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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Google Analytics Benchmarking Data, Comparing Your Website Data to Industry Verticals

Google Analytics Benchmarking Data, Comparing Industry Vertical Data to Your WebsiteEarlier this month, Google Analytics added a new feature, the ability to view benchmarking data across verticals. The idea is to enable you as a website owner to compare your reporting to that of your industry as a whole or to other industries. You would obviously want to do this in order to glean insights about how your website compares in context (and not in a vacuum). Context is very important to have or your web metrics are just numbers. For example, your visitor level might be low or high compared to your niche, but you won’t know that unless you have context (or in this case other comparable data from your vertical.) Overall, I think Google providing benchmarking data is a good start and I’ll explain more below, but it really is just a start… Anyone that does competitive research for a living probably cracked a grin when they saw this very high level information.

How to View Benchmarking Data:
In order to view benchmarking data, you need to enable it in your analytics settings from within Google Analytics. The first page you see after logging in (which shows your various profiles) has a link that says “Edit Account and Data Sharing Services”. After clicking that link, check the box that says, “Share My Google Analytics Data… Anonymously with Google products and benchmarking service”. Then click “Save Changes”. Note that it could take several weeks for this data to show up. You will know if it shows up by clicking the Visitors Tab from within Google Analytics and then the “Benchmarking (BETA)” tab. Then you can dig in.

Enabling Data Sharing in Google Analytics for Benchmarking Data
What Does Benchmarking Reporting Include?
The first thing you will see is a dashboard of reports, including Visits, Pageviews, Pages Per Visit (PPV), Bounce Rate (my favorite metric), Average Time on Site, and Percent of New Visits. Each graph will show you how your site compares with the industry you have selected. So how do you change the industry vertical to compare against? At the top of the report, you can click “Open Category List” to reveal all of the verticals you can select to compare your site’s data to. OK, I’ve revealed problem #1. If you want to compare apples to apples, you might not be thrilled with GA’s initial list of verticals. Again, this is a great start, but if you focus on a vertical that’s not directly reflected in one of the listings, is the process of analyzing the data worth it? Every vertical and type of site will have their nuances, so it’ll be hard to accurately compare data unless your vertical is listed.

Comparing Visits:
Everyone wants to know how their visitor counts stack up against their industry. This is actually one of the graphs that can help you. For example, if you see a dip in traffic during March, did your industry see the same dip? Did they see an increase instead? What does the trending look like for Q1 for your site versus your industry? Do you want to find partnerships based on seasonal traffic levels? Take a look at various verticals to note similar trending or inverse trending. Maybe you can help each other. You get the point…

Comparing Bounce Rate:
When I first found out that the benchmarking service would include bounce rate, my favorite web metric of all, I was psyched. I’ve written a series of blog posts about bounce rate, since I don’t think there’s a better metric for telling you more as fast as Bounce Rate. That said, I preach that bounce rate at the aggregate level (or site level) doesn’t really tell you much… you need to segment your data to truly understand where the problems lie. For example, social media traffic from Digg might have an 85% bounce rate, where your email marketing campaigns might be at 25%. Paid Search might be at 30% and organic search at 15%. Those numbers analyzed separately can tremendously help you. Combine them and you have a 39% aggregate bounce rate. Is that good or bad? I’m sure you get my point. Back to the benchmarking data. So, looking at the aggregate bounce rate on your site compared to an industry vertical probably won’t give you actionable data. That is, unless your BR is 90%. Then you don’t need benchmarking data anyway, you need some serious help. :)

Comparing Percent of New Visitors:
You want your visitors and customers to come back, right? So this metric can at least give you a feel for how your visitor retention compares to your industry vertical or other industry verticals. Every industry is different, but let’s say you are 30 points higher than your industry vertical for percent of new visitors and you aren’t running any crazy new campaigns (which would skew your data), then you might be on to a customer retention issue… Again, it really depends on your vertical and which marketing efforts you launched during that time period. If you see high numbers for return visitors against your industry totals, then how can you keep that trend going? These are just hypothetical situations, but it could be a valuable process to go through.

Comparing Pageviews:
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on pageviews. This metric bothers me slightly. I’m focused on conversion, so I don’t care if that takes 3 pageviews or 18 pageviews. That said, you can possibly find some interesting data here, like if pageviews in your industry are significantly lower than yours…maybe there is an industry trend for implementing new functionality that radically cuts down the amount of pageviews needed to find the right product. Hypothetical of course, but you might be able to glean insights from the reporting. The other problem is based on rich media functionality or AJAX, which won’t show up as additional pageviews. So, how do 10 pageviews compare to 2 if the 2 is really closer to 10, but completed via AJAX?? Again, I wouldn’t focus on this metric…

Comparing Pages Per Visit:
This could be a valuable metric to analyze compared to your industry vertical if your goal is to keep visitors on your site (advertising model). This essentially answers the question “how sticky is your site compared to your industry vertical?” Are there elements that your competition is using that increases their pages per visit? Is your site much stickier on average? Why is that? Did you just implement new content areas or various types of media content like video? For an e-commerce site, this isn’t as big of a deal. Again, if it takes my visitors 5 pages to convert or 10 pages, I don’t necessarily care. I want to provide the right information to the right people at the right time in order to build trust and convert them to a customer. It’s not always about speed…

Average Time on Site:
This is similar to pages per visit to me. Again, it really depends on your type of site. Are you trying to keep visitors on your site longer based on your business model? How are you achieving this? Did you implement social media functionality? Did you just implement video content? Is there messaging functionality? How does your site’s average time on site compare to your vertical? Or to similar verticals? A low average time on site compared to your industry vertical could indicate a problem with your campaigns, content, or navigation.

To summarize, I think Google Analytics has taken a step in the right direction with providing benchmarking information. It’s not elaborate and deep, but it does give you a decent comparison against your industry vertical and to other verticals. You’ll have to take some of the data with a grain of salt and really drill into your own analytics to glean insights. Maybe some of the GA benchmarking data pushes you to do additional competitive research using more elaborate tools like Hitwise. Just remember that context is everything and competitive research tools and services give you that context. So go ahead and compare away! :)


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Site Search in Google Analytics, One More Weapon in Your Analytics Arsenal

Site Search Analysis in Web AnalyticsIf you run an e-commerce website, then you already know how important site search is to your business. As websites grow more complex, visitors love to use site search to find products on your website. So, how good of a job does your site search do at connecting visitors to the products that they are looking for? Did you pause? :) In my opinion, site search analysis is a key component to understanding customer behavior and can greatly help enhance your online business. Google Analytics recently launched its Site Search functionality and I wanted to give an introduction to the functionality and reporting now available.

Why is Site Search Analysis Important?
I’ll give you the quick answer… Because visitors on your site are giving you a lot of feedback about how you handle their questions, but unfortunately, the feedback isn't given directly to you. If you were a salesperson in a retail store, you would get immediate feedback, right? “Excuse me Glenn, I’m looking for an HD TV from Samsung. Can you point me in the right direction?” You would obviously know how well you directed that person or how well your store could handle the request (i.e. you might not even carry Samsung HD TV’s.) On a website, you don’t hear the feedback, you don’t immediately know which “aisle” visitors traveled down, and you might not know how much revenue came from that query. This is where site search analysis can greatly help your efforts. And, you can take action relatively quickly based on the data. Again, this will be an introduction to keep the post from being 15 pages long…but I plan to write more about this in future posts. Let’s jump in…

Finding Site Search in Google Analytics:

Clicking Site Search in Google AnalyticsFirst, I’m assuming you have set up site search in your profile. It’s very easy to do and you can find instructions from Google here. Once you are logged in, click the Content tab in the left side navigation, and then click Site Search. You will be taken to the Overview page, where you are provided with several options. Let’s start with the most obvious report for site search, the actual keywords that your visitors are entering on your website.

