Web Analytics & Search: What’s Happening to My Traffic?

You’ve spent $10,000 on your new web site design. 25 hours creating all the cool social media links for people to find you. Maybe you even bought 10,000 pay-per-clicks. But if you can’t figure out what’s happening to your traffic, all that earlier time and money is wasted. So what now?

First, it’s important to remember that the number that really matters is your bottom line. Then, turn to web analytics and look for the answers.
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Website Audit – The “Dreaded” IRS of the Internet

Architecture audit for a website audit reveals issuesWebsite audit” – It sounds like something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, much like the IRS. However, a website audit–unlike the IRS knocking on your door–is definitely a good thing. Not only will it help you define a direction, but it can also help you discover any problems the current site is having.

When and why a website audit is valuable:

  • Preparing to redesign your website
  • Understanding your current website’s effectiveness
  • Planning your strategic growth
  • Uncovering hidden issues preventing you from accomplishing your goals

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Social Media: Use it or Lose it

Chances are that six to twelve months ago you “gave in” and added a LinkedIn profile/Facebook page/Yelp entry. You thought it would be good for your business and everyone had been telling you that you “must do it.” At the time it felt a little like the middle school, “to be cool” group mentality, but Hey! What could it hurt? Maybe you kicked it around a little. Had some fun watching your fans go from two to twenty in a week. Some old college buddies even found your profile and connected to you.

And then the honeymoon was over. Now what? I have to wake up every morning with this page staring at me and wondering when I’m going to update it? Cripes, it’s not like real life isn’t keeping you busy enough—now there’s this albatross hanging around your neck. Maybe if you just ignore it . . .

This week I’m telling you to use it or lose it. Seriously. The first mistake you made was starting something that you did not entirely buy into. Don’t begin a social media campaign unless you are fully informed and willing to commit to it.

The second mistake was believing that all social media outlets are equal. They are not and, just like the Grail Knight said, you must “choose wisely.” My wife is in charge of her group’s Facebook page and updates it every few days, but she won’t touch Twitter. That’s not to say that they don’t have a presence there—it’s just that someone else in the group handles that outlet.

This leads to the third mistake: don’t take it all on yourself. If you’re busy with operations or cold calling or the financial reports, assign the social media campaigns to someone who finds it fun and is always thinking of the next post.

If this has convinced you that social media is not valuable to your business right now, then go remove your page. Allowing it to remain static and untouched for six months makes your company look stale and lazy. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile through two jobs and four volunteer positions, it is a clear sign that you don’t pay particular attention to detail.

Conversations are market opportunitiesHowever, if you’re ready to engage the public, attract customers, and receive attention, then USE IT. Here are five easy ways to get your social media groove back:

  1. Schedule your updates. Maybe it’s Monday morning or Friday afternoon. Whatever works for you, put a standing appointment in your calendar and do it weekly. There are many tools out there as well, like SocialOomph or HootSuite that allows you to schedule a several updates all at once and tell the program when to release/post them. I schedule my Twitter Chatter a month in advance and let WordPress do the rest.
  2. Offer coupons. We found our vet on Yelp when he offered a 15% new customer coupon on the site. After reading several outstanding reviews from other pet owners, we made an appointment and love our choice. Along these lines, consider offering your current loyal customers an incentive to write a positive review for you. If you Twitter, offer your followers a weekly special for those paying attention.
  3. Check back and follow up. Social media is about conversations. Gone are the days of static advertising AT the consumers. If someone makes a comment on your page, be sure to respond to it. A few months ago, we were looking for a good brunch restaurant and selected one from Yelp for a single reason: the owner responded to EVERY review—including the mediocre and negative ones! We thought that it showed an incredible commitment to his customers and that was enough to convince us.
  4. Blog. Go ahead—chat away. Talk about new products coming out, your latest conference, the recent industry article that has everyone buzzing. Share your opinions, expertise, and insights. Enable the comments section (see #3).
  5. Create contests. Be creative and engage the competitive spirit of your fans. Launch photo contests, video contests, tweet contests, and more! The 100th fan on Facebook wins a ____. Design our new logo and you will win _____. Not only will you get more brand awareness, but you’ll build a greater fan base and end up with new content.

Finally, be sure to measure your results. Did your website traffic increase during the campaign? Did you make new contacts? Was your ROI worth the time and effort spent? Don’t just throw spitballs on the wall and wait for one to stick—be thoughtful and precise in your efforts.

Get out there and Just Use It!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Squirrels, and Web Analytics

Last night my youngest son asked if we could put on a movie while we ate dinner—a rare treat for him. We let him pick the movie and he came back with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. I know what you’re thinking: that’s not even the good one! But as I watched the four masked herbivores surprise, tumble, and kick the bad guys, I remembered a recent talk by Avinash Kaushik at the Business Intelligence SIG: Web Analytics 2.0: Rethinking Decision Making in a “2.0” World.  There he pointed out that the best web analysts are ninjas rather than squirrels.

