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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A CM-Mess for SEM - How Content Management Systems (CMS) Can Be a Thorn in Your SEM Side

CMS-related problems for SEM.It’s widely known in the search community that CMS packages can cause serious SEO problems. These problems can sometimes be caused by the actual CMS being used or by the implementation of that CMS. There’s definitely a distinction. And to be clear, not all CMS packages or implementations cause these problems. You just need to be careful when choosing and implementing one. When you start to look at the impact from content management systems, the list of potential SEO issues can get quite long. For example, you might run into canonical issues, duplicate content, lack of content optimization, issues with flash seo, unfriendly redirects, etc. The irony is that CMS packages are supposed to make your life easier (and some definitely do), but there are times they can cause serious headaches.

But I Mentioned SEM, and Not Just SEO
Even though most of the focus has been on content management systems impacting SEO, paid search can also be affected. I’ve run into several CMS-related problems that can end up inhibiting the success of your paid search campaigns. From developing custom landing pages to accurately tracking conversion to implementing multivariate testing, content management systems can sometimes present their own obstacles (or little gremlins depending on the issue at hand). That brings me to the point of this post!

My latest blog post on Search Engine Journal (which went live today) addresses this topic and covers four categories of potential problems that content management systems can cause while running paid search. The post provides a description of each problem, recommendations for making changes, and a list of key takeaways. If you’re a search marketer that’s working with a CMS (or attempting to work with a CMS), then I recommend reading my post. :) And if you think I left out any problems, definitely feel free to post a comment below or on Search Engine Journal.

To learn more, check out my post now:
A CM-Mess for SEM – Does Your Content Management System Cause These Paid Search Problems?


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Monday, November 30, 2009

Paid Search and Meeting Visitor Expectations, How The Right Ad, Right Offer, and Right Landing Page Can Lead to Increased Conversion in SEM

East Coast Photo meeting customer expectations in Paid Search (SEM).Leading up to the holidays, it’s only natural that paid search campaigns heat up. Companies start pumping more dollars into their campaigns knowing that people are more apt to buy. Being neck deep in paid search, I always keep and eye out for great examples of SEM. And by "great", I don’t mean ultra-elaborate (and I’ll explain more about that soon). In SEM, I think a lot of people end up paying an exorbitant amount of time on keywords and ads and not enough attention on landing pages and meeting visitor expectations. This always seems odd to me, since the goal of SEM is to not only drive targeted visitors to your site, but to convert them. Also, when companies actually do focus on landing pages, I think the tendency is to focus on the design and slickness of the page versus the functionality. Although I think that’s a natural tendency to have, it’s amazing what a well though out landing page can accomplish… And I’m not referring to slick design, beautiful imagery, or an award-winning UI. I’m simply talking about meeting visitor expectations based on what they searched for. I know, that’s a novel idea, right? :)

The Search Marketer Becomes The Consumer
This brings me to my latest SEM experience (as a consumer and not an online marketer). Since I’m the person that’s typically launching paid search campaigns, it’s always a bit strange when I become the prospective customer (AKA the searcher). This past Saturday, I found myself in buying mode. I needed a new rechargeable battery for one of my digital cameras and started searching the web for the right product, at the right price, and with the right offer. I launched Firefox and started entering searches in Google. It only took a minute or two to find a great example of how paid search should work. So I did what every Search Marketer does in this situation, I launched Photoshop and started taking screenshots! :)

Right Ad, Right Offer, Right Landing Page, and Right Price
Armed with the manufacturer and camera model, I began searching for a new battery. I saw an ad from East Coast Photo ranking third in paid search. The ad title was a perfect match for what I was searching for and the description included their offer for free shipping. That offer for free shipping was extremely important to me, since the price of the battery probably wouldn’t be more than $20. It always bothers me when shipping is almost as much as the product you are buying!

