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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Connection Between High Search Engine Rankings, The Latest Google Heatmap Study, and The Long Tail of SEO: My Guest Post on Search Engine Journal

Glenn Gabe's Guest Post on Search Engine Journal, The Connection Between Page 1 Rankings and The Long Tail.
I’ve been a big fan of Search Engine Journal for a number of years now. They provide excellent search-related posts and information, as well as outstanding coverage of the Search industry. So, as you can imagine, I was extremely excited after speaking with them about becoming a contributor. My first guest post went live yesterday and it details an experiment that I recently ran across a number of websites I manage.

A Custom Google Analytics Filter for SEO
Based on a great blog post by Andre Scholten, I set up a custom filter in Google Analytics to track where each keyword ranked in Google when people clicked through to the websites I tracked for the experiment. This enabled me to view all of the keywords (head, torso, and long tail keywords) leading to the websites I tracked, but also let me quickly see where those keywords ranked in Google when people clicked through. Yes, I could use a number of search tools to run a position analysis on target keywords, but that’s not realistic when you include all of your long tail keywords, since you might be analyzing thousands of keywords at a time.

The Results Were Pretty Darn Compelling…
So I set up a custom filter on a number of websites I manage and waited for the data to stream in. It only took a few hours before keywords started showing up in my reports (along with their rankings). And, I picked up an interesting trend pretty darn quickly... I started to see a strong connection between page one rankings and the long tail of SEO. I’ve written about the powerful long tail of SEO before on my blog, and I believe it’s often overlooked by many people outside of the Search industry. You can start to connect the dots if you add the latest Google heat map study, which found that people are quickly scanning the first few organic results in Google, and if they don’t find what they need, they are refining their searches. My experiment definitely started to connect the dots...

Eager to see the results? Well, you’ll have to check out my guest post on Search Engine Journal to find out more about my experiment and to view the results! It’s a thorough post, and if you have enjoyed the rest of my posts on the Internet Marketing Driver, I think you’ll really dig this one. :)

My guest post: The Long Tail of Page 1 Rankings

Also, definitely feel free to post your comments after reading my guest post. I’d love to hear your own experiences with the long tail of SEO.


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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Flash Tutorial, How to Track Flash in Google Analytics Using the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash) Part 2 of 2

Flash Tutorial for Using the GAforFlash Component (AS3)In part 1 of this series I introduced the concept of tracking flash applications, why flash has been hard to track for many marketers, and I introduced the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component. To quickly review, the GA for flash component enables you to easily make calls directly from your ActionScript code in order to track pageviews, events, conversions, etc. in flash. It’s an important step for understanding how your flash elements contribute to the success of your website, and not just because you think it’s a killer flash app. ;-) In part 2 of my series, I will walk you through how to actually set up flash tracking using the gaforflash component (step by step in the flash authoring environment.) By the end of this tutorial, you should have a solid understanding of using the flash component and making calls to Google Analytics from within your ActionScript code. I will reference the flash movie that I created during my own testing and show the resulting Google Analytics reporting to tie it all together. So without further ado, let’s start coding. :)

Quick Disclaimer, Code Ahead:
As I mentioned in my first post, if you have some knowledge of developing flash movies and writing ActionScript code, then you should be able to follow along. If you aren’t familiar with developing in flash, grab your flash developer and possibly your web analyst and set up a working lunch. By the end of the tutorial, I’m confident you will see the power of using this technique to track your flash elements.

Visit the Google Code Project and Download the Components
First, visit the Google Code Project for Google Analytics for Flash (gaforflash). Click the downloads tab at the top of the page and download the zipfile listed. The current version as of this blog post was v1.0.1. Once you download the zipfile, unzip the contents to a directory on your hard drive. Open the readme textfile and follow the instructions for copying the components to the proper directory in your Adobe flash folder. This will differ depending on if you are running a pc or a mac and you will be creating a new folder within the components directory where you will copy the files (the instructions tell you to create a Google folder and drop the components there). Once you copy the components into the new directory, then go ahead and launch flash. Again, make sure you follow the readme before launching flash.

The Google Code Project for GaforFlash:
The Google Code Project for GAforFlash

Determine What You Are going To Track:
To me, this is the most important step (and I bet the web analysts reading this post agree!) Mapping out what you want to track is essential to having clean reporting and a structured hierarchy. You can really have some messy reporting without working through this step… We’ll keep this example very simple to keep the amount of coding down, so here’s the scenario.

You will be adding a new flash element to a category page on your website and want to track how visitors engage the flash movie and how that flash element contributes to the success of the website. In our sample flash movie, there will be a start button, which launches the rest of the flash movie. The start button is there for a reason and you’ll learn why in a second. Once someone clicks the start button, they will be presented with two product thumbnails. The goal of our sample flash movie is to get visitors to learn more about each product and then click an email button at the bottom of the flash movie to get in touch with sales. Again, this is completely made up and simple, but we need to map this out in order to know what to track. Also, we'll track when users hover over each thumbnail and then when they click each one to reveal more information. In addition, they obviously want to track the email link at the bottom of the flash movie, since clicking the button will be a conversion in GA.

To summarize the key pageviews, events and conversions we will track:
1. A start button will trigger a pageview so you know how many people engaged the flash movie. This is so you know that the flash movie was triggered (and not just sitting on the page).
2. The two product thumbnails will trigger events when someone hovers over the thumbnail and when someone clicks them.
3. The email link at the bottom of the flash movie will trigger a pageview for when someone clicks the button. That pageview will also trigger a conversion.
4. Note: you will need to set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics for the email pageview that we trigger when visitors click the email button. This is easy to do and then will start showing up within your Goals tab in GA. You can read more about tracking goals in the GA help center.

Open Up Flash and Create the Necessary Assets
In order to work though this tutorial, you will need to create some simple flash assets (buttons). Don’t worry about how they look. The core point of this tutorial is that you learn how to use the flash component to make calls to Google Analytics and not to win design awards. ;) You will need to create a start button, a product thumbnail button, and an email button (which can be simply text if you want). Once you have quickly created each button, proceed with the rest of the tutorial.

Import the Tracking Libraries
First, make sure your current flash movie is targeting ActionScript 3. Open up the publish settings dialog box (control shift F12), click the flash tab, and use the dropdown to select an ActionScript version to target. Choose ActionScript 3. Next, you need to drag an instance of the AnalyticsLibrary Component to the stage in order to import the code libraries. Create a new layer in flash and open the components panel (control F7). You should see a category named Google (which you created earlier in this tutorial). If you don’t see the Google category, then go back to the beginning of this tutorial and follow the directions again in the readme text file that was part of the download. Click the plus sign (+) next to Google and drag the AnalyticsLibrary component to the stage. Don’t worry where you place it on the stage. It should now be present in your project library (you should also see it listed in your library. Click Control L to see your project library.) Keep in mind I’m referring to your project library, which holds all of the assets you create in your flash movie (buttons, movie clips, images, components, etc.) I’m not referring to code libraries, which we will discuss shortly.

