Category Archives: Marketing

Digital Marketing Metrics – How To Convert Customers

There is much talk in digital marketing about how to generate visits to your website but of course that is only half of the challenge.  If you run an ecommerce site you want people to buy from you.  To use the traditional terminology you might say the strategy for driving visitors to your site is your acquisition strategy and the strategy for getting them to buy from you is your conversion strategy.  Once visitors are on our site we need to maximise the conversion rate.

Having fun with funnels

Google analytics uses conversion funnels to enable you to track the movement of visitors through your website.  If you are selling products you clearly need to structure your site in a way that leads customers through a clear and logical process to a ‘goal URL’ which might for example be the Thank You page after check out.  You are likely to lose visitors at each stage in the process but it is the marketer’s job to minimise the ‘wastage’ at each stage.

How Conversion Funnels work

In the example above visitors to the site are shown at the top level.  We can track where visitors came from and which page they landed on.  As we move down the funnel visitors get nearer to your goal but visitors are lost at each stage.  Some may leave the site, others may visit another page and not follow the direction of your speficied goal.  Let’s take a look at some of the stages in the conversion process shown in the funnel:

  • Bounces – the bounce rate is the number of visitors who leave the site without visiting any other page.  High bounce rates might be a sign that your content is not engaging visitors or you may be driving visitors to a page that is not relevant for them (time to look at your SEO and inbound link strategy!).
  • Browsers – here visitors are moving around the site and may be visiting a few different product pages for example.  The site is engaging interest at some level.
  • Early Waverers – visitors at this stage may be looking at specific product specifications, prices or product guarantees for example.  They are deciding whether to go to check-out.
  • Late Waverers – these are visitors who actually go into the checkout process but abort before the payment stage.  Perhaps the checkout process is too slow, confusing or does not feel secure?
  • Conversions – visitors reaching this stage are the ultimate gauge of success for our marketing objectives.  They have moved through the whole buying process and purchased a product or service.

How to improve conversion rates

Conversion funnels show us the stages at which we lose customers but not why we are losing customers – so we need to experiment.  Say your check-out process goes Billing >Shipping > Payment > Review > Thank You.  If you discovered that you are losing 40% of click-throughs from the shipping page you could test different elements of the page.  For example, are shipping options confusing?  Is the next call to action clearly displayed?  Are shipping costs uncompetitive?

By changing significant aspects of ‘problem’ pages, one at a time, you can use customer behaviour to determine what is wrong and how to fix it.  Amazon, for example significantly increased conversion rates by introducing their ‘One Click’ option making the checkout process as simple as possible.

Don’t just analyse – act!

One of the great advantages of digital marketing is that we have a wealth of analytical tools available to us – many of them free.  However, information is no use unless we can act on what it tells us.  That’s why testing and experimentation is really what comes after web analytics and where the time honoured rules of direct marketing testing can be bought into the digital world.

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Digital Marketing Metrics – The Fundamentals

If there is one thing that all successful online businesses share it is a real understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital marketing.  A strong understanding of how marketing efforts are paying off is crucial to ensure you get the most from your online investment.  The great news is that there are a huge number of possibilities for measuring online marketing success, so many in fact that it pays to start by thinking about the basics.

Traditional vs Digital Metrics

Before direct marketing came along traditional advertising, particularly brand advertising was very difficult to measure in terms of ROI.  Direct Marketing was built on being clearly measurable.  You could calculate your ROI for all of your campaigns and use testing to adapt and improve future performance.  That is also the basis of measuring metrics online but we now have some big advantages including:

  1. More measurement options – you can derive a much greater array of information from online customers than you can for offline by tracking their behaviour.
  2. Speed – you can measure customer behaviour in real-time.  Try doing that with direct mail!
  3. Cost control – for example if you are spending money on PPC campaigns you can set daily and campaign limits for spending so there is no wasted budget.

Basic online metrics

The most popular method for reviewing digital metrics is google analytics.  You can generate well over a hundred different reports using this tool but first things first.  The most basic metrics you find on your google analytics ‘dashboard’ are:

  • Visits – total number of non-unique visits to your site
  • Page views – total number of page impressions i.e. number of times pages have been viewed
  • Pages per visit – an average number of pages viewed by each visitor e.g. 2.9
  • Bounce rate – the number of visitors leaving you site after viewing only one page
  • Average time on site – otherwise known as ‘stickiness’.  How well the site maintains visitors
  • % new visits – how many visitors have first timers on your site

These metrics serve a purpose but if you are selling something online you need to look deeper.  The first question to ask is ‘What is the goal of my website?’.  You may have a number of goals but if you are in business your main goal is likely to be to sell X amount of X product, generating X amount of revenue.

