The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Website Optimization, Bounce Rate, and Conversion Rate

I just read an article about Click Fraud by Daniel Jupp, and although I thought it was a good article about the problem, there was a bullet that I would like to elaborate on. In the final section of the article, Daniel says:

"Website traffic analysis software can help identify what visitors are doing when they arrive at your site. If the software indicates that a large number of visitors are arriving at the home page, not going anywhere else and leaving the site very quickly, this is a good indicator that click fraud is taking place. Again, this data can be saved and reported to the search portal. "

Here's my point. I help companies build and execute their web marketing strategies and website optimization is a big part of my job. This includes landing page optimization, email optimization, paid search optimization, etc. I aim to increase conversion, period. Anyway, the part about checking your web analytics application to notice high bounce rates on your homepage struck me as odd.

First, if you are driving people to your homepage via paid search, then you should reevaluate your campaign strategy. I know this is a necessity sometimes if you lack the resources necessary to build custom landing pages, but to think that a high bounce rate on your homepage means you are experiencing Click Fraud is a stretch! There are so many websites out there that are not optimized properly to meet customer expectations (and to ultimately increase conversion). And I'm not talking about small websites without marketing budgets... There are three large scale websites in particular that I have worked with over the past 18 months that see over an 18% bounce rate on their homepage. And yes, I am working on that... So, if a website has 400,000 visitors per month, they are seeing 864,000 people per year leave without taking another step... Just imagine the revenue bump if you converted even a small percentage of those visitors. For example, if you converted .5% of those visitors that bounce and your average sale is $50, that's $216,000 in revenue.

Landing Pages Are Crucial to the Success of Your Campaign
Back to my point, when launching any type of online marketing campaign, a landing page is crucial. Think about it, imagine wanting to buy a Jeep Commander, finding a dealership, walking in, only to have the salesperson dump you on a lot filled with 1000 cars and only some of the them are Commanders. If you have a large e-commerce site, then that's exactly what you are doing if you send prospects to your homepage from a paid search campaign or email. The landing page should be tailored to convert that prospect, period. It should include all of the information that the person needs to move forward in the buying process. What's on the landing page completely depends on your product and company, but be specific, be brief, and provide clear calls to action.

In closing, high bounce rates on your homepage do not necessarily mean you are falling prey to Click Fraud... It might very well mean that you aren't driving people to the right place or that your homepage isn't part of your persuasive selling system! Don't spend all of your time on the external factors of a campaign (the creative, the blast, the keyword research, etc.) You should also think about where you are sending them. In my experience, too many companies are still a few years behind when it comes to website optimization, using landing pages properly, and enhancing conversion via scientific marketing.


PS A quick analogy...I have a 3 year old daughter and she loves watching "Far Far Far Away Idol" at the end of Shrek 2 (a parody of American Idol and with all of the creatures from Shrek). The performances were extremely well thought out, well written, and well executed by the animators. Each contestant was hilarious in their rendition of the popular song...there is even an appearance by Simon Cowell. Then the winner is announced and the entire scene falls flat... It was apparent that they ran out of time during the production of the segment. It just doesn't feel right, my daughter even looks disappointed, and you're left with a feeling of "that's it??" I couldn't help but think that this is a great analogy to sending someone to an un-optimized page on your website via an online marketing campaign. So, be sure to think of Shrek 2 when mapping out your next marketing campaign! ;-)

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Year's Resolutions for (Web Marketing) Leaders

I just read a great post about New Year's Resolutions For Leaders written by Sean Ryan, a top leadership consultant that I had the privilege of working for when I was at Perrier. After reading Sean's post, I couldn't help but think that his list could help leaders in online marketing, or in any industry for that matter!

I particularly like the segments about "Dealing with Reality" and "Hold the Tough Conversations." As usual, Sean does a phenomenal job at explaining each segment based on his 20+ years of experience in helping organizations reach their potential.


Monday, January 01, 2007

SEO and ROI - Return on Investment of Search Engine Optimization

In addition to rich media marketing, wom and buzz, I've been heavily working on SEO and SEM projects over the past several years. It's an exciting area of online marketing and the SEO part has been enlightening. (It's also fun, which is an added benefit!) That said, I've had several executives ask me, "What would be the return on investment (ROI) for launching an SEO initiative for my business?" That's not an easy question to answer and one that cannot be answered in a short amount of time. There is a lot of work to be done up front before you can even attempt to answer that question, from performing a thorough SEO assessment to keyword research to mapping out technical changes to analyzing the competitive landscape. Then, you might find out that the website needs to be revamped before any significant changes can take place. For example, if a site lacks a robust text navigation, which will enable each page to be properly accessed and indexed, then you've got some technical hurdles to overcome (especially before telling a CEO that he can expect a 250% SEO ROI).

When it comes to hard ROI (revenue-driven), you need a robust web analytics program that provides detailed reporting on your SEO initiative. I've been working extensively with Coremetrics recently and I can tell that it does a phenomenal job at tracking your organic listings. Once in the application, just click through to "Natural Search" and you are given a drilldown into your organic terms broken down by search engine, conversion rate, sessions, sales, orders, and new visitors. That alone would make most executives happy. I've been part of enough internet marketing strategy meetings to know that everyone thinks a given set of organic terms are their "money" terms. With Coremetrics, you can call them on it! The report I am looking at right now has 120 pages of organic terms, sorted by revenue. Drill down into a given term and you can see the search engines that visitors came from, and then you can select the terms for trending. Click the trending report and you can see revenue over time for the selected keywords. Now give that report to someone who thinks their terms rule! :-) I guess my point is that you don't have to guess anymore. When starting an SEO initiative (or any online marketing initiative for that matter), the first thing you need to do is to get your web analytics situation in order. Without it, you are flying blind.

More Detail on Organic Search Analytics in Coremetrics:
There's more to learn in Coremetrics than what I listed above. Using Clickstream reporting, you can take a hard look at pages that rank highly for organic terms. Run a clickstream report and you can see where people are going after visiting that page. This will enable you to notice trends in visitor behavior, which can help you increase conversion on your e-commerce website. For example, if you saw that one page is ranking highly for a competitive keyword, then you could set up a clickstream report to see where visitors go after hitting that page. You can keep drilling down to see where the highest abandonment takes place (where people leave your site). Maybe there is a flaw in your navigation, calls to action, or creative.

The Obvious Benefit:
Well, the completely obvious benefit of using a robust web analytics program to analyze organic search is that you get to see all of the keywords that visitors are entering to get to your site. I'll bet you had no idea that you ranked well for some of those keywords. Then you can take a look at your site to see why that is, tweak other pages to rank higher, and to help your SEM campaigns (like turning off keywords you are paying for in AdWords or YSM when you rank organically for them!) Don't laugh, this happens more than you think...

In closing, SEO shouldn't be solely about ranking for keywords (even though it is fun to see a website start to rank highly), it should be about the return on investment of the project. Set up your analytics, track your natural search terms, and document everything. Then you can show off your cool rankings, but back them up with hard numbers...and dollar signs!


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