Finding the AnalyticsLibrary Component in Flash:
Drag the AnalyticsLibrary component to the stage.

Next, create an Actions layer and select frame 1 of the timeline in that layer. Click F9 to open the Actions window (which is where you write ActionScript code). Since we are using the Analytics Library Component to make calls directly from our ActionScript 3 code, you will need to import the libraries that you will use to instantiate a tracking object and make calls to Google Analytics. If you don’t import the libraries, you will not be able to make calls to GA.

Here is what you should add to frame 1 of the actions layer:
var tracker:AnalyticsTracker = new GATracker( this, "UA-111-222", "AS3", true );

A Quick Explanation of the Code:
Note, you would obviously want to add your own GA account number so the data is sent to the correct profile. i.e. Don’t keep 111-222 as the web property ID. The first two lines import the necessary code libraries and the third line of code initializes the tracking object. Keep “this” as the first parameter, which references the current display object. Enter your own GA account number for the second parameter, you can keep AS3 as the third parameter for this tutorial, and keep “true” as the fourth parameter. That sets the debug mode. When true, you will see a trace of all tracking events occurring. When false, this will not be visible. Also, you can read the gaforflash documentation to learn more about each parameter.

Making Calls From ActionScript to GA:
Now, if you create a start button that visitors have to click in order to see anything in your flash movie, then we can logically target that click as a pageview. Then we can view in GA how many people started the flash movie. That would answer one of the first questions from your CMO, right? :) So create a new layer in your flash movie called Start Button and add your button to frame 1 of this layer. To stop the flash movie from playing before someone clicks the start button, simply add a stop action on frame 5 in your Actions layer. Create new keyframe on frame 5 and enter this.stop(); as the code. Again, the intent of this tutorial is not to teach you how to use flash, but I’ll add some tips as we move along. Select the start button on the stage by clicking it once and give it an instance name of start_btn in the properties panel. You can click Control F3 to bring up the properties panel if it’s not on screen. We need to give the button an instance name in order to target it in ActionScript. If you don’t give it an instance name, your code will not work.

Creating an Instance Name in the Properties Panel:
Give your button in flash an instance name.

Now go back to frame 1 of your actions layer and open the actions window again (click F9). Below the code we first added (importing the libraries and initializing a tracking object), add the following lines of code. I will explain them in a second… You can give yourself some space by clicking enter a few times. Your code does not need to be lumped together!

//functionality for start button
start_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, startExample );

function startExample( event:Event):void {
//we know that the user engaged the flash movie (they clicked start)

The Code Explained:
The first line is a comment, which is good programming practice. You can simply describe the code that follows. This will not be visible to anyone but you as a programmer. The second line is an event handler for the start button. It targets the instance name start_btn, which we set up earlier. This is why we needed to create an instance name. Now our code will look for a mouse event (CLICK) for the start button and then trigger the function called startExample, which I will cover in a second. Event handlers enable you to react to events in your flash movies. They are critical to creating advanced functionality in your flash applications.

The function startExample() will be called when someone clicks the start button. This function uses our tracker object to trigger the trackPageview method and then plays the main timeline in your flash movie, using the play(); action. Remember, we want the visitor to see the rest of our flash movie after clicking the start button. The trackPageview method tells Google Analytics to track a specific pageview when something happens. The page will show up in GA reporting as /GAFlash/Start in your content tab, as if someone actually visited a page on the website. Pretty cool, right? So, you’ll be able to go into GA and click the content tab and see how many times this “page” was triggered. Nice. That wasn’t so bad, was it? That was all done in less than 15 lines of code.

Tracking the Product Thumbnails:
You will use the same methodology for tracking the two product thumbnails in your flash movie. Remember, we want to know when someone clicks each thumbnail, but we’ll be adding one more event…when someone hovers over the thumbnails. You might find that people were interested enough to hover over a product, but not trigger it. If you see enough of this behavior, you might want to dig deeper to find out what’s causing it. That’s just a simple example and you should work with your web analyst to determine what to track for your specific website and flash content.

A Screenshot of the 2 Product Thumbnails for this Example:
Adding the product thumbnails in flash.

We used the trackPageview method for the start button, but we will use trackEvent for the thumbnails. Examples of events might be clicking a button, hovering over that button, visiting a specific area of a flash movie, etc. GA now provides an Event Tracking tab within your Content tab. Within the Event Tracking tab, you can view categories of events, the specific actions users took, the labels associated with those events, trending, etc. So, we’ll track two events with each product thumbnail in our flash movie. I will only cover the first thumbnail here and you can copy this process to apply event tracking to the second thumbnail.

After someone clicks the start button, you used the play(); action to play the main timeline. At frame 20 on your main timeline, create a new stop action in your actions layer. Add a new keyframe at frame 20 and open the Actions windows. Enter this.stop(); as the code. Then create a new layer for your product thumbnails and add the buttons that you created earlier in this tutorial. Note, for this example, add them to frame 1 so your code can target the button instances. You can place them off the stage (off-screen) in frame 1 so they aren't visible and then move them on-stage later in the flash movie when visitors need to see them. If they aren't on the stage in frame 1, the event handlers you create targeting these buttons won't work. Give each instance on the stage a unique instance name, like product1_btn and product2_btn. You do this by selecting each button and then entering an instance name in the properties panel. Again, we need to give them instance names in order to target them in our ActionScript code. Once you do this, go back to frame 1 of your Actions layer, click F9 to open the Actions window again and add the following code:

//functionality for product btn 1
product1_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, clickProduct1 );
product1_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.MOUSE_OVER, hoverProduct1 );

function hoverProduct1( event:Event):void {
tracker.trackEvent("Products", "HoverProduct1");

function clickProduct1( event:Event):void {
tracker.trackEvent("Products", "ClickProduct1");

So we have two event handlers for the product1_btn. The first event handler will handle the CLICK mouse event and the second will handle the MOUSE_OVER mouse event. MOUSE_OVER is when someone hovers over the button (as you probably guessed). Checking the clickProduct1 function, you see that we are using trackEvent to send an event tracking call to Google Analytics. The two parameters are Category and Action respectively. I lumped both product buttons under the same category called “Products” and then gave specific events to each click and hover (HoverProduct1 and ClickProduct1). You will be able to drill into event categories in your GA reporting and then see specific actions, along with trending.

Important: When you set up the code for the second product button, make sure your event handlers target product2_btn versus product1_btn and that you trigger specific functions, such as clickProduct2 and hoverProduct2 versus clickProduct1 and hoverProduct1. You definitely don’t want to call the wrong functions, as this will ultimately skew your reporting or throw errors in your flash movie. i.e. Someone might click the profile 2 button, but you triggered the profile 1 tracking.