Search Terms (or Keywords) Used on Your Website:
Click the link under Site Search for Search Terms to view all of the keywords that visitors are using on your website. Cool, right? Do they match what you thought were the top searches? I’m sure there are some surprises… This is a great way to get a top level picture of what people are looking for on your site. Let’s quickly look at some of the key metrics on this page (Note, I will not cover all of the metrics in this post…)

Screenshot of the Search Terms Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Viewing search terms (keywords) in Site Search

Total Unique Searches - This is the logical starting point. You can easily see the hot keywords on your website and then drill into them when you want to view more detailed reporting.

% Search Exit - What a great metric! This is the percentage of people that exited immediately from the search listings after searching for that keyword. It's very similar to bounce rate and it's a great red flag indicator. Imagine you see a 90% search exit rate for a keyword that matches a product you have! Why is that happening? A quick search on your site could possibly reveal the problem. Then go and fix it immediately! :)

% Search Refinements - Or the percentage of people that refined their search keywords after searching for a specific keyword. This reveals a lot about how your visitors search for products. You will love this metric if you plan on making site search enhancements… More on this later. For example, a visitor might start with HD TV, but then refines their search as follows:
HD TV --> Samsung HD TV --> Samsung HD TV LCD

Revenue Anyone?
And of course you can click the tabs for Goal Conversion and E-Commerce at any time to view revenue per keyword or your site conversions per keyword (like newsletter signups, RSS subscriptions, etc.)

Drill Into Your Top Keywords:
You can click any keyword to drill into more detailed reporting. One of my favorite reports is the Search Navigation report, which you can find by clicking the Analyze dropdown once you drill into a specific keyword. Click Analyze and then select Search Navigation. This will show you the page that visitors started their search on (using that keyword), and then where they ended up. You need to click a page on the left and then Google Analytics will show you the page that visitors ended up on (the destination page). You may find some interesting results, like visitors ending up on pages that you would rather them not end up on given their specific search! For example, if someone searches for Samsung HD TV and they end up the Digital Cameras page, you would want to take a hard look at how that happened…

Screenshot of the Search Navigation Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Navigation in Site Sarch

Search Term Refinement:
You can also use the Analyze dropdown to select Search Term Refinement, which will enable you to see how visitors refined their searches after first searching for the selected keyword. Using the example I listed above, you might see that visitors started with HD TV, then added a manufacturer Samsung HD TV, and then added a screen type like Samsung HD LCD TV. The way visitors search may be completely different based on the categories of products you sell. You might end up refining your search functionality by category to enhance your visitors’ experience and to maximize sales.

Screenshot of the Search Term Refinement Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Term Refinment in Site Search

0 Search Results
Interested in knowing which search terms result in a 0 search results page? This is not built into GA, so finding this takes an extra step. I typically start by finding high % search exits and then hit the e-commerce website in question to see the results. For example, if you see a 90% exit rate after the search for LG HD TV, you might want to check it out. Finding keywords like this can help you determine problematic search results (like if you really had LG HD TV’s!) It can also help you determine possible new product additions. If you don’t carry LG HD TV’s and you have a lot of visitors searching for them, you might want to consider adding them, right? You get the point!

Site Search Usage - Let’s take a step back and look at the usage reporting.
Click the Usage link under Site Search in the left navigation. You can see the number of visits to your site that utilized site search versus not using site search. Then you can use the dropdowns to analyze additional metrics. For example, use the dropdown to show revenue so you can see how much money was generated by visitors using site search. Or, you can view number of transactions from site search versus visitors not using site search. On the right side, you can view a pie chart based on visit type (visits with or without site search). For example, use the right dropdown to view time on site (for visitors who used site search versus not using site search). The Usage reporting is a great way to see how much value your site search is providing your business.

Screenshot of the Site Search Usage Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Usage in Site Search Reporting

Which Destination Pages Performed the Best?
By clicking the Destination Pages link under Site Search in the left navigation, you can view all of the pages that visitors were taken to after searching for a keyword. You can quickly use the dropdown to view metrics for that destination page, such as revenue, total unique searches, complete orders, conversion rate, % search exits, etc. This is a great way to look at top performing pages versus poorly performing destination pages. For example, you might be able to find certain elements, calls to action, visuals, etc. from a top performing page that you can apply to poorly performing pages. You can also drill into each page to see the keywords that led to the page. And, you can still use the dropdown up top to view key metrics (now by keyword versus destination page).

Start Pages
To view the pages where searches on your website originated, click Start Pages under Site Search in the left navigation. So, why did searches originate from these pages? Is there something you can do to enhance certain pages? Do any of those pages also have a high bounce rate or exit rate? You can click any of the start pages to view the search keywords that visitors entered while on that page. For example, you might find a category landing page with searches for products not listed on that landing page (even though they are part of that category). If you see enough of a demand for certain products or subcategories, you might try adding them to the landing page. Remember, you want to connect your visitors with the products they are looking for as quickly as possible. If you can take a barrier away, like having to search for the product, then do it. Small adjustments might reap great rewards.

Site Search Trending
The last set of reporting I’m going to cover is Site Search Trending, which can be found under the Site Search tab in the left navigation. By clicking the link for Trending, you can easily see data over time for key metrics in site search. Using the Trending dropdown at the top of the report, you can view visits with search, % search exits, % search refinements, search depth, etc. Keep in mind, this reporting is top level and not for specific searches. It will give you an overall snapshot of how your site search functionality is working. For example, let’s say you’ve had a slight problem recently with visitors not being able to easily find your search box. So you made some changes to its location and want to see if that change affected the percentage of visitors using site search. This is a great report for finding information like this… The trending graph enables you to easily view data over time. That was just a quick example, but I wanted to make sure you understood that Trending was at the site level when looking at this report.

Moving forward with Site Search Analysis…
I hope this post helped introduce Site Search Analysis in Google Analytics and gets you excited about digging deeper. Let’s face it, if someone is searching for products on your site, you don’t want to lose them… To use the retail sales analogy I explained earlier, visitors who are using site search are actually giving you feedback. The problem is that they aren't directly giving the feedback to you! You need to channel their approval or frustration through your site search reporting within Google Analytics (or other web analytics packages). It can help you reveal what’s working and what’s not working. You might be surprised what you find!


Related Posts:
* Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics
* The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics : Know the Value of Websites Linking to You
* A Review of Google Analytics v2

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

E-Commerce Imaging Functionality with Lands End - Getting a Killer Look at Products While Shopping Online

Lands End eCommerce Imaging FunctionalityWe’ve all been there. You’re shopping online and find something you're 95% sure that you want, but you need to get a better look at the product before you click “add to cart”. So you select “Click here for larger photo” but sometimes that yields inadequate images that don’t really build more confidence. Over the past few years, e-commerce imaging technology has greatly advanced (especially on larger retail websites). During my latest Gobble Thursday holiday shopping session, I visited Lands End and checked out some clothes for the upcoming winter season. Let me tell you, their product imaging functionality is some of the best I have seen on the web. Actually, it’s good enough that I decided to write a blog post about it today! Now, what makes it so good? Let’s jump right in:

Browse-By Listings (Category Listings and Image Functionality):
I started my visit to Lands End by clicking Men, Shirts & Sweaters and then Sweaters to get to the browse by listings you see below.

Lands End Category Listings

As I was looking at the listing of sweaters, I rolled over one I liked and the product view changed on rollover to a model wearing the sweater. I found this to be a great way to give potential buyers a second view of the product right from the sweater listings (and not necessarily on the product detail page). The view showed the sweater on a model so you can see it in context (and not just on a white background). Reference photos below. Then, right below the product image, I noticed several swatches. Clicking a swatch changed the product image dynamically, without post-back. Post-back is developer-speak for when your browser completely refreshes the webpage, which takes unnecessary time. I really like this functionality in the browse by listings…it was intuitive, provided value, and enabled me to see a wide array of sweaters in different colors and on a person. I love it. :) OK, let’s click through to the product detail page to get a closer look.

Screenshot of category listing with rollover functionality and swatches:
Lands End Category Listing Change View and Color

Product Detail Page: Pan, Zoom, and View:
Once on the product detail page, Lands End gives you several options for getting up close and personal with the product you are viewing. First, you have a nice product image (full view). Let’s get a closer look.