Start with Goal Setting

Google analytics enables you to set-up a number of goals and run reports specifically to check how well you are doing in achieving them.  Say your current goal is track how many visitors are reaching the checkout page on your site i.e. buying a product.  You can set up a goal called ‘Buy Product’ and define this as a ‘URL destination’ goal.  This will then enable you to report on how many times visitors reach the Confirmation of order page.

Different types of goal

Even the most hardened capitalist should be interested in more than just sales – you need to understand what leads to sales.  Digital marketing success needs to be measured in more holistic sense.  That’s why google analytics allows you to measure goals in 3 ways:

  • A URL destination goal – allows you to see how many times visitors have visited a certain part of your site.  For example, if they sign up for your email newsletter each time they do so a URL will be displayed.  Google Analytics will count how many times that URL is reached so you can measure how many users are signing up against your objectives.
  • Time on site goal – this is a useful metric because it helps to prove how engaging your content is which in turn helps to show how engaged customers are with your site.  Engagement increases your chances of making sales and building a loyal customer base.  In 2010 the average website visit was 5.2 minutes according to google analytics.
  • Pages per visit goal – this helps to show much navigation around your site the average visitor is doing.  Your goal might be to get visitors to visit at least 5 pages.  Your report would then show the percentage of visitors doing so.

So these are a few basic but useful ways to measure your marketing goals online.  When getting started for the first time the most important thing is to have a clear view of which pieces of information are most important for measuring success, your key performance indicators (KPIs) and to produce a number of structured reports for delivering that information.  In my next post I will look conversion funnels, another important measure of your digital marketing performance.

Getting your website noticed with keywords

Search Engine Optimisation is about getting your website ranked highly on search engines.  In this introduction I will look at the foundation of SEO – keywords.  Even people who aren’t familiar with the term will have experience of entering their own keywords into a search engine to find what they are looking for.  When a search engine displays your results it does so on the basis of RELEVANCE and AUTHORITY.

What is keyword relevance?

A search engine will pick up keywords from sources including titles, on-page text, headers and inbound links to a website.  If you are building a website and hope to generate visitors (and ultimately sales) you can’t afford to ignore keywords.  So how do you pick your keywords?  Firstly you need consider the following:

1)     Are the search words relevant to your business or product?

2)     Is there an appropriate number of searches for your keywords?

3)     How much competition is there for those keywords?

A brainstorm is a great way to come up with keywords. You want variety so this calls for some imagination.  Start with the obvious ones and then some up with as many different variations as you can.   Say you own a pet shop, some of the keywords listed below might be on your list.  The number to the right shows the estimated number of UK searches per month for each of the terms according to Google Adwords:

Did you find me on Google?

Pet shop (generic keyword) 368,000

Pet Shop London (geographic) – 12,100

Cat collars (product) – 90,500

Buying a cat (information based) 6600

Cat collars London (product/geography) – 91

These simple examples show the importance of getting the right balance between relevance and volume of searches.  The most generic search terms tend to be the most competitive making it hard to get a high ranking.  ‘Pet Shop’ might work for a major online pet retailer but not a local shop.  ‘Dog collars London’ is far too specific and unlikely to make you a millionaire.  The challenge is to find the middle ground and have fun doing it.

You should spend plenty of time researching your keywords before beginning any SEO project.  A great place to start is with the keywords tool on Google Adwords.  Experiment with your keywords and be creative.

Beating the competition

Don’t forget that unless you are providing a very niche product you are up against competition for the attention of the search engines.  Don’t be tempted to emphasise traffic over relevance.  You might feel great ranking higher than your competitor but if you are receiving so many phone calls you can’t deal with any other customers you will soon regret that approach.  Look for ‘long-tail’ keywords which deliver less traffic but have a better chance of ranking highly on searches.

How do you use your keywords?

Why not just pick one or two keywords and repeat them frequently to get the search engines interested?  This is the way things often used to work.  This sometimes made for uninviting copy which turned customers off.  Google became aware of this and started to look for keywords based on natural language patterns rather than mechanical repetition of terms.  This meant that webmasters needed to be much more savvy and creative in how they come up with and use keywords.  Today it is advisable to write your web content without worrying about SEO in the first instance then adapt your content intelligently.  Your content needs to be natural because search engines have gotten clever.