The Email Link, Our Conversion in Flash
Last, but not least, we want to track when people click the email button. We have decided that clicking this button will be a conversion for our flash movie. Create a new layer in your flash movie and add your email button to frame 1 of this layer. Select the email button on the stage by clicking it and give it an instance name of emailMe_btn. Then go back to frame 1 of your Actions layer and open the actions window (hit F9). Below the code we added earlier, add the following lines of code:

//functionality for email button, this is also our conversion
emailMe_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, onButtonClick );
function onButtonClick ( event:Event ):void

OK, so when visitors click the email button, we will trigger the trackPageview method to track that click as a pageview in Google Analytics. The page will show up as /GAFlash/EmailMe in your Content tab. In addition, since this is a conversion, you can set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics targeting that page. Then conversions will show up in your Goals tab within Google Analytics. Now you can tell your CMO how many visitors are converting within your flash movie. That’s not as generic as “Sorry, we don’t know”, right? ;-)

Quickly Test and Track Your Flash Movie
In the first piece of code we added in this tutorial, we included this line:
var tracker:AnalyticsTracker = new GATracker( this, "UA-111-222", "AS3", true );

As mentioned earlier, the “true” parameter tells flash whether you want to run debug mode. If you set this to true, then you can see a trace of your calls to Google Analytics. I recommend turning this on during your testing and then when you are ready to go live, you can turn if off by setting the parameter to “false”. Go ahead and test your movie and click the start button. You should see a message when the call is made to GA, and if it was successful. Then as you interact with your product thumbnails, you will also see the calls being made. Last, as you click the email button, you should also see the call being made. If all looks good, then you can add your published flash movie to an html page and then upload the files to your website. Remember to set debug to false as mentioned earlier or else everyone viewing with your flash movie will see the trace of your calls. Then click away and thoroughly test out your flash movie, try different browsers, platforms, etc. Make sure you trigger each of the elements enough and wait for GA to show you the results in your reporting.

Enabling Debug Mode to View a Trace of Your Calls:
Visual debugging with the gaforflash component

My Working Example of Using GAforFlash
I uploaded my example of using the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component in case you wanted to see how it looked and worked. I know it's hard sometimes to follow along without seeing the final product.

Checking Your Google Analytics Reporting
I’m going to show you what the reporting looked like for my own example. The first thing I did was click the Content Tab in Google Analytics and then Event Tracking within that tab. I immediately could see the total number of events that took place, visits with an event, etc. {See screenshots below.} Clicking the Categories tab displayed the event categories we set up earlier, such as Products (Note, I used UserProfiles in my example versus Products so that's what you will see in the screenshots below). This category includes the actions of hovering and clicking the product thumbnails. This is why mapping out what you want to track is important. You want a clear hierarchy in your reporting. Drilling into each category, I could see the actions that took place like HoverProfile1, ClickProfile2, etc. Note, I used the word "profile" in my testing versus products. If you click the Actions tab (below categories), you will see all of your actions listed, regardless of category. We didn’t add the optional parameter for Labels so you won’t see anything there (in case you were wondering).

The Event Tracking Overview Report in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

The Events Category Page in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

The Event Actions Report in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

Pageviews and Conversions
Remember we wanted to know how many people started our flash movie (after clicking the start button)? Well if you go into the Content Tab and check top content, you will see the /GAFlash/Start page listed. The number of pageviews shows how many times visitors started the flash movie. In addition, you can view /GAFlash/EmailMe, which shows the number of times the email button was clicked. And since we set this up as a conversion, you can click the Goals tab and see your TrackFlash conversion listed. Drilling into that conversion goal will also reveal conversion rate. And since it’s a conversion goal, you can see conversion by traffic source, campaign, keyword, etc. That’s the benefit of setting up conversion goals… So, you might find that organic search traffic converted 10x as much as paid search, or that visitors arriving via your email marketing didn’t even trigger your flash movie, so on and so forth.

Viewing Flash Pageviews in the Top Content Report in Google Analytics:
Tracking flash pageviews in Google Analytics

Viewing a Flash Conversion in Google Analytics:
Tracking flash pageviews in Google Analytics
OK, we've definitely covered a lot in Part 2. Either your head is reeling or you're excited to use the gaforflash component in your own projects (or both!) Take your time and test our different scenarios. Work with your flash development team and your web analysts to map out how to best track your flash apps. You never know, it very well could lead to more flash application work… like if you told your CMO that 25% of the people interacting with your flash movie converted! :) Imagine if you could glean insights from your flash content versus it just being slick and pretty. And I’ll take data over pretty any day of the week. ;-)


Read Part 1 of this Series on Tracking Flash in Google Analytics

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How To Track Flash In Google Analytics (GA) Using The Google Analytics For Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash), Part 1 of 2

Tracking Flash in Google Analytics Using the GAforFlash ComponentI wanted to start this post with some quick points about flash:
* flash content can be extremely engaging.
* flash apps are a great way to create something viral.
* flash is currently used extensively on the web for everything from video to games to product demos.
* Creative Directors love flash.
* Brand Managers also love flash.
* But unfortunately, flash has been hard and confusing to track...

I apologize if you were feeling pretty good about flash until the last bullet! ;-) That is the reality, though.

Why Has Flash Been Confusing And Hard To Track?
Let’s take a quick look at why flash tracking has been an issue. First and most basic, there are many people that don’t know you can even track flash applications. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome, right? Second, the Analytics team is sometimes not involved during the planning of flash-based projects or campaigns. I’m sure some web analysts reading this post probably believe that’s an understatement! Third, you need to coordinate mechanisms for tracking flash with both flash developers and analysts. Fourth, there has been confusion about how to actually track flash even if you already have your flash developers and analysts in the same room. Last (at least for this initial list), some people will focus on the end result (conversions only) and not track the specific elements on the website that lead to the conversion. i.e. As long as people buy something or sign up, I don’t care what they do on the site. As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of the latter… I think the more information you can gather about how visitors interact with your website, the more you can optimize the website to increase conversion (whatever conversion is for your specific business).

Yes, You Can Track Flash
I’m here to tell you that you can track flash and you can see how visitors are interacting with your flash applications. The approach I am going to show you is a more elegant method for tracking flash than what's been used in the past. My hope is that this two part series can save you from a potentially embarrassing moment. You know, when your CMO asks how the 6 month flash development project that cost $75K, that looks incredible, is highly engaging, and wins awards is contributing to the success of the website. Unfortunately, many people run for the hills at that moment, or act like they didn’t hear the question (Chevy Chase-style). I’d hate for you to say, “We’re not actually sure Mr. CMO…” ,and I’d rather hear you say, “Absolutely, here’s detailed reporting of how visitors are engaging our flash content, as well as the tangible effects on conversion.” Yes, I want you to be the flash analytics rock star. :)

Introduction to the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash)
The GA for flash tracking component enables you to track specific events and functionality in your flash movies and seamlessly communicate with Google Analytics for tracking. It gracefully handles any DOM issues that could cause problems in other types of flash tracking using GA. It’s an open source initiative between Google and Adobe Systems and you can find more information on the Google Code Project website.