The Zoom:
Below the image, Lands End provides their pan and zoom functionality, which is one of the best I have seen on the web. You can either click the image to zoom in or click the “zoom in” button below the image. Either one lets you zoom into the product to view more detail. I was able to zoom in at a granular level (actually further in than I really needed to, but some people would want to see the fabric as closely as possible). It was easy to use and the response time was excellent.

Zooming in to get a closer look:
Lands End Zoom Functionality on the Product Detail Page

Now The Pan:
Then, if you click and drag the image once you zoom in, you can scroll around to view a closeup of the product. The image blurs as you drag the product, but refocuses once you choose the desired section of the product. You should try it out to get a good feel for how this works, because it’s some of the best pan and zoom functionality on the web (seriously.) There is a thumbnail in the bottom right corner which shows you a red bounding box that represents which part of the product you are viewing. But Lands End didn’t stop there…you can even drag the red bounding box around, which moves the product image. Great functionality…

Change Your Product View:
Below the pan and zoom controls, there are a few additional thumbnails. For my example, you can see the full sweater, the sweater on a model, and then a fabric swatch. When you click each image, the larger product image above changes to what you selected. Then you can use the pan and zoom functionality on the new image. Outstanding! If you choose the swatch thumbnail, then you can take a closer look at the fabric, which I can guarantee decreases product returns… More on this later.

Switching images to get a different view:
Lands End Category Listings

Colors and Fabrics:
On the right side of the page, you’ll find a list of swatches so you can easily change the color of the product you are looking at. Again, this is completed without post-back, which is fast and seamless. In addition, the thumbnails below the pan and zoom functionality also reflect the change in color (the full product view, the product on a model and the fabric swatch). Nice touch.

Selecting different colors dynamically changes the images:
Lands End Change Color and Fabric With Swatch Selections

What's The Effect on Your Buying Experience?
Providing e-commerce imaging functionality like this truly enhances the user experience on Lands End exceeds customer expectations with the investment they made in their imaging functionality. As a marketer, when you start to analyze bounce rate, exit rate, and abandonment rates, you start to appreciate functionality like this. When it comes down to it, if you leave doubt in a customer’s mind, you might leave revenue on the table. But it’s much worse than that… The customer you just lost will go somewhere else to buy, may never come back to your website, and then will generate incremental revenue for your competitor. Great, right? Lands End is obviously dedicated to giving visitors every possible option while viewing their products so they can make an informed decision. By the way, they provide some additional functionality that I haven’t listed here…and I plan to review that soon. Consider that a blog teaser! :)

Decrease Product Returns:
In addition, Lands End is making its web operation more profitable by providing functionality like this. I bet their product returns from web purchases are lower than other retailers. How could it not be?? You are getting an incredible view of a product you are interested in…it’s almost like you are in a store for crying out loud! OK, maybe not that good yet…yet.

Lower Your Cart Abandonment Rate and Checkout Abandonment Rate:
I’ll also bet that their cart and checkout abandonment rates are lower than other retailers. Abandonment can happen due to several reasons, one of which is a lack of confidence in the product you just added to your cart. You know, questions like “will it really look like that?”, “what does the fabric actually look like?”, “what does it look like on?”, so on and so forth. Lands End minimizes these doubts, which probably lowers their abandonment rates. As a web analytics nut, I’d love to see their stats! {wait…taking one more Analyticza} ;-)

Ease of Use = Happy Customers:
This one is simple…Lands End makes it so easy and effortless to browse and buy that customers truly enjoy shopping on the website. I can tell you, that’s the way I feel. Being a web marketing consultant, I almost wanted to stay on the website to keep playing around with their imaging functionality… That’s if I didn’t have a gift list to knock out! ;-) Again, I’ll be writing a second review soon…

In Closing...
Well, I think you can tell how much I like the imaging functionality on! It was easy to use, robust, and more importantly, it builds customer confidence. I have a new tagline for Lands End:

"No Doubt and Lots of Confidence...Shop"

I have a feeling I'll be back to this holiday season....and I'm confident I won't be the only one! :-)


Related Posts:
The Continuing Evolution of Online Shopping : My Virtual Model and Beyond
Effective Email Marketing With
e-Commerce Shipping - Online Customers Demand a New Standard
2006 Holiday Season Online Shopping Review

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Analyticza™ Pill Arrives and Curbs Addiction to Web Analytics Reporting

Analyticza pills help curb severe obsession with web analytics reporting.
The makers of Webmarktrium™ now bring you Analyticza™,
the most powerful way to curb your compulsive web analytics disorder.

Just 1 Analyticza™ per day enables you to lead a healthy, normal life free of obsessive analysis of your web analytics reporting.

Does This Sound Familiar?
Do you have a compulsion with web analytics reporting?* Do you feel a sudden urge to check your web analytics reports?
* Do you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about which websites or blogs are linking to you?
* Can you not go more than 2 hours without checking your analytics package?
* Do you search for reasons just to log on and check your web stats?

Then Analyticza™ might be for you!

Analyticza can help you get your life back!Analyticza™ is lactose free, does not contain wheat, fish, nuts, or artificial colors and is 98% organic. Analyticza™ has a soft, gel-like outer covering so you can take as many Analyticza™ as you need while at work, in meetings, during exercise, at social events, or any other activity where you want to curb your addiction to web analytics.

Find out today why the country’s top physicians call Analyticza™, “The cure for the statistics-hungry demon inside every web marketer.”

Don’t wait any longer! Contact your physician today about getting started. Your life is waiting for you…and it’s a life free of web analytics compulsion.

Please view important safety information before taking Analyticza™:

Important Safety Information:

1. The most common side effects of Analyticza™ include tremors, headaches, wheezing, and eyestrain. Less commonly occurring reactions include hair loss and nose bleeds.

2. When taken on an empty stomach, Analyticza™ may cause excessive analysis of referring sites and backlinks, which in some cases lead to stalking of referring website owners. In extreme cases, restraining orders were necessary.

3. When taken in conjunction with executing busy holiday marketing schedule, Analyticza™ may cause sleepwalking and then analyzing web marketing reporting, with amnesia of the event. Some patients were found in their offices, still in their pajamas (or less), reviewing reporting while still asleep. Termination and lawsuits followed in 65% of the cases.

4. Patients focused on gaining high search engine rankings may fall into a search reporting binge, finding each and every keyword they rank for. In addition, these patients were seen randomly blurting out their rankings to people that actually don’t care. In severe cases, patients tracked down competitors they outrank, performed “keyword celebrations” on the front lawns of their competitors, and typically end up in custody. Analyticza™ does not condone “sticking it” to your competitors with excessive celebrations.

5. Missed dosages of Analyticza™ in combination with parenting has caused extreme head discomfort due to spouse projection of coffee mug at patient. This typically occurred as patient relapsed and forwarded key metrics to his/her mobile device during birthday party of child. This was often accompanied by mother in law projection of punch bowl, father in law projection of pinata stick, and overall family disgust leading to potential exile of patient. Analyticza™ cannot be held liable for head injuries, family disputes, contusions from pinata sticks, or reimbursement for hotel as a result of exile.

6. If taken for extended periods of time, patient may become immune to Analyticza™, which may cause extreme relapse of compulsive analytics behavior. During relapse, marketers often obsess about Bounce Rate, with aggressive behavior towards coworkers that were part of high bounce rate landing pages. If you experience an obsession with Bounce Rate for longer than 72 hours straight, or what doctors call “Bouncy Bounce Syndrome”, flush all Analyticza™ pills down toilet, eat 9 pounds of parsley, and jog 14 miles. Symptoms should subside within 48 hours.

7. Caution should be taken while taking Analyticza™ when attempting to understand sales attribution across marketing channels. Studies have shown that even small doses of Analyticza™ while trying to determine what “sales attribution” actually means can lead to seizures, migraine headaches, nerve damage, and even stroke in severe cases. Analyticza™ recommends you contact Coremetrics to gain a solid understanding of how sales attribution can impact your web marketing strategies.

8. Taking Analyticza™ while also taking Omega 3 pills has shown a dramatic effect on the physical appearance of patients. Note, this was not the intended use of Analyticza™ and thorough testing has not been conducted as of yet. Please reference photos below. Analyticza™ cannot guarantee similar results, increased dating, a career in modeling, or enhanced popularity.