Now trust me when I say that I know my squirrels. I live in a tree-heavy neighborhood where the pests run haphazardly across my fences, up my trees, and in my path. They are among the most pitiful rodents, running around and grabbing whatever is closest and then scampering back to their home to take a closer look. I’m convinced there’s a wife squirrel back in the nest saying, “I sent you out to get some food and you come back with this?!”

Web Analyst SquirrelSquirrels are so skittish that they don’t take the time to look at what they’re actually picking up. They waste a lot of energy running around in broad daylight, coming within two feet of a jackpot, and then abandoning their quest if something larger comes along and grabs their attention.

Web analysts can’t afford to be squirrels. They can’t run up to the edge of a conversion discovery and then back down because the information is not immediately evident, it will cost the client too much money, it will uncover unpleasant truths, or any number of other excuses. A good analyst can’t just grab the first nugget and hold onto it as if that’s the only thing he’ll find.

The best web analysts are ninjas says Avinash. Maybe not large and green with sayings like “cowabunga,” but more like the covert agents of feudal Japan. True ninjas practiced the art of espionage, infiltration, and used covert methods to wage war. Web ninjas today are nimble and apply a variety of methods for making discoveries. They don’t need to run in and run out because they are hardly detected by the human (web) eye. The code could be staring the user directly in the face, but they still click away for your A-B test.

Web ninjas are tireless in their search for answers and will test their hypothesis with several approaches to deliver a fully accurate picture for the client.  The best ones leave “calling cards” of sorts: bringing the client actionable insights that a company can use to improve their website, rankings, the user experience, or whatever serves as their personal bottom line.

Web Analyst NinjaAll in all, these ninjas use what I call “web intelligence.” The growing field of web analysis—just coming into its own teenage years—is growing in its ability to drill down into the underbelly of a website and discover gold. Good intelligence combines web/customer/business data with statistics, surveys and testing to provide useful and immediate actions that anybody from the CEO to a squirrel catcher can use to improve their enterprise.

Don’t let shiny things catch your attention and distract you. Bring in the ninja to take care of the job. But ask him to leave the goofy eye mask at home.

SDForum Business Intelligence SIG – Web Analytics 2.0: Rethinking Decision Making in a “2.0” World

Bootstrappers Breakfast Presents Web Analytics

It was a great honor to speak at the Bootstrapper’s Breakfast last week. Where else can you meet and eat with local entrepreneurs who you can one day say, “I knew —- back when . . .”

For those of you who were unable to attend, here’s a recap:

Web analytics is all about understanding your customers, your site’s performance, and the results of your marketing efforts across all mediums. It’s not a one-time vaccine that allows you to dump all your efforts into your website one time and then leave it alone for the next three years. It’s an on-going process of making changes and then watching the results of those changes.
Use analytics to understand your audience and behaviors and then optimize/improve/correct the site based on that knowledge. Watch what new results come out after the changes then, as I say, rinse and repeat.

Specifically, businesses should use analytics to

  • Know exactly where their clients are coming from
  • Learn how much time/money it costs a company to find those clients
  • Discover how satisfied people are with the course that is mapped for them
  • See where companies are losing their customers
  • Find out where to focus their time

In an ideal world, customers will find and come to your site, fall in love with your product, purchase it without any issues, and sing your praises to all of their friends. But the reality is that only small percentage of visitors ever start your sales process and those numbers continue to dwindle with every click.

eCommerce FunnelFor example:

  • 3,285 people visit your site
  • 428 put items in their shopping cart
  • 195 go to the shipping information
  • 104 continue to the payment screen
  • 65 hit submit and place the order

The 65 represent 15% of the initial visitors with intent to purchase and 2% of your total visitors for this period of time.

Analytics will sift through data at each step to find out where those first 3,285 people came from. What were they looking for? What information did they want? What items did those 428 put in the shopping cart? What didn’t they like or what couldn’t they do that made 54% leave the shopping cart sitting in the aisle? Where did the 91 people go after completing the shipping information? What did they find out that made them “get out of line?” How can you get more people like the 65 who actually completed the whole process?

Ultimately, what are the goals for your site?

  • Get more leads?
  • Increase sales?
  • Increase downloads?
  • Increase usage of FAQ/help?

When you use solid and thoughtful analytics, you can match customer expectations with your intent to create the magic called conversion. But without a goal, web analytics is just a huge collection of data.

Information is fun and fascinating, but ACTIONABLE insights create revenue. And that’s what we’re all here to do, right?

Six Media Mentors You Should Know

We’ve all been around the technology block long enough to see things come and go. Remember Beta tapes? The floppy disk?

So it’s no wonder that we cast a suspicious eye to social networking. Sure, all the kids are doing it these days, but they change their tastes before you can say “Abercrombie and Fitch.” What practical application does it have for adults? For the business person? We ponder the age-old question: what can it do for _me_?