OK, But What Is It Exactly?
There are two components you can use in flash that enable you to track events, pageviews, conversions, etc. One is a simple flash component that you can customize in the component inspector in flash and the other component involves importing the tracking libraries into your project and then making calls to GA from within your ActionScript code (AS3). I’m going to cover the second approach, since it gives you the most flexibility. And don’t get scared with the way it was explained above. It’s actually straight forward if you are comfortable working in flash.

A Quick Tip For The Code-Averse:
I’m going to walk you through my example step by step in Part 2 of my series on tracking flash in google analytics. If you have worked in flash and written some ActionScript code, I’m confident you will be able to follow along. If not, grab your flash developer and your web analyst and then schedule a working lunch. You can all walk through my example together as a team. After going through my second post, I have a feeling you will collectively brainstorm several ways to use the GA for flash component to track your flash elements, websites, and applications.

So Are You Excited To Start?
Good, then you’re ready to read my second post, which covers how to track flash in Google Analytics using the GA for flash Tracking Component.


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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Your Online Marketing Campaigns, Why Starting With a Basic Analytics Foundation is a Smart Way to Go

Web analytics, basic setup and strong foundation.You woke up earlier than usual this morning, eager to start the day. This is not your typical week... You’ve got a new product launching and you are having some final meetings to make sure everything is covered with your online marketing campaigns. In one of your last meetings before the launch, your CMO walks in and says, “Great work on developing the campaign and I’m excited to see the results. When can I expect to see some reporting detailing how each channel is performing?” Crickets chirp… {Since this is my blog post, I have the power to freeze time for 10 minutes so I can explain more about web analytics and help you craft your answer to your CMO. Please continue reading.}

There’s no reason that tracking online marketing campaigns should be an issue, although unfortunately, many times it is. There is a lot of talk about bleeding edge web analytics, and believe me, I’m excited about those advancements. But I would be careful with how you implement your web analytics package, or more importantly, how fast you move to an advanced tracking setup.

I think everyone would agree that it's never a good thing when campaigns go live without the proper tracking and measurement in place. It actually pains me to see that occur…especially knowing how some basic reporting can provide powerful and actionable insights. That's right, I said basic reporting and actionable insights in one sentence. For example, wouldn’t you like to track each aspect of your campaign to see which ones perform best? You can use this data to help you determine how to proceed in future campaigns (or even how to tweak current campaigns that are live). Is paid search generating the most revenue, which categories of keywords within paid search are driving that success, is email marketing generating high click throughs, but low conversion? Are your product pages ranking in natural search, how much traffic is coming from Google, and what’s the conversion rate for specific categories of keywords from organic search? If you think that these questions are hard to answer, you are wrong. I’m here to tell you that with some relatively basic tracking in place, you can find out answers to all of these questions, and more importantly, you can pass those insights to senior management at intervals during the campaign. As you can imagine, having campaign data is extremely valuable (even when it's negative). And, that information is easily digestible by all levels of the organization.

Start with a stable and accurate web analytics foundation and build upon it…
Here’s a quick analogy. You just spent thousands of dollars buying state of the art windows for your home. In addition, you decided to put in hardwood floors throughout the house. That’s great, but you’ve got a small problem. Your foundation is badly cracked. Considering that you need to spend a lot of money trying to fix your foundation, now how do you feel about adding all of the extras? You suddenly don’t seem to care, right? Web Analytics is the same way. What good is jumping to advanced levels of tracking when you can't even get basic performance data?? That's why I always recommend starting with a relatively basic implementation. Then, make sure your reporting is accurate and providing you with actionable information. Once you have a solid web analytics foundation in place, you can enhance it and test the new functionality in bite size pieces. For example, advanced segmentation, event tracking, tracking visitor engagement, implementing an advanced testing platform, etc. I don’t recommend jumping into the most advanced analytics setup right out of the gates. I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that you won’t be in a good place. There will be confusion, disappointment, frustration, and then you’ll probably revert to the basic setup like I recommended in the first place! By that time, you might have wasted countless hours, days, and months trying to get the advanced setup working. Even worse, there may be people in your company that have been using the reporting to make decisions... and decisions based on poor data is not good, to say the least.

What type of information can you get from relatively basic reporting?
Let’s go through a hypothetical campaign so you can see what I’m referring to. Maybe you have a new version of a product launching soon. You’ll be running paid search, display advertising, email marketing, and then optimizing the new section of the website for organic search. You’ve decided to use Google Analytics to track your campaigns and have installed the tracking code on each page of your website. For our example, there are two conversions, an e-commerce sale and an email list signup. You will be running paid search in Google and Yahoo, your display advertising is running on a number of industry-specific websites, you will be blasting out several email campaigns to your segmented in-house list, and you’ve optimized your new pages based on keyword research for natural search. With Google Analytics in place (a package I’ve written about often), you will be able to track each aspect of your campaign to determine the effectiveness of your efforts. With the proper tracking in place, you won't be surfing your web analytics reporting aimlessly for hours. Instead, you will be able to drill into GA and pull relevant information that can help you understand what worked and what didn't.

But Glenn, how do I track my campaigns?
That’s a good question and one I hear often. You’ve already added your GA code to your website, which is the first step. The next step (for our example) is to make sure GA tracks conversions and then revenue. You can learn how to set up conversion goals in Google Analytics here. After you learn how to set up conversion goals, you can read about how to set up e-Commerce tracking. It’s not hard to do and should take your developers a relatively short amount of time to set up. When that’s completed, you will be able to see conversions and revenue by channel (Paid Search, Natural Search, Email Marketing, Display Advertising, etc). Even better, you can drill into your campaigns to see which ad groups are driving the best performance, which keywords, which email creative, which creative elements are working best, etc. For example, you might find that one version of your email creative outperformed other email creative by 65%. That’s the type of powerful information you can glean from even a basic setup like this.

Now, GA natively tracks your AdWords campaigns so you are covered there without any additional tagging. For your other campaigns, you will need to tag your creative using GA’s tracking parameters. You can learn more about how to tag your links here. They are basically querystring parameters that enable GA to identify specific campaigns, and then will enable you to run reports on what those visitors do on your site. So for our example, you would want to tag your Yahoo paid search campaigns, your email marketing campaigns, and your display advertising so they can be uniquely identified by Google Analytics. BTW, I’ve written a post about how to tag your email marketing campaigns so you can track each element clicked in your emails. I’ve also written about tagging YSM campaigns using dynamic variables. Once you tag your campaigns, you can access your reporting within the Campaigns tab in Google Analytics (under Traffic Sources).

