined as the number of visitors to your site who completed a pre-defined goal or action (such as a purchase, download, or registration). This is your most important metric.

3. Monitor page views and time spent on site. Visits can be further examined to help you learn more about visitor behavior. Monitor how many page views a consumer had during a visit and the time spent on those pages. Generally, you want users to visit more pages on your site and stay as long as possible. Analytics can tell you which pages are more popular and which need work to gain popularity.

Monitoring these metrics can tell you a lot about what your site visitors are doing so you can fine tune your site with changes that will increase visitors, page views, and time spent on site. This will translate into more visitors and conversions.

When it comes to analytics, there is no silver bullet, but knowing what metrics to focus on and which to ignore can help you make simple changes to your site that can have a big impact on conversions. Set your site goals, determine whether or not you are achieving them, and then take the necessary steps to improve your site's performance. At the end of day, tribal knowledge of your landscape can be a great indicator. You can also be observant of what others do in your industry, and implement what works for them.

If you see your competition advertising on a website that you know is actively engaged in your industry (because you see that company at trade shows, in print media, or sponsoring media events), then chances are, the same website will be a solid play for your ads, so give them a shot.

In any type of advertising, it is frequency and consistency that matter. Most people, especially B2B customers, will not respond to an ad unless they've seen it many times over. Keep promoting your brand, maintain your site with fresh content and image changes, use internal monitoring mechanisms other than analytics, and you'll be well on your way to success.

Jason Prescott is CEO of TopTenWholesale.

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