Patient before taking AnalyticzaPatient after taking Analyticza

9. Taking Analyticza™ while reading top web analytics blogs may cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and anxiety. This occurs as Analyticza™ tries to fight off the urge for web analytics analysis. This can lead to over-commenting on blogs in question, which often leads to biting replies back from web analytics bloggers, and can possibly spiral out of control as supporters of top bloggers unite and retaliate against patient (or what is called “The Blogtzkrieg”.)

10. If you are taking Analyticza™ and find yourself greeting coworkers in the morning with “Hey, guess what I’m ranking for…”, “Guess who was on my site yesterday…”, “Nice bounce rate…”, “I know what you were looking at last night on my blog…”, “You can’t handle my RSS subscription rate...”, or similar phrases, you may need to supplement your Analyticza™ treatment with chemicals peels, yoga, the cabbage diet, high gelatin intake, and possibly hypnosis. It’s obvious that Analyticza™ alone is not working for you. Analyticza™ is not responsible for rumors about your sanity, negative feedback at work, notices from HR that you’re creepy, or simply being made fun of by your coworkers.

11. In some cases, taking Analyticza™ before social events has led to the phenomenon called the 6 degrees of blogging. This occurs when you take a normal conversation and somehow connect it with your own blog by 6 degrees. For example, “Hey John, how about that Yankee game last night?” Analyticza™ patient responds, “Great game, I can’t believe A-Rod hit another home run, he just did an interview with ESPN, didn’t ESPN just run a segment on his agent Scott Boras, Scott Boras makes his players a lot of money, by the way, did you know that my blog post about sports contracts ranks #4 in Google?" Person leaves conversation and thinks Analyticza™ patient is weird. This may happen multiple times during the social event. If it does, force feed Analyticza™ patient lots of alcohol, as much as you can find until symptoms subside (or patient passes out).

12. Patients that mistakenly overdose on Analyticza™ may lose interest in Web Analytics altogether. This typically results in lack of segmentation, loss of search rankings, misallocation of ad spend, and failed marketing campaigns. Also seen in patients that overdose was an overall lack of understanding of who actually visits the website in question, where they come from, which pages perform best on the website, and how to improve the website. In severe cases, excessive golfing may occur followed by swift termination.

13. How Analyticza™ works is not actually known.

14. In clinical studies, simply reminding yourself that you have a life outperformed Analyticza™ 99% of the time.

15. Try not to take Analyticza™.

Glenn Gabe works hard every day to stop web marketing medication abuse.
Glenn Gabe works hard each day to ensure people don't abuse web marketing medications.

Are you an Analyticza™ patient?
Please tell us how Analyticza™ has impacted your life by adding a comment below!

--Are you looking for the web marketing smart pill named WebMarktrium™?--

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Sense of Blog Bounce Rate

Understanding Blog Bounce Rate This is the fourth post in my series on Bounce Rate, which is one of my favorite metrics in web analytics. Many online marketers are concerned with Bounce Rate, which makes a lot of sense since you can learn a lot from this metric… I've recently received many questions about Bounce Rate and how it relates to blog posts, so I thought it would be a good idea to address this topic in a post of my own. Let’s call it “adding context to your blog's bounce rate”.

There are 4 components to this post:
1. Your Blog Philosophy and Goals
2. Your Writing Style and How It Matches the Drivers of Your Readers
3. Related Content
4. Track and Learn

Your Blog Philosophy and Goals:
Determine the goal for your blog. BEFORE you start to analyze bounce rate for your blog posts, you should think about your overall blog philosophy and determine your goals. For example, is your goal to educate readers and to answer questions, are you trying to generate a large readership, will your blog help you sell products or services, is it a key mechanism for getting people to contact you, are you interested in building high search engine rankings, etc? Clearly understanding your goals will help you bring context to the bounce rate of your blog posts. To give a quick example, if your goal is to provide breaking news to your readers, then bounce rate might not be as important as you think. Why? Well, if someone finds your blog post about the latest widget update and they quickly visit the post, check out the breaking news, and then leave, is that bad? No, but that’s technically a bounce. Or, if they find your blog post and immediately choose to subscribe to your RSS feed, is that good or bad? It all depends on your goal... So, stop reading this post for a few seconds and think about the goal of your blog. Then write it down on a sticky note and place that on your desk somewhere you can easily see it. We’ll be referring back to it shortly.

The Angle of Your Blog Posts and the Key Drivers of Your Readers:
Now, let’s take a look at some different types of content and how they match up with the key drivers of your readers. There are a lot of reasons why people visit blog posts and you should try and understand your readers as much as possible in order to provide the best possible experience for them, which in turn, should lead to supporting the goal of your blog. Again, we need to bring context to your bounce rate situation. Note, there are obviously many types of blog posts, but the ones listed below are based on my experience helping clients and working on my own blogs.

Different Types of Blog Posts and Their Effect on Bounce Rate (based on my experience)

1. Educational Posts (Teaching Your Readers Something of Value)
Blog posts that teach your readers something of value. If you know that your readers want to learn something from you, then you have a great chance to provide additional educational content on your blog that would interest them. The key here is to understand what specific topics your readers are interested in based on your analysis, then write high quality posts that focus on that topic, and then provide links to relevant content on your blog. If you understand what your readers want to learn, then there's a good chance they will consume a lot of content on your blog that relates to that topic. And, they will appreciate it…finding your blog a great source of information about an important topic for them.

Educational Posts = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

2. Focused Entertainment and Isolated Stories
Bill Maher Throws Audience Member Out and Receives over 2000 diggs for it. Some readers simply enjoy finding interesting posts, even if they are very focused and/or isolated. They might love funny blog posts, shocking or disturbing blog posts, unique stories, entertaining posts, misc. facts, weird photos, parodies, etc. If you provide blog posts like this, you might notice higher bounce rates for that specific content. It’s not that readers don’t like you or your posts, it’s just the nature of the content. That said, you still might notice a lot of activity and links (which is a good thing). Think about it, let’s say someone is on digg and clicks through a story to view a video of Bill Maher kicking people out of his audience. You wrote a great post about what happened and how this affects journalists that work in Live TV. You might notice a high bounce rate with this type of post, since the focus might be on finding and watching the video and not on the blog or blog author in question. At this point, look at the sticky note I told you to create a few minutes ago and see how it matches up with the goal of your blog… You might have built 1000 links to your blog from that one post, but no RSS subscriptions. Is that good or bad? Good for organic search, but bad for building readership. Again, it depends on your goal...

Focused Entertainment = Good Chance of High Bounce Rate, but More Eyeballs and Links

3. Product and Service Reviews
Blog posts that provide product or service reviews. Providing reviews based on your expertise is a great way to build a loyal following. The beauty of the web (and blogging and social media), is that you can find reviews from normal, everyday people who will typically give you an honest opinion of a product or service. Readers interested in reviews tend to also follow related content until they have the confidence to make an informed decision. For example, if you review an iPhone and then also review a Blackberry Curve, there’s a great chance readers looking for this type of content will read both posts (as long as you let them know the additional content is there!) More on this later. It makes sense if you think about it. Put yourself in their shoes…you are about to spend a few hundred dollars, you aren’t sure if it’s right for you, and you just found a person like you providing a real-world review without marketing spin. There's a reason that Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is as hot as it is now.... Just make sure you find the right blogger…

Product or Service Reviews = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

4. Blog Posts that Benchmark
Blog posts that benchmark. We’ve all wanted to find blog posts explaining the best way to do something, right? (whether it's for business or personal use) For example, some visitors may be looking for the best way to launch a new business or the best way to improve their golf game. These readers are looking to find the best methods in the industry (whatever industry you are writing about), they want to know which is the best company or who is the top person, how they do it, and how to reproduce that effort in their own life. For example, someone may find your post about how to best run a fundraiser. This type of reader will be more apt to check out related posts, such as how to best organize your fundraising team, which marketing methods work best, and the top venues in your region to hold the fundraiser kickoff. You get the picture…

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Low Bounce Rate

5. Keep Me Posted
Breaking news on your blog.This type of content involves providing quick posts about something you just learned about. For example, when Google Analytics recently announced a series of upgrades, many bloggers who are focused on web analytics wrote quick posts letting their readers know. These posts might show a higher bounce rate than others. Again, it makes a lot of sense… you are quickly letting people know about breaking news so they will probably check out your post quickly and be on their way. You can definitely gain a following by doing this, since you are the source of new information, but you can’t expect these posts to be sticky. That said, these readers might subscribe to your feed, since you keep them posted. :-)

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Higher Bounce Rate, but High RSS Subscriptions

Note, there are obviously additional types of posts and drivers for blog readers, but I’ll keep this post manageable and stop here. Again, these are based on my experience. The main point is to understand the angle of your posts and how these posts match up with what your readers are looking for (what drives them to read blog posts).