But can I really track valuable information with this setup?
You bet, but I’ll let you be the judge. Take a look at the bullets listed below and mark down how many you think would be valuable or important when tracking your campaigns:

*Visitors from each channel and then each campaign within that channel. i.e. Paid Search campaigns, email marketing campaigns, banners, etc.
*Conversions and conversion rate by channel, by campaign, search engine, keyword, email creative, banners, etc.
*e-Commerce revenue by channel, campaign, search engine, keyword, email creative, banner, etc.
*Bounce rate of all campaign landing pages.
*Exit rate of pages within your site and campaign section.
*Conversion Funnel analysis, or where people drop off when trying to complete a conversion.
*Trending over time per channel (and per campaign within each channel.)
*Top products and revenue during the campaign time period.
*Referring websites that are driving traffic to your campaign landing pages, including conversions and revenue from those traffic sources.
*Which geographic regions generate the most revenue or conversion.

I can keep going, but I’ll stop there.

How many bullets did you identify as valuable? I hope all of them (or at least most of them). Once you have this data, you can easily compare the reporting to previous campaigns, you can use it to refine the current campaign (on the fly), or use it to improve future campaigns. It’s actionable data. For example, you might find that display advertising cost you $50,000 and generated only $10,000 in revenue. Drilling into your display advertising, maybe two websites outperformed the others by a huge margin. Maybe you’ll find that paid search generated a 350% ROI. Drilling in further, your brand keywords accounted for most of the revenue and you already rank in natural search for those keywords, so do you need to run brand terms next time? Maybe your email marketing generated a lot of click throughs, but almost no conversion. You also notice a 90% bounce rate from email. Why?

OK, I think you get the picture. You will gain all of the information I listed above, and more, by using a fairly basic analytics setup with some minimal tagging. Can you see why it’s frustrating to some people in web marketing when campaigns go live without the proper analytics setup or tracking in place? Now, would I love to track even more than this by using an elaborate web analytics setup? You bet, but compared to having no tracking in place or unreliable tracking, I would be happy with this level of reporting! Wouldn’t you?

Back to your CMO for a second:
{Now I will unfreeze time so you can answer your CMO.} Earlier in the post, you were ready to answer a question from your CMO about campaign reporting by channel. Now instead of crickets chirping, I hope you’re chomping at the bit to answer his question. Maybe something like this will do, “Tracking? Absolutely, you’ll receive reporting 48 hours into the campaign and then twice per week for the life of the campaign. Then we’ll create a presentation detailing our findings once the campaign ends.” He smiles, and then walks out with a confident look in his eye. You turn around and open Outlook, create a task, and enter “Send Glenn a quick thank you.” ;-)

I’m going to leave you with one last question. If you were the CMO and had 2 senior marketing managers provide you their campaign reporting and one provides you the level of detail that I listed above (from a relatively basic analytics setup), and the other provides you with almost no reporting, or sketchy reporting at best, which one would you allocate more budget to next year?


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

YouTube Insight, How to Optimize and Enhance Your Online Videos Using Analytics

YouTube Insight, Optimizing Your Video Clips Using AnalyticsToday I get to write about two of my favorite things, Web Analytics and Online Video. Lucky me! Given that YouTube just surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine, I think it’s safe to say that many of you probably visit YouTube regularly to watch videos online. In addition, I know some of you are taking the next step and producing your own videos to share with the world. That covers watching, producing, and sharing, but there’s another concept I wanted to introduce today, and that’s optimization. Did you know that YouTube gives you access to a video analytics package free of charge, right in your YouTube account? It’s called YouTube Insight and it gives you the ability to constantly glean insights from your video clips and viewers. Video producers that use Insight already know its power, but I still think many people don’t know what to do with it, or more importantly, how to optimize their videos using the data provided by Insight. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how I feel about the importance of web analytics. Well, this is simply an extension of web analytics, but specifically for your own YouTube video clips. Let’s dig in.

What is YouTube Insight?
YouTube Insight is a video analytics tool that provides you with valuable information about your video clips (and your viewers). Insight gives you several reports, including views, popularity, discovery (how people find your videos), and a new piece of functionality called hotspots. Insight Hotspots enable you see which parts of your video are hot (higher engagement) and which parts are cold (less interest and engagement). I will explain more about hotspots below.

Improving Your YouTube Videos with Insight
Let’s face it, producing videos is darn time consuming. I began shooting and editing video in 1995 and one thing I learned very quickly was that producing a video is not easy and takes a lot of time. So, if you are going to spend the time to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, and publish videos for YouTube, then you are probably going to want to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, which videos are more engaging, which garner most of your views, how popular were they compared to other videos, which parts of the video were more engaging, etc. You want to know this information so you don’t waste valuable time in the future.

Accessing YouTube Insight
You can access Insight in a few different ways once you have logged in. First, you can access your Insight Dashboard by clicking the Account link in the top right of your screen. Then you can click YouTube Insight from the Performance and Data Tools section located near the bottom of the page (left side).

First Click Your Account Link, Then Click YouTube Insight on Your Account Page:
YouTube Account Link

YouTube Insight Link

The second way to access Insight is by entering the My Videos Page (Uploaded Videos) and clicking the Insight button (for each video). The button for Insight is below the video information and is next to Audio Swap.

YouTube Insight Button Located on My Videos Page:
YouTube Insight Button

Insight Dashboard (a snapshot of all videos)
Your Insight Dashboard functions just like a dashboard in any web analytics package and gives you an aggregate view of your videos (your channel). For example, your dashboard will show you which videos are most popular, how many views your channel is getting, which geographic regions hold the most viewers, popularity of videos in your channel, demographics of your viewers, etc. It’s a great way to get an overall view of how your channel is performing. That said, you really should drill into each video to gain the most valuable information… Aggregate data at the channel level doesn’t really give you actionable information.

Tip: When you are ready to analyze a specific video, you can either click its name in the Views tab of your Insight Dashboard or you can go to your My Videos Page and click the Insight button under each video clip. If you always want to begin by analyzing specific videos, then you might start your visit by accessing the My Videos Page instead of the dashboard.

You can click the Visits tab to see the number of visits each video received in all countries, or in specific regions. You can change the timeframe on the graph and you can choose a specific country from the dropdown on the right. Then, let’s say you choose the United States, you can click on specific states to see your visits per state. To change the date range, you can click the Zoom links in the top of the graph for 1 day, 5 days, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or Max. Or, you can use the slider below the graph to quickly change the date range of your report.

YouTube Insight Views:
YouTube Insights Views

Insight also gives you the option of seeing how popular your videos are compared to other videos in the selected region during that timeframe. Just like with visits, you can click a country on the map to target that region, or you can drill into a region to get more granular. For example, you can click a state in the US to see the popularity within that state. You can also click specific countries within a region like Turkey within the Middle East or China within Asia.