Enter Janet Fouts, a senior partner at Tatu Digital Media in Silicon Valley, and a Social Media enabler (her words—not mine). Janet was doing research for her book, Social Media Success and she asked what people really wanted to learn. It seemed that they all had pretty much the same questions. She then set to work to assemble a team of independent mentors who will help fine tune your marketing and online strategies so that you will know, at the end of the day, what social media can do for you.

Meet them.

I heard someone talking about a “sales funnel” in GA. What is it and how does that work on my website? –Margaret W.

eCommerce Funnel Image

Just as your kitchen funnel is designed to take some food item or liquid from a large container and guide it neatly into a smaller opening, a sales funnel in Google Analytics is a visual method of watching your potential customers (visitors) move along your goal path. It’s very helpful in seeing where people “pop out” and don’t finish the process. As a result, this gives you a chance to ask yourself why your audience is jumping ship before they have reached your goal.

For example, I was working with an eCommerce site and they had never set up their sales funnel. Once that was in place, they found dozens of people starting the purchase process by selecting their items, putting in their shipping information, but not completing the sale.

This made us ask several questions:

  • what were the customers finding out for the first time on that page? (e.g. Shipping or handling fees not stated earlier)
  • was the credit card function working?
  • did the checkout page give the customer all the information he/she needed?

In this case, the checkout page was broken and customers couldn’t find the “submit order” button! Under normal circumstances, customers would have sent an email to the company and pointed this out, but we’re talking about a small company and people were simply going to Google to find a different company that sold the same products instead. Even more upsetting was that this had been going on for at least a month! Imagine the lost sales!

To set up a good funnel, you need to establish your goal pages. If you sell something on your website, it could be as simple as:

  1. Customers will put items in the shopping cart
  2. Customers will input shipping information
  3. Customers will complete the transaction

But if you don’t sell something, you should still have goals and then watch what happens in the course of your funnel

  1. Viewers read my blog
  2. Viewers will click on an additional blog entry
  3. Viewers will click on the “contact me” button

Do I need SEO? –Greg W.

I spend a lot of time around my seven-year-old, so I’m going to employ a little imagination for this answer. Try it with me:

Pretend you are Google–or any other search engine. Someone sits down at their computer, opens your search Captain Super Searchwindow, and types. You spring into action and get to work! Within a fraction of a second, you need to scan millions of websites to return the best results for this person. So, let me ask you, Captain Super Search: what are you looking for? In a millisecond, you went from 4 million pages to 100 and now you need to give your waiting person 15. What will make you pick those 15? Keywords that have been sitting still for the last four years? The title of the page?

The answer is simple: you will return the most recent and relevant sites in the database. While in the past this was performed by using things like keywords in title tags, meta tags, bold text, and other little tricks, today’s Captain Super Search is far too savvy for that and you will mostly ignore those.

My belief is that standard SEO techniques will give you only marginal advantage and bare nudges in search engine rankings. I will go as far as to say that Google will even skip the title tag and go straight to the content. If that passes muster, then it will check the site for valid links to other validated content. Only when that is completed will it grab the tag to add to the listing.

The bottom line is that you want to write sincere content that contains the proper information for your readers. Magically, your keywords will come to life in your text. If you are writing about cookware, you will “naturally” talk about the pots and pans (feel free to change the example) and thus take care of the keywords without having to worry about it.

So if you want to spend a lot of money on SEO techniques, call me and I will gladly apply those for you. Otherwise, just write sincere and on-target content, comment on other blogs about the same topics, create conversation on your blog, and your page ranking will take care of itself. And, Captain, that frees up your time to fight other content crimes!

I’m a failure at math. How can I understand web analysis reports? –Natalie T.

This sounds like a question from my wife who breaks out in hives when she gets near numbers. If you understand simple percentages, you’ll be fine as long as you see the information in a format that works for you.higher math

Be sure to communicate with your analyst and tell him or her how you would like to receive reports. There are a number of ways to impart information to you: pie charts, bar graphs, text summaries, and so on. Maybe you are an auditory learner and need a phone conference to walk through the findings. If you’re a visual person, ask your analyst to set up a video conference through Dimdim or some other service.

The most important thing is to advocate for yourself. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to say that something isn’t clear or needs more explanation. I’ve really appreciated my customers asking me to do that because, in the process, I’ve come up with several analogies that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I’m a very logical, linear thinker and when I work with creative, right-brain people, it’s important for me to create reports that are clear, understandable, and useful.

Finally, I think the most important part of a report is not necessarily the numbers but rather the recommendations. Make sure that your analyst gives you actionable items for your site. Unfortunately, this is where many businesses stop short. They will install Google Analytics on their site, look at the results a few times, and think to themselves, “Cool.” A good analyst will look at that information with more depth, pull the various items apart, analyze your website, and then make a list of action items. After the changes are made, you and your analyst should start that whole process over again. Rinse and repeat.