The Anti-Bounce
Providing related content is the anti-bounce rate. There is a common thread that’s been running throughout this post…related content. For bloggers that are just starting out, unfortunately, you'll need to write faster. ;-) Once you've created great content on your blog, the next step is to analyze your web analytics and then provide killer content that’s relevant to key posts on your blog. The third step is to make sure readers can find your related content! This can be done in several ways:

Ways to Provide Related Content:
1. Inline Links, or links within the blog post content (my favorite)
2. A list of related posts at the end of the blog post in question
3. Tagging your posts
4. Utilizing your sidebar to provide additional links
5. Providing search functionality

Each of these techniques can work, but I’m a bigger fan of inline links, links below your post, and tagging. In my opinion, inline links actually provide better context for the reader, but that’s just my opinion. For example, I’ve also written blog posts about how to lower your bounce rate. This inline link gives my readers some context.

A Quick Note About Tracking Outbound Clicks and Content Navigation
Tracking outbound clicks and content navigation in your web analytics package. Using your web analytics package, you should definitely track as much as you can to determine behaviors that affect your bounce rate and consumption of blog content. For example, if you track outbound clicks, you can see which external links your readers find most important. This can help you determine which topics are hot and possibly what to focus on in future posts. For example, if you wrote a post about how to better your golf score and you notice a lot of readers clicking on a link to Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible, then maybe your next post should focus on the short game (your golf game within 100 yards). Simple example, but you get the point! BTW, reading Dave's books lowered my golf score by 10 strokes. :)

Web Analytics Note: Google Analytics will soon support tracking of outbound clicks natively. This will make your life a lot easier... rather than manually tagging each outbound link!

Content Navigation is also important to analyze. This is where you can target a blog post in your analytics package and view how visitors got to that specific post and then also view where they go after reading the post. So, you might see 60% of the visitors to a blog post landed on that blog post (the first interaction with your site in a session). Then 80% of those readers went to related posts, 10% bounced, and 10% subscribed to your RSS feed. Viewing content navigation can help you determine how readers behave on your site in relation to the type of blog post you provide.

It’s All About Context
In closing, it’s hard to simply look at Bounce Rate for your blog without understanding the other factors involved. You need context. A high bounce rate a on a blog post might actually make sense, as weird as that sounds. If you start by mapping out a goal for your blog, pay attention to how you write your posts, understand how that matches the drivers of your readers, provide related content easily within your blog posts, and track everything at a granular level, then you can begin to understand blog content and reader behavior. Phew, that’s a mouthful!

Now, in the spirit of this blog post, definitely check out the other posts that are part of my Bounce Rate series! :-)

* Bounce Rate and Exit Rate

* Why is My Homepage Bounce Rate So High?

* 5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROAS


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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics: Know the Value of Websites Linking to You

Which referring sites provide you the most value?I truly enjoy speaking with people about web marketing. Actually, some will say that you can’t shut me up! I had a great conversation with a marketing manager the other day about sources of revenue for a website. He wasn’t extremely familiar with how web analytics packages work, so I was explaining how you can find out which referring sites are the most valuable to your business. The conversation took off (I could literally see a light bulb going on above his head) so I pulled out my laptop and started showing off some of the functionality in Google Analytics. Based on that conversation, it hit me that a blog post detailing the Referring Sites report in Google Analytics would be a good idea. And here it is!

What’s a Referring Site?
The definition of a referring site is any website (blog, forum, affiliate, etc.) that sends visitors to your website. That may be a bit vague, so let me expand on that definition. In most web analytics packages, traffic is broken down by referring sites, search engine traffic, and direct traffic. These are the most basic sources of traffic for your website. Back to referring sites, so a blog post that mentions your product, a social media site with a link to your website, and a link from an affiliate website are all examples of a referring site. The beautiful part about the top web analytics packages is that they all provide detailed reporting for referring websites. As you know from previous posts, I’m a big advocate of both Coremetrics and Google Analytics, but this post just focuses on the referring sites report in the latest version of Google Analytics.

So What Can You See in the Referring Sites Report?
Plenty. Let’s start with the top level referring sites report. As usual in Google Analytics (GA), you can view trending at the top of the report with the list of referring sites at the bottom of the report. You can view a summary of the data you’re analyzing right below the trending and you can easily view the referring sites data by Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-commerce. By the way, GA has one of the most intuitive user interfaces among the most popular web analytics packages. Under Site Usage, you can see statistics such as Visits, Average Time on Site, and Bounce Rate, which provides a great starting point. In addition, Google Analytics enables you to visit the referring site right from the report (in a new window). I love this feature for when I see a new referring site show up and I’m not familiar with the website in question. At the top level of this report, you can also click Goal Conversion to see the conversion rate for all of your events, again, broken down by referring site. So, you can see Ecommerce conversion rate, RSS subscriptions, newsletter registrations, etc. for each referring site in your report. Last, but definitely not least, you can click the E-Commerce tab to see revenue by referring site. In addition, GA enables you to segment your data with a quick dropdown labeled “Segment”. I’ll cover this later, but as an example, you can click the segment dropdown and choose “Landing Page” to see the top landing pages that people visit from your referring sites.

Screenshot of the Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics:
--Note, these are just sample screenshots. They don't match the examples.--
The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics

So in just minutes, you were able to see your top referring sites by visitors, goal conversion, and revenue. Now, isn’t this a great way to determine the value of a site linking to you? Imagine this…a website you just recently advertised with said, “We sent 14,000 visitors your way last week. Isn’t that outstanding?” Well sure, but it looks like 60% of those visitors bounced, only 3% signed up for our newsletter, and those 14,000 visitors only generated $400 in revenue. It’s powerful to have that data. :-)

Drill Into Your Referring Sites Report
Now many of you might be excited about what I just explained above. But why stop there? {OK, I don't mean to sound like a late night tv commercial for the craftmatic bed!} Let’s go one layer deeper into the referring sites report. I’ll click one of the top referring sites in the report. By clicking the site, you are now telling Google Analytics to focus on this one site and give you more data about this referring site. Once in the report, you will see trending again up top, which is a great way to see data over time for this specific website. For example, you might see a spike in activity, a gradual trend upwards or downwards… Also notice that GA provides the same report layout, keeping it consistent while you analyze different activities. This makes it very easy to find what you’re looking for and to become extremely proficient at finding the data you need. You’ll notice the segment dropdown again, this time set to Referral Path, which is the actual path from within the referring website (where visitors actually came from.) This is outstanding because you can now find the exact location on the site that people are finding your link or advertisement. I can’t tell you how many times a new referring site pops up, and I immediately want to see the actual page where the link resides. Was it a blog post, a mention on a forum, one of our ads, etc? GA enables you to view the URL in a new window right from the reporting.

Screenshot of a Specific Referring Site in Google Analytics:
A Specific Referring Site in Google Analytics

So now we are getting more granular. At the top level, you knew that x amount of visitors came from the website. Now you can see x number of URL’s within the referring site that drove visitors to your website. And, you can easily click each tab like we did earlier to view each URL by Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-commerce. In addition, you can use the “Segment” dropdown to segment your data. For example, you can choose Landing Page to see which pages on your website visitors are landing on, you can click City or Region to see where they are geographically located, or you can click User Defined if you set up any custom segmentation. For example, you might have set up a segment for blog traffic. If you click User Defined, you would be able to view statistics based on people coming from this referring site, but that also that visited your blog.