The importance of authority

So you have picked your keywords and you set about building your web content.  It won’t be long before you are at the top of the Google rankings!  Sadly, it’s not that easy.  Rankings are also driven by authority which is based on the ‘link profile’ of your site.  Links to your site from other websites help to build your authority.  If you get links from websites which themselves have high levels of authority better still.  Youtube has 565 million external links.  Twitter has 2.1 billion.  Adobe.com has 334 million but it ranks highest on the web for ‘trust’ because of the reputation of the sites that link to it.  Link building deserves its own post.

Is SEO harder than you thought?

In principle SEO is not too difficult.  In practice it can be challenging.  However, it is as much an art as a science and far from being a sterile pastime for computer nerds it requires innovation, imagination and creativity.  The relevance aspect comes from keywords and the authority aspect from link building.  The web is full of companies large and small that have built their success on an intelligent use of SEO so it remains a key area for any digital marketer and any company planning to sell online.

Is customer loyalty possible online?

The emergence of digital marketing and its impacts on customer loyalty have been massive and far reaching.  Customers will display loyalty for many reasons and the core reasons are the same now as they were in the pre-digital era.  It’s still about indentifying your target market, providing products they truly want or need, making them easily available and then building a relationship with customers.  So why has digital thrown the cat amongst the pigeons?

Go back a few decades and loyalty was often based around face to face human relationships.  To use retail as an example, think of the romantic image of a lady visiting her local grocery store in the fifties. People got to know the people working in their local businesses.  Even if they didn’t there were other reasons for loyalty, not least accessibility.  If there was only one grocery store within 5 miles of home the chances are you would use it.

As we all got richer and the economy developed we started to get far more choice about what we buy and who we buy it from.  Supermarkets, rather than just relying on attracting customers who lived nearest to their store realised that in a more competitive world they had to do more to attract and KEEP customers, hence the rise and success of the various loyalty card schemes.  Then the internet came along, bringing unprecedented changes such as:

  • Increased competition – The products and services you offer to customers can be compared not only on price but one a mind-boggling array of different characteristics.  Look at PC specs for example.
  • Increased choice – There is next to nothing you can’t buy online so products and services have to fight harder than ever to get noticed.
  • Ease of accessibility – you can buy a car off ebay, from your phone, while taking your dog for a walk.

These are just 3 of the reasons it has been said that the concept of online loyalty is a myth.  Consumers are savvy in the digital age and will seek out what is best for them.  So what can we marketers do about it?  In order to survive and thrive companies need an online value proposition (OVP), a rarely used term coined by Chaffey et al.

Suppose you build a new website selling music CD’s and downloads.  There are thousands of other companies doing the same thing.  You might work very hard on SEO to get high up the search rankings.  Say you managed to get it into the top three on organic search results on google (quite a challenge!).  Would that guarantee success?  You would probably acquire some new customers but would you keep them as you frantically tried to maintain you position on google?  Not without an OVP.

I tend to buy lots of music online so I started thinking about why I use the sites I do and discovered the following:

Site Main OVP Secondary OVPs Weakness
Amazon.co.uk Price Choice, personalised   recommendations Faceless corporate – no brand  engagement
Boomkat.com Music reviews Listen to audio clips, high brand engagement Cost, limited choice
Juno.co.uk Listen to any track before buying Choice, fast despatch Badly packaged products.
Databloem.com Niche selection Personalised service Lack of choice, overseas   location.

It was only when I sat down to look at the reasons I use these sites that I realised that they all have characteristics that differentiate them from their competitors.  My perception of each site’s OVP may be different from what each of them intended but all provide a strong reason for me to return.  Think about the sites you use and ask why you use them.

So why don’t I just use one site?  Is this true loyalty?  True loyalty can only be defined by buying 100% of a product from the same company.  That is certainly far more difficult in the digital world but perhaps rather than defining success by ‘loyalty’ online companies should just focus on developing something, fresh, engaging and if possible unique that keeps enough customers coming back.  They should embrace the opportunities that digital channels offer rather than being frightened of new challenges.  It’s never been tougher to succeed but companies need to keep two words in mind if they are going to keep customers – ‘add value’.

Internet advertising doesn’t work!

What?  Of course it works.  In fact online advertising spend increased from $26bn in 2010 to $31.7bn in 2011 (source IAB). That’s a 21.9% increase in one year.  Companies would not waste that kind of money if it wasn’t working right?  The dictionary definition of advertising is ‘the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., especially by paid announcements’. Companies still pay to do that online just as they do in offline media.