YouTube Insight Popularity:
YouTube Insights Popularity

Discovery (or Traffic Sources)
OK, who else is addicted to checking traffic sources for their website in their web analytics package? It’s hard not be, right? The Discovery tab provides the traffic sources for your video clips. I love it. In a nutshell, it's how people found your video. There are five links within this section and they include:

YouTube Search, or which keywords people are entering to find your videos on YouTube.
Related Videos, or other videos on YouTube where your video thumbnail showed up as a related video and people clicked that thumbnail to get to your video.
Embedded Player, or which sites have embedded your video clip (using the embed code in YouTube).
External Links, or websites that link to your video clip (AKA referring sites).
Google Search, or keywords people are entering in Google to find your video clips.
Google Video, or keywords that people are entering on Google Video to find your video clips.
Other, or links to your video where there is no referring URL (AKA Direct Traffic). This might be a person emailing the link to someone else, IM’ing the link, etc.
YouTube Other, or other pages on YouTube that are linking to your video clips (not related videos).

YouTube Insight Discovery:
YouTube Insights Dicovery

Insight provides some basic data regarding the demographics of your viewers. For example, you can see the age range and gender for viewers. In addition, you can click on a specific gender to see the age range within that gender. So, you can click Female and see the age range of your female viewers. {Marketers, can you say Test Group?} More on this later.

YouTube Insight Demographics:
YouTube Insight Demographics

New Addition: Insight Hotspots (and Coldspots)
YouTube just recently made this feature available. Using Insight Hotspots, you can see which parts of your video are more engaging (or less engaging) as compared to other videos of similar length. As the video plays in Insight, there is a graph on the left side of the screen that displays whether that segment of video was hot or cold. If it’s hot, fewer people are leaving your video at that point, or even rewinding the video to see that part again. If it’s cold, more people are skipping that segment or leaving the video at that point. I’ll explain more below about how to use this feature to enhance your videos, but needless to say, it’s an outstanding addition.

YouTube Insight Hotspots:
YouTube Insights Hotspots

This All Sounds Great Glenn, But How Do I Use Insight To Optimize My Videos?
Just like web analytics, having the data available is one thing, but using the data to enhance your efforts is another. Don’t fear! I’ll explain some basic things you can do in order to glean insights from your reporting to optimize your future videos.

1. Your Ad Hoc Focus Group
Companies spend a lot of money testing their creative to understand what will engage targeted viewers. Well, you can use Insight Hotspots to see what is working in your videos and what isn’t, and for free! You can see which parts of your video people like (rewind and watch again) versus don’t like (they skip through or exit the video). For example, you might find that physical stunts are extremely hot where dialogue is cold. Or you might test a few different versions of a video to see which angles yield the highest engagement. Does humor work, action, or a combination of both? Using Insight Hotspots, you can begin to take guesswork out of the equation and make decisions based on data (which is always a smart move!)

2. Using Insight For Keyword Research
I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of Keyword Research for SEO. It’s an incredibly important process to go through in order to optimize your website based on what people ACTUALLY search for (versus what you think they search for). With Insight, you have access to YouTube searches that lead to your videos, Google searches that lead to your videos, and Google Video searches that lead to your videos (and all for free). By analyzing these keywords, you can start to understand the ways in which people search for different types of content and then you can use that information to optimize future videos (and the text content you provide for those videos like your descriptions, tagging, titles, etc.) For example, are people searching for a category, a specific product, do they enter questions or is it by major keyword?

3. See Which Videos Spike Quickly Versus Providing Sustained Visitors
You might find that an entertaining video has a spike in visitors and then fizzles out, where an educational video builds traffic over time and constantly drives viewers your way. Since you can view visits trended over time, then you can start to get a feel for the lifecycle of specific videos. The more you know about the different types of content you produce, the more you can tailor future content to meet your specific needs (or the needs of your clients).

4. Understand Related Videos That Drive Viewers To Your Video Clips
You can start to learn which types of videos are considered “related” and which videos drive the most viewers. The more you understand the videos that drive people to your own clips, the more you can target future content to that target audience. For example, maybe you had a lot of visitors from How-To videos. You might use this angle in the future to make sure you show up there again, or to capture that traffic from the start...

5. Learn Which Websites Link To Your Video (Referring Sites)
Checking your external links, you can see which websites are linking to your video clips on YouTube. From an SEO standpoint, this provides a great opportunity for link-building. For example, if a site in your industry is linking to your YouTube clips, then maybe they would want to link to your website as well. Links are the lifeblood of SEO and finding topical and relevant link opportunities is extremely important. Note, you can’t see specific URL’s in Insight…you only get domain information, which is a little frustrating. That said, you can probably track down the specific webpage by doing a site command in Google. :)

6. Find Out Which Video Clips Go Viral
If you see a lot of viewers from “Other” in your discovery report (direct traffic), then that’s probably from email, IM, etc. Basically, someone sent around the link for your video to their friends, coworkers, etc. If you had a high percentage of viewers from Direct Traffic, then you might have found something that gets people talking. You can follow this path and test out future videos using similar types of content.

7. See Which Geographic Regions Watch Your Videos (Countries And States)
Are your videos more popular within certain countries or regions? Why were they more popular? For example, did you get a lot of traffic from New York when you shot a video in Times Square? Did you get a lot of traffic from Massachusetts when you showcased Boston Baked Beans in your video about the Best Ideas for Sunday Dinner? On the flip side, did you get a lot of viewers from Hawaii to a video about Surfing the Web on Your Blackberry? Were they interested in surfing or a Blackberry??

Produce, Upload, Analyze, and Refine
Let’s face it, videos are not easy to create (good videos). They cost money, take a lot of time to produce, and a huge amount of effort to pull off. If an average blog post takes a few hours to brainstorm, write, edit, and publish, then a good video takes 4-5X that at least to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, publish and share. Given the time commitment involved, I highly recommend using YouTube Insight as your video analytics package to glean insights from your viewers in order to optimize and enhance your future clips. If you don’t, then you’re just flying blind. As you can probably guess, I’m against flying blind and you should be too, especially when someone hands you a free analytics package like YouTube Insight!


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Offline Conversions | Why I Wouldn’t Want to be the Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us

Tracking Offline Sales That Originate Online, Toys R Us Email MarketingMaybe that’s a bit harsh, so let me explain. I’m sure it’s a good job and that the person running email marketing enjoys what he/she does, but there is an inherent issue with that position that would drive me absolutely crazy... So, why wouldn’t I want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? It has to do with sales attribution, tracking offline conversions, and what I’ve witnessed first hand over the past 6 months. Let’s start off with some background information.

Let’s Define Sales Attribution:
The definition of sales attribution is the process by which you assign credit (in this case revenue) to a particular sales channel. If you are using a web analytics package on your e-commerce website (and I hope you are), then sales attribution enables you to break down your revenue by channel (email marketing, paid search, organic search, banner advertising, etc.) to gauge how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Receiving the Email and Then Visiting the Store…
I receive email marketing from Toys R Us frequently (being a parent of 2 young children). If something piques my curiosity, I sometimes click through to the website and browse around. That’s good for Toys R Us and their email marketing manager. But…I almost always buy offline, and that’s not so good for the email marketing manager. Now, I’m sure the person running email marketing wants the best for the company and a sale is a sale, but that specific sale won’t be attributed to the email campaign that sparked the transaction. Do you see where I’m going with this? How would you like it if someone else (or department) always took credit for your hard work? Back to why I purchase toys offline. I think you have to be a parent to understand why I almost always buy offline at a Toys R Us store. You see, it’s actually a blast to visit the store with your kids. And, when weekends sometimes feel like a marathon for parents, it’s a much needed break. The only way I would buy from Toy R Us online is if the store near us didn’t have something I desperately needed in stock (and that’s not often). It’s ironic for me…since I buy everything online, but toys seem to be a different story.