Yes, Drill Into Your Reporting Even Further…
Why stop at the previous step? If you click one of the URL’s within your referring site report, you can view statistics for that one URL. You are telling GA to just give you data for that one URL and not the entire referring site. In this report, you can view trending up top for the URL in question (again, not for the entire site, just the URL). You can visit that URL in a new window, you can segment your data via the Segment dropdown, and you can view a summary of statistics at the bottom of the report. And once again, you can click each tab to view Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-Commerce for that one URL. Nice.

Screenshot of a Specific Link (URL) in the Referring Sites Report:
A Specific Link or URL in Google Analytics

How About a Hypothetical Referring Sites Example?
You launched a big campaign last week. There are 2 sites in particular that you want to compare. Both are vying for your long-term business, so this is a test for each of them. You are running advertising on both sites in various locations. Both sites show up in your referring sites report. Great. Let’s take a closer look.

Each site sent ~8,000 visitors your way. Immediately you see that 1 site had a 55% bounce rate and the other had a 10% bounce rate. Interesting. You click Goal Conversion and see that the first site (with a high bounce rate) had a 2% conversion rate and the second site with a 10% bounce rate had an 8% conversion rate. Your case is getting stronger for site #2, right? Let’s drill deeper into site #2. You see 4 URL’s from this referring site that drove visitors to your site. The trending (up top) shows a downward trend from the day it launched through yesterday. What’s the reason? The most popular link was on their blog, which based on new content being added daily to the blog, the post mentioning your site drops down the blog homepage and eventually off of the homepage. You still get traffic, but not as much. Bookmark that in your mind for future campaigns. Maybe you should focus your efforts on more blog related content versus other efforts. You check revenue by URL, which backs up the mention in the blog post. It sent the most traffic and revenue your way. Let’s pop back out and check the first site (the one with a high bounce rate and lower conversion rate). You are now viewing the referring site by URL. Most of the visitors came through the homepage advertisement, but that also had the highest bounce rate. Was it the creative? Or, since visitors that arrived from links deeper in the site stayed longer and converted at a higher rate, does that reflect a more valuable type of visitor? For example, are you getting more value from deeper site advertising? Sure, it won’t send you as much traffic, but you want a high return on investment (ROI), which means revenue. Traffic is good, but not if 55% of it bounces.

We can keep going, but I’ll stop my hypothetical analysis here! I hope you can see how powerful this set of reports can be for determining high quality traffic. And “High Quality” can be determined by you, and not the people sending you the traffic. ;-) What gets me even more excited is that web analytics packages are only getting stronger. You will be able to do more and more as the popular analytics packages evolve. Stay tuned for more posts about other web analytics reporting. I know that there’s a lot to cover, so subscribe to my feed and keep up to date on my latest posts.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate (and Increase Your ROAS)

5 Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROASWith robust web analytics packages in place, you have the ability to see which campaign landing pages are working for you and which ones aren’t. Bounce Rate has received a lot of coverage recently and I’ve also received a lot of questions about it. Why? Well, theoretically, if you can lower your bounce rate on a campaign landing page, you have a greater chance of converting visitors. That leads to more revenue, a higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and happy executives. :-)

On that note, don’t let an online marketing consultant or agency tell you that Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) isn’t important. That’s a classic example of someone not wanting to be accountable for the online marketing budget you will be handing them. Sure, there are other factors that come into play, but if you will be handing a consultant or agency tens of thousands of dollars per month in ad spend, then you should expect a return on that ad spend. If a consultant or agency won’t focus on how much revenue they will generate based on your ad spend (if that's your goal), run, don’t walk…and never look back. :-0

Back to my post! There are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate and I have listed 5 additional ways below. So without further ado:

1. Listen to Your Customers
What a crazy idea, right? ;-) I know sometimes online marketers want to leverage their web analytics packages for everything, but there is so much you can learn from your customers and visitors. So, how do you reach out to them? How about using on-site surveys, tapping into your customer advisory board, or leveraging focus groups? This is one of the reasons I believe your in-house email list is so important…you can leverage your list to gain critical feedback. For example, what information are they looking for, in what order, how much information is too much, do reviews matter, or will video make a difference. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is so don’t be afraid to interact with other PEOPLE!

2. Use Multivariate Testing
Based on the feedback you receive from your customers and visitors (see above), you can start to craft your multivariate test for your campaign landing pages. Note, I explained how you can leverage multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer in another post so I won’t go into detail on how to set up your test here. So, based on customer feedback, choose your landing page elements, create several versions of each element, and launch your test to scientifically determine the best combination of elements in order to decrease bounce rate and increase conversion. I can hear more sales coming in already. ;-)

3. Provide a Clear Internal Linking Structure
Let’s face it, sometimes people aren’t specifically interested in what you are selling on your campaign landing page. But, you don’t need to lose that traffic and revenue. You might have other items they are interested in and you need to let them know those other products are there. Using a clear navigation and linking structure, you can make sure those visitors don’t bounce and that they easily find the additional information. For example, you can provide a well structured right sidebar with related links. You can also provide related links below your product and pricing information.

For example, if someone visits your campaign landing page for HD TV’s and she doesn't see a 42" Plasma on the page (but you actually have 5 models that are elsewhere on the site), she might bounce! However, if you provided a right sidebar link that says "view other models by size and type", you might be able to lower your bounce rate and increase your conversion rate. This is a simple example, but you get the point!

4. Pay Attention to Your Creative Layout
We all know that there are many ways you can lay out a campaign landing page. We also know that certain visuals, colors, calls to action, and functionality impact conversion differently (based on a number of factors). When you are marketing a product or service, the right creative layout can be critical to increasing conversion. Your actual landing page layout will completely depend on your target market, your products, your pitch, and any additional information that can help drive sales. For some products, your landing page may need to contain interactivity using flash or ajax, but other products may need more text content to build credibility in the buyer’s mind. Some elements that you can consider testing are more product visuals on the page, better imaging functionality (pan and zoom), customer reviews, video (if it makes sense for your product), a wizard to help customers choose the right version of your product, etc. Then you can use multivariate testing to optimize the page content to increase conversion (see above).

5. Drive High Quality Traffic to Your Site (OK, not such an easy task...)
Who cares if you get 50,000 visitors from an online marketing campaign if 75% of those visitors bounce. You should analyze your traffic sources to see where you are getting the highest quality visitors from. Look for red flags…like a site you are advertising on that sends traffic yielding a high bounce rate and low conversion rate. Also, ensure you set goals for sales, registrations, rss subscriptions, etc. Make sure you understand where traffic is coming from and what those visitors are doing on your site. Track as many variables as you can so you can make educated decisions down the line.

For example, you might find that a recent email marketing campaign yielded lower traffic numbers than your paid search campaign, but higher revenue and registrations. In addition, you might find that 60% of the people from your paid search campaign bounced. You would obviously want to take a hard look at your paid search campaign to see why this is happening. Are you targeting the right keywords, is your landing page throwing off visitors, or is it the wrong product selection. You might find that minor changes can yield a much higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

In closing, there are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate. It’s definitely hard work, but can yield great results. My recommendation is that you start small, review your results and then expand your efforts. Little by little, you can start to optimize your landing pages and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this post and get moving! :-)


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, What is the Difference and Why You Should Care

The Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate in Web AnalyticsOver the past year, I’ve received more and more questions about two important metrics in web marketing, Bounce Rate and Exit Rate. It seems there is some confusion about differences between the two, why they are important, what they tell you, and how to improve them. So, I decided to write this post to demystify them a bit.

The Definition of Bounce Rate and Exit Rate
Let’s start with some definitions. The definition of Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that hit your website on a given page and don’t visit any other pages on your site. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through to your site, and then leaves your site without visiting any other pages. He bounced. You can learn more about lowering your bounce rate here.