Paid Search Advertisement for the Battery I Was Looking For:
Paid Search Ad Text Using Descriptive Title and Special Offer

So I clicked through and was taken to a landing page that took me from visitor to customer in less than 30 seconds. It wasn’t beautifully designed, I wasn’t in awe of the functionality on the page, and it probably won’t win any awards (unless there’s a category for conversion at the next Webby Awards). The landing page simply made it easy for me to convert. When other sites drove me to pages that made me dig to find the right battery, East Coast Photo made it simple. I think everyone with an electronic gadget has been in a frustrating situation when trying to buy parts. There are so many models and you don’t want to choose the wrong one. If you’re off by even one character in the model name, you could end up with a battery that won’t work, and more importantly, you’ve wasted valuable time.

The East Cost Photo Landing Page
What made the landing page so good? East Coast Photo sent me to a pre-populated version of their battery finder (with the correct manufacturer and model already selected). Underneath the battery finder, there was a photo of my camera and a product listing for the battery I was looking for. It was so simple, yet so powerful. Since I was able to see the selection of my camera in the battery finder, I knew this was the right part for my needs. And even if it wasn’t, I could easily use the battery finder to locate the right part. Brilliant. The price was right and they were offering free shipping (like I was looking for). So, I immediately added two batteries to my cart and started the checkout process.

Was it sexy? No. Was it efficient? You bet. Did I find what I needed in less than 30 seconds? Yes. And are other people going through the same process right now as you read this blog post? Absolutely.

Paid Search Landing Page With Pre-Populated Battery Finder:
Tailored and Effective Paid Search Landing Page by East Coast Photo

What About the Competition?
Upon clicking other paid search advertisements, I was sent to product pages without knowing if the products being displayed were the right ones for my camera. I was also dropped on holiday sales pages without any battery listings, and I was dropped on generic “camera battery” pages. Dropping me on product pages would be ok if I knew those pages contained the exact product I was looking for. Unfortunately, there was no sign that it was the right product… Dropping me on a holiday sales page is a waste of money for advertisers, given my specific search. And, the generic “camera battery” page was a complete waste of money for the advertiser and even looked a little suspicious… Remember, I entered a specific manufacturer and model along with the keyword battery. If someone enters that query, then they aren’t looking for a holiday sales page or a generic camera battery page… They want that product and fast.

Key SEM Learnings From This Example:

1. Keep it Simple and Meet Visitor Expectations
If someone is looking for a specific part or product, make sure you take them to a page holding that product or part (with confirmation that’s it the right product for their needs). I know that sounds overly simple, but it doesn’t happen often enough in paid search. Think about the difference in conversion by sending someone to a page that holds the product they are looking for (and with additional signals that it’s the right product). East Coast Photo provided a photo of my camera and a pre-populated version of their battery finder, based on my query. It took me less than 30 seconds to see that this was the right battery for me. I also ended up adding two batteries, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done unless I knew I was getting exactly what I needed.

2. Be Specific in Your Ad Text and Include Special Offers
You don’t need to be an award-winning copywriter to craft an advertisement that converts well. But you should be as specific as possible. If you take the time to set up paid search for specific products, then make sure you add the product names in your ad text. I searched for a particular manufacturer and camera model and the ad I clicked on had that manufacturer and model in the ad’s title. In addition, I was specifically looking for free shipping, and the ad provided that in the description. If you are providing special offers, then make sure it’s in the ad text. I’m not sure I would have clicked through so fast if East Coast Photo didn’t have their offer listed in the advertisement.

3. Take Prospective Customers As Far As You Can Into the Process of Finding What They Need
In my opinion, there are too many companies dropping paid search visitors off on their homepages, category pages, and deal pages when they are searching for specific products. If someone searches for a specific product, take them to that product, and make sure they know it’s the right one (as mentioned above). The web provides a unique opportunity for e-commerce merchants. They can leverage intelligence and functionality to provide a user experience that’s unrivaled in the offline world. Use that power to take prospective customers as far into the process of finding what they need as possible. For example, East Coast Photo leveraged their battery finder to pre-populate the tool with the manufacturer and model that I searched for on Google. I can tell you that their extra effort led to me converting quickly on their site. Think about the functionality you already have on your site and how it can be used in conjunction with your marketing campaigns. And don't just think about search engine marketing…think about email, display advertising, social media marketing, etc.

