How Web Analytics Helps Small Businesses – Where to Start with Measurement

Many small businesses think of web analytics as search engine optimization, but that perspective is a partial view. Analytics encourages the organization of a digital presence for a business or an organization. These days such planning is important. It means providing speedy management of marketing content, be it online or off, such that a business can ultimately manage costs.

Some small businesses analyze results from a campaign effort – after a website is launched, a video is uploaded in YouTube, or a Facebook page is launched. This is an understandable step – many businesses see analytics in an application and treat the analysis as an audit. But the real work happens during the preliminary planning of a digital presence. This can consume some time, particularly now with so many options for a small business to choose. A business should review two aspects  first before tweet or a site visit is measured.

1. What is the purpose of the website in the business model? Does it serve as an augment for offline marketing?  Is it for sales through e-Commerce? Is it a way to deliver customer support through online chats and community hosting? Answering these questions will set the tone for what content should be on the site – images, downloads, and which pages should retain visitors for longer than a moment. Even trust badges can be influential (see my Business Agility post Building Trust Through Transparency).  It will also lead to how a site and its subdomains are set. The end result is the arrangement of how a site should be tagged.

2. What marketing is planned? Thanks to QR codes and URL tagging, for example, small businesses can create marketing plans to anticipate how customers discover the company site, and ultimately the business itself.  Experian, eMarketer, and other research firms have indicators that people tend to review products and services online prior to making a purchase.  The ideas is establishing an reasonable assumption of how your business is exposed to leads and customers.  An assumption may change overtime, but that is reasonable given that marketing materials can become outdated over time.

Once these two steps are addressed, a small business can begin to make reasonable adjustments to a marketing plan with few headaches and reduced expense.  There are still some technical verifications needed, depending on the complexity of the site and tagging required – many large enterprises have a team on analytic experts to manage the effort. But for small businesses developing a plan and monitoring as it moves ahead makes any analytics information valuable.


Google Analytics v5 will provide enhanced marketing and business intelligence to small businesses

(Note: this is a recap from 2011. Google is currently supporting this version as of September 12, 2012)

On March 17th Google announced a new version of Google Analytics  (You can read the Google Analytics blog announcement here ). Version 5, previewed at the annual Google Analytic User Conference in San Francisco as well as at the Google Analytics blog, introduces significant improvements. It may have been the cause of earlier rumors of Google rolling out a paid analytic solution to compete with Webtrends and Omniture Site Catalyst (Note: Google released Google Analytics Premium since this post). But GA is ubiquitous, with numerous social media, email, and marketing measurement tools that enhance its features, so in my opinion, a new product change of that magnitude would have required a number of steps on Googles part coupled with negating some of Google’s claims about the current benefits of GA. But I digress. 🙂

I looked at a related post from Justin Cutroni, Director at Webshare (which had an announcement itself — merging with VKI Studios to form Cardinal Path). Justin is author of Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior (You can see a review of Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior at Small Business Trends) and Performance Marketing with Google Analytics (with Caleb Whitmore and Sebastian Tonkin). He gave a brief walk through of version five that captures the key differences, which you can see in the above video.

The user interface receives the most notable share of revisions, in an attempt to increase usability and report accessibility. Google revised the flexibility of creating a unique dashboard, as well as the navigation bar. It’s now a two-tier bar, placing reports selections above the graph. Metrics are also above the graph, so there’s less of a need to scroll down unless a deep dive is necessary (which makes sense). The kinds of available reports has been revised, with some eliminated based on user input. The dashboard is more closer to a wiki, with better flexibility for metrics shown and how there are displayed — a gauge is available, as well as pie charts and tabular graphs. Multiple dashboards can be created. Naming conventions are changes in some cases, such as Sources becoming Incoming sources.

A termcloud feature displays the traffic and page data, so search terms are displayed in a manner similar to a word cloud. Like Justin, I am excited about this feature because it should give casual users a new way to visualize what is working for their site. Blogger should benefit to figure out what words brought visitors to the site.

In the meantime, expect a follow up from me on the features and what I personally like about it soon, as the new version is rolled out.