The definition of Exit Rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your site from a given page based on the number of visits to that page (or pageviews in some cases). Sounds similar to Bounce Rate, doesn’t it? There’s a difference, though. The visitor who exits might have visited other pages on your site, but just exited on that specific page. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through your site, reads a blog post, then clicks the About Us link. After finding out more about your company, John clicks the contact us link and fills out a contact form. He then exits your site. The contact us page is where he exited. In contrast, if he simply visited the site via organic search and left without visiting any other page, it would have been a bounce. Make sense?

Why are Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Important?
Both metrics are important and can help web marketing people glean insights from the data, but they are definitely used differently. Bounce Rate is extremely important for determining how your landing pages perform as compared to visitor expectations. For example, if you run paid search campaigns, then you know the importance of testing a landing page (optimizing the landing page). I find that bounce rate at the aggregate level doesn’t tell you very much (site level bounce rate), but I find that bounce rate at the page level is extremely useful. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. For example, if you are driving paid search visitors to your landing page selling Coffee Makers {OK, it’s 5AM and I’m tired :-)}, and you have a 70% Bounce Rate on that page, you’ve got a problem. Why are that many visitors bouncing after clicking through your paid search ad and landing on a page that theoretically should be highly targeted? This is actually the fun part…digging into the data, optimizing the page, and using multivariate testing to lower your bounce rate and to increase conversion. As you can see, bounce rate can help you determine how well your landing pages perform (which directly affects revenue and ROAS).

In my opinion, Exit Rate is more important for determining which page in a process isn’t performing up to expectations. For example, if you have mapped out scent trails on your site (ala Persuasion Architecture), and you find visitors are exiting the site on a webpage that clearly is a stepping stone to a more important page, then you should probably take a hard look at that page’s content. Are the calls to action not compelling enough? Does the page provide content that throws off visitors? Is there a technical issue with the page? Does it take too long to load? So on and so forth. Note, that for specific processes like cart checkout, you should use funnel analysis, but analyzing exit rate for more open ended processes works well (like targeting a type of buyer and providing a scent trail for them to get to a registration form.)

Different Yet Important
As you can see, both metrics are very different, but both are important. My recommendation is to start analyzing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate for key pages and processes on your site. I would begin with a focused effort, like a landing page that receives a lot of paid search traffic (for Bounce Rate) and possibly a lead generation process on the site for Exit Rate (if you have one). I won’t cover the process of optimizing your content in this post, but you can read an introduction to multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer to learn more about website testing. I believe multivariate testing is a critical component to increasing conversion and lowering bounce rate for your key landing pages. It can help you increase revenue without adding one more new visitor to your site. Intriguing, isn’t it? :-)

In closing, who thought that bouncing and exiting would be an interesting topic in marketing? ;-) Addressing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate can help you meet customer expectations, which can lead to higher conversion rates (whether that means sales, registrations, RSS subscriptions, etc.) There is one more point worth mentioning… although you can learn a lot from both Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, don’t forget about qualitative data. During your optimization process, ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS AND VISITORS about your key landing pages via surveys, focus groups, phone calls, etc. You may be too close to the content to see what’s wrong and you would be amazed to read and hear what actual visitors have to say.


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Friday, July 06, 2007

Multivariate Testing with Google Website Optimizer – Increase Conversion Rate and Take Guesswork Out of the Equation

Multivariate Testing Using Google Website OptimizerWebsite and campaign optimization has become an extremely hot area of web marketing recently. My guess is that you’ve heard the terms split testing, A/B testing, multivariate testing, Taguchi method, etc. thrown around on blogs and at conferences recently. What do these terms mean?? They all refer to the concept of scientifically testing your marketing campaigns in order to increase conversion (whether that’s increasing sales, downloading a whitepaper, filling out a contact form, subscribing to your RSS feed, etc.) This post is intended to be an introduction to multivariate testing using Google’s free optimization tool called Google Website Optimizer. I’ll explain more about it a little later on.

Let’s start with a quick definition of multivariate testing:
Multivariate testing enables you to test several components of a website to determine the optimal combination for increasing conversion. But unlike a traditional split test, which tests one creative versus another, multivariate testing enables you to test the combination of elements on a page and then will determine the optimal combination of those elements for increasing conversion.

Here’s a quick example:
Let’s say you are running a paid search campaign and you have set up a landing page specifically for your paid search visitors. The page currently converts at .75%. You’re not thrilled… In addition, your analytics package shows that you have a 60% bounce rate on the landing page. Again, you’re not thrilled. With multivariate testing, you can take that landing page and then determine key components of the page that you would like to test in order to increase conversion. For example, you might want to test the header graphic, the headline, and a call to action on the page. So, you have 3 components (or page sections) to test and then you can create multiple versions of each component. Let’s say you tested 4 versions of each component, which would mean that you have 81 possible combinations of elements. Your testing application would automatically change the content for different visitors and then measure the effectiveness of each element and the combination of elements. Cool, right? Note, the more components you test and more versions of components will extend the length of your test. There needs to be statistical significance in order to accurately determine the best combination of elements.

Enter Google Website Optimizer:
There are several tools on the market to help you with multivariate testing, including Offermatica and Optimost (probably the most popular services.) However, you might want to consider a great starter application before diving into the more complex applications listed above. That’s where Google Website Optimizer comes in. It’s Google’s free optimization tool that does a great job with basic multivariate testing. It’s a great way to start your in-house testing program. Heck, it’s free! I’ll take you through a quick example below.

A Real World Example, Step by Step:
One of my clients sells software (B2B) and they noticed a lot of people visiting the demo page, which also has customer testimonials as part of the page. After utilizing their web analytics package to analyze the past few months of activity, I could clearly see that visitors weren’t taking the next step and clicking the call to action to buy the software from the page. So, to increase conversion, we decided to use multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer.

Here is what I did and how it worked:

1. I broke down the demo page into the core components we wanted to test. This ended up being the header graphic, the headline, and 2 calls to action (one at the top of the page and one below the fold). Note that mapping out your test is probably the toughest part since if you test the wrong components, then you probably won’t achieve your goals. :-) I recommend including everyone at this stage, including the designers, the marketing group, your VP, developers, etc. You don’t have to take everyone’s recommendation, but it typically gives you a good view of the possibilities.

2. Access Google Website Optimizer, which can be found in your AdWords account under campaign management. Create a new experiment and follow the steps for setting up your experiment. There are 5 steps and I briefly touch on each of them below.

3. Click the button for identifying your experiment pages. This will include the page you are testing and the conversion page.

4. Name your experiment and locate your test page and conversion page.

5. The second step (at least in Google Website Optimizer) is to plan your experiment. I briefly explained my client’s experiment above, but this is the step where you figure out which components to test in order to increase conversion. I determined that the header graphic, the headline and 2 calls to action would be the components to test and that we would test 3 different versions of each (giving us 81 possible combinations).

6. Add the JavaScript tags to both the test page and the conversion page. Google gives you detailed instructions for doing this, so I won’t add each step of accomplishing this task. Basically, you’ll be adding some JavaScript to each page and then identifying the unique sections of your page that you will be testing. Once you identify a section, such as the headline, then you will add specific JavaScript so Google Website Optimizer can swap out content on the fly for testing purposes. If you are familiar with HTML and JavaScript, this process is fairly simple. If you aren’t familiar with HTML and JavaScript, then have a developer help you.

7. Then you can click “Check tags on page” once they are uploaded and Google will automatically check them for you. A nice feature…Note, you can also check local pages, if needed by browsing your computer for the webpages.

8. Now is the fun part. You will create the different versions of each component. Don’t be shy here…make sure each version is significantly different or your results may not tell you anything! Remember, we are testing conversion, not how pretty something is. To me, I love this part of website testing. Why? Because it’s sometimes the ugliest component that pulls the best response. Nothing drives designers crazier that showing them an ugly element that converted twice the rate of the prettiest graphic. :-) And remember you are always starting with the original page and elements as a comparison.

9. Once you create and enter each variation for your test components, then you can preview the experiment. You can also tell Google Website Optimizer how much traffic to use for the test. For example, 50% of the traffic to the page, 75%, or 100% of the traffic. You can determine this, based on your exact experiment.