“Wrapping Up” this post – hey, it is the holiday season! :)
If you are running paid search for your business, then think about the entire process that prospective customers go through when clicking your ads and visiting your site. Are your search advertisements strong enough? Do they clearly explain the products and offers you have? And does your landing page meet their expectations? Creating tailored and effective landing pages doesn’t require award-winning designers and developers. You just simply need to think about what people are looking for and provide that information in an easy to use format. If you do that, then you have a much greater chance at converting browsers into buyers. You never know, it could be as easy as providing a battery finder.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Viral Marketing Campaigns, Important Elements to Consider to Enhance Campaign Effectiveness

Viral Marketing Effectiveness, Important Elements to ConsiderViral Marketing is a hot topic, especially since the web is an incredible catalyst for getting the word out about something. Depending on your business, viral marketing can be a powerful way to drive exposure, traffic, and sales. You can get your brand in front of thousands of people in a relatively short amount of time. By the way, I’m not referring to organic Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) or Buzz Marketing. If you want to get technical, I’m referring to Amplified WOM, or an online marketing campaign with a goal of taking your message viral, spreading it across the web like wildfire, exposing your brand on a grand level, and hopefully turning it into revenue down the line. Don't worry, I explain a few examples below. You don’t have to be a large company to utilize viral marketing. You just need to be creative and develop ideas that leverage the viral nature of the web to achieve your goals… Let’s take a look at what I believe to be some important elements to consider while developing your viral marketing campaign.

Concept Development, Make Sure It’s Fun, Memorable, and That It Has a Hook
During your brainstorming, if you read a concept and remotely think it won’t be fun, inspiring, or intriguing enough, then throw the idea away. The bar is constantly being raised, so you need to ensure people will want to take part. If it just sounds ok, then it’s probably worse. If you get goosebumps while reading it, then you’re on to something. I use this test often while mapping out creative strategies….if it doesn’t give me chills while reading it, then it’s not good enough, period.

Here’s an interesting example of a viral campaign: Weight Watchers recently hired FaintStarlite, a popular video blogger to help promote their "Stop Dieting, Start Living" campaign. There’s a myspace page for the campaign and FaintStarlite vlogs away… She is asking others to post about their diet experiences, their Weight Watchers journey, and talks about her own experiences. Right now, her WW myspace page has over 6300 friends and 430 comments. Reading through the comments, you can see the campaign seems to be resonating. Women (and some men) are talking about dieting, when they joined Weight Watchers, laughing about the craziest diets they have tried, etc. This is a good example of tailoring the campaign to your target audience. Actually, I'd love to hear from FaintStarlite about how the campaign is going from her perspective.

Another good example was the Hammer and Coop viral campaign by Mini Cooper. I won’t go into all the details, but it has ultra-high production value, it's extremely funny, and I spent 15-20 minutes there before I even realized it! Good concept, excellent creative, and got me talking about the campaign…

A Common Question I Hear:
“How controversial or extreme should we make our viral marketing campaign?” I’m a big fan of humor. It’s a great way to generate a viral effect. Think of the CareerBuilder monkey tv commercials, which spurred the CareerBuilder viral campaign "Monkey Mail". It’s a serious subject (your career), but they really took a light angle by using the monkeys… If you can weave humor into a sound marketing concept for your viral campaign, then you are off to a great start. I’m not saying that controversial campaigns don’t generate buzz…but at what price? And by the way, you can shock people with humor and not leave them writhing in their seats… Another option is taking real world experiences and using them as the basis for your campaign. Let your actual customers talk… Let the true stories of helping customers resonate with your target audience. It’s not funny or shocking, but depending on your customer stories, it could generate a lot of viral activity.