Web Analytics and Sales Attribution
Typically, an email marketing campaign is tagged specifically to be tracked in a web analytics package. This is done via tracking parameters added to the links in the email marketing creative you receive. The tracking variables are appended to the URL in the querystring. To see what I’m talking about, check out the following link from an email I received from Lands End this past weekend.

An email link tagged with tracking variables:

Lands End is using Coremetrics (a web analytics package that I am extremely familiar with). The tagging you see in the querystring will enable the web analytics package to attribute the sale to the email marketing I received on Sunday. Based on what I just showed you, I’m sure you can see why tracking online campaigns is much easier to do than offline campaigns (and why it’s much faster to report). You can track each campaign at a granular level and obviously make decisions based on your reporting to improve campaign performance in the future. That said, you still have a problem with tracking offline conversions that started online (like I explained earlier with receiving an email and then visiting the store.) So, as the sales roll in at the store, the poor email marketing manager back at headquarters won’t really be able to attribute that revenue to his or her campaign. Sure, you can guess that the email drove a certain amount of revenue, but you can’t say for sure… Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this issue (for now). However, there are some ways to attempt to capture the sale and attribute it correctly and I’ve listed two ideas below.

Some Ideas for Attributing Sales for Offline Transactions That Originate Online:

1. Include a printable coupon in your email.
If you can provide a printable coupon in your email creative, then you might entice a customer to bring it to the store. If the coupon is used, then you can attribute the sale to your email marketing campaign (as long as your systems can communicate with one another). This is not a new technique and it requires a customer to take a few extra steps, but it can help you attribute the sale to your campaign. Hey, every dollar counts when you’re running that channel, right?

2. Have your cashiers ask the question at checkout.
Now, this is definitely not foolproof, since it’s based on human behavior, but it might work for you. Let’s list a few potential problems… The cashier may never ask the question or ask much less frequently than you want. The customer may not tell the truth or shrug off the question. Let’s face it, relying on people to track your sales is not optimal.

Let's Help The Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us!
So, can you see why I wouldn’t want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? I can’t imagine how many sales are attributed to other channels. That would drive me nuts! But, we can help... If you’ve received an email from Toys R Us, but visited the store to make your purchase, list the date and dollar amount below. Maybe the email marketing manger can import this data into his/her web analytics package and finally get credit for a job well done!

I’ll start:
May 25th, $72.10


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Monday, April 28, 2008

Performing Keyword Research and SEO, Don’t Assume You Know the Right Words to Target!

How to perform keyword research.When it comes to Natural Search and SEO, performing extensive keyword research for your given business is critical. In my experience, most people are too close to their businesses to understand what people are really searching for. You may have seen this too, like using terminology and acronyms that only industry folks use. Or, if you have been in an industry for 20 years, then you surely must know how people search the web for your products or services, right? Don’t make this mistake! You might get a few by chance, but I’ll guarantee you are missing huge opportunities if you ignore keyword research. So don’t do it. :-)

Skepticism is Good
Right now, some of you are probably skeptical. That’s good, and I’ll give you some examples to curb your skepticism. Let’s say you are in the summer rental business at the Jersey shore. If you performed keyword research for your business, you would find that beach rentals is searched 4X more than summer rentals, which in turn is searched for 10X more than nj shore rental and beach house for rent. Without keyword research, it’s all based on opinion… I’ll take real data over opinion 99% of the time. That’s one thing about keyword research that I love… it takes guesswork out of the equation. Armed with data, you can make the right decisions from the beginning of your seo project before wasting time, money, and effort.

Here are some more quick examples:
Do you sell jewelry? Did you know that the keyword jewelry showed up 12X more than the keyword jeweler in Keyword Discovery? Let’s shift our focus to a buggy business? Pest control is searched 10X more than exterminator. Sell infant bedding? Did you know that the keyword baby bedding showed up 16X more than the keyword infant bedding? That's 16X more! I think you get my point… Do your keyword research and move opinions to the side…focus on real data, real searches, and don’t waste your time and effort trying to rank for keywords that won’t pay off.

Keyword Research Tools:
The two most popular options for keyword research are WordTracker (WT) and Keyword Discovery (KD). I have used WordTracker much longer than Keyword Discovery, but I can tell you that I’m really digging KD. Both are great tools and will give you excellent data. WordTracker’s database holds approximately 330 million metacrawler searches where Keyword Discovery holds over 36 Billion from over 200 search engines. I often find myself using both tools to find the right keywords, and if you focus on SEO, I would probably keep accounts with both services. Their prices won’t break the bank… WordTracker is $59/month and you can get a fairly large discount for an annual purchase ($329 for the year). Keyword Discovery is $70/month and I believe both are a small price to pay for finding the right keywords via the multitude of tools they provide. Your return on investment should be huge, to say the least.

A Closer Look at Keyword Discovery:
Let’s say you sell women’s jewelry and wanted to do some keyword research. You would log into KD and enter jewelry in research mode (see screenshot below). You will see the top searched terms with the keyword jewelry in them. The one column provided at this stage is “Searches”, or the number of times that the keyword was searched for over the past 12 months.

Screenshot from Keyword Discovery (Research Screen):
Click the image below to view a larger version.
Researching a keyword in Keyword Discovery

Now, if you click the icon for “Analyze”, then you will see those keywords with some additional columns like “Occurrences”, “KEI”, and “Predicted Daily”. Occurrences shows the estimated number of webpages the keyword shows up on. KEI is a formula for showing you how competitive the keyword is. I can dedicate an entire post to KEI and you can read more about it on the web, but not all keywords are equal from a competitive standpoint. KEI helps you determine which keywords are worth going after and which ones might be too tough to rank for. Predicted Daily is just that, the predicted amount of times that the keyword is searched for each day.

Screenshot from Keyword Discovery (Analyze Screen):
Click the image below to view a larger version.
Analyzing a keyword in Keyword Discovery

Drill in further to find targeted, long tail keywords…
At this point, you can click on any keyword to see a list of longer tail keywords containing the original word you clicked on. For example, click diamond jewelry to see all the keywords in the database that have the words diamond and jewelry as part of the keyword. This will include diamond jewelry watches, black diamond jewelry, diamond jewelry stores, etc. Then click “Analyze” again to view the additional columns I mentioned above.

