Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 23, 2009 7:17 AM

Making Things Click Online Is Smart Business

If there's one conversation happening around the water cooler right now, it is how to figure out what's working in terms of marketing your business, how to measure it, and how to make it work even more efficiently.

This talk is taking place because, historically, all marketing and communications measurement has been, to some degree, highly subjective. Yes, volumes have been written about the true science behind measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. We even use science-sounding terms like GRP. (I won't bore you with the longer definition, but it stands for Gross Rating Point and is supposed to represent the percentage of the target audience reached by an advertisement.) As accurate as some of these measurements are for traditional marketing, the real win behind doing anything online is that everything is measurable. Highly measurable.

Real measurability (the ability to not only know how many people saw an ad, but know who went to a website, clicked a link, gave some information, purchased something, or left without doing anything) makes online one of the most amazing marketing opportunities in the world - and also one of the scariest.

What could be scary about knowing the actual outcomes of all of your online marketing initiatives? Well, the truth, for one. Over the years, marketers have fed one another so much bunk about viewers and what they do in traditional mass media, that the truth behind the perceived reality can leave quite the sting.

The other scary part about understanding the real measurement surrounding your campaigns is that it sounds complex, technical, and, well ... nerdy. When I say, "web analytics," you probably think, "boring." Thankfully, it isn't. In the past couple of years there have been some very innovative developments in the arena of web analytics that has democratized the process. In fact, you don't have to have any serious level of technical know-how to use, understand and learn from web analytics. In the past, understanding what people were doing online was very complex. The information resided in data logs that had to be pulled and manipulated by people in the IT department. Companies like Omniture, WebTrends and Coremetrics then came along with better dashboards and robust technical infrastructures so that some of the bigger websites could really see what was happening with their online activity.

In the past couple of years, web analytics has really opened up to the general population.

One of the well-known ways to get this information is Google Analytics. It is totally free, and provides tons of rich data in a way that anyone can understand. Yahoo! also has a great (and free) web package called, Yahoo Web Analytics. By just adding a simple line of code to your corporate website, you can begin to see, hear and practically feel what people like, dislike, love or hate about everything you are doing online. From the business side, Google and Yahoo web analytics both provide an easy-to-navigate environment with some stunning visualizations of your data. Wouldn't you just love to know what days of the week bring your website the most traffic, or where the majority of visitors come from? What about knowing which keywords people use in search engines to find you, or which others sites send the most traffic your way?

"Web analytics is sexy," says Avinash Kaushik, who is the author of the best-selling book Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and a blogger over at Occam's Razor.

Kaushik is one of my favourite marketing minds (just take a listen to the conversation we had together this past week: SPOS #152 - Six Pixels Of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast - +1 (206) 666-6056 - Orgasmic Digital Marketing Avinash Kaushik). While others focus on colours and creativity, Kaushik is all about letting the general public decide what types of online marketing works by voting with their mouse. One of the more important metrics to consider is something called the "bounce rate" - the percentage of your total traffic that arrived at your website, did not click on anything, and left (or, as Kaushik describes it: "I came. I puked. I left."). The sad reality is that the majority of corporate websites have a high bounce rate. This means that visitors found your site though a search engine, clicked on a search result, arrived at your website, but did not find what they were looking for. Kaushik calls this a "crime against humanity." That might sound a little dramatic, but imagine the potential business that is finding you and then leaving before you can convert it into dollars.

Newer services such as Compete.com allow you to even see the analytics on other people's sites (including your competitors). While some of the basic functionality is free, there is a paid model that offers a much deeper experience.

Ultimately, you are responsible for how your clients (or potential clients) engage with you online. You can choose to ignore your web analytics, or you can embrace the information that is available to you to not only look at how many people are coming through, but what they are doing and how you can better adjust your website to meet their needs and make things click.

That doesn't sound very nerdy all. In fact, it sounds like smart business.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

- Vancouver Sun - What's working and what isn't is right at your fingertips.
- Montreal Gazette - Everything online is highly measurable - so much so it's scary.

By Mitch Joel


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