Interactivity, Participation and User Generated Content (UGC)
Don’t create a 30 second spot…please. Sure, you might get some views on YouTube, but I firmly believe you need to have people interact with your campaign (and that’s not sitting and watching a 2 minute video). I think it’s a great idea to have video as part of the campaign, but not part of a one way viewing experience. There are so many ways to have people take part in your campaign, especially with web-based campaigns. For example, let’s say you are a clothing retailer and you’re launching a new line of jeans. As part of your campaign, run a contest letting customers create their own commercial for your jeans and give them some creative assets to start with. Maybe your logo, a few snapshots of models wearing the jeans, some music you have licensed for the campaign, and a few video clips from your stores. As participants create their commercials, have them upload the final video to your site, along with supporting commentary (what inspired their idea, their bios, who helped with the production, what their acceptance speech would be if their commercial won an award, etc.) Then have visitors vote on the winners… The winner gets a $2000 shopping spree on the website. It’s a great way to have people interacting with your brand, product, etc. And since they have created intriguing content for your site that others are voting for, your brand and product are now being viewed by more and more people…and maybe on other sites like YouTube, Google Video, etc. Think interactively….and not old-school television.

Giveaways, Grand Prizes, and Runners Up
If you choose to launch a contest as part of the campaign, then I cannot emphasize my next point enough. The winners should get something really, really cool that obviously fits your target market. So don’t give away a Blackberry to a retired guy living in a 55 and older community down in Florida. I'm not saying he wouldn’t like it, but he would probably enjoy a $500 restaurant gift card from Visa. Hey, I understand this crowd well since I know several snowbirds from New York. ;-) Do you target high tech customers, give away a jacked Macbook. Target moms? Give away a shopping spree at Babies R Us. You get the point. And, if you can give away your own products, even better. Then you’ll just pay the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and shipping. For example, if you sell footwear, then giving away 25 pairs of shoes doesn’t cost you the retail price, right? If you’re COGS are 30%, then you are giving away $1500 on $5000 worth of footwear. If you have products that people dig, then this is a great way to go. Keep in mind the viral nature of your campaign, though…will winning a year’s supply of paper clips excite anyone??

Brand Your Campaign and Develop a Dedicated Section of Your Website
Brand your campaign! This has several benefits, including giving people an easy way to communicate the campaign to their friends, helping with natural search, tying easily with your concept and creative, and obviously making it memorable! i.e. My friend Matt tells me about the Actober campaign by Major League Baseball, so I go to Google and enter Actober. If you’ve done your job correctly (and many don’t), your site and others referencing it should come up. If you didn’t give the campaign a name, then what would people search for?? Major League Baseball? On your website, add a directory matching the title of the campaign. i.e.

Sidebar, Do not waste those precious links!
I’ve seen campaigns generate thousands of links, which will greatly help a site’s natural search power, but then the companies shut down the campaign section or microsite after the campaign ends. NOOOO!!! “Sir, please step away from your web server…” Leverage that search power by either archiving those pages or using 301 redirects. A good link is a horrible thing to waste. ;-)

Get the Word Out, Advertise Your Viral Marketing Campaign
OK, so you have developed a great campaign, it’s a killer idea, the creative looks incredible, and you are getting goosebumps like I mentioned earlier. Now what?? You need to get the word out via a range of online marketing channels. Use your email list to stir up your base, use social media sites to communicate the campaign, advertise on targeted websites, use paid search to capture targeted visitors, and use PR to send waves across the web. Also, don’t forget to advertise on your own network of websites… I think this is sometimes overlooked. Create advertisements for key traffic areas on your own websites. Hey, there’s no ad spend! Add a footer to any email that goes out (confirmation emails to buyers, your email newsletters, etc.) Have your customer service reps explain the campaign at the end of phone calls. You get the picture. Leverage your own infrastructure to help get the word out.

