Category Archives: Online Marketing

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.

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Writing online copy – 5 tips for marketers

Does digital copy and content produced by marketers really need to be any different to the copy produced for traditional offline media?  While there are some truths about writing copy that will never change the evolution of digital media brings some new challenges we can’t ignore.  Here are just a few tips for anyone producing online content…

Less is more

Consider how you read copy online, whether that’s on a PC, mobile or tablet.  People don’t read the internet in the traditional sense.  They skim read.  No matter how much pride you have in your website and it’s content remember that people are visiting it with a clear objective.  They may want to ask a question, compare a product or maybe even buy something but they want to do this quickly.  If they have to trawl through paragraphs of marketing speak they are far more likely to visit your competitors site instead.  Use fewer words to communicate your message clearly.

Use customer speak

One of the biggest sins of any marketing copywriter is to write for an audience based on assumptions.  A previous boss once told me that when writing copy I should remember that ‘men are analytical and women are emotional’.  That is an assumption and a very broad one!  There is no better way to understand the language of your customers that to listen to them.  Listen to calls in your call centre, visit your shop floor, read customer complaints and testimonials.  Marketing teams always have their own jargon and way of talking about their products but how well do you and your colleagues represent your audience?

Create ‘personas’

Busy and stressed exec persona.

This is a way to bring your web users ‘alive’.  You create a number of virtual people who each represent a segment of your customer base.  You give them a name, socio-demographic profile and picture.  How web savvy are they?  What are their ‘information goals’ i.e. why are they likely to visit your website?  How much time to they have – are they busy parents or retired people with more free time?  Eventually you build up a detailed picture of your customers and prospects and have a much better chance of engaging them as loyal customers.  Remember, the personas are not just imaginary friends but virtual people based on your real customers.

A picture speaks a thousand words

This has never been more true than online.  The internet is a very visual medium and if you can bring copy alive with relevant images you have a far better chance of keeping visitors to your site interested.  If you are trying to communicate lots of information quickly consider using an infographic.  Try using images of real people, better still actual customers, instead of glossy images of models. Who are customers most likely to trust?  Make sure that brand based images are relevant and meaningful and ensure that you feature product images wherever possible.  Make things tangible and remember images are as important as words.

Navigation, navigation, navigation…

The web is awash with websites that are difficult to navigate.  Sites with search functions that never return what you are looking for.  A well structured homepage with clear navigation to all main areas of the site and clearly structured links and back-link throughout the site is essential.  Not only does it improve your SEO but it greatly reduces the chances of your customers going elsewhere to achieve their objective.  Sites with high bounce rates are usually poorly structured or contain badly written copy.  You may have literally seconds to convince visitors to your site that they are going to find what they are looking for.

In the accelerated world we live in people have short attention spans.  They expect the internet to deliver what they are looking for immediately.  Imagine telling someone 20 years ago that you would be able to find the answer to virtually any question in seconds on their computer.  As marketers we have less time to engage our customers and far more easily accessible competition.  In the digital world we need to upgrade to copywriting 2.0.

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’.

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.