I have my keywords, now what?
Let’s say you performed keyword research, found your target keywords, and have the spreadsheet sitting in front of you. Now what? Well, you would want to include these keywords on your website within the right HTML elements. For example, you would want to use these keywords in the title tag, the meta description tag, in the page copy, within your page headings (H1, H2, etc.), in your navigation and anchor links, and in image alt text. You would want to take a hard look at the pages on your site and optimize each one for the specific content they hold. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but well worth it. If you have a large site, definitely work with your developers on how to optimize the site dynamically. I can also write an entire post on optimizing the elements I just listed, but you’ll unfortunately have to wait for that one! I want to keep this post from being 25 pages long. ;-)

In SEO, your work is never done.
Once you optimize your website, you can’t just sit back. Like everything in web marketing, you need to track your results and refine your strategy as needed. Maybe some of your optimization isn’t paying off like you want it to, so you may need to go back and research more terms and optimize more pages. Or, you might want to tweak some of your pages, based on changes in your industry, your products, or seasonality. If you are using a robust web analytics package (Omniture, Coremetrics, Google Analytics, etc.), then you should have some great data to analyze. Then learn from the data and make changes to improve your rankings. I have written several posts about web analytics and you should definitely check them out.

OK, I’m sure you are chomping at the bit to get started (at least I hope you are!) Definitely stop back and let me know how keyword research works for you and your business. Go ahead, real data awaits!

BTW, did you know that SEO is searched for 3X as much as Search Engine Optimization? We are lazy typists, aren’t we? Quick acronyms affect your business? ;-)


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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, January 30, 2008

Tagging and Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics

Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) Campaigns in Google AnalyticsDisclaimer: Before I begin to cover tagging and tracking your Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns in Google Analytics (GA), I highly recommend using an integrated search marketing package to manage your Paid Search campaigns, such as Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools or Omniture Search Center. Using a robust set of search marketing tools that are integrated with your web analytics package is obviously the optimal way to go (if that’s possible for your organization). Now let’s move on!

I Can Easily Analyze Google AdWords in Google Analytics, but…
Since many companies are now using Google Analytics, I often receive questions about how to best track Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns using GA. When you use Google Analytics, your paid search campaigns using Google AdWords are tracked natively, so there is no additional tagging that you need to implement. You will be able to drill into your campaigns, ad groups, and keywords easily from within GA and view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and cost. This is a great feature, because tagging your paid search campaigns is about as fun as writing "I will always remember to tag all of my Paid Search campaigns properly." a thousand times on a chalk board. :-) So I’ve decided to write this blog post offering you a good option for tagging YSM campaigns for analysis in Google Analytics.

It’s All About the Tagging…
For those of you not familiar with tagging, it’s the process of adding querystring parameters to your campaign URL’s so Google Analytics can accurately track your campaigns. I’ve written a previous blog post about tagging emails for analysis in Google Analytics here. To track YSM campaigns in GA, some marketers are tagging at the keyword level and some at the ad level. I recently helped several clients use a technique that enables them to tag their YSM campaigns at the ad level and utilize some of YSM’s enhanced tracking parameters to analyze their campaigns in GA by Ad Group, Keyword (the keywords you are bidding on), and Raw Keyword (what people are actually entering).

YSM Enhanced Tracking Parameters (Dynamic Values from YSM)
If you turn on “Tracking URL’s” in YSM, then you can access a list of Enhanced Tracking Parameters each time someone clicks one of your keywords. You will use two of these tracking parameters for our GA tagging example.

The 2 Enhanced Tracking Parameters You Will Utilize Are:
{OVKEY} – or the keyword that a visitor clicked on. Note, these are the keywords that you bid on, not the original query from a visitor.
{OVRAW} – Yes, you got it… It’s the original query (or raw query) that a visitor entered in Yahoo.

*Note, there are several other enhanced tracking parameters available, but we’ll use the two listed above for our tagging purposes.

The Yahoo Search Marketing Tagging:
I’ll begin by providing a tagged URL below and then explain the parameters. Note, you will be tagging your URL’s at the Ad Level. So, you’ll create your ad (or access one you have already created and use this dynamic URL as the destination URL for your ad). Then you won’t need to tag at the keyword level. Yes, this will save you hours of work and hopefully meet your tracking requirements as well. :-)

Tagging Your YSM URL:{OVKEY}&utm_content={OVRAW}&utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen

Let’s quickly cover each parameter:
utm_source=Yahoo, This is simple, it’s just the traffic source. For our purposes we are using Yahoo to signify YSM.

utm_medium=CPC, Signifying Cost Per Click.

utm_term={OVKEY} This is the keyword that was clicked on. Note, this is the keyword you are bidding on and not the raw query. The beautiful part of {OVKEY} is that no matter which keyword was clicked on, the {OVKEY} enhanced parameter will hold that keyword. It's basically a variable for the programmers out there...

utm_content={OVRAW} This is the raw query that was entered into Yahoo. This is valuable information and I’ll explain more below.

utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen This is the name of the campaign, which will show up under the Campaigns Tab under Traffic Sources. BTW, %2B is a plus sign, %20 is a space (these are URL encoded characters, which you should always use in your URL's). You should be descriptive with the campaign name so you can easily find your campaign in the list within GA.

Why Did I Tag the URL This Way?
Good question. Because I want you to quickly access your campaign reporting in Google Analytics and be able to segment your reporting by keyword and raw query. Now, let your test campaign run for a day and then access your GA reporting. Click the Traffic Sources tab and then click Campaigns. You should see a campaign titled, “Spring+Clothing+Men”. You can review your top level information for the campaign here, like Ecommerce Revenue, Goal Conversion, and Site Usage. Click this campaign to drill deeper. Once you are in the Campaign Details report, you can easily segment the report to analyze keywords and raw queries. Click the segment dropdown and choose Keyword. This will show you the keywords (that you bid on), that led to your site. You can easily view site usage statistics, sales, and goal conversion per keyword. Click the segment dropdown again and select Ad Content. Now you are viewing the raw keywords (or the query) that people entered in Yahoo to view your ads. This is especially powerful, since you can find new, longer tail keywords for your campaigns (which will probably yield a lower CPC). You can easily export the raw keywords and then import the ones you want to use in your YSM campaigns. For example, you may be bidding on the word Khaki Pants, but you might find that visitors are entering New Dark Khaki Pants or 32 inch Khaki Pants. You would export these raw keywords and then add them to your campaign. You get the idea…

Screenshot of the YSM Campaign Reporting:
Click on the image below for a larger version:

Viewing YSM reporting in Google Analytics

To summarize…
So there you have it. A nice way to tag your YSM campaigns, save time, and accurately view your Paid Search reporting in Google Analytics. I still recommend using an integrated paid search package when possible, but regardless, this technique will definitely save you time and frustration. It’s a nice way to drill into your YSM campaigns to view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and all by campaign, ad group, keyword and raw keyword. Now, I would still love to view YSM campaigns with the ease of AdWords campaigns in Google Analytics, but for now, I’ll just keep using this technique. I hope this helps your paid search efforts! Let me know how it works for you.


Related Content:
* Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics

* Site Search in Google Analytics

* The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics

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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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