Have Legal Approve Everything…
You are not a lawyer, so don’t make the mistake of not having your legal team or outside legal counsel approve your campaign. Let me say this again just so I’m clear. DO NOT LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN WITHOUT LEGAL REVIEWING EVERY ASPECT OF THE PROGRAM. I’ve seen campaigns run without a hitch and I’ve also seen campaigns come close to imploding. It’s all about the execution. I’m fanatical about this stage…it’s just in my blood. Listen to your lawyers…legal is a necessary element to your successful marketing campaigns. Make changes based on their feedback and get final approval before moving forward. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

So there you have it, some important elements to consider while creating your viral marketing campaign. This obviously doesn’t cover everything involved, but I plan on writing more posts related to viral marketing in the future.

Here are a few final words of advice…
* Be sure to view your ideas from the perspective of a would-be participant. It might be a great idea to you and your staff…but might fall flat with the people who will actually be participating.
* Definitely try to inject fun and energy into your campaign.
* Use technology to make it as interactive as possible.
* Use a wide range of online marketing channels to promote your campaign.

Last, my lawyer wanted me to add a line from him:

“This blog post about viral marketing sets forth the entire blog post and understanding of the parties relating to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior viral marketing blog posts and understandings, both written and oral, among the parties with respect to viral marketing, amplified word of mouth marketing, generating buzz, webfire, or any other terms related to viral marketing hereof.”

See, I told you to have legal review everything. :-) Sorry, I had to poke fun of legal at least one time in this post...


Related Posts:
The Difference Between Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing, and Buzz Marketing
7 Drivers of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine’s Day Online Shopping, Will Retailers Live Up To Shipping Promises

Valentine's Day Online Shopping and ShippingLet me start by saying that I already purchased gifts for my wife, children, and mother. ;-) But as I viewed various emails coming in yesterday from online retailers, I was shocked to find that only a few were still targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Yes, I know that they would only be targeting “last minute shoppers”, but they are still customers, right? And, last minute shoppers will always be there…it’s their M.O. So, I started wondering…which online retailers are targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers heavily? How visible are the promotions, what kind of shipping options are available, and how were they communicating to last minute shoppers? I decided to take a little trip around the web to see what I could find. I visited several of the websites that my wife buys from, and who knows, maybe I’ll be so confident that a gift will get here on time that I’ll make a purchase today! Cue cliffhanger music. ;-)
My wife loves the website and their retail stores. At first glance, there is not a single mention of Valentine’s Day. Really?? I was shocked to see this…given that they are one of the most popular beauty retailers (with both a strong offline and online presence). I saw a promotion for free shipping over $75 so I clicked through. Nothing about Valentine’s Day. Let me add something to my cart and see if they mention Valentine’s Day shipping…Nope. Wow, so you’re telling me that the hottest beauty retailer is not paying attention to Valentine’s Day?? I think they need to rethink this approach…

Banana Republic
OK, so I’m not out of my mind to think this is a relatively important day to target…Banana Republic has a nice area of real estate on the homepage targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Thank you Banana Republic! “Ensure Valentine’s Day Delivery by WED, February 13th” (see visual below). Excellent. Big, red, and clear as day. So I click through the advertisement and I’m taken to a section dedicated to Valentine’s Day. They have a left side navigation breaking down their Valentine’s Day gifts by gender, product category, gift cards, etc. They also provide links to their shipping policy, returns policy, gift packaging, and other helpful tools. Banana Republic gets it...and I’m confident they are reaping the benefits of being so thorough. I just might be back to make a purchase before I end my journey across the web…read on.