10. Preview your experiment. Having 4 components and 3 variations of each component yields 81 possible combinations. And, Google Website Optimizer enables you to view each combination in a slick preview screen. You can use dropdowns to select each combination or specific versions of each component. **Note, if you see something wrong, change it now. Close out the preview and click the back button to re-edit your versions. If you go live with the experiment, you will NOT be able to change the component versions.

11. When you are ready and everything looks perfect, simply click the Launch Now button to start your test. Now all you need is traffic. :-O By the way, you should start with a page that gets a lot of traffic. In order to scientifically determine which combination of elements works best, you need enough traffic to thoroughly test all of the combinations. The more components and variations you have, the more traffic and time you will need.

Go have a snack, grab lunch, hit the local bar, or wherever you want to boast about the multivariate test you just set up. :-) Check back a few hours later and you can start to review the reporting for your experiment. I plan to write a post that extensively covers the reporting in Google Website Optimizer, but in a nutshell, you can see the following statistics:

Under the Combinations Tab:
* which combinations are performing the best
* which combinations are performing the worst
* each combination’s chance of beating the original
* each combination’s chance of beating the other combinations
* observed improvement over the original
* conversions per visitor

Under the Page Sections Tab:
* the estimated conversion rate for each element within each component
* each variation’s chance of beating the original
* each variation’s chance of beating the other combinations
* observed improvement over the original
* conversions per visitor
* section relevance rating, which basically tells you how important variations in that section are to the overall experiment.

The results of my experiment:
And why I love multivariate testing…we never would have picked the combination that pulled the best response.

1. A header graphic that was relatively cluttered from a design standpoint, but one that builds credibility, performed the best. Needless to say, the designers never would have chosen this header. :-)

2. All 3 of the headlines performed well. The original actually performed better than the rest, but not much better…

3. A simple call to action (as compared to the other variations) performed the best at the top of the page.

4. For the lengthier call to action below the fold, a conversational call to action performed the best. This played on the fact that if you actually got down to the second call (below the fold), then you probably went through most of the content on the page.

Taking Action:
Based on the multivariate test, the optimal combination (out of 81 possible combinations) showed a 60% observed improvement over the original. So we reviewed the results and recently implemented the winning combination.

In Closing…
I hope this post helped you understand what multivariate testing is, how you can use it, and leaves you wanting to set up your first experiment. What I like best about scientific marketing is that you take opinion out of the equation (or mostly out of the equation). If your VP loves one piece of creative and you believe it’s not the right one…test it! It’s hard to argue with real data…and the reporting can act as nice buffer, which will help you keep your job! ;-)


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Monday, March 26, 2007

Why is My Homepage Bounce Rate So High?

Dealing with homepage bounce rate!
Over the past few months, I've received dozens of questions about homepage bounce rate so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it. I'm glad to see executives and marketers getting more involved with website optimization. I think it shows the true evolution of web marketing.

Let's start with a definition of Bounce Rate:
The percentage of visitors that visit one page on your website that exit the site before visiting another page.

Hence the word "bounce"... Here's a quick example. Tom sees a paid search advertisement for xyz company. He clicks through the ad and hits the homepage (more about why this could be a problem later.) He quickly scans the page and doesn't find a call to action to what he's looking for and promptly goes back to the paid search listings. That's a bounce.

I figured that providing a list of some of the most common problems would be a smart way to build this post. So without further ado: (in no specific order...)

1. Your homepage doesn't speak to your personas (types of buyers)
I have mentioned this about a dozens times in related posts, but in my opinion, the best way to optimize your website is to determine your customer personas (types of buyers) and then build persuasive scenarios based on those personas. The days of pointing visitors to a website and simply listing a navigation and a quick intro are gone... I gave a quick example of persona development in my last post (HD TV buyers) if want to reference it.

2. Confusing Homepage Layout and Content, So What Exactly Do You Sell??
Let's say you are speaking to your personas (as mentioned above) and you still experience a high bounce rate. If that's the case, then there's a good chance that your homepage isn't laid out properly. As part of an abbreviated persona development project, my client learned that their customers tend to look for a search box when they hit the homepage of an e-commerce site. As a result, they moved their search box to a more prominent location on the page, improved their search algorithm, and improved the way their search results are displayed. Now, that's a great example of learning from your customers and making the appropriate changes to your website structure. And, they utilize a robust web analytics package to analyze their site activity to ensure the changes they made to the site are working. It's a constant evolution. That's just one example, but you should look at how you introduce your company, your text navigation, the visuals you have on the homepage, the lingo you utilize in the copy, the dimensions of your site as compared to your average visitor (via your analytics package), how quickly your page loads, etc.

3. External Campaigns Driving Visitors to Your Homepage
This can inaccurately bump up your homepage bounce rate and is a common problem that I see in web marketing. For example, paid search campaigns that lead to the homepage of your website, email marketing for a specific promotion that lead to your homepage, banners (yes, unfortunately some web marketers still use banners) that lead to your homepage, etc. I understand if you are undermanned and cannot build campaign landing pages, but I cannot emphasize how this can help your campaigns on multiple dimensions. You can split test landing pages, you can talk specifically to the campaign recipients, you can provide unique content for the promotion visitors, and you can track that landing page at a granular level. In addition, you can utilize your web analytics package to view clickstream reports to see where visitors go after viewing that specific landing page. I can keep going here, but I think you get the gist of why landing pages are important. Using landing pages will also give you a more accurate bounce rate for your homepage. Maybe 7% of your homepage bounce rate was from external campaigns. But please, don't go and refine your homepage until you have accurate data.

3. Ranking in Natural Search for Keywords that Aren't Directly Related to Your Company
If you haven't optimized your website for search, your homepage might actually be ranking for keywords that don't directly relate to your business. Typically, this isn't a big driver of traffic, unless you've really added content and phrases on your homepage that can be interpreted by the search engines as something else. This is something you can easily find via your web analytics program. Just pop into Natural Search and view the top keywords from each search engine. You'll be surprised what you find. For example, if you wrote a book on starting a golf instruction business and you get a few thousand people per month visiting your site by entering the keyword "best ways to increase the distance of your drive", then your homepage bounce rate might be inflated. Figure out why you are ranking for that keyword and then form a strategy for ranking for keywords that directly relate to your business. If you don't have the skill-set in house, then hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist.

4. Website Visitor Expectations are Not Met Properly (This also relates to the external campaign listing above...)
If you set expectations too high in an advertisement and suddenly you receive a lot of traffic from that advertisement, there's a chance a good portion of that traffic could bounce. If you sell Samsung TV's, but don't sell Panasonic TV's and your ad claims that you have the widest selection on the face of the earth, then it shouldn't be a shock when people looking for Panasonic TV's bounce off your site! One of the best lessons I learned regarding marketing copy was from John Caples (probably the most famous advertising copywriter ever). Keep it specific and keep it realistic. For example, "We provide a wide selection of Widescreen HD TV's from Samsung, Sony, Pioneer, and LG in sizes ranging from 26" to 50". Compare that to "We have the widest selection of HD TV's in North America and we must move our inventory today! We have every size imaginable!" If someone visits your site from the second ad and they are looking for a 60" Toshiba, they will probably bounce.

So, how do you fix your website bounce rate problem?
1. Track everything via a robust web analytics package and start analyzing the results (where are visitors coming from, which links on the homepage are most active, which real estate areas on the homepage are most accessed, is on-site search easily accessible, etc.)
2. Determine your personas and map out a plan for speaking to those personas right on your homepage (and in your navigation). This involves speaking with your customers, using web surveys, and speaking with your customer service people.
3. Split test changes to determine if they are working for you. If you don't have a benchmark, then how will you know if you are improving anything?
4. Run clickstream reporting to see where people are going (after you make changes based on your persona development). This will enable you to see which elements drive the most sales. In addition, it will enable you to see which elements drive the highest abandonment rate. For example, you might find that 45% of the people that click through your "New Additions" link leave the site on the next page.

And as usual in web marketing, be creative, be analytical, listen to your customers, listen to your customer service people, and track everything. It's definitely not easy, but if you utilize a structured approach, it could chop your homepage bounce rate down to a reasonable number!


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