How relevant keywords in Facebook differs from those in search engines

Facebook conducted a great Facebook Ads presentation at the recent Search Engine Strategies New York expo in March. I sat in the audience as Sarah Smith, head of Online Operations in Facebook’s new Austin office, spoke about how small businesses and marketers should use Facebook ads. Great timing on Facebook’s part to offer a review to SES goers, given the recent statistics that online users are spending more time on Facebook than Google, and the massive buzz of the Betty White Hosting Saturday Night Live fanpage.

One of the best takeaways was regarding how keywords in Facebook ad content should be selected. Keywords should be deployed such that they connect to lifestyle activity, events, or how a product is used. These obtain the best response results in Facebook. This differs from search engine keyword tactics, where specific words or broad match incorporating a specific word is used. In fact Facebook calls keyword phrases “likes and interests”, similar to the FHTML that is a variation of HTML.

For example, the words “wine” or “red wine” may be used by a winery, but in a Facebook ad, phrases such “fine dining” will help the ad appear to relevant Facebook audience. According to Smith, businesses can use Facebook to find customers before they use the search engines to seek your business, product, or services.

This implies a few aspects that businesses and marketers should keep in mind:

  • Beyond a different keyword strategy, Facebook users are searching differently than those who are using search engines. This means campaign content must be formulated for Facebook with a different search in mind than that for a search engine.
  • Businesses that confuse web analytics for simply keyword performance will have to end. If a Facebook campaign is used alongside a PPC (Adwords, Adcenter, etc.), those business will miss opportunities to optimize their marketing and gain customers because all the channels will be treated the same.
  • Marketers will have to understand the influences and preferences customers more deeply to generate the “likes and interests” for the Facebook ads.

Ok, it’s your turn…how do you see advertising in Facebook being different than in Google or Bing Yahoo?

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How much are your clicks really worth?

Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you pay for; Value is what you get.”

This means the price does not define the worth of an item. Ask Lexus and Cadillac. Both brands offered hybrid versions of their highly desired vehicles, the Lexus LS450 and the Cadillac Escalade. The prices for the vehicles are significantly higher than their gasoline counterparts. The MSRP of a Lexus LS hyrbid starts at $106,000 while a gas-only LS starts at $63,825. So an owner is paying $40,000 for reduced gas consumption and better gas mileage, a difference that causes some to wonder if the choice is a poor economic one. Is a green image worth $40,000? For now the answer appears to be no, since Lexus and Cadillac are offering rebates on these hybrid models up to $10,000. You can read more about the hybrid rebate here at Autoblog.

I use the hybrid example of value to drive a point about overpaying for value, what you want or expect. Closer to the world of online marketing, the same sensibility can be extended to pay per click. Many business owners seek more traffic and conversions from SEO and PPC, but much thought is paid to how to value a bid? Is a PPC bid worth the cost?

Anastasia Holdren, of Sitening, put some real thought into that question and has developed a great method of valuing the worth of a click. A certified Adwords consultant, Anastasia teaches an excellent Adword training seminar (sponsored by the good folks at Google). She has managed web development projects, email marketing campaigns and search engine marketing (SEM) projects for clients including Osram Sylvania, Harvard Business School Executive Education, Cannondale, Air Jamaica, and countless others.

According to Anastasia, the Value Per Click (VPC) should be calculated. This means dividing the profit before advertising costs by the number of clicks. Say you make $100 gross profit. Take the amount and divide it by the number of clicks received in the same period, say 5. So $20 per click is the VPC. It is the maximum bid value; Exceeding it is essentially overpaying for profit-generating traffic! Again, price is what you pay for…value is what you get.

This approach is brilliant — it is similar thinking to valuing a stock against the expected cash flow from company earnings. This approach contributes a significant piece to the analytics puzzle — users must rely on analytic solutions to confirm the cost effectiveness of a campaign, to adjust the campaign accordingly, and accordingly, increase the value of their website, and increase the chance for profits.

You can check out Anastasia’s company Sitening, as well as her blog PPC Boot Camp for more pay per click tips and the schedule on upcoming Adword Seminars for Success.

What do you believe are any addition best practices for valuing the clicks your receive? Feel free to share here.