Click the image below to see the full size graphic:
Banana Republic Homepage Ad for Next Day Shipping

Danger…the homepage had no mention of Valentine’s Day. I clicked through to a few product categories, but still no mention. I went to search the site for any mention of Valentine’s Day and to my complete disbelief, there wasn't an on-site search box on the page...a link to the search box was buried at the bottom of the page. It produced 0 results when I entered Valentine's Day. Then I used a site command in Google, which also showed 0 results. Wow, I guess JCrew believes that their shoppers don’t want to give JCrew products as Valentine’s Day gifts. ;-) Needless to say, I think JCrew can improve their Valentine's Day promotion...

Apple Store
Although not completely apparent on the homepage (it was hidden in the middle of the screen below the hero image), the apple store does provide a Valentine’s Day section. They actually have a gift guide, broken down by product category. They also have a left-side section in the navigation for shipping information (along with a link to their shipping calendar.) It only took me a minute or two to find possible gift ideas and to see if it would arrive on or before the 14th. In addition, the shipping calendar was broken down by product. Very nice. As usual, I like what Apple did here… I might be back before my journey is through.
Upon hitting the homepage of, I clearly found links and promotional advertisements to their Valentine’s Day “gift central” section of the website. In this section, they break down possible gift ideas by several major categories, including color (yes, red, pink, white, etc.), flowers, chocolate, jewelry, fragrances, then by price, relationship, personality, etc. Within the website template, Amazon also provides a text link in the top right corner about 2 day shipping for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure that’s enough. It links to their Amazon Prime service, which is a premium service that enables you to earn fast shipping. But what if I just wanted to view the last day that I can place an order so I can have the products delivered by the 14th? I think Amazon did a great job with their gift guide, including getting you to the gift guide, breaking down the guide by category, etc., but as you approach the big day, you really want to know if your order will get to you on time. I know that it’s tough for Amazon to do this, since you might be purchasing from other vendors and shipping can be dictated by those vendors. That said, when you approach a holiday (which is obviously time-sensitive), you really want to know the final day that you can place an order to have gifts delivered on time. So, if it was a week out, I would say that Amazon did a great job…but being only 2 days out, I would be nervous ordering…

The Journey Ends…
That was my little trip around the web to see which websites were readily handling last minute Valentines’ Day orders and providing clear shipping schedules. Nobody wants to be disappointed on the 14th, so it was interesting to see the differences between online retailers. Based on my journey, the winner is Banana Republic. I think they earned it…they did a fantastic job of providing clear information about shipping for Valentine’s Day, they created a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts, and simply made it easy to find the right gift… So although I’ve already purchased some gifts, I added one more this morning from Banana Republic. They are guaranteeing next day delivery, which means I should receive my order on the 13th.

Now, let’s see if they live up to their promise of Next Business Day Shipping. I’ll write a follow up post to let you know how it goes. :)

{UPDATE}: And just when I spoke so highly of Banana Republic, a problem pops up!… I added some items to my cart and didn’t see any option for next day delivery…it was only showing Standard Delivery of 4-7 days. That’s after they guarantee next day delivery for Valentine’s Day! So I called the 800 number and spoke with a very nice customer service representative. She explained that 2 categories of products in their gift guide cannot be shipped next day… But they are in your gift guide right next to your advertisement about next day delivery? "I know…she says…I’m sorry." Ugh. So I’m going back on the website to see if I can find something else that fits (no pun intended). OK, so I found another gift that I think my wife will like. I just placed the order using Next Business Day Delivery. Yes, this was a little hiccup in the process, but we’re back on track. I’ll let you know how this ends up!}


Read Part 2 of this post, which contains the results of my Valentine's Day challenge to Banana Republic!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers

Online Marketing Tips for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Gobble ThursdayEveryone knows of Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. This is the day that retailers provide incredible sales and deals for customers willing to wake up early and hit the shopping trail! Then there’s Cyber Monday, which arrived after online shopping took hold. It’s the Monday following Thanksgiving, and the day that many consumers purchase online at work (and try and hide it from their bosses). :-) But there’s another important day for online retailers (at least for me). I like to call it Gobble Thursday, or Thanksgiving Day. For a number of years, I’ve been cranking out over 80% of my holiday shopping in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. It’s a tradition for me now. So as web marketers, you want to take advantage of online holiday shoppers like me during Thanksgiving week (and for the Monday after). So, I’ve collected some last minute tips to make sure you convert as many of those holiday shoppers. Go ahead, gobble up these tips! ;-)

1. Free Shipping and Other Shipping Discounts
If you don’t provide some type of shipping offer, you'll lose out! People expect free shipping in one form or another during the holidays. So, even if you’re a small company, you better figure something out or you will lose customers to competitors that do. It doesn’t have to be free shipping on everything. You can provide free shipping on orders over a certain amount (like $25 or $50). The specific amount is based on your business, so you can figure that out with your CFO. :-) Also, make sure you communicate the offer in all of your campaigns (email, paid search, shopping engines, etc.) More on this later. Personally, I absolutely lean towards buying from online retailers that provide free shipping for the holidays.

2. Have Your Holiday Email Schedule Mapped Out
Email marketing to your internal list is still the most effective way to get in touch with your current customers (which is why I rank it as the most powerful online marketing channel at your disposal). It’s a powerful driver of sales, especially if you carefully map out your holiday schedule. For example, determine the special offers you will run during the holidays, when those offers take hold, determine your creative for each blast, and start scheduling the blasts. Also, I would plan on sending follow up emails. I can’t tell you how many times a reminder has pushed me to place an order. Let’s face it, people are ridiculously busy during the holidays so sending a reminder is a good idea.

3. Provide Outstanding On-Site Search Functionality and Provide a Holiday Guide
When I crank through my holiday shopping, I love using on-site search (as do many other people). I want the results to be clean, return relevant results, and provide a good amount of information about the product. I really only want to go to product detail pages of items that I want to buy… In addition, providing some type of holiday guide helps customers find great gift ideas fast. For example, show visitors what’s featured for the holidays, provide great gift ideas, break them down by category, etc. If you are short on resources and time, then create a few new pages on your site and organize your products based on how your customers search for items. This can be by style, age, price, size, etc.

4. The Mighty Gift Card
Know matter how you cut it, people love gift cards. In my opinion, I believe there’s only 1 out of 10 people that know how to buy gifts. I mean really good gifts that are well thought out. Most of us have been on the receiving end of some doozies, right?? Anyway, provide gift cards on your site for people who want to buy something quickly or for those that don’t know exactly what to buy. The dollar increments should match your products. So, if you sell $10 items, then have the gift cards in $5 increments up to $50. If you sell $50 items, then have a $10, $25, $50 and $100 gift cards. You get the picture…

5. Coordinate Your Online Marketing Campaigns
Make sure all of your marketing efforts are coordinated. For me, I’d rather not see one offer in email, another in paid search, and yet another when I hit a landing page. For example, if you are running free shipping for the holidays, then make sure you communicate this offer via email, paid search, shopping engine listings, banner ads, etc. And, make sure your campaign landing pages match the advertisements people are clicking through. Imagine someone clicking through a free shipping ad and then hitting a landing page with no mention of the offer (or worse, a different offer altogether!) If you have a blog, make sure you communicate your latest promotions in your blog posts, and again, have those offers match up with the pages you are sending visitors to. It doesn’t take much to throw off potential customers, which means fewer conversions, and less revenue.

In closing, there are many things you can do to enhance your holiday marketing efforts and I’ve provided a few ideas above. Think about it…if you map out your top 10 ideas and then run with your top 5, you’re giving yourself a better opportunity to have a successful holiday season. Just be prepared to adapt as the weeks go by, based on the data you are collecting (hello web analytics).

I can hear those shoppers gobbling up your products already. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving morning. :-)


Related Posts:
Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns using Google Analytics

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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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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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