The first ever online banner ad

In the pre-internet days that definition would have worked pretty well.  Advertising was all about ‘pushing’ or announcing your message to your market and there were some pretty big media channels with a massive reach that enabled companies to do that with great success. So what’s changed?  It seems to me there are three main differences between online and offline advertising.  With online ads:

1)     You as a consumer find an advert rather than it finding you (about half of total online ad spend is on search marketing).

2)     There is greater potential for interaction between organisations and consumers and between consumers themselves.

3)     The organisation has much less control over the way it is perceived.

Point 1 needs a post of its own so I will focus on points 2 and 3 here. If you are old enough, you will remember how pre-internet advertising worked.  Brands were king.  Hugely successful TV ads for PG Tips (monkeys), Shake n Vac (crazy woman with vacuum), Milk Tray (‘the man’) created powerful brand images and shifted product by the bucket load.  But you still have those today I hear you say.  What about Compare the market (meerkat) and Go Compare (insane levitating opera singer)?

So on the surface advertising and brand building is still taking place in much the same way but looking deeper you find there has been a seismic shift.  Firstly, organisations used to talk AT customers.  They created a brand position and message and announced it to the world.  There was a monologue.  What we have now is a dialogue and much of that is not between the organisation and their customers but between consumers themselves.  Online forums, blogs, fan pages…people are talking about products in an open, honest and human way, whether organisations like it or not.

Who are you going to trust?  A multi-national corporation and their brand team or impartial peers and consumers who have already tried the product out and are telling everyone about it on the internet?  It is only in the past couple of years that many organisations seem to have realised that the way their brand is perceived in no longer in their hands.  That is why they are falling over themselves to get on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more recently looking into people’s interests on Pininterest.  Their intention is to know what consumers are saying about them and to be able to influence that.  The first intention is honourable, the second requires a wholesale shift in the way organisations communicate with their customers.

On Facebook yesterday I noticed a link to the Stella Artois UK fan page.  I have not listed ‘beer’ as an interest on Facebook but I’m sure the marketers at Stella Artois know I fit a certain profile that makes me likely to enjoy an occasional pint of Stella, which I do.  Their page seems to be a good example of how to hit consumers with the brand and then build engagement, feedback and dialogue, even if that does consist of people asking for free beer.  Hey this is a beer fanpage.

The headline branding of the Stella Artois UK Facebook fan page

The internet has democratised advertising.  This is no doubt terrifying to many organisations, particularly those with claims to great customer service, amazing product reliability etc.  Now those claims have to be TRUE because if they aren’t your customers are going to tell everyone about it online.  This is great news.  For the first time customers can get real insights into products and services before they buy them and organisations have the opportunity to build an army of advocates who basically advertise their products for free.

In the coming years many organisations will live or die depending on how they adapt.  ‘Advertising’ online doesn’t work.  Focussing time and money on communicating, facilitating, listening and joining in with customers is the way forward in this brave new world.

From traditional to digital marketing. Revolution or evolution?

How many times have you read blogs, websites or books and come across the term ‘traditional marketing’?  To a casual observer it might appear that marketing has undergone a revolution where methods of the past have become museum pieces, to be replaced by the bright, shiny and new world of digital.

If you have been looking for a job in the past few years you will know how terms like Direct Marketing, while once ubiquitous, have now been replaced by Digital Marketing.  The Institute of Direct Marketing even had to rename themselves by shoehorning the word Digital into their name.  So is this a case of revolution or evolution?

“My name is Lee and I am a traditional marketer” I would murmur to a group of fellow suffers at my local Traditional Marketers Anonymous (TMA) group.  “I have spent the past 15 years sending millions of pieces of direct mail and religiously adhering to the AIDA formula for writing DM copy.  I’m a traditional marketer and I need help”.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Comparing terms like traditional marketing and digital marketing completely misses the point.  The danger is that we try to create a new paradigm without basing it on the truths that underpin successful marketing.  The world of digital gives us the opportunity to realise the true potential of direct marketing but it’s also full of pitfalls, often expensive ones, that many organisations have already fallen into.  Technology should never come first.  Customers come first right?  Not always in practice that’s for sure.

I have two reasons for starting this blog.  Firstly, as a marketer who has come from a non-digital background I am working hard to make the transition into a role which includes digital channels – I’d like to share my experience with others in a similar situation and to hear about your experiences.  Secondly, I know that rather than starting from scratch, I can take the truths that underpin successful marketing and exlore how they can be used to underpin digital marketing campaigns that really work.

Exciting times lie ahead